Development Proposal for WMAL Site Headed Before Planning Board

As featured in Bethesda Magazine.

A proposal to build 309 homes in Bethesda on a swath of land that is largely vacant except for several WMAL radio towers has gotten support from Montgomery County planning staff despite some community pushback.

Planners recommended approval of the preliminary plan for the roughly 75-acre site, and the proposal is scheduled to come before the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday for consideration. The staff report shows the developer, Toll Brothers, wants to construct 150 townhomes and 159 single-family homes on the property near the intersection of I-495 and Greentree Road. The developer’s plan also carves out space for a 10,000-square-foot play area and 4,000-square-foot community center and clubhouse.

Toll Brothers is willing to donate 4.3 acres of land to Montgomery County Public Schools for a possible school site, according to the staff report.

However, some community members have spoken out with objections about the proposal. Neighbors of the development argue that putting more than 300 new homes on the property would exacerbate local traffic congestion and school overcrowding issues. The county Department of Transportation identified Fernwood Road, which lies just east of the project, as a bottleneck more than a decade ago.

Community members have estimated the surrounding area has a housing density of about three homes per acre, while the WMAL plan would give rise to a subdivision with more than four dwellings to an acre. Critics of the plan are asking for a less dense design.

Planning staff recommended approving the preliminary plan, with conditions such as taking steps to mitigate the noise from Interstate 270 and comply with recommendations of county transportation officials.