Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Zone NOT Left Alone

You may have noticed that many a development projects in downtown Silver Spring take far longer to come to fruition than they have any right to - The Fillmore, transit center, library, and the Purple Line to name a few. In many cases, some or all of the delays associated with these projects are a result of the the unrelenting efforts of The Community to keep everything exactly the same, or in some cases, exactly as they supposedly were in some sort of idealized circa-1950's Silver Spring.

Last year we were introduced to "Leave the Zone Alone", a SOECA-based movement whose objective is preventing the construction of townhouses on the former site of the Chelsea School, located just a single block from the DTSS development. Back in January the group suffered a setback when the Planning Board approved a plan presented by the developer for the construction of 64 townhouses, despite LTZA's request  that only single-family homes be permitted.

A movement on its last legs?

Now, after listening to arguments from both the developer and The Community, the Hearing Examiner (disclosure: I don't entirely know what their role is) has decided to make the recommendation to the County Council that the parcel be officially re-zoned from single-family to townhouse.

Masochists may enjoy reading the entirety of the 112-page findings from the hearing, particularly ones who find subjects such as comparative examples of Do Not Enter signs of particular interest. There's also quite a bit of space dedicated to things like the angle of sightlines around the Riggs-Thompson House, a 19th-century structure that probably only a few dozen people even know exists.
 
The Community did manage one tiny victory, as the recommended zoning is a slightly less dense version of the RT-15 townhouse zoning the developer originally wanted, though to me the difference seems immaterial:




The only level of bureaucracy now standing in the way of the this perfectly-reasonable townhouse development is final approval of the re-zoning by the County Council. Of course, that may ultimately end up being a significant hurdle, considering that some councilpersons' positions can frequently be swayed by the protestations of just a handful of voters...


Also:

- Not that you haven't probably heard quite enough about the transit center boondoggle by this point, but the Post ran yet another story on the subject this week. (This time with infographics!) Perhaps the only new information here is that although it was not made public until earlier this year, they were aware of the concrete issue way back in October of 2010.

- The National Museum of Health and Medicine re-opened on Monday after moving to Silver Spring from its old home at Walter Reed.



35 comments:

Liz Brent said...

Thanks as always for your work. Piping in to comment that we cannot consider the change immaterial as 2 MPDU's were lost whetsar went down in density. That's a damn shame.

Sligo said...

I was thinking immaterial in the sense that building 76 townhouses wouldn't "change the character" of the neighborhood any more than adding 64 would. Admittedly I didn't know about the loss of the MPDUs.

Anonymous said...

Sucks that a dozen units had to be sacrificed, but still a major win nevertheless. I'm pretty sure I've heard the council voice their support for the project in the past so I'm optimistic that won't be a hurdle. Wonder what EYA's vision is as far as construction timetable.

Thayer-D said...

I agree that this is a huge win for the community. The area around the old house looks like a nicer park in the final design also, although I think the townhouses would have been more urbane facing the street, but I nit-pick. I'm sure our citizen/planning counselors will ensure there are enough carrige lamps to dress up the alley elevations.

Anonymous said...

The townhouses don't face the street for two reasons: the grade change across the site is significant so the TH strings run with the grade instead of against it (much more expensive site work). Equally important is that EYA knew that neighbors on Springvale would be even more vociferous in their opposition (is that possible?) if the plan was to have then face an uninterrupted wall of townhomes. In the final design, only six townhomes face the existing homes on Springvale and the ends will be architecturally detailed with functional entries and typical front facades. Also, EYA has said they will hide the view into the alleys with decorative walls and landscaping (also keeping headlights from singing into the existing homes).

Anonymous said...

Keeping headlights from SHINING into the existing homes. Damn you autocorrect! Now singing headlights might be a good alternative to horn honking :)

Anonymous said...

This article shows a shallow and ignorant view of the issues involved in this matter.

Anonymous said...

Shallow and ignorant? Sorry, master plans aren't set in stone and are designed to be changed with the times, which is exactly what was recognized by the Planning Board, the hearing examiner and hopefully will be by the council. SOECA's leaders are stuck in the mindset the 90s masterplan. They are unwilling to accept that in 2012, the solution for this specific site in this specific location is no longere 25 homes (the primary option under the existing zoning), but higher density. Notice i didn't say high density? It's because the final density of this development will be less than 12 units per acre (compare to much higher density of EYA's townhomes at other developments, nearby Sprinvale Terrace or the high rise apartments across Ellsworth).

Anonymous said...

"This article shows a shallow and ignorant view of the issues involved in this matter."

Someone sounds bitter.

Vagrarian said...

They need to rezone it to be bars and Cheesecake Factories....

Mr. Wang said...

H&M still sucks

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I went to the re-opened Walter Reed museum this weekend.

My last visit was almost 40 yrs ago when I was a kid. At the time, my sister and I christened the place The Gross Museum, despite finding it very interesting.

The new museum is a world of improvement. It's small, but has well thought out exhibits that are a tasteful and educational. It's not the gross out must see anymore. The highlights are still there, such as the bullet that shot Lincoln (along with bits of his hair and skull) and the leg and scrotum with elephantiasis. But everything is in context now, not just rows of jars to oogle. You come away with a good sense of the progression of military medicine, as well as a confirmation of the reality of war.

It's worth a visit.

While you are there, you can take a quick drive through the new and renovated buildings at the old Forest Glen seminary/school. Some of the old landmarks, such as the pagoda, are being redone. Someone must have bought them. The grounds are really densely built, but interesting and pretty.

Anonymous said...

I love how people mock the "bar" people as if there are enough real bars around here.

Agreed: cheesecake factories should go away. Macaroni grill, Red Lobster, Austin grill and asian bistro cover the quota of terrible overpriced crappy chain eateries already thanks.

