New Shopping Center, Town Houses Planned for Westwood

Update: February 28, 2019

On Stormwater Management:  Regency Centers has tweaked their plan to include infiltration sumps under all the rain gardens (micro-bioretentions) and is using permeable pavement for a few parking spots.   However, the plan is still relies on waivers and non-green techniques to manage the majority of the stormwater. We met with them on February 18, 2019 to discuss ways that they could further increase the infiltration for the site.  We have not heard back on any action from our ideas.  Click HERE to see the list of green techniques we would like to see added to the Stormwater Management Plan.  This list was sent to the Planning staff as well as the Department of Permitting Services. 

Comments are due now.  The Planning Board will consider the development on March 14, 2019.

Regency Centers with 100 percent Environmental Site Design

 

Update: January 31, 2019

The December 11, 2018 submission was sent back to Regency for revisions and a new filing was done submitted January 14, 2019.  For all intents and purposes, the stormwater plan (which was rejected by the Department of Permitting Service (DPS) on December 24, 2018) has not changed much.  The applicant is including at the request of DPS, infiltration sump under the six of the rain gardens, but this is the only change.  They are still requesting a 87 % fee-in-lieu waiver for one area - permission to only treat 13 percent of the rain water run-off.  They are still relying on structural stormwater management practices (vaults) to treat the majority of the rain water run-off (53%).  The vault do not return the water to the ground but send it to the creek where it causes erosion, flooding and the typical degradation that urban streams suffer every time it rains.  They are still proposing to infiltrate (return to the ground) less that 20 percent of the rain water run-off.  Returning water to the ground is especially important in this project because of the naturalized Willett Branch creek proposed for the Sector.  The ground water becomes the base flow for the new creek.

Maryland law requires that the applicant demonstrate that they have done their best to use green techniques that allow for the rainwater to soak into the ground before turning to structural management techniques and asking for waivers.  This is called Environmental Site Design to the Maximum Extent Practicable (ESD to the MEP). We do not believe that Regency has satisfied the requirement for ESD to the MEPClick HERE to learn more about ESD to the MEP.   

Study Finds Rain Water can be Managed on Site:  
Impact to the Creek is Significant

In December 2018, we engaged Designgreen, an engineering firm that specializes in stormwater management, to study the site and determine 

  1. Can the stormwater be managed on-site with green techniques that allow the water to infiltrate into the ground - infiltration Environmental Site Design?
  2. Would there be a significant benefit to the new Willett Branch creek if there was more infiltration in the development - would we see an increased baseflow in the new creek?

The conclusion of their study was that

  1. yes, the rain water can be managed on site with no reduction in the development foot print.  The addition of permeable pavement and more aggressive green methods of capturing the stormwater is all that is needed to achieve 100% on-site green stormwater management.
  2. More infiltration will make a huge difference base flow (and health) of the Willett Branch. 

Please email us at info@lfwa.org if you would like a copy of the study.  Designgreen used the EPA SWMM model to study the area.  

LFWA is calling for a robust stormwater management system with 

  • No fee-in-lieu waivers 
  • No stormwater vaults
  • Maximum use of rain gardens, permeable pavement and other techniques that allow the rain water to go back into the ground. (ESD to the MEP)

We now have the study to back us up on these points.  For the Regency Centers development, ESD to the MEP means managing 100 percent of the rainwater on-site with green methods.  There is no need for waivers and no need for stormwater vaults that discharge the water directly to the creek.  Increasing the number of planters, permeable pavers, tree boxes is all that is necessary.

The impact on the stream is significant. Run-off is decreased and the base flow is increased.  The new creek needs both conditions to thrive. The Willett Branch Stream Valley Park  is the center piece of the Westbard Sector and the only significant green space.  We have this chance to do it right.  

The time for comments is now.  The Planning Board hearing for the project is set for March 14, 2019.  Information about writing to the Planning Board is HERE.

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Update:  December 15, 2018

Regency Centers September and October submissions were rejected with lengthy comments by the Park and Planning staffs.  A new submission was received on December 11, 2018.  A quick review of the new plans suggests that the staff comments have not been completely addressed, nor have there been any changes to the stormwater management plan.  LFWA will be studying the new submission and offering comments. 

Click HERE to read our November comments on the stormwater management plan. 

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Update: August 31, 2018

In June, 2018, Regency Centers asked for an extension to address the lengthy comments on the plan.  They are now scheduled to re-submit the plans by September 12, 2018, with a goal of appearing before the Planning Board mid December, 2018  The new plans will be available on-line to the public.  As always, public comments can be submitted at any time during the process. 

LET THE PLANNING STAFF AND DEPARTMENT OF PERMITTING SERVICES KNOW THAT STORMWATER MANAGEMENT MATTERS.

LFWA has major concerns regarding the stormwater management plan.  There are two items under consideration by the Planning Staff - a plan for the entire area including the Westbard Shopping Center, Manor Care, Westwood II, the Citgo station and the parking lot in the rear of American Plant (the Preliminary Plan) and a specific plan for the Westwood Shopping Center (a Site Plan).  Both of these plans have a stormwater management component and both are NOT satisfactory.  

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Mixed-use buildings, civic green and 72 town houses planned for Westwood Shopping Center 

Proposed Stormwater Management Plan will Treat only 53% of the Required Rainfall.  

