Ground Breaking Ceremony

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012 there will be a Groundbreaking Ceremony for Olney Springs.  The Guest Speaker will be Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.  The event will be 11:30 am to 12:30 pm at 18241 Bowie Mill Rd

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September 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm Leave a comment

Update and next steps

What is the current plan?

The property on Bowie Mill Road will have 40% market rate homes, 30% workforce, and 30% MPDUs.  From www.bowiemill.com (which is accurate as of today’s area median income):

Household Income Information

40% of the homes will be offered at market rate pricing.

30% of the homes will be Workforce Housing with family incomes up to $123,000.  Workforce Housing will be priced from $231,000 to $361,100.

30% of the homes will be MPDU (Moderately Priced Dwelling Units) up to family income of $72,000 (for family of 4).   MPDU pricing will be based on Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs guidelines at time of offering 

Housing Types

The Bowie Mill Development Team is proposing 114 homes with a mixture of detached and attached housing.
      37 Detached homes with front garages
      20 Detached homes with rear garages
      12 Town homes with garages (front and rear)
      45 Town homes with surface parking 

To see a picture of the layout, go to www.bowiemill.com

The Olney Coalition was formed in 2003 when it became clear the county owned the land and had several ideas of how to use it.  Since it was originally a school site, Olney Coalition argued to keep it as a school site but research indicated that it would not be needed for a school in the future (there is an unused elementary school site between Norbeck Grove and the new development Reserve at Fairhill, there is an unused middle school site along Cashell Road just south of Continental, and there is no need for a high school site in this area given the proximity of Blake, Sherwood, and Magruder).  There are several environmental features to be concerned about but they do not exclude any development on the property.  The immediate surrounding neighborhoods wanted to kept the zoning R200 like the areas around it (resulting in a maximum of 78 units).  In 2005 when the Olney Master Plan was updated, the County Council recommended R200 with a special zoning called PD3 (a maximum of 117 units) as appropriate pending a future approval by the council.  A hearing examiner took testimony from the public and recommendations from the Planning Board and made a final recommendation to the Council who approved the change in zoning to PD3 (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/zah/pdf/2010_Reports/g-885bowiemill.pdf).  Based on the community’s input, the 24 two over two style units were removed and replaced with townhouses and the total number of units decreased from 117 to 114. 

My personal opinion is it is sad that the county approved the PD3 zoning.  Had the zoning stayed R200, the developer stated they would build all 78 units on the large parcel, leaving the small 4 acre triangle near Brightwood Rd undeveloped (too expensive to do the land prep for just a few units).  This area is just large enough for the much needed gymnasium and even though there are no funds to build it now, the land would be there when the financial situation of the county changes.   There would be 36 less units (of which 20 are affordable) but we would have gained a community asset for all to use.  Unfortunately, that argument did not sway the decision makers. 

The next step for this property is for preliminary and site plan approval from the Planning Board.  To learn more about the approval process, go to http://www.montgomeryplanningboard.org/info/resident_guides/index.shtm.

People can submit written testimony or even attend the hearing to give verbal testimony.  My guess is the hearing will be late spring/early summer – you can check weekly at http://www.montgomeryplanningboard.org/meetings_archive/.  You can also sign up to testify, listen to the Planning Board hearings, and/or to receive the weekly newsletter which includes the agenda and other upcoming events.  

If you would like to submit your opinions about the Bowie Mill project (or any project), emails should be sent to:  mcp-chairman@mncppc-mc.org.  (Current Chairman is Françoise Carrier) and refer to Preliminary Plan # 120110120 and Site Plan # 820110050.  You can read the Bowie Mill Rd application at http://www.mcatlas.org/Development_Info/Default.aspx?apno=120110120.  You can also call the Development Review Division at 301-495-4595 if you have questions.

My opinions on the current plan:  if I had to squeeze in 114 units on this property, I don’t know if I would have designed it much differently.  Since the number of units cannot be argued (the zoning is now set), we can only address compatibility/layout/public facilities.  I do not think of Olney as a place that utilizes alleys.  I’m not fond of the “new urbanism” design where the garage is accessed via a back alley essentially eliminating the backyard.  It may be appropriate in King Farm or Kentlands but I don’t see it in Olney.  Unfortunately I don’t see the Planning Board having an issue it (especially with Joe Alfandre – a developer of Kentlands – on the Planning Board).  I am also unhappy with the separate corner of townhouses across from Brightwood Road – there are NO market housing units there.  There are 5 mid-range workforce housing garage townhouses, 6 low-range workforce housing townhouses, and 16 MPDUs.  I know the design comes from not wanting to build a public road (the road there is private and thus smaller than a public road leaving room for all those units).  I also question the 1/3 of MPDUs potentially becoming rentals.  In this development, there are 34 MPDUs resulting in potentially 11 rentals.  If this was privately held property, then there would have only been 17 MPDUs required, with 5 potential rentals.  Given the development is already 60% affordable, I question the higher percentage of rentals that would result given the 30% MPDUs to start with.  We want a viable community.  Given the civic meetings I have attended, it seems the problems other communities have had result from the concentration of affordable housing in one area of a development.  In my opinion, a truly mixed income community can work as long as the affordable units are not segregated into one area.  Finally, I have an issue with traffic on Bowie Mill Road.  During the rezoning hearing, the developer’s traffic expert testified that traffic along Bowie Mill Road will actually be less once this development is built because everyone will be on the ICC.  Hmmmmm.  Granted only the first section has been built but from the posts to the Olney Brookeville Exchange and my personal experience on Bowie Mill Road, I question that “prediction”.  The expert claims from 114 units, there will be only 83 trips on the morning and 113 trips in the afternoon (see pages 23-27 of http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/zah/pdf/2010_Reports/g-885bowiemill.pdf).  The developer will only be required to mitigate for 10% of these (11 trips) via things like sidewalks and bus passes.

