Westbard Self Storage

December 2017 UPDATE:

The Planning Board approved the recommendations of the Planning Staff for the development of the Westbard Self Storage.  The land has been dedicated to the Park!  While we would have prefered a stormwater management plan that allowed for more infiltration, the site meets the requirements to treat 100% of the rain fall on-site with green methods.  

Background and LFWA comments to the Planning Staff and Board:

Westbard Self Storage Facility, the first parcel for redevelopment under the new Westbard Sector Plan was approved by the Planning Board in December.  The developer will dedicate the first piece of land for the new Willett Branch Park - Parcel 177 which abuts the Willett Branch. Also included in the requirements for redevelopment is the creation of "Outlet Road", a passageway between the building and the McDonald's retaining wall that will be a gateway into the new park.  Stormwater management will be done by green roof.

The plan calls for a 50 to 70 foot high structure with another 3 or 4 stories underground making the total square footage in access of 200,000 square feet of new storage units.  Because the property slopes downhill, the back wall facing the Park will rise 70 feet.  The Planning board approved the design with the condition that the architect work to soften this solid wall to create a more attractive interface with the new Park. 

Dedication of Parcel 177 - First Piece of the Willett Branch Park is Acquired!

Parcel 177 abuts the Willett Branch behind and the right of the storage facility.  Directly behind the building is a parking lot that belongs to the Westwood Tower Apartments.  See side bar for location of Parcel 177.  Parcel 177 is also part of the historic Moses Cemetery that was paved over in the 1960s.  When the parcel is transfered to Montgomery Parks, they will conduct archeological survey to delineate the cemetery.  Westbard Self Storage has agreed to contribution $45,000 to this effort.  They will also clean up the parcel before it is transfered, removing debris and trash as well as the asphalt.

Stormwater Management Plan Is Not Robust Enough

While the stormwater management concept was approved by the Planning Board and Department of Permitting, LFWA is advocating that a more robust plan be required at the time of permitting.  The current plan relies primarily on green roof  and other roof top faciilities to treat the rain water on the property. Green roofs are wonderful for the environment, but mostly as a way to reduce cooling and heating bills.  They do not address two important goals of stormwater management and the County's stormwater regulations.  .  

  1. Surface water run-off is not being treated.  About 1/3 of the square footage of this parcel is parking lots, driveway and pathway. That’s a lot of water that isn’t being treated.  The County’s excellent stormwater regulations require that over 90% of the water during a rain storm be treated onsite and contained on site to the maximum extent possible. The reason that the Self Storage Facility is meeting this requirement is because they are overbuilding the green roof.  This is allowed, but doesn’t conform to the spirit of the regulations. You can never treat 90 percent of the stormwater run-off if all of the management is being done of the roof of the building.  In turth, the facility is only treating less than 70% of the run-off that occurs during a normal rain storm.
  2. Water isn't being infiltration back into the ground. This means that the water, while it is being filtered before it enters the stormdrain system, is still going directly to the stream not being put back in the ground. What we would like to see, and County regulations stress the need for, is stormwater management that infiltrates the water – puts it back in the ground, recharging the ground water.

    Why does this make a difference?  What is the importance of allowing the water to soak into the ground? It's a important issue and starts with the question "where do creeks get their water?" Most people think that the answer is from rain, but that doesn’t tell address why creeks have water in them during dry periods.  Creeks actually get most of their water from ground water.  When it rains, the water soaks into the ground, is cleaned by the microbes in the soil and is stored in the cracks and spaces below the land surface. This stored water feeds the stream by percolating up through the stream bed. It is groundwater that provides the baseflow of the stream in periods of no rain. Because so much of the area around the Willett Branch is paved, very little rain water is making its way into the ground. Therefore, recharging the groundwater is paramount for the success of the restored Willett Branch.

    This means that the best stormwater management practices for the area are those that allow the rain water to soak into the ground so that there will be plenty of water to feed the new stream. These should be infiltration techniques like rain gardens, swales, pervious pavement and dry wells.   

While we understand that the Westbard Self Storage facility has met the requirements for stormwater management with a green roof and other roof top systems, we feel that the storage facility has not met its obligation to contribute to the vision of the new park and naturalized stream. The green roofs are excellent at capturing and filtering the water.  They also reduce the building’s heating and cooling bills, but they do not put the water back in the ground. In fact, any water that isn’t absorbed by the green roof will be discharged into the storm drain system where it will go directly to the creek via a storm drain pipe. The volume and velocity of water from storm drain pipes are known to cause considerable damage to a stream both by flooding the area and by causing erosion at the point of entry.  Further, but not treating the surface water, almost 30 percent of the run-off from the property is flowing untreated directly into the creek. 

Our November 2017 comments to the Planning Staff are HERE

Our December 2017 written testimony to the Planning Board is HERE.

Our December 2017 oral testimony to the Planning Board is HERE

You can read about the development HERE. in the WashCycle, a blog on projects effecting cycling in the Washington area.


Front (top) and Back (bottom) of Westbard Self Storage Facility Building from Preliminary Plans

Westbard Self Storage Facility, Bethesda MD

Westbard Self Storage Facility, Bethesda MD Back of Building