Strathmore Square development project back for approval of more residents

With moratorium over, North Bethesda project back for approval of more residences

Strathmore Square development aiming for 2,218 homes

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A conceptual drawing of the future Strathmore Square neighborhood.

Via Montgomery County Planning

This story was updated at 11:45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, to correct a reference to when a moratorium is enacted in Montgomery County.

After a residential building moratorium stunted a large development in North Bethesda, project leaders are trying again to expand their plan.

The moratorium has been lifted, though, so they will return to the Montgomery County Planning Board this week in hopes of moving forward with the full project, which aims to build more than 2,200 residences near the Grosvenor Strathmore Metrorail station.

In November 2018, the Planning Board gave preliminary approval to a project with 1.9 million square feet of total space, including an 11-story hotel, retail space and office buildings.

The Planning Board does not consider a project’s effect on schools until later in the approval process. As details about the project solidified, it became clear the residences were expected to generate too many new students at area schools, specifically Garrett Park Elementary School.

In May 2019, the Planning Board approved part of the project: 1,309 of the proposed 2,218 residences. Planners required that 400 units be restricted to people 55 and older.

Units rented to older people generally do not result in more students attending nearby schools. At the time, developers said they would “request approval of the additional units when school capacity becomes available.”

Developers on Thursday will seek approval from the Planning Board for 909 residences and remove the age restriction from the 400 previously approved residences.

If approved, all 2,218 residences originally proposed could be built.

The Planning Board has determined that nearby schools now have enough space to accommodate new students the project could yield.

Residential building moratoriums are automatically enacted in Montgomery County if a school is at 120% of its capacity. When a school or cluster is in moratorium, the Planning Board can’t approve any residential development projects, in an effort to ease the strain of new students on enrollment.

The Walter Johnson High School cluster was in a moratorium for one year. It was lifted in July after the Planning Board’s annual review of all schools in the district.

Plans for the North Bethesda project call for a roughly 1.2-acre park to sit in the center of the development. It would be framed by seven buildings up to 300 feet tall.

The park is designed to “be the heart of the project,” and provide space for informal community gathering. The park will include amenities such as a dog park, pop-up markets, performances and community art, planning board documents say.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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