Online Petition Urges Planning Officials To Deny Three-Month Extension for WMAL Project

Online Petition Urges Planning Officials To Deny Three-Month Extension for WMAL Project

County Planning Board scheduled to vote Thursday on developer's request for more time

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VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT

North Bethesda residents are petitioning the Montgomery County Planning Board to deny a developer more time to revise plans for a 309-home project on the WMAL radio tower site.

The developer, Toll Bros., has asked for a three-month extension of the regulatory review process so the project team can address comments from planning staff. However, local resident Rob Katz said he thinks Toll Bros. should have to meet its original deadline.

“They’re a company. They’re a business. They should have to do things on time,” he said.

A couple days ago, Katz started a Change.org petition asking the board to hold Toll Bros. to the original timeline.

“No excuses,” states the petition, which more than 160 people had signed as of Tuesday afternoon.  

However, Pat Harris, a land-use attorney working with Toll Bros., said extensions are nothing unusual in the development review process. Developers often need a little additional time to adjust their project designs based on feedback from the planning staff and members of other government agencies, she said.

In this case, she added, there are a “whole host of issues” that Toll Bros. must resolve after hearing from transportation, permitting, planning and utilities officials.

The planning director can grant an extension for up to 30 days, but requests for longer delays must come before the board, according to a staff report.

Katz said if Toll Bros. can’t work within the original timeframe, the developer should scale back the project plans and build fewer homes, an outcome that would be welcome to many in the surrounding community.

Development plans for the roughly 75-acre WMAL property just north of the Beltway and east of Greentree Road has generated significant community opposition. Residents in neighboring communities have said their roads and schools can’t handle a project of that density and have also objected to the loss of open space.

Several community groups last year filed a legal challenge to the preliminary plan for WMAL Bethesda. A hearing has not yet been set in that case, Harris said.

The board is scheduled to vote Thursday on the request for additional time to modify the development site plan.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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