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Navarro, Riemer Introduce Wheaton Working Group

The redevelopment working group's members would be appointed by the Montgomery County Council.

Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer introduced a resolution to the Montgomery County Council Tuesday morning calling for a Wheaton Revitalization Implementation Working Group, whose members would be appointed by the Council.

Action on the resolution tentatively is scheduled for July 17.

Here are some key aspects proposed for the Wheaton Revitalization Implementation Working Group, according to the resolution:

  • "The Working Group has 10 to 15 members. Members include community residents, business owners, other stakeholders in the Wheaton community, and a designee of the County Executive.  The Council must also invite representatives from the Maryland-­National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to be members of the Group."
  • The group would "meet quarterly to review reports and studies from the Executive Branch, Council Staff, outside consultants, or any other entity determined relevant or necessary by the Working Group.  The Working Group may make recommendations to the Council and Executive."

The Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, which met Tuesday evening, expressed some concern about how the working group would be formed.

WUDAC member Devala Janardan said that he saw the plans for the working group as “a tad bit hostile," since two groups already exist for discussing Wheaton redevelopment and revitalization--WUDAC and the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

“I think the existing groups should have enough notice and enough time to respond," Westfield representative and WUDAC member Matt Barry said.

Janardan added that the resolution was unclear on the definition of "stakeholders" and did not specify how the council would select working group members from the community.

WUDAC voted to send a letter to the council asking for more details about the selection process--and for more time to engage in dialogue with the council about the working group.

The Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee is not scheduled to meet until July 18, the day after the council is tentatively scheduled to take action on the resolution.

Read the full resolution on the county council website.

