Willett Branch in the Westbard Sector

A New Life for the Willett Branch; A New Park for the Westbard Sector

The new Sector plan for Westbard calls for a naturalized Willett Branch creek and a beautiful new park cutting through Westbard like a green ribbon with a walking path, play areas and places for gathering giving the new (and old!) residents a place to stretch their legs and recharge. 

This promises to be a major amenity for the area. The concrete-line channel creek with walls covered with graffiti and banks littered will be replaced by a natural waterway that supports fish and other aquatic life. The banks will have trees, native plants and shrubs instead of being a dumping ground for shopping carts, tires and appliances and other trash. Residents will be able to walk along the creek and enjoy the beautiful natural environment of that a creek provides.

The County Council approved the Plan on May 3, 2016.  The New Sector Plan is HERE.  The Appendix is HERE.

LFWA Joins Court Case Opposing Equity One

In August, 2017, LFWA joined the court action reviewing the MNCPPC approval of the Equity One Westbard development sketch plan as defendants supporting the Planning Board. In the spring, the Planning Board approved all of the Westbard sketch plan except for the area around the Westwood Tower apartments (which includes the African American cemetery and a significant part of the Willett Branch and stream buffer). At the time of the Planning Board's decision, Equity One argued unsuccessfully for approving the entire plan and for approving a large parking structure behind the Westwood Tower which would encroach significantly into the Willett Branch stream buffer as well as into the cemetery. Equity One appealed the decision to the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Several private citizens also filed an appeal. As of August 2017, we do not know the basis of their appeal.
 
LFWA made the decision to stand with the Planning Board on this issue to protect the interests of the Willett Branch Stream Valley Park. Although the court consolidation of the two cases appears to place LFWA on the opposite side of the case from the private citizens appeal, LFWA's only interest is in protecting the Willett Branch park and opposing Equity One's appeal. We remain committed to creation of the Willett Branch park with no new development in the stream buffer or on the African American Cemetery land.
 

Equity One Revised Sketch Plan Sites Five New Buildings in the Willett Branch Buffer

In September, Equity One submitted a Revised Sketch Plans for their vision for their development.  Most of the Willett Branch abuts their properties on the Westbard Avenue side.  However, they are ignoring the recommended 100 foot stream buffer guidelines and siting a huge new parking/residential unit structure in the stream buffer behind the Westbard Tower building as well as four other building. The Montgomery County environmental guidelines are very clear that no new buildings should be allow in a stream buffer. You can see Equity One's plans for these buildings in the buffer HERE.  

Click HERE to  read our comments for public record on the Sketch Plan (August 17, 2016).

Click  HERE to read our comments on the resubmitted Sketch plan (September 11, 2016).

Click  HERE to read our testimony before the County Council on the Westbard Sector Plan Sectional Map Amendment (September 20, 2016).

Click HERE to read our review of Montgomery County Guidelines regarding building in a stream Buffer (October 11, 2016).

Click HERE  to read our comments on the Sketch Plan and siting parking garage in buffer (Feb. 3, 2017)

Click HERE to read our written testimony to the Planning Board on the Sketch Plan (Feb. 20, 2017)

Equity One Submits Preliminary Plan for Westbard Sector.  

The next step after submitting the Sketch Plan is to submit a preliminary plan.  This plan is more detailed than the sketch plan and must have stormwater management plan, traffic plans, forest conservation studies and more.  You can view the plan by downloading it in pieces HERE.  This site also has the staff comments on the plan for review. You can read them  HERE.  

Click HERE to read our comments on the Preliminary Plan (January 23, 2017)

HOC proposed building in the stream buffer and location of cemetery

CEMETERY DELINEATION FUNDED  - Click HERE To learn about the plans for an archaeological survey of the White's Tabernacle Cemetery grounds located adjacent to the Westwood Tower Apartments. 

Learn about the history of the RIver Road African American community HERE.

How You Can Help

The 2016 Sector Plan makes the Willett Branch Greenway the center of the new Westbard development.  The County Council termed it a gem for the area.  We need an overwhelming show of public support over the course of the next several months for this to come to fruition. The next step is for the Planning Board to approve a Sketch Plan from Equity One that shows that their vision for their development is in line with the Sector Plan. The first sketch plan was submitted in July and it was returned with strict instructions to integrate the new park into their plans.  In each revision the buildings have encroached further and further into the stream buffer. 
 
The Planning Board held public hearings on the Sketch Plan on Thursday, February 23.  The decision for building behind the HOC building was postponed until a cemetery delineation is done.  However, it is still possible that this huge building will be approved.  The planning staff and board need to hear strongly that the Willett Branch is important and we need the best park possible.   
 
  • Send a letter or e-mail to Planning Board and County Council members expressing your support for the Willett Branch and ask them to require a strong commitment to the creek in the Equity One Sketch Plan with NO new buildings in the stream buffer. Montgomery County guidelines require a 100-foot stream buffer for a healthy stream.  We need the buffer for a successful new Park as envisioned by the Planning staff. Thank them for their vision and support of the Park.
     
  • A sample letter is HERE
     
  • Click HERE to send an email to the Planning Staff, Planning Board, County Council, Housing Opportunity Commission and County Executive
     
  • Spread the word!  Please tell your friends and neighbors about the plight of Willett Branch creek and the opportunity for real improvement.  Share your excitement for green space, park lands, walking trails, and a revitalized, welcoming creek!  We have a video of the proposed restoration HERE.

  • Join the LFWA Willett Branch Working Group to help plan and implement a public outreach and advocacy campaign.   Even if you can only contribute a few hours a month, we encourage you to join.  Some of the activities we are considering: tabling information stations at local stores, hosting cottage meetings to inform friends and neighbors, serving as a neighborhood liaison to distribute flyers, post notices, place articles in community newsletters, etc., organize a public letter-writing campaign.   Contact us at info@LFWA.org if you are interested in helping out. 

  • Make a donation to support the efforts of the Little Falls Watershed Alliance to raise awareness and public support for the Willett Branch and surrounding natural areas.  

The Planning Staff's December 3, 2015 presentation to the Planning Board is HERE.

A tour of the Willett Branch in the Westbard Sector can be downloaded HERE

The Approved and Adopted (July 2016) Sector Plan is HERE.  

Equity One's Sketch Plan with revisions is HERE.

Planning Staff's Recommendation to the Planning Board on the Sketch Plan is HERE.