"The recommendation is a constellation of a bunch of different recommendations. I think it's important to get the whole ball of wax before the Council before asking questions," said Marlene Michaelson, senior legislative analyst, County Council.
Michaelson gave the specifics of the project, including the number of possible housing units, 135 as long as 75 are elderly and affordable units, 35-foot height limit, and a 100-foot setback.
"There is a great deal of detail here, traditionally dealt with at site review. Why?" asked Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D-At large).
"There are certain zones that allow plans to set guidelines. These zones usually set numerical standards," said Michaelson.
"Wouldn't the [Planning] Board be a better judge of these issues?" said Leggett.
"We knew when we put significant density in the Plan that we wanted some assurance that this center would only grow so much. We didn't want it to be a regional center, but a community center," said Arthur Holmes Jr., chairman of the Planning Board.
"I agree with that, but based on recommendations by Board, it appears to me that we are making decisions in this plan at a level of detail more so than we have done before and that becomes disturbing to me," said Leggett. "Without an overriding reason to do it seems a bit strange."
"Where we have rigid standards is with property close to existing housing. We have done this in the Master Plan because it gives the Planning Board a basis for examining," said Michaelson.
"It is the precise detail and the mix of how you get there that is different," said Leggett.
"Mr. Leggett, may I address that point," said Callum Murray, Potomac Master Plan team leader.
"I'm not sure. If you agree with me, yes," said Leggett.
"The height doesn't concern me as much as the setback issue," said Nancy Dacek (R-2).
"Normally we find, the more controversial the project, the more detail is needed. When we say RMX zone, people ask what is it going to look like, what is the height, what is the setback," said Murray.
"Our goal was to include additional affordable or elderly housing. This is one of those places. With the bulk and height, you need these setbacks," said Holmes.
"I would like to go back to the original recommendation for 40 units. 135 units would drastically change the character of site and would be the opposite of smart growth," said Howard Denis.
"I would be happy with this motion if he provides for 135 units in another part of this Master Plan. Since the Planning Board made this recommendation to try to deal with affordable housing, I can't support the motion," said Marilyn Praisner (R-1).
"I support this motion because it seems to me in absence of good data what this does to schools. We need to maintain the neighborhood or local use of this center and the big old mall is only a mile away," said Blair Ewing (D-At large). "It is important to recognize that we don't need to build another neighborhood mall. This is to serve the community, not the world.
"It is not necessary to put 135 units in because it will put more cars in an already failing intersection," Ewing said. I support affordable housing, and Ms. Praisner's idea of finding a new place for affordable housing is a good idea, but putting it on virtually the busiest intersection in Potomac is not."
"This is an issue of trying to find an area where we could have elderly housing, some of which can be affordable elderly housing. Local services are right there, shopping services are right there. If this is affordable elderly housing, then school compatibility is not an issue. I think this is good idea," said Dacek.
Denis' motion is put on the table. Denis, Ewing and Phil Andrews (D-3) support, the rest oppose the motion.
"Why require another setback from storm water management plan," said Praisner.
"Storm water offers no screening," said Murray.
"I understand height concerns more than the setbacks," said Praisner.
"I'm not sure if I know if 35 is enough or too much , I was interested in keeping 100-foot setback and keeping 35-foot height limit but allowing the Planning Board to waive these restrictions at subdivision and site plan review," said Steve Silverman (D-At large). "When you have the plan if front of you, you will have a variety of opportunities at site plan and subdivision rather than looking at two illustratives."
Silverman makes a motion to keep all language but allow final determination to be made by the Planning Board regarding setback and height.
"I would be concerned that a plan which was generally supported by the community would then be opposed. That's a shame when so much work went into the plan. I felt they should be more specific," said Denis.
"I agree with Mr. Denis to keep language in the Master Plan and I think it should be even stronger. There was strong view in the community that this was a reasonable plan if set back 100 feet and was only 35 feet tall. The community would be happy and, if not happy, at least satisfied. I think we are moving in the wrong direction. There is already flexibility," said Ewing.
Dacek, Silverman and Leggett support Silverman's motion, which fails.
Praisner makes a motion to include all existing language in the Planning Draft, but to allow for flexibility by the storm water management pond.
It passes 5-4. (Denis, Ewing, Berlage, and Andrews oppose.)
"I think that is generally one of the problems that people have with Planning process in Montgomery County; that assurances are given, then allowances are adopted and people feel the rug is pulled out before them. It is very important to the community that we have a somewhat higher level of specificity," said Denis. "This is only shot that the Council has; if we don't put in our intention now, we have no reason to complain."
Denis makes motion to strengthen language to make guidelines mandatory, which is supported by Ewing and Andrews. It fails.
"We tried to be as definitive as possible," said Murray.
"We try to protect the Master Plan and the recommendation is something that we will look at very very hard. The language gives us strength to work with community on what they want," said Holmes.