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Councilmembers Defend Wheaton Redevelopment Decision

Councilmembers spoke out about what they have done for Wheaton, before voting to approve a sectional map amendment to the Wheaton Sector Plan.

 

What was scheduled as a technical approval for a Planning Board application on Tuesday morning became an opportunity for Montgomery County councilmembers to talk about how much they were doing for Wheaton this budget season with redevelopment, the library and recreation center, and the high school modernization project.

At the first full council session since the , various councilmembers defended their decision to go with the council staff proposal over the county executive’s proposal.

“I think Wheaton has done extraordinarily well this spring, and has been treated very well by this council,” said Councilmember George Leventhal. “I’m certain that with the passage of time, my constituents in Wheaton will appreciate all the good things we’re doing for them.”

He praised Councilmember Hans Riemer for “taking it upon himself to suffer the slings and arrows of community discontent a few nights ago,” referring to the

Council Vice President Nancy Navarro also chimed in, agreeing that Wheaton “has done very well” but adding that Wheaton had been patiently waiting a long time for the council to meet its needs. Navarro defended the council’s vote on Wheaton redevelopment--to start with a government office building in Lot 13.

“I think that there’s a bit of confusion that somehow the government building is it...and that is by no means the case,” Navarro said. “I feel very strongly that what the council did is the best course for Wheaton.”

(All of these comments were build-up to the business at hand: approving a sectional map amendment to the Wheaton CBD and Vicinity Sector Plan. The sectional map amendment implements the zoning changes from the updated sector plan, . Of the 484 acres covered by the sectional map amendment, approximately 135 are changing zones. An April 10 public hearing drew testimony from only two individuals.)

Councilmember Marc Elrich nostalgically reflected on when Wheaton was “the center of the universe in Montgomery County,” but noted that it had fallen into the background as the council focused attention on other parts of the county.

“It’s time for Wheaton, it’s time for East County to get some things,” Elrich said.

But he shared his misgivings about the things proposed by the county executive for Wheaton redevelopment, particularly the partnership with private developer B.F. Saul.

“We want to make sure that the private-public partnership is actually in the best interest of the public partner, not just the private partner,” Elrich said.

Councilmember Nancy Floreen sounded an optimistic note: “We’ve done our part, and we’ll continue to do our part...We’re creating the opportunities that need to be created.”

TaL April 19, 2012 at 02:49 AM
so other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Really, the number of self congratulatory emails Ive gotten in response to my "please dont do this to Wheaton" email to the council is staggering. They cant be that stupid, so it has to be an ulterior motive. Im going with the "Affordablity Zone" that Commentius proposed combined with a virulent dislike of anything smacking of private enterprise occuring East of the Park.
AntonFisher April 19, 2012 at 04:36 PM
“It’s time for Wheaton, it’s time for East County to get some things,” Elrich said. I do not think that Mr. Elrich is doing anything to help Wheaton though. All he is doing is just talk, but when it comes to deeds hes votes against Wheaton. He just voted against the ambitious project for the redevelopment of Wheaton.
AntonFisher April 19, 2012 at 04:37 PM
“It’s time for Wheaton, it’s time for East County to get some things,” Elrich said. I do not think that Mr. Elrich is doing anything to help Wheaton redevelopment. All he is doing is just talk about it, but when it comes to deeds he votes against Wheaton. He just voted against the ambitious project for the redevelopment of Wheaton.
Commentous April 19, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Just to be clear, I wrote this Wednesday before the WRAC meeting, which I attended but it didn't get posted due to technical glitches. The Council Members at the WRAC meeting effectively said that they were told by the Executive's office that the cost for the private-public partnership would be in the $17-$20 million range and that they were fine with that. When the figure that came out was $42 million, their analysis found that it was not worth the cost and that other bidders would have been interested if they knew the level of public money going into the project. If you accept all of that, the biggest problem may have been that none of this was conveyed to Wheaton's residents (aside from some groups that had the ears of the Council) until the meeting. Or you might feel that the Council has simply shown a lack of interest in really redeveloping Wheaton, which very well might be the case. Clearly, current "redevelopment" plans are very limited. One WRAC member pushed for as much office space as possible on Lot 13 (assuming M-NCPPC was one office). I disagree. That area needs residents. If Wheaton is going to be a place for people to both work and play, the Lot 13 area must both be walkable and have consistent foot traffic at night. Offices that clear out at 5:00 pm, surrounded by dilapidated strip malls, even allowing for a plaza, set the stage for an irretrievable ghost town at night, not a revitalized center. Residential is vital to avoid this result.
Theresa Defino April 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
FYI--at the end of the meeting on Tuesday, the council reviewed the reconciliation changes to the 2013-2018 CIP budget and voted unanimously in a straw vote to accept the reconciliation, which keeps Edison/Wheaton modernization on track and not delayed as proposed by the county executive. We look forward to the final "real" vote next month. Thank you, council members!

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