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

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 (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

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 (  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

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  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:  (Current Chairman is Françoise Carrier) and refer to Preliminary Plan # 120110120 and Site Plan # 820110050.  You can read the Bowie Mill Rd application at  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  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.


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

Olney Coalition testimony to Planning Board

On Thursday April 24, 2010, Olney Coalition testified to the Planning Board against the rezoning.   Here is the testimony:

                                                                                                                                  April 22, 2010

Dear Chairman Hanson and Planning Board Commissioners,

The Olney Coalition formed in 2003 and represents over 3,000 households.  Its mission is to preserve the semi-rural residential character of our community and the qualities of life we value – fine schools, excellent roads, and a healthy environment.  Olney Coalition was very involved throughout the 2005 update to the Olney Master Plan, attending every Planning Board work session and every PHED and Council work session.  This property received a lot of attention throughout the master plan update and part of Olney Coalition’s testimony was used in the recommendation for this property.

Olney Coalition is opposed to the rezoning of the Bowie Mill Rd Property from R200 to PD3.  The 24 two over two style units do NOT belong on this property.  The Olney Master Plan is very specific about what housing types are expected and lists “single family detached(,) duplexes, and townhouses excluding multi-family units.”  The reason specific housing types were listed was to be clear what would ensure compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods (see attached transcript of the County Council’s discussion on this).  Two over two units are not listed as acceptable housing types for this property nor can they be defined as a duplex or townhouse (as defined by the Zoning Code – see attached).  The Olney Coalition believes two over two units should be formally classified as a multi-family structure given the shared nature of maintenance of the building.  (For example, who pays when the roof leaks?)

The purpose of the planned development zone is to facilitate and encourage a maximum of social and community interaction of those that live there.  The design of a two over two unit isolates the second floor families since there is little direct contact with outside.  In addition, all of the two over two units are going to be MPDUs.  On page 11-2 of the 30 Year Review of the MPDU Program presented to the Montgomery County Council in February 2004 asks the question “How does the type and location of a single family MPDU affect demand for the unit?”  In addition to condominiums in multi-family buildings and one bedroom MPDUs having limited interest….

“Piggyback and back to back townhouses with limited ground level access and storage space may be less attractive to families with children.  In addition, these unit designs often are perceived as less visually attractive, noisier, and potentially costlier to maintain.  HOC at times declines an opportunity to acquire certain units because of the difficulty in marketing them to moderate and low income households.  Units located in relatively remote areas of a subdivision that are distant from transit, shopping, and public services may be less attractive to HOC and other non-profits that rent units to low-income households with limited transportation options.  While the Planning Board has established MPDU site plan guidelines, no mechanism exists to adjust these guidelines to meet changing needs. “

The Olney Coalition also feels the project does not integrate the affordable housing units throughout the neighborhood.  Given that 60% of the units are affordable, it would be better to look at integrating the market rate units into the affordable units.  Olney Coalition can appreciate the difficulty to do this given the constraints on the size of the property and need for compatibility.  The current plan places the market rate homes around the perimeter in order to match lot lines with lot lines of the adjacent homes.  This leaves very few market rate homes to integrate with the affordable units resulting in segregation.  A Study of Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit Program Implementation reported by the Office of Legislative Oversight in July 2007 states as Objective #6 that “There are no standards for location and design of MPDUs.  The council should examine the advantages and disadvantages of establishing MPDU location and design standards.”  The Planning Board approved a document called Site Plan Guidelines for Projects Containing MPDUs in June 1995.  Two of the guidelines are:

“Prohibit back-to-back townhouse MPDUs unless it can be demonstrated that no other unit type is suitable to the site, that the disadvantages associated with that unit type are eliminated in the site design, and the MPDUs are scattered among market rate back-to-back units.” 

“Encourage a variety of MPDU unit types”

Even though there are no “back to back:” townhouses in this plan, two over two units are very similar (I don’t believe two over twos existed when these guidelines were written). If the rezoning to PD3 is approved, then some of the two over two units should be required to be market rate units and some of the detached homes should be MPDUs (possibly as duplexes that look like single family detached homes) in order to achieve a better mixture of affordable and market rate houses.  Ideally, retain the R200 zoning so there would be more space to integrate the housing types better.  Olney Coalition wants a successful community to be built on the property and believes integration of unit types is very important in making this happen.

Thus R200 is the better zoning because it provides the space to integrate affordable with market rate units as well as have no need for the two over two units which are currently used to reach the theoretical maximum yield of a planned development zone.  Therefore, Olney Coalition is opposed to this plan and the rezoning of the Bowie Mill Rd Property from R200 to PD3. 


