Proposed Increase in Building Height Cap for Downtown Silver Spring Heads to County Council

County planning board members on Thursday said they support legislation aimed at attracting a new grocery store to downtown Silver Spring by raising building height caps.

The legislation, sponsored by County Council member Tom Hucker, would increase the height limit to 270 feet inside the Ripley District and south Silver Spring, an area west of Georgia Avenue and south of Bonifant Street.

Under current law, structures in that area must generally stay below 145 feet, although developers can get approval for a 200-foot building if it features ground-floor retail.

Hucker said his proposal would let property owners request an additional 70 feet of building height if they provide a grocery store of at least 10,000 square feet and an onsite or offsite “major public facility.” Examples of a major public facility include a school, library, recreation center, park, county service center or bike-sharing station, according to county zoning law.

“Residents, especially in downtown Silver Spring, frequently express a strong preference for buildings with more first floor retail rather than multifamily buildings with no retail,” Hucker wrote in an email.

The zoning text amendment would cover an area that wouldn’t affect single-family homes in Silver Spring and “allows us to discuss how to get a significant public amenity like a new grocery without the usual tradeoffs,” he wrote.

A Giant grocery store is located just outside the Ripley District at 1280 East West Highway.

Now that the planning board has reviewed Hucker’s legislation, it will come before the County Council for consideration.

Hucker said he’s aware of a downtown Silver Spring property owner who’s open to building “space for a grocery store, seated dining and structured parking for the store’s customers.”

Washington Property Co. President Charles Nulsen has said his company requested the change because it wants to bring a “niche grocer” to an apartment project called Solaire Ripley II. The 440-unit complex is proposed for the former Progress Place shelter site at 8120 Colonial Lane.


As featured in Bethesda Magazine