Elrich Says Bethesda Plan Review Is Progressing With Marriott Project Schedule in Mind

Comments come during full council’s first work session on the two-decade master plan


Published:

Via Michael Ventura

Council member Marc Elrich

County Council member Marc Elrich on Tuesday protested that officials are timing their review of Bethesda’s long-range growth plan around Marriott International’s development schedule for its proposed headquarters downtown. 

Elrich raised the issue during the first full council work session on the proposed Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, a document that sets the stage for growth over the next couple of decades. Marriott earlier this year announced its intention to build a new headquarters and flagship hotel near Woodmont Triangle, and the council member said downtown planning is now progressing with the hospitality giant’s project timeline in mind. If Marriott’s construction plans are approved by the county, the company expects to move into its new headquarters before its lease on its Fernwood Road site ends in 2022.

“I was told that here is the schedule Marriott needs to do to get out of their property, and that in order to do that, they need the council to take action on the master plan by a certain date,” he said.

Elrich said officials are sectioning off key planning elements—such as the overlay zone that will enact the plan’s park and affordable housing development strategy—for later discussion so that they can move more quickly on the overall proposal.

Council member Nancy Floreen pointed out the council’s decision on the overlay zone isn’t far behind that for the rest of the downtown plan; the Montgomery County Planning Board sent the zoning measure to the council in December.

At the council’s work session, members also discussed parks, affordable housing and building heights outlined in the drafted document that would allow an additional 4.2 million square feet of commercial and residential development in downtown Bethesda. Council members seemed inclined to reduce building height caps for several properties east of Wisconsin Avenue and north of Cheltenham Drive.

While a council committee allowed heights of up to 145 feet in this section, council President Roger Berliner and member Hans Riemer supported a 90-foot limit for these properties.

Berliner said it seemed a majority of the council agrees with the reduction, but decided to poll his colleagues at next week’s meeting on the Bethesda plan.

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