Regency Centers has proposed mixed use residential, shopping and 72 town houses for the current Giant Shopping Center on Westbard Ave in Bethesda.  Their stormwater plan  is designed to treat less than 1 inch of rain water during a storm, half of the county's 1.8 inches requirement for the site..(CLICK HERE FOR NUMBERS)  The Stormwater Management Plan is HERE.   The remaining 0.8 inches would be captured in stormwater vaults and released into the Willett Branch untreated.  

The county's stipulation for the Westwood Site is that 1.8 inches of rain is to be treated with green infrastructure - rain gardens, green roofs, swales or other environmental site design (ESD) techniques that not only return the water to the ground, but effectively treat it as it percolates through the soil replenishing the groundwater.

The law requires that Regency Centers demonstrate "that all reasonable opportunities for meeting stormwater requirements using ESD have been exhausted by using natural areas and landscape features to manage runoff from impervious surfaces, and that structural Best Management Practices (BMP) have been used only where absolutely necessary."  (MDE Stormwater Design Manual, Chapter 5, Part 5.1 Design Process and Planning Techniques, page 5.4). This a mandatory requirement for ESD compliance within MDE's stormwater manual, and it requires the integration of natural areas and landscape features, such as trees and vegetated buffers, into the ESD analysis - which must be exhaustive.

Further, the Westbard Sector Plan on page 58 emphasizes that all stormwater must be treated on-site where feasible and that few waivers should be granted.  

100% Stormwater Treatment is vital for the Willett Branch Restoration

Central to the plan for the Westbard sector is the naturalization of the Willett Branch and the creation of a new stream valley park. The park will wind from River Road to the Capital Crescent Trail providing a much needed swath of green and recreation area.  (Click Here for information about the Park.)   

The Regency Centers' proposal to manage only half of the rain water with Environmental Site Design (or green techniques) will be detrimental to the success of the new creek.  ESD has three important functions for the creek: 

  • Cleans Polluted run-off: Environmental  site design treats the polluted rain water run-off by sending it into the ground where the soil bacteria clean the water,
  • Recharges Ground Water:  ESD sends the rain water into the ground where it becomes ground water. Ground water is essential to creek ecology and recharging the ground water when it rains is an important part of stormwater management.  When the concrete lining is removed from the Willett Branch, it will be connected to the ground water for the first time since 1960.  The ground water will keep the creek running during periods of no rain and will provide cool, clean water for the organisms that live in the creek.  
  • Minimizes Run-off into the Creek During Storms:  Rain run-off during a storm is the most destructive force an urban creek must endure. The volume and velocity of water entering the creek via the storm drain systems blows out the banks and causes erosion.  It floods the homes of the organism living on the rocks and destroys their habitat.  When stormwater is returned to the ground, there is less flow to the creek.  Stormwater vaults holds the water but still allows the rain water to flood the creeks in large storms.  

Little Falls Watershed Alliance is advocating for 100 percent Environmental Site Design stormwater treatment.  

Time Line for Comments and Public Input

May 15- June 22, 2018: Plans Submitted to County Planning Department
July 17, 2018: 12:00 Development Review Committee Meeting

            Read our July 13 comments HERE
            Read our July 17 follow-up with consultant's report HERE.

September 12, 2018:  Resubmittal due to Planning Staff.
December, 2018: Development plans go to Planning Board

Access to Plans:

The Preliminary Plans (Phase 1 and 2) are online HERE.  The Preliminary Plan is no. 120170170.

The Site Plan for the Westwood Shopping Center and Town Houses are online HERE.  The Site Plan is no. 820180190.

Plans and information about the process is also available at the Citizens Coordination Committee for Friendship Heights website

Background on the Development

From Bethesda Magazine, June 1, 2018

Update: Westwood Shopping Center Project Expected for 2018 Review by County Planning Board
Proposal calls for mixed-use buildings, more than 500 new homes in the Westbard neighborhood
BY BETHANY RODGERS  
 
Updated 12:10 p.m. Monday: A developer expects plans for the Westwood Shopping Center in Bethesda’s Westbard neighborhood will come before Montgomery County planning officials later this year.
 
Regency Centers, the developer interested in transforming the aging strip mall and large parking lot, last month turned in its new proposal for building about 410 multi-family homes, 106 townhomes and about 176,232 square feet of commercial and retail space.
 
The project would cover a 23-acre area including the shopping center at 5400 Westbard Ave., the former Manor Care nursing home property and the Westwood II property at 5110 Ridgefield Road.
 
The neighborhood’s overhaul has been a subject of heated debate in the community in recent years. Before Regency Centers came along, another developer, Equity One, formulated a plan for a much larger, 1.8 million-square-foot project at the shopping center and surrounding properties. Residents strongly opposed the proposal, saying the plan called for buildings that were too tall and too tightly packed.
 
After Regency took over the project, the developer dramatically downsized the plans and adjusted them to include a larger, more centralized green. The first phase of the developer’s proposal would focus on the shopping center site, where Regency wants to construct two mixed-use buildings separated by the open space. The existing Giant grocery store would occupy the three-story south building, and the north building would be five stories tall and supply space for shops and 190 multifamily housing units.
 
The western portion of the property is slated for 72 townhomes.
 
Later phases of the project would include development on the Manor Care and Westwood II properties and on a surface parking lot near the one-story Bowlmor Bethesda building.
 
The developer initially reported the project was tentatively scheduled for a Sept. 13 meeting. However, planning officials say no date has been set; they're reviewing the development proposals and will schedule a tentative date based on when the preliminary plan is accepted.