Barbara Falcigno
President, Olney Coalition

Transcript of portion of Montgomery County Council discussion of Olney Master Plan regarding limitations on the PD3 zoning for the Bowie Mill Rd Property.  March 15, 2005

Quick background: 

Council voted 5-4 to approve R200/PD3 zoning for Bowie Mill Rd property

Council voted 4-4 on a resolution to retain the R200 zoning with language regarding swap and specifying money from sale used to acquire affordable housing in Olney (Subin absent)

(Chapter 10)  Falcigno requested Council make a motion restricting commercial use and multi-family structures since the PD3 zoning encourages them.  Planning Staff is consulted who agree commercial would be inappropriate.  Discussion if can add to master plan if it has supremacy over the zone.  (Chapter 11) John Carter said PD zoning has a finding that it must be in conformance with the master plan

Michaelson:  If you look on circle 8 number 4 deals with this compatibility issue.  It says lot sizes, mix of housing (single family detached and townhomes) and the density are compatible with adjacent properties.  We could change the wording a little bit there and say limit to housing consisting of single family detached and townhomes to insure compatibility

Leventhal:  I would offer a motion of that effect

Silverman:  I’m sorry if I may before there is a motion. So in the category of be careful of what you wish for.  If we do that, have we then just basically killed the Olney Boys and Girls Club’s proposal?

Afzal:  No (and he continues to explain why – private club is special exception allowed in R200 and PD3)

Silverman:  So what language would we basically be saying?  We can’t say can only have housing because you then just precluded the use of a gymnasium.  I’m not interested in killing this proposal before it even gets off the ground.

Afzal:  You can say no retail or no retail commercial

Michaelson:  You can say change it to no commercial instead of saying just limited to housing

Leventhal:  so there would be an item 5 then on circle 8 page 37 add to the end of the page that follows item 5 Uses for the property should not include commercial uses or

Praisner:  multi-family

(Chapter 12) Michaelson:  Commercial development is inappropriate for this site.

Leventhal:  Commercial development is inappropriate for this site. 

Michaelson:  and I would read the prior one which says the mix of housing types single family detached and townhomes is effectively suggesting that is what the mix should consist of.  If you want to be more explicit…

Leventhal:  I agree with Marlene.  It seems to me if you are talking about lot sizes and the mix of housing types that’s already in there.  But with respect to commercial development is not appropriate for the site we could add that.

Michaelson:  we could say a mix of housing times (limited to single family detached and townhomes)

Afzal:  But that will get to Mr. Silverman’s issue that the gym might be if you say limited to housing types

Michaelson:  No housing types are limited it is the parenthesis after housing types

Leventhal then makes his case why he cannot vote against multifamily housing although he does not see it on this site  Resolution add #5 Commercial development is inappropriate for this site.  I really think this gets to the Olney Coalition’s concern.

Perez:  Can you reread it again?

Leventhal:  Sure.  It says It is item 5 that is what were adding and it says Commercial development is inappropriate for this site.

Perez:  Ok.  So that is what were   Is there any objection to adding that?  Ok, it will be added.  Mr. Knapp you had your light on I’m sorry.  Do you want to comment on that? 

Knapp:  No (hard to hear murmurs)

Perez:  Let’s stick to the commercial development issue.

(Chapter 13) Praisner:  I’m sticking to the zone and I’d like to say the mix of housing including single family detached, duplex, and townhouses are appropriate for this site. 

Leventhal:  Fine

Praisner:  So that would exclude multi-family. 

Leventhal:  All you are doing is adding duplexes right?

Praisner:  a duplex looks like a single family home but is two units or four units.  It is not a multi-family unit by our definition.

Leventhal:  That’s fine

Perez:  So without objection you have a word added to line four after detached duplex comma

Praisner: and also exclude multi-family

Leventhal:  No, I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that point.  You’re saying excluding multi-family. 

Praisner:  Yes

Leventhal:  I’m not comfortable with that.  So we’ll have to have a vote on that

Several talking at once

Praisner:  I make the motion that we exclude multi-family

Silverman:  Second

Perez:  So the motion on the table is to basically add duplex and exclude multi-family

Praisner:  I want to specifically want to say that

Perez:  Mr. Leventhal

Leventhal:  I may be the only one who feels this way.  He continues with history and his viewpoint with never voting against multi-family housing as a county wide housing policy even though he does not envision multi-family on this site. 

(Chapter 14)Perez:  Ok.  It has been moved and seconded to add duplex and add a provision excluding multi-family.  Moved and seconded.  All in favor signify by raising your hands

Passes 7 – 1 (Leventhal against, Subin absent)

From Zoning Code Chapter 59 A 2.

Dwelling and dwelling units:

    Dwelling: A building or portion thereof arranged or designed to contain one or more dwelling units.

     Dwelling, detached: See “dwelling, one-family,” and “dwelling unit, one-family detached.”

