Updated Vision for Veirs Mill Stresses Pedestrian Safety, Added Housing and Preserving Neighborhoods

Updated Vision for Veirs Mill Stresses Pedestrian Safety, Added Housing and Preserving Neighborhoods

Planners encourage development of high-density residences and expanded public transit

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Randolph Crossing Shopping Center, at Veirs Mill and Randolph roads, is in the area being studied by planners and the County Council. The Veirs Mill area contains a mixture of single-family houses, high-rises, shopping centers, parks, churches, schools and a cemetery.

Bethesda Beat Staff Photo

The framework for an updated master development plan along Veirs Mill Road between Wheaton and Rockville is calling for methods to increase pedestrian safety, encourage use of public transit and preserve the character of neighborhoods.

The 122-page draft master plan sent to the County Council on Thursday focuses chiefly on pedestrian safety along the heavily traveled, 4-mile stretch of roadway that is used by tens of thousands of people each day.

The county Planning Board last week approved the plan that includes recommendations to create a more walkable neighborhood, improve transit connections and implement a streetscape design. Specific suggestions include adding protected pedestrian crossings, bike lanes and sidewalks.

Short-term recommendations

Long-term recommendations

The county’s desire to preserve the character of existing homes is also highlighted. The master plan area under review encompasses several post-World War II neighborhoods of single-family residences near schools and parks.

Some of the neighborhoods are home to a diverse population with nearly 75 percent of residents identifying as Asian, Hispanic or African America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Lead Planner Jessica McVary said the plan also encourages “consolidated redevelopment of higher-density residential uses,” such as townhouses or small apartment buildings that blend with existing homes.

“The plan suggests that strategic redevelopment of single-family parcels along Veirs Mill Road and near future bus rapid transit can promote reinvestment in the existing communities, provide diversity in housing options and introduce compatible, yet higher density, housing to support existing and future transit,” McVary said in an email.

Several future Bus Rapid Transit stations are expected to be located along Veirs Mill Road.

County officials broke ground on the 14-mile, 11-station BRT line in October and work is expected to be completed in 2020, stretching from downtown Silver Spring to Burtonsville.

The plan recommends retaining the majority of existing multi-family residential developments but recommends rezoning existing garden-style apartments in the Twinbrook District to “facilitate the redevelopment of higher density residential uses” close to transit stations.

The Rockville City Council has identified areas around Metrorail stations as key areas to develop high-density projects and promote economic development because of the potential for high-density buildings, city officials said.

Rockville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Marji Graf said she appreciates the county’s effort to investigate ways to increase pedestrian safety, which has been an ongoing issue throughout the county.

Recommendations in the master plan match the county’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate pedestrian deaths and injuries by 2030.

“This is our first plan to address Montgomery County’s Vision Zero policy with recommendations for improving safety for all road users along one of the busiest roads in the county,” Planning Director Gwen Wright said in a statement. “In addition to influencing the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan, the Vision Zero policy will play a significant role in developing future plans and studies.”

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro, who represents the Wheaton area, declined to discuss the plan and its potential impact on economic development because the County Council had not yet received the proposal for consideration.

The County Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the plan early next year and the council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and entire council will hold several work sessions.

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