Correction: The original article mistakenly implied that the Kensington Heights and Kensington View civic associations have officially opposed Costco's parking waiver application. In a letter attached to a Patch article regarding the waiver, the KHCA complained to the Department of Permitting Services about the process of review, but did not officially oppose the waiver. We regret the error.
With small business the main focus of a two-hour session, the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee (WRAC) convened in the Mid-County Regional Services Center for its final meeting of 2011. WRAC welcomed Casey Wilson of the Maryland Small Business Development Center to discuss his center’s resources for Wheaton businesses, reviewed redevelopment and subcommittee updates, and listened to an update from Green Wheaton.
Small Business Resources:
Casey Wilson, manager of resources for the Maryland Small Business Development Center, walked attendees through a multimedia presentation that focused on how small businesses can deal with their constant state of transition and the added burden that redevelopment will bring to them.
He explained that there are a number of aspects that small businesses should focus on, such as building relationships with key city and county leaders, focusing on their knowledge of their customers and tailoring their services to their desires.
Wilson shared statistics that show that Maryland is the fifth most densely populated state in the country and that the mix of commercial and residential development, like what Wheaton is undertaking, is the future of suburban areas.
Wilson spent more than 15 minutes detailing many of his group’s resources for small businesses, including group workshops, private on-site counseling sessions, long-term counseling, even a bilingual counselor located in the Incubator in the Wheaton South building - confidentially and free.
Redevelopment and Subcommittee Updates:
Committee Member Robert Klein shared some recent progress with Wheaton’s development including the County Council unanimously approving the Wheaton Sector Plan on Nov. 29 (after discussing issues technical corrections identified by the PHED committee) and that the Montgomery County Planning Board voted to send the plan to the full bi-county commission shortly thereafter on Dec. 15. Klein also updated attendees on B.F. Saul’s progress on traffic analysis, geo-tech testing, plans for the bus bay and the Ennalls-Price road connection.
Additionally, WRAC decided to draft a letter in support of Westfield Mall’s application for a waiver against building new parking structures to support the new Costco wing. Westfield seeks an exception to the county requirement of having 4.5 spaces available per 1,000 square feet of “gross leasable area” down to 4.0 spaces.
The committee acknowledged the concerns of the Kensington Heights and Kensington View civic associations about the parking waiver process, but still feel that Westfield should not have to build additional parking.
Klein also outlined proposed plans for the building at 11141 Georgia Avenue, recently purchased by Lowe Real Estate. During a Dec. 14 meeting with the community, Lowe shared plans to add nine stories to the existing five-story building, converting the space to one-bedroom and studio apartments.
Thomas Martin shared a draft of a letter to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs in support for greater residential density, including recognition of the concept of “accessory apartments”, defined as “a subordinate dwelling within an owner-occupied house that includes a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The committee approved the letter.
The group then discussed a bike share letter, targeted at the director of the Department of Transportation, Arthur Holmes, supporting the construction of up to seven bikeshare stations in the Wheaton area. A spirited debate about the need to prioritize the seven possible locations—Wheaton Metro, Ana Mendez University, Westfield North, Crossways Community, Wheaton Library, Wheaton regional park and the Dennis Avenue Health Center—broke out, but was quickly tabled until a formal decision has been made about exactly how many bikeshare stations will actually be installed.
Green Wheaton Update:
Sanita Alrey-DeBose talked about the 2014 Energy Independence Mandate, which calls for phasing out of the use of incandescent bulbs for more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. She also discussed Delegate Al Carr’s “Dark Sky Lighting Initiatives” which would require new state-funded construction to use outdoor lights that focus their light down, rather than spreading it 360 degrees and causing light pollution.
In anticipation of the implementation of the Jan. 1 Bag Tax Law, the group is partnering with Brookside Gardens and Silver Spring Green for a January 9 screening of “Bag It: Is your Life too Plastic?” Registration is recommended, as the seating is limited. Contact Green Wheaton for more information.
The meeting adjourned at 9 p.m. The next WRAC meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in the first floor conference room in the Mid-County Services Building and is open to the public.