     Dwelling, moderately priced unit: See “dwelling unit, moderately priced.”

     Dwelling, one-family: A dwelling containing not more than one dwelling unit. An accessory apartment, if approved by special exception, or a registered living unit may also be part of a one-family dwelling. A one-family dwelling with either of these subordinate uses is not a two-family dwelling, as defined in this section.

     Dwelling, two-family: A dwelling containing not more than 2 dwelling units arranged one above the other or side by side.

     Dwelling, multiple-family: A dwelling containing 3 or more multiple-family dwelling units, which may or may not share a common entrance. For the purposes of section 59-G-4.3, title “Noncomplying multi-family dwellings,” multiple-family dwelling means a dwelling containing 2 or more dwelling units.

     Dwelling, multiple-group: A group of 2 or more multiple-family dwellings, occupying a parcel of land in one ownership and having any yard, compound or service area in common.

     Dwelling, one-family attached: See “dwelling unit, one-family attached.”

     Dwelling, semidetached: See “dwelling unit, semidetached.”

Dwelling unit: A building or portion thereof providing complete living facilities for not more than one family, including, at a minimum, facilities for cooking, sanitation and sleeping.

     Dwelling unit, one-family detached: A dwelling unit that is separated and detached from any other dwelling unit on all sides, except where the dwelling is modified to include an accessory apartment, approved by special exception, or a registered living unit.

     Dwelling unit, one-family attached: A dwelling unit that is in a structure consisting entirely of dwelling units, each of which (1) is attached to one or more other dwelling units, (2) has at least one direct entrance from the outside, and (3) has an abutting ground level outdoor area for the exclusive use of its occupants. This definition does not include a “dwelling unit, townhouse,” as defined in this section.

     Dwelling unit, one-family semidetached (duplex): One of 2 attached dwelling units located on abutting lots, separated from each other by a party wall along the common lot line, and separated and detached from any other dwelling unit on all other sides.

     Dwelling unit, townhouse: One of a group of 3 or more one-family dwelling units attached to and divided from each other by a vertical party wall. Each townhouse must have a minimum of 2 direct entrances from the outside, either on the front and rear or front and side. This definition does not include a “dwelling unit, one-family attached,” as defined in this section.

     Dwelling unit, multiple-family: A dwelling unit that is in a multiple-family dwelling and may share a common entrance to the outside with other dwelling units in the building.

     Dwelling unit, moderately priced: Any dwelling unit that meets the requirements for a moderately priced dwelling unit as set forth in chapter 25A of this Code, title “Housing, Moderately Priced,” and the relevant sections of this chapter 59.

Dwelling, carriage house: A second dwelling unit with separate entrance attached to a one- family detached dwelling, or part of a detached building accessory to that dwelling. The unit may be a maximum floor area of 800 square feet or one-third the floor area of the main dwelling whichever is less.


Two over two units are not officially defined in the zoning code.  They would be either

 “Dwelling, two family:  A dwelling containing not more than 2 dwelling units arranged one above the other or side by side.” 


“Dwelling unit, one-family attached:  A dwelling unit that is in a structure consisting entirely of dwelling units, each of which (1) is attached to one or more other dwelling units, (2) has at least one direct entrance from the outside, and (3) has an abutting ground level outdoor area for the exclusive use of its occupants.  This definition does not include a “dwelling unit, townhouse,” as defined in this section.”

The applicant uses the second definition to defend two over twos as a single family unit (page 15 of staff packet).  No matter which definition is used to describe a two over two unit, they are not a duplex or townhouse.  Therefore they not what was envisioned in the master plan as appropriate for this site in order for the development to be compatible.

April 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

See the Proposed Plan

See the Development Plan and more information for the 32 acre property on Bowie Mill Road at

April 21, 2010 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

Hearings on the Rezoning of Bowie Mill Rd Property

Planning Board will discuss and make a recommendation on Thursday, April 22 at 1:00 (located at 8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, metered parking).  Their recommendation will be considered by the Hearing Examiner who will consider all testimony given on Monday, May 3rd at 9:30 am (100 Maryland Ave, Rockville, garage parking).   Once the record is closed, the Hearing Examiner will make a recommendation to the County Council who makes the final decision for or against the rezoning of this property from R200 (two units per acre = 78 homes) to PD3 (three units per acre = 117 homes).

Send written (no emails accepted) letters to:

Martin Grossman

Hearing Examiner for Application G-885

100 Maryland Ave

Rockville, MD 20850

Letters do not need to be long – just identify who you are and then stick to one or two key points (not compatible with any of the surrounding neighborhoods, no two over two units should be included, there is a poor mixture of affordable and market rate housing, development degrades Upper Rock Creek watershed,  and/or whatever you feel).

April 21, 2010 at 1:09 am Leave a comment

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