AntonFisher July 11, 2012 at 01:14 PM
It seems that the Council plans to appoint their close allies to this working group to give legitimacy to their unpopular decisions about Wheaton. We already have two other working groups that primarily discuss Wheaton issues, but all of their recommendations were thrown out of the window by the Council when it came to Wheaton redevelopment. The Council wants a new working group appointed by them to rubber stamp their unpopular decisions and give them legitimacy.
Mike Smith July 11, 2012 at 01:32 PM
WRAC and WUDAC should have made better recommendations to the County regarding locating community assets in the Wheaton business district. As a Wheaton homeowner to me these two committees at present come off as shills for the Kemp Mill neighborhood rather than working for downtown Wheaton redevelopment.
Judy Higgins July 11, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I'm not thinking that's the deal at all. This work group is designed to be all inclusive as the CIP redevelopment process did not include representatives from neighboring homeowners associations if they were not one of the CE appointed members to one of the committees. And even had they been invited to join the discussion, they had no vote and their opinions were not counted. Talking about a stacked deck, wouldn't CE sponsored folks only make things a tad uneven?
AntonFisher July 11, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Mike Smith - Are you referring to the library issue? The Library has been located where it is now for decades and it serves a much larger area than downtown Wheaton. All stakeholders who use the library had a say in where the library should be located. The vast majority wanted it to remain in its current location. The MNCPP building was proposed to be located on top of the bus bays, the Public open space was proposed to be on parking lot 13, and the Bus bay would have remained where they are. WUDAC made these very reasonable recommendations. What other public amenities are you referring to?
Mike Smith July 11, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I am referring to the library. If this was located downtown as recommended it would have been more accessible by public transit and on foot to many more area residents than presently, in addition to helping to kick off redevelopment of the business district. The neighborhoods north of Wheaton already have Wheaton Regional Park which includes a botanical garden, indoor ice arena, tennis bubble, baseball fields, hiking trails, playgrounds, etc. How much is enough?
Commentous July 11, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Until the Council clearly states what (1) the specific present and future goals and roles are for the Working Group, (2) which stakeholders will be represented, (3) how and in what numbers they will be represented, and (4) how stakeholder representatives will be selected, this resolution will be eyed with suspicion from those Wheaton residents and stakeholders who felt their views and concerns were not considered in the Council's budget decisions for Wheaton's redevelopment. Rather than rushing to get a group convened, these questions should be answered after the Council invites the Wheaton community to be heard. Otherwise, as the responses already show, we'll have people who do not trust the Council, people who do not trust the Executive, and people who do not trust the redevelopment councils that already exist.
TaL July 11, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Im with Anton---Navarro didnt like the fact that WUDAC and MCCAB and every other current board thinks their plan is crap...so now they create a new group that will rubber-stamp their grand plan for kickbacks to unions and CASA/LEDC
ED July 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I support this new working group. The decision has been made, based on the budgetary decision, that Wheaton will be best served by the development of Parking Lot 13 first. Both WRAC and WUDAC do not agree with this decision, so having them plan the revitalization may be counter-productive. This is the chance for all stakeholder's in the Wheaton area to apply for this new working group and have their voices heard. Since the group will meet quarterly "to review reports and studies" from various County and outside groups, they may be better able to make recommendations to both the County Council and the County Executive on how Lot 13 will proceed and the staging of future redevelopment in Wheaton.
AntonFisher July 11, 2012 at 06:44 PM
ED, What a JOKE "This is the chance for all stakeholders in the Wheaton area to apply for this new working group and have their voices heard." Do you mean that WUDAC and WRAC were not loud enough is communicating what the community wants? WUDAC and WRAC represented the array of things in Wheaton including residents, small business, large business, property owners, etc. They clearly worked on developing and supporting the initial and more ambitious redevelopment plan of Wheaton until the Council came in the 12th hour to through the years worth of hard work out of the window. The Council want its allies appointed in a very ambiguous way to a new working group so they can rubber stamp what the council wants giving a false impression of community agreement.
Commentous July 11, 2012 at 08:41 PM
ED. I view the Council's decision as a reflection of either (1) a desire to keep rents (home and business) affordable in one of the most affordable sections of the County and/or (2) a belief that Wheaton cannot attract businesses and residents that require and have disposable incomes, respectively. Either way, as a homeowner, I am disappointed in the way that I believe Wheaton is viewed. I know we do not agree on what motives were behind the Council's vote, and I respect that you view it as primarily a budgetary decision. I just wanted to reiterate that I view it differently. The Council kept saying that nothing had changed from the proposed redevelopment, except the order of redevelopment. We will now have no developer (Saul just dropped out entirely), no hotel, no assured mixed-use building, no plans for developing half of Lot 13, no efforts to obtain a large tenant, and--at a prime spot right near the Metro--an incoming agency (MNCPPC) with a worforce that largely eschews Metro. These changes seem significant to me and not beneficial to Wheaton's redevelopment. Lastly, as for this newly proposed group, how can one be much for or against it without knowing (1) the specific present and future goals and roles are for the group, (2) which stakeholders will be represented, (3) how and in what numbers they will be represented, and (4) how stakeholder representatives will be selected. If you or anyone has answers to these questions, that would help a lot.
