The area of the Rock Spring Master Plan Credit: MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT

The owners of Westfield Montgomery mall have asked county officials to change zoning laws to clarify that housing is allowed in the area around their Bethesda shopping center.

The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday will discuss the proposed change to the regional shopping center overlay zone. Two of these zones exist in Montgomery County: one for the Bethesda mall and the other for Westfield Wheaton in Silver Spring, according to a county planner.

The topic will form part of a discussion about the drafted Rock Spring Master Plan, a vision for redevelopment of the 535-acre area near the juncture of the Beltway and I-270.

The underlying zoning that falls over the Westfield Montgomery mall already permits housing construction, but a second zoning layer that applies to the area doesn’t specifically allow it, said Khalid Afzal, an acting chief planner for the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Westfield property owners haven’t submitted any specific proposal for building homes at either mall site, but Afzal said their desire to change the zoning code indicates their intentions.

Afzal said that in the right situation, it makes sense to build housing near retail centers.

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“It brings more 24-hour uses. It brings more life to an area. It reduces some traffic trips,” he said.

The proposed change would permit apartment buildings of up to 150 feet in height in the zone covering the Westfield sites.

After the Planning Board weighs in on the proposed text amendment, the proposal will go to the County Council for consideration.

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