Rep Says Old Georgetown Road Church Ready For Redevelopment


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It's been almost seven years since the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church first proposed an apartment complex to help fund a new church building and community center at its Old Georgetown Rd. site. After much opposition from homeowners around the site (8011 Old Georgetown Rd.), multiple revisions and three failed appeals of the Council's granting of a zoning change, the church is finally ready to proceed with redevelopment. Barry Lemley, the owner's representative for the church, told the Woodmont Triangle Action Group on Friday the church has picked a developer (though he wouldn't say who) and is in the design process. The church, which has been at 8011 Old Georgetown Rd. for 75 years, wants to build a 78-foot tall, 107-unit apartment on-site to help pay for a new church building and community center that Lemley hopes is a selling point through the entitlement process. Lemley said the community center will be open to the public and could provide Bethesda with a sorely needed civic space. More and more churches are using their land for development, allowing the cash-strapped congregations to rebuild their own aging facilities in the process. The process for Christ Evangelical Lutheran hasn't been easy. The Church originally partnered with D.C.-based developer Bozzuto in 2006 and had to get the zoning changed from single family residential to "Planned Development." When the group's first crack at a zoning change was denied in 2007 by the county hearing examiner, the church and Bozzuto went separate ways in 2009. Hearing Examiner Francoise Carrier denied a zoning change for the plan in December 2008 "based on her finding that the size, bulk and locations of the new construction proposed for the site would be incompatible with single-family homes in the immediate vicinity, and therefore would not substantially comply with the applicable master plan or the purposes of the zone." The County Council remanded the case so the church could revise its plans. The Planning Board approved the revised plan but Hearing Examiner Martin Grossman (Carrier left to become Chair of the Planning Board) again denied the zoning change in September 2010: The revised plans have exacerbated compatibility problems vis-à-vis the Battery Park neighborhood across Old Georgetown Road to the southwest of the site, by pushing the mass closer to the roadway in an effort to improve compatibility with adjoining properties, as suggested by the Battery Park Citizens Association. But the Council, by a 7-2 vote, approved the zoning change in October 2010 setting up a series of appeals from a homeowner in the area. Lemley told the Action Group, an advisory group of citizens, county officials and business representatives, to expect more details about the schematic design of the redevelopment in the next month or two.

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