Planning Board backs controversial West Lane apartment building -- Gazette.Net


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The Montgomery County Planning Board recommended approval Dec. 20 of a zoning change on a West Lane property that could make way for a controversial seven-story, 120-unit apartment building there, over the objection of neighborhood residents.

A previous project proposed for the site featured 48 multifamily units and was supported by the community, according to letters from residents to the planning board.

The next step sends the proposal to the Montgomery County hearing examiner in the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, who will make a recommendation to the Montgomery County Council, which has the final say on the project, said Erin Grayson, senior planner for Area 1 for the Montgomery County Planning Department. The Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings has the item on its agenda for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 11 at the Stella B. Werner Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave., Room 200, in Rockville. Grayson said the project has not yet been scheduled on the County Council’s agenda.

West Lane is a dead-end street located off Montgomery Lane, which residents say is too narrow to accommodate cars for more than 100 new units. Residents have said they also are concerned about the project’s aesthetics. The proposed building is surrounded by townhouses and does not fit the character of the neighborhood, according to correspondence from a resident to the planning board.

Jon Weintraub, who lives near the proposed building on Montgomery Lane, said he is disappointed by the planning board decision but not surprised. He said a proposal by Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier to limit the building to 100 units lacked support from fellow board members.

“As we thought, the deck was totally stacked against us,” Weintraub said. “They would have built a Sears Tower at the site if a developer proposed it. There was no interest in any way limiting either the height or the size of their building.”

Weintraub said residents will continue to fight the project.

Montgomery Lane was planned to be a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly path to the Bethesda Library and the Bethesda Metro, but the street is rendered impassable when vehicles are parked illegally, Joseph wrote in correspondence to the planning board.

Those who have expressed objections to the new proposal include Peter Locker, president of the Villages of Bethesda Home Owners Association; Stanley Stern, board president of the Edgemoor Condominium; Daniel Joseph, a member of the City Homes board of directors, and David O’Bryon, past president of City Homes.

jablamsky@gazette.net