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WUDAC Airs Frustration About Council Redevelopment Vote

Councilmember Hans Riemer attended the meeting to answer questions and present ideas for moving forward with Wheaton redevelopment.

 

Anger and disappointment pervaded Tuesday night’s meeting of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, hours after the Montgomery County Council that would build a new Park and Planning headquarters in downtown Wheaton--instead of the platform that WUDAC and County Executive Isiah Leggett supported.

Committee members took out their frustration on Councilmember Hans Riemer, who came to delicately explain how the council’s budget decision was only a part of Wheaton revitalization and why the council needed WUDAC members to stay involved going forward.

“I know this has been contentious, but I really believe that we’re going to get a better and faster implementation” for Wheaton redevelopment with the council’s plan, Riemer said.

Riemer suggested quarterly meetings for all stakeholders going forward, so that everyone would be able to stay on board with the redevelopment process. But committee members, who are appointed by the county executive, said that they felt ignored by the council.

“You have to admit that it seems as if our input went for nothing with the latest budget investments, so after we’ve been deflated, it seems kind of hard to imagine that we’re all going to come and talk about the future of Wheaton,” said William Moore, who owns the IHOP on Grandview Avenue.

Moore added that the council’s plan was not subject to the same degree of public review as the B.F. Saul proposal. “I think what disappointed everybody was the fact that this new proposal seemed to come out of the blue and all of a sudden now it’s accepted,” he said.

WUDAC members went around the room, voicing their complaints.

Ken Nelson, who represents the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce on WUDAC, said that he felt like their proposal was “smacked down like the NBA finals.” Linda Amendt said that she was “very disappointed.” Henriot St. Gerard, , told Riemer that “to me, this feels like a startover.” And Hollywood East owner Janet Yu said she believed that “the community should be owed an apology.”

“There’s a sense of disgust in the way the plan was passed,” Devala Janardan said.

Much of the disappointment centered on a feeling that one office building and a town square was not the expected scope of redevelopment Wheaton deserved. Riemer agreed that more was needed, particularly services that WUDAC could play an important role in lobbying for in the budget, such as programming for the town square.

“I’m trying to revive the sense of community purpose. I think that’s crucial, and I’d like to do what I can,” Riemer said. “We’re going to need those of you who might be bitter not to go home.”

Marian Fryer, WUDAC’s vice chair, said that she’s feeling optimistic about the future because although there has been plenty of talk about Wheaton redevelopment in the past, this is the first time the council is attaching money to any plans.

“We may be unhappy about how it came down, but I’m happy about how it’s going to end up because the money is going to be there,” Fryer said.

 

WUDAC meets the second Tuesday of every month from 5-6:30 p.m. at the . Meetings are open to the public.

Commentous April 18, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I agree completely. Does anyone know if any Councilmembers are following this thread or planning to hear from any of the people who don't support the current plan?
Sean April 18, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Does anyone else have an opinion on this option? This is a good forum. What does the council think?
Gregdapy April 19, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Wow. I am very happy I stumbled on this thread. I am glad to see that there are a lot of people who share my views. I have been a resident of Wheaton for 5 years and I have been taken completely off guard by this new proposal. Is there a way to start a petition or something to voice our displeasure at this plan. Surely, there must be a way to make our voice heard.
Elizabeth Chaisson April 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I've read through this thread and agree with most of it. Can we band together and agree to write the Council and push for a high density, mixed-use building with ground-floor retail on parking lot 13 along with a town square and underground parking as envisioned in the Sector Plan? The smaller 150,000 sf M-NCPPC building does not have to be located here. They can build on one of the other Wheaton public parking lots and create a smaller plaza as proposed in the Sector Plan: there's Blueridge, Price Ave, University Blvd W. At the WRAC mtg Wed, DGS and the Council said BF Saul is still interested. Tell the Council to work out a new public-private deal with Saul that develops parking lot 13 first with mixed-use and the town square for less than $42M. It could include residential and office space for the Mid-County Reg occupants, DEP and DPS. When its complete, Saul can tear down the Mid-County bldg and build a hotel there as planned.
Commentous April 21, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Elizabeth, I like your ideas and appreciate that you took the time to speak at the WRAC meeting (where I was just a spectator). I'm not sure the community or the WRAC members feel that they have a say anymore. I think many are frustrated and/or burnt out after what happened so they may not feel like fighting that much anymore. I can only speak for myself and I feel that the Council feels they did the best they could do for Wheaton (even without asking the community for its opinion) and has now begun digging in their heels and using a thinly-veiled threat that if we don't take the M-NCPPC building now on Lot 13, they could take away the money and it may never return. I'm not sure I care enough anymore to fight, especially as an individual commenter on websites, which is just too inefficient. Good luck.

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