County Council President Anticipates Changes to Bethesda Land-Use Plan

Transition from urban to residential areas an issue


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Council President Roger Berliner at Monday's meeting with reporters.

Douglas Tallman

County Council President Roger Berliner said Monday he expected his council colleagues to alter the revised Bethesda Downtown Plan to “more gracefully” transition from urban areas to the edge communities surrounding downtown Bethesda.

Residents have complained to the council about the heavy densities of proposed high-rises in the downtown plan, which will guide development in Bethesda for the next 20 years. County planners drafted and edited the plan before sending it to the council for approval.

“How you harmonize [the residents’] quality of life with what you want to see on Wisconsin Avenue and other places is important.,” Berliner said in a meeting with reporters. He said the work on this plan will be harder than others because people live next to what is contemplated in the plan.

“I don’t think the planners did this particular piece justice,” he said.

He noted the letter that the council recently received from groups representing 10,000 residents documenting flaws in the plan.

“We’ve heard recently in a joint letter from a number of organizations concerns that we have heard previously and concerns that I quite frankly share,” Berliner said.

The council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee started work on the plan Monday afternoon. Once the committee completes its work, the plan will go to the full council.

“It is so important that people who live [in downtown Bethesda] today do not take on an undue burden for the future of our county,” Berliner said. “Finding that balance is always difficult, but I feel like that’s our obligation, is to make sure that the quality of life for people who live there today is not degraded but in fact enhanced.”

More than 14 million square feet of commercial development exist now in downtown Bethesda, according to county documents. The plan would increase commercial development to nearly 16.5 million square feet. The plan area has 9,603 dwelling units; that number would increase to 17,957.

Berliner said the county can have both thriving urban areas and residential areas.

“They do not have to be in conflict with one another and that’s going to be my goal in this plan,” he said.

 

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