ED July 11, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Anton - WRAC and WUDAC were loud enough. Unfortunately, the Executive was not clear and neither committee had information on the finances of the BF Saul project. The Council made a decision, in the "12th hour", when they needed to make budgetary decisions. Commentous - BF Saul never promised a hotel or large tenant. The only thing they stated was that "if" the County built a platform over the bus bays, they "may" be able to get a large tenant and they "may" be able to build a hotel, if the demand was there. BF Saul stated, in various public forums, that they "would" build a residential, mixed-use building (because residential financing is easier to get right now) on most of Lot 13 and create a "Town Square". Both WRAC and WUDAC balked at the size of the originally proposed "Town Square". There are still "Requests for Qualifications" (RFQ's) out there if BF Saul has, in fact, "dropped out" and, from what I've heard, there are other developer's interested. As far as the working group, I thought the article was pretty clear - the goals are to gather information from various sources to help implement the plan (Lot 13 first, bus bay and other areas later), all stakeholder's (resident's, business owner's and others) are welcome to apply, 10-15 will be appointed, and the County Council will appoint the committee members. I hope you and Anton apply - you both are very passionate about Wheaton.
Commentous July 11, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Thanks ED. I may apply if there is a clear process to do so. I still don't really see who the Council defines as a stakeholder (does "resident" include renters and homeowners, as both would seem to have a stake?), what stakeholders will be included (other than business owners and "other stakeholders"), what the process for selecting Members will be, and whether the role will be solely to implement decisions already made by the Council or to try to steer the Council and the Executive to future decisions that work for both of them, as well as an inclusive group of Wheaton stakeholders. I'm not trying to be too snarky here, really, but I just see the proposal as extremely ambiguous at this point. That's not necessarily a problem in these early stages because things get fleshed out over time, but without more details, I see this group as more of an idea than a functional plan. And I agree that there were no definites for Wheaton in terms of development. I, however, see possibilities for Wheaton that WUDAC and WRAC saw as well and espoused and worked towards for an extended period. These possibilities will not be realized if the bar is set low because others do not see or do not want them.
AntonFisher July 12, 2012 at 01:01 AM
ED You stated ".... from what I've heard, there are other developer's interested. " Is this a confirmation that you really are a staffer for one of the Council members. I have always assumed you were and in a previous discussion, I asked you directly if you were involved with the Council. You flat out denied. Unfortunately, with this comment, I do believe that you are connected to the Council somehow. You have the inside scope and you said "... from what I've heard, there are other developer's interested."
ED July 12, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Anton - As I said before, I am not a staffer and have no official role with the County. I am a resident that is extremely concerned (like you and Commentous) about the future of Wheaton, my quality of life, and my property values. As such, I watch what the County Executive and the County Council are proposing very carefully. When I say "I've heard", I mean exactly that - I have no more information than any other resident in this area, I'm only relating what "I've heard". Commentous - "stakeholder's" are normally anyone that will be affected by a proposal. Personally, I don't believe "stakeholder's" should be renters because they have nothing to lose and do not have the same investment in the area, but, as far as the dictionary, they are considered "stakeholder's". I don't think anyone will have answers to your questions until the resolution is proposed by the County Council. In my opinion, this is a worthwhile group and I hope the group is formed. Also, I don't think the bar "is set low", I think the bar has been readjusted so that the taxpayer's are not stuck with some unrealistic expectancies. I firmly believe that Wheaton will redevelop (it's already started with MetroPointe, Safeway, & the Lowe's building) and that the Council plan will spark other investor's interest. I hope I am right.
AntonFisher July 12, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Let us be real here. The library is mostly used by high school students who depend on their parents to drive them to the library. A very very few take public transport, walk, or ride a bike there. The cost of metro and public transit in the County is prohibitive for students to use them for that. Most parents anyways, regardless of the cost of public transport, prefer to drive their kids to the library. Still, if public transportation is the only means for those people to get o the library, it is well served by WMATA and Ride-on buses.
Mike Smith July 12, 2012 at 02:46 PM
While high school students are major library users, they aren't the only users. Students also have the benefit of their libraries at school. According to the most recent library report to the community http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/libraries/newsandevents/reporttothecommunity.pdf 21% of MC survey respondents said they used County libraries to research job opportunities and 26% to improve career options, so libraries are providing important services to adults. Also downtown Wheaton is considerably better served by both Ride On and WMATA than the current location.
Sean August 04, 2012 at 07:27 AM
Couldn't reps from neighboring homeowners associations join the WRAC? There are currently some vacencies. My impression is that people haven't been applying.
Sean August 04, 2012 at 07:37 AM
My wife have been considering whether to renovate our Wheaton home. I have to say, however, that I'm having second thoughts. I believe that checks and balances are good but I'm concerned that the politicization of Wheaton's redevelopment is counterproductive. I don't remember Silver Spring encountering so much infighting. Maybe we should just make some minor changes and just sell. Sigh. The sad part is that no one is listening.

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