8300 Wisconsin Ave. Owners Seeking Environmental Cleanup
CORRECTION (5:00 p.m.): The Maryland Department of the Environment's role in the Voluntary Cleanup Program was clarified. The agency oversees any environmental assessment or cleanup, if one is deemed necessary. The developer or owner of the property would conduct the actual cleanup. The owner of the 8300 Wisconsin Ave. project, which will bring 360 apartment units and a rumored Harris Teeter grocery store to the north end of downtown Bethesda, is applying for a state environmental cleanup program typically reserved for sites where contamination has occurred in the past. The Maryland Department of the Environment has received an application for its Voluntary Cleanup Program at the site, according to MDE spokesman Jay Apperson. Apperson said developers typically use the process to certify a site isn't contaminated and to avoid future inspections from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The MDE will oversee an assessment of the property to determine what, if any, environmental cleanup would be necessary. Property owners who request the program often are building new projects on sites formerly used for gas stations, pesticide facilities, industrial uses or other potentially environmentally damaging businesses. The 8300 Wisconsin Ave. project is the former site of a Clarion hotel and has been vacant since at least 2006, when a previous development planned for the location fell through. It's unclear what is prompting the application. The project, by developer StonebridgeCarras, was approved by the Planning Board in May. A spokesman for the developer told The Gazette the company planned to break ground on the project in early 2013. Workers on the site have been clearing weeds and smoothing over dirt since Monday. Apperson said there's no timeline for the Voluntary Cleanup Program, but the MDE might oversee soil samples, groundwater tests and determine any other sort of environmental assessment needed as part of the process.