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Land Use Roundup: Purple Line, Sector Plan Updates, Subdivision Regs

Real Estate Law Update

Purple Line Gets the Green Light!

On June 25, 2015, after months of speculation, Governor Larry Hogan announced the long awaited fate of the Purple Line rail connection between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George's County. Maryland is moving forward with the 16-mile light rail project! Governor Hogan confirmed what many of us had been articulating for some time - that the Purple Line would be a long term investment that would be an important economic driver for Maryland. The decision is great news for Maryland. Construction alone is anticipated to generate 23,000 new jobs for Marylanders over six years. Long term, the Purple Line will connect Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, attracting businesses and making Maryland a more competitive state to attract those wanting to work, live and retire in Maryland.

Earlier in the year, Governor Hogan pressed the Maryland Department of Transportation/Maryland Transit Administration to carefully evaluate the project and look for ways to reduce costs. Elements of the project were reduced or eliminated and both counties were required to infuse additional funds into the project. Now that Governor Hogan has given the project the green light, MDOT/MTA is focused on beginning construction in 2016.

Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan Underway

The Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan is now in full swing. The new plan builds on Bethesda's successes. At this point, the Sector Plan recommends increasing density in the downtown planning area by approximately 20 percent with greater increases around activity centers and gathering places. The Montgomery County Planning Board conducted its public hearings in late June and completed the first of five work sessions to review the Plan on July 20, 2015. This particular session addressed the proposed zoning strategy for Downtown Bethesda as it relates to building density and height increases, and considered transportation infrastructure and school capacity. Work sessions are planned for September 17, October 5, October 22 and November 12. The Planning Board will conduct a district-by-district zoning review, as well as an analysis of proposed parks and open spaces, high performance areas and affordable housing. The Planning Board's final recommendations will be incorporated into the draft of the Sector Plan and will be forwarded to the County Executive and ultimately, the County Council, for its final approval. Final Council action is likely to occur in the spring of 2016.

Westbard Sector Plan Update after 33 Years

The Westbard Sector Plan is one of the oldest plans in Montgomery County and has not been updated since 1982. Westbard is located approximately one mile from the District of Columbia boundary line, in close proximity to Bethesda and Friendship Heights. The area is served principally by River Road and Massachusetts Avenue. The area has a commercial center and is surrounded by single and mulit-family residential and industrial uses. The primary site at the core of much discussion is the Westbard Shopping Center owned by Equity One. The Plan generally is proposing mixed use development with more housing and revitalization of older retail areas. The Planning Board’s public hearing is tentatively scheduled for September 24, 2015. The County Council will hold a public hearing on the Westbard Plan in 2016. For further information on the Sector Plan, view www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/westbard/index.shtm#PlanWestbard.

Rock Spring Sector Plan to Begin in September

The Rock Spring area of North Bethesda presently is part of the 1992 North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan. This area includes the headquarters for Marriott International and Lockheed Martin, is home to numerous office buildings, and is planned to accommodate the already approved 54-acre Rock Spring Centre mixed-use development. The county will kick-off this Sector Plan review in early September 2015. This Sector Plan will focus on the challenges of repositioning a suburban style office park with predominantly auto-oriented uses and high vacancy rates into a mixed-use, more transit-oriented live/work/play community. Centrally located between I-270, I-495 and the Grosvenor and White Flint Metrorail Stations, Rock Spring presents a unique opportunity for the county, the property owners and the surrounding community. For further information on the Sector Plan, view www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/rockspring.

White Flint 2 Sector Plan on the Horizon

The White Flint 2 area covers approximately 290 acres of property located on either side of Rockville Pike. The area includes office buildings along Executive Boulevard, the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center, light industrial and commercial properties along Parklawn Drive, Randolph Hills Shopping Center, and other industrial uses along Parklawn Drive. The Planning Board will be approving its scope of work for the Plan on September 3, 2015. The White Flint 2 Plan will build on the White Flint Sector Plan approved by the County Council in 2010. This Plan will address a variety of development-related issues, including but not limited to how development between the City of Rockville and the County should be coordinated. For further information on the Sector Plan, view www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint2.

Round 2: Rewrite of the Subdivision Regulations

Now that the Planning Board and County Council have completed their work on the newly enacted Zoning Ordinance, the fun could not end! The Planning Board has embarked on an effort to rewrite the Subdivision Regulations, the document that governs the subdivision process in Montgomery County. The Subdivision Regulations, when completed, will closely follow the principles enumerated in the updated Zoning Ordinance, providing for greater flexibility and consistency in the development review process. The draft Regulations already have been reviewed by the Planning Board and have been forwarded to the Council for its review and ultimate approval. Look for updates on the status of this rewrite effort in future editions of our newsletter.

Steve Robins is a land use attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland who represents developers in many complex, transit-oriented projects in Montgomery County. For more information on topics raised in this article or other land use, zoning and real estate matters, contact Steve at (301) 657-0747 or sarobins@lerchearly.com.

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This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.

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