Building Owners, Residents Gear Up for Bethesda Downtown Plan Hearings

Hearings next week will include 70 speakers; lobbying effort draws criticism


Published:

Preliminary drawing of potential residential development at Fire Station 6 in Bethesda

Via Montgomery County Planning Department

After dozens of community meetings, thousands of emails and more than a year of conversation on the future of downtown Bethesda, Montgomery County’s Planning Board is set to host 70 speakers next week during a pair of public hearings on the area’s new master plan.

The hearing are set for 2 to 5:30 p.m. and from 7 to 9:30 p.m. June 24 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center at 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda.

As developers, residents, county officials and other stakeholders prepare, efforts to lobby the Planning Board have ramped up.

Some of those emails, spurred by an appeal from the Bethesda Fire Department’s Grant Davies, have kicked up controversy with an adjacent neighborhood group opposed to the fire department’s potential redevelopment of its station at Bradley Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue.

Davies sent a message June 12 with a list of talking points in support of redevelopment, asking that letters be sent to Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson by June 23, the day before the public hearings.

Naomi Spinrad, a member of the Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association that opposes any development on the site, quickly sent an email to county leaders accusing the fire department of “inappropriate lobbying tactics.”

While the nonprofit Fire Department owns the property, the station is staffed by county Fire and Rescue Service employees.

Davies’ email asked leaders to consider the aging station’s need for a replacement—something that leaders of the fire department have said could be built as part of a mixed-use residential building.

He also included a talking point that said the development project could be a preferable way to finance a new station, instead of using county tax dollars.

“[Chevy Chase West] cannot believe that in the face of opposition from the communities it purports to serve the tax-exempt [Bethesda Fire Department] would actively lobby for an option that has not been blessed by the government it purports to serve,” Spinrad wrote.

The fire department is not the only stakeholder mounting an email campaign in front of the Planning Board before the public hearings.

Clark Enterprises, which is backing a public relations campaign for a park instead of a high-rise building in Bethesda’s Metro Plaza, is asking supporters to send emails to Anderson, Planning Director Gwen Wright, and County Council members Roger Berliner and Nancy Floreen.

Brookfield Office Properties, which has the rights to develop the plaza area next to Clark’s headquarters, hopes to build an unspecified high-rise on the site.

Land-use attorneys, property owners, residents and county officials are all on the schedule to testify at the hearings on a wide spectrum of issues.

Bethesda Fire Department talking points

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