March 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

There will be NO two over two style housing

Elm Street, the developer for the 32 acre Bowie Mill Road property, has removed the two over two style housing from the plan.  Two over two style housing is a four story building where the first two floors are one unit and the 3rd and 4th floor is a second unit.  Sometimes they are referred to as stacked townhouses.  The current plan has 24 two over two units.  A revised development plan showing how the layout changes now that the two over twos are removed is needed.  Once the plan is submitted to the Hearing Examiner, there will be 10 days to comment.  Stay tuned…

May 16, 2010 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

Olney Coalition Concluding Remarks

May 14, 2010

Martin Grossman

Hearing Examiner for G885

100 Maryland Ave

Rockville, MD 20850

Dear Mr. Grossman,

For over seven years, the Olney community has stated the proper zone for the 32-acre Bowie Mill Road property is R200.  Application G885 should be denied because the proposed full yield PD3 plan is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.

The first Notice of Public Hearing for this application (dated August 28, 2009) stated: “The applicant must demonstrate at a public hearing that the proposed development would be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood…”  The Olney Master Plan also requires the density to be compatible with the adjacent properties (page 38).  Olney is a semi-rural suburban area which is one of the main reasons people choose to live in Olney.  The current proposed plan is more characteristic of urban areas due to the higher density and the rear load garages.  No other neighborhoods in Olney have alleys.

The smaller parcel of land being developed near Bowie Mill Road has no market rate homes.  We believe this will further divide and segregate the two community areas.  This social divide in housing units should not be overlooked or underestimated as it will naturally further divide this community in time beyond the physical separation.  It makes one question the long-term success of this community.  In 1995 the Planning Board issued recommendations to disperse MPDUs throughout a development.  This recommendation makes good sense as it ensures housing unit integration and balance within a community, which leads to sustainable community harmony.  In the neighborhoods within Olney where the MPDUs are properly dispersed, there have not been the quality of life problems or animosities being experienced in neighborhoods that have concentrated MPDUs.  Testimony was passionately presented about the recurring problems these communities have been dealing with due to this concentrated MPDU design.   Hence, we feel the current PD3 plan fails to properly integrate the mix of housing units in the smaller parcel of land near Bowie Mill Road.

The community accepts the 60 percent affordable housing requirement but cannot accept concentrating the affordable housing within the development, especially when that concentration is placed in an area that is quite isolated from the rest of the development.  The R200 zoning, on the other hand, eliminates the compatibility issues with the current PD3 plan as it reduces the overall number of units.  This in turn provides the space to better integrate the affordable units into the different housing types in both parcels of land being developed.  Reducing the number of units also reduces the urban feel resulting in real compatibility with all the surrounding communities.  Thus, the current R200 zone is the appropriate zone for the development of this property and for the future success of this new community. 

The decision to rezone this property is based on the proposed plan presented by the applicant.  The community does not feel this plan is compatible with the area.  However, if you feel the PD3 zoning is appropriate then we request that you at least remand this plan to redistribute the affordable units.

Sincerely,

Barbara Falcigno

President, Olney Coalition

May 16, 2010 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Writing a Letter

A letter can be very simple.   The strongest argument against the rezoning is compatibility (see post below titled Community Concerns).  Introduce why you are writing (eg  I am writing to oppose the rezoning of the 32 acre property on Bowie Mill Road in Olney).  State why you oppose (eg  I do not feel the proposed plan is compatible with the surrounding communities.  OR The neo-traditional design of housing with rear detached garages are not compatible with the semi-rural nature of this area of Olney).  Add any additional thoughts you have.  Sign your letter, include your address.

Send letters to:

Martin Grossman,

Hearing Examiner for Applicaiton G-885

100 Maryland Ave

Rockville, MD 20850

May 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Community Concerns

Many have issues with the overall density of the project in comparison to the adjacent neighborhoods.  Although the plan matches lot line to lot line along the perimeter, the middle will not feel anything like the surrounding neighborhoods.  The number of townhouses and neo-traditional single family detached belong in a more urban setting – not the surburban area that surrounds it. 

In addition, this plan includes a building type called a two over two.  Two over twos are registered as condos.  The master plan is very specific in having no multi-family housing types on this property.

May 1, 2010 at 10:16 pm Leave a comment

Public Hearing May 3, 2010 at Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings

On Monday, May 3, 2010 the Hearing Examiner Martin Grossman will hold a public hearing starting at 9:30 am in the office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings on the second floor of 100 Maryland Ave in Rockville.  For more information, you can call 240-777-6660.  Individuals wishing to give testimony may attend the hearing and speak either in favor or against the rezoning request.

April 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm Leave a comment

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