Despite no apparent decisions from county planners, the Town of Chevy Chase is again sounding the alarm about the prospect of development on two parking lots on the edge of downtown Bethesda.
In a notification published Monday on the Town’s website, Town officials asked residents to email Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, County Council President Craig Rice and District Councilmember Roger Berliner about the potential for redevelopment on county parking Lots 10 and 24.
The surface parking lots provide a buffer area between the single-family home neighborhood that makes up the Town and the commercial and residential area of Wisconsin Avenue and downtown Bethesda.
The Town claims the parking lots are “at risk” and could share the same fate as Lot 31, a county lot that is being redeveloped into a five-floor apartment building and nine-story condo building overlooking the Sacks neighborhood:
At risk in the new plan is the fate of one critical asset to the Town — the buffer zone created by the parking lots separating our neighborhood from development along Wisconsin Avenue. County plans call for substantially diminishing these parking lots and replacing them with large “transitional” buildings. Only a narrow “Eastern Greenway” would remain.
A sense of how building development affects the adjacent neighborhood can be seen in the two large buildings nearing completion across from Barnes and Noble. Formerly, parking lots buffered the adjacent single-family homes of the Sacks community from this commercial area.
County planners are working on a rewrite of the downtown Bethesda sector plan, which could mean new zoning or development guidelines for all parts of the Bethesda Central Business District. So far, planners have released preliminary concept plans for new areas of development and park space.
The planning department’s actual recommendations aren’t due until later this year. It’s unclear which, if any, plans are in the works that would call for “substantially diminishing” the parking lots.
The issue came up in the spring, and county officials quickly shot down any notion that the county was planning a Lot 31-like development project on Lots 10 or 24.
The Planning Board and County Council must both approve the sector plan rewrite.
The Town said it’s joined a coalition of 18 residential communities surrounding downtown Bethesda to increase awareness of its concerns.