Anonymous said...

?? Asian Bistro isn't a chain and Austin Grill is a small, local chain (3 other locations - 2 in VA and 1 in DC). That said, duh, Cheesecake Factory is a joke (except to Issayah).

Vagrarian said...

I have to say that folks have often ranted about opening bars in Silver Spring. But it's just not that easy. MoCo regulations, which can be found on their website, are clear. Class B beer/wine/liquor licenses requires bathrooms for both sexes, minimum seating for 30 people, and 50% food sales. Kinda puts the kibosh on bars, then. Rather than ranting about bars, maybe it's time to pressure our elected officials to change the laws. (A rundown of licensing requirements is found here: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/lretmpl.asp?url=/content/DLC/liquor/LRE/lic_classes.asp)

And I have to admit, I've seen so much ranting about bars and Cheesecake Factories, that I simply can't resist poking fun at it.

Anonymous said...

Heard the liquor license argument, but no one can explain Bethesda yet.

Anonymous said...

...what about Bethesda? Bethesda bars are notoriously awful (certainly none that come close to touching Sidebar or Quarry House). I believe the point of the "liquor license argument" is that it makes it very hard to run a great bar, not that it's hard to have a crappy bar. As you point out, Bethesda has a number of places that meet the definition of a bar. They just aren't places that are even remotely well reviewed.

Anonymous said...

"As you point out, Bethesda has a number of places that meet the definition of a bar."

At least I think that's the point you're trying to make. Feel free to correct me if I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "no one can explain Bethesda yet."

Vagrarian said...

The only idea I have as to why is possibly that the regulations were passed relatively recently and said Bethesda bars were already operating and were grandfathered in by legal/political finagling. I honestly don't know but the liquor laws are there.

Whenever the bar thing is raised, I always see people saying, "But Bethesda has bars!" as if the liquor laws are suddenly somehow moot and invalid because Bethesda has bars. If someone knows why there are bars in Bethesda with these laws in place, I'd like to know.

But in the meantime, it doesn't look like anyone can just open a bar in SS right now. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

The bar thing was discussed before. I'm too lazy to look up all the information again. But, the laws requiring 50% food sales is almost universal for MD, VA and DC.

Anonymous said...

"reviewed"? Who cares how they are "reviewed"? Just go to any bar there. There is a nightlife. There are people having fun and being social and interacting. There is a young active crowd.

Other than quarry house, you cannot say that about Silver Spring.

Anonymous said...

"Who cares how they are "reviewed"?"

Is that a joke...? QH and Sidebar are great (and appropriately well reviewed). If I'm going to go beyond walking distance I'll go to H St., U St., or Dupont because quality means something (to everyone, I thought, but I guess someone out there doesn't care).

Anonymous said...

I'd ALMOST prefer another hair salon before an embarrassingly crappy bar like Caddies or Blackfinn (if you can even classify those as bars. They're closer to a cheap version of Copper Canyon restaurant/bar than anything). Piratz Tavern is all the crappiness I can handle (not that I've been since the reno, apologies if it's better than crappy now...not that I'd bet money that it is).

Tyler said...

Hoping to resolve this issue once and for all for the benefit of the majority. Thanks for sharing this post!

Anonymous said...

again sidebar and qht cater to a certain crowd. Drink enthusiasts and hipsters and people who want a sit down and talk scene.

Blackfinns has a dance floor and is packed every weekend night with young people.

Yes I agree if you compare the food and drink selection QHT and sidebar easily win. But there's more to bars than treating them like restaurants like everyone in Silver Spring seems to.

There are no nightlife bars here. Period. Hence the bethesda comments. Bethesda has a nightlife. DTSS does not.

Anonymous said...

What a peculiarly limited and self serving definition of "nightlife" you have, Anon.

I am all for having a more and a greater variety of bars, have nothing against those ones in Bethesda you mention (wouldn't mind seeing something like that an would probably patronize it), but to claim that those are what define "nightlife" to the exclusion of everything else, like the Fillmore, like QH, like Sidebar, like Copper Canyon or Austin Grill, like McGinty's, like...well you get the point...is asinine.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that crazy awesome Copper canyon grill nightlife has really made Downtown Silver Spring a destination spot known the world over.

Anonymous said...

No one said it was "crazy.". That does not mean it isn't nightlife that many people seem to enjoy. But I am guessing that anything that doesnt involve white twentysomethings dancing to a mix of today's hot dance tunes and 80's pop standards while fisting a Corona in one hand feeling up that bangin' Hill intern with the other just doesn't count, does it?

Anonymous said...

Please describe the nightlife at Copper Canyon grill. What's the nightlife scene there like on a Friday or Saturday night? How late does it stay open? Is it someplace that people out of town would come to? Is it rowdy? low key?

Anonymous said...

"Bethesda has a nightlife. DTSS does not."

Well I don't think that's fact. I don't consider Bethesda "nightlife" to be real nightlife anymore than you consider DTSS "nightlife" to be real nightlife. To each their own. Everyone's definition is different and what everyone wants is different.

Personally, I've lived in DTSS, Bethesda, Dupont, and Tenleytown over the last 25 years. They all have different nightlife. I don't know why you think your definition of a bunch of 18-21 year olds crammed together in some chain restaurant like Blackfinn is THE definition of nightlife. Most everyone who has ever lived in DC or any other city would keel over laughing at that. To each their own.

Anonymous said...

No one said Bethesda's nightlife was great.

And yeah to each thier own to an extent. But I'm sorry, DTSS is social hole for anyone who is under 40 and single. It's not a very social area and it just does not cater to nightlife.

Its' more of a family zone. And that's fine, but not sure why people on this blog are dedicated to proving that this place is even on par with Bethesda (which the avove anon is right, is not the best but at least there are people going out there).

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