Westbard Cemetery Advocates Take Issue with Self-Storage Plan

Environmental group supports plan for greenway, offers some suggestions


Published:

Rendering of proposed Westbard self-storage facility on River Road in Bethesda

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING BOARD

Plans to build a self-storage facility in the Westbard neighborhood of Bethesda are moving forward, even as some residents vow to boycott the future business.

The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday approved the proposal for a roughly 195,500-square-foot facility on the property at 5204 River Road. The developer, Bethesda Self Storage Partners, has agreed to dedicate a couple of sections of the 1.37-acre property as the first section of the long-awaited Willett Branch greenway and to contribute money toward an archaeological study onsite.

However, members of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Bethesda have pressed for more action to protect the site of a historic black cemetery in the area. It isn’t enough to give the county parks system a .39-acre parcel believed to contain some of the cemetery, argued church member Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.

“We do not accept the attempt to pass off this responsibility to the parks department, and we will hold Westbard self-storage company accountable for the choices they make with this sacred ground,” she said.

Coleman-Adebayo said congregants will not patronize the future self-storage facility until their concerns and those of other community members are resolved.

She urged the planning board to create a local advisory group with community representatives and academics to help investigate the existence of graves on the site and to determine its future use. Ultimately, church members would like to put a memorial on the cemetery site as a tribute to the African-American community that once lived along River Road. In its effort to make this happen, Macedonia Baptist has clashed with the county, planning department and other property owners believed to control land that formed part of the cemetery.

Planning staff pointed out that Bethesda Self Storage is contributing $45,000 for an archaeological study of the site. Attorney Timothy Dugan, representing the developer, said his clients have offered to build a pathway connecting River Road and Westbard Avenue and to set up historical display boards and benches along the route.

Environmental advocates on Thursday celebrated the contribution of the first section of the greenway, a major priority in the Westbard Sector Plan finalized last year.  

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is,” said Sarah Morse, executive director of the Little Falls Watershed Alliance.

However, she suggested some changes to the stormwater management plan for the site. The developer has planned to install planter boxes on the roof to capture and filter the rainwater; Morse said this method would not allow the rain to soak into the ground, thereby supplying the Willett Branch with purified water.

She urged the developer to pay more attention to techniques that would return more water to the Willett Branch and help revitalize the stream.

“Our brand-new baby creek needs every single help it can get,” Morse said.

Mark Etheridge, a county water resources plan review manager, said the soil around the proposed self-storage site is of poor quality to allow water filtration. With that in mind, the green roof design seemed like a preferable option, he said.

A view of the self-storage facility as seen from Willett Branch. Via the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

Back to Bethesda Beat

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

County Police Charge Two in Robbery that Preceded Man’s Death in Hit-and-Run

Investigators continue to search for drivers who left the crash scene

Plan for Older Adult Housing, Office Tower Near Pike & Rose Gets Initial Approval

Two residential buildings could supply up to 364 dwelling units

Six Bethesda Companies Make Washington Post’s List of Best Workplaces

Newspaper’s 2018 ranking is based on employee surveys

Federal Judges Scrap Life Sentences for Beltway Sniper; 'Real Housewives' Star Shows Off Potomac Mansion

News, announcements and other helpful links for Friday morning
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading
Local Professionals

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit Module
SPONSORED CONTENT
 

Joel Rubin for Delegate District 18

Apple Ballot endorsed, Chevy Chase Town Council member and Obama administration official, Joel will put education first so all students succeed. Early voting ends June 21.

SPONSORED CONTENT

Bethesda Magazine Green Awards

Nominations are now accepted. The submission deadline is Friday, June 29.