Safeway Eyes Expansion

Safeway Eyes Expansion

West Montgomery Is following several Potomac land-use issues.

Zuckerman Gravely, Inc., the developer that owns the Potomac Place shopping center is wants to renovate and expande the Potomac Safeway.

The company presented plans to the board of West Montgomery County Citizens Association (WMCCA) last month. The possible expansion is still in preliminary stages; no plans have yet been filed with the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The current plan calls for a mezzanine level to be built towards the back of the store. Much of the existing office and non-retail space would be moved to the mezzanine, increasing the ground floor retail space by approximately 3,000 square feet.

“WE LIKE the idea of Safeway being remodeled. It obviously could stand an upgrade,” said George Barnes, past president and chair of planning and zoning for WMCCA. But the board members wanted to raise logistical concerns with the Safeway and the developers.

“I think they would like us to support their effort, because it would make it easier for the planning board to say ‘well everybody wants it,’” Barnes said.

The biggest issue that WMCCA has pointed to is parking.

“We will have to comply with all the parking requirements that the county has, so that concern will be addressed and satisfied if we are going to expand,” said Tim Dugan, an attorney with the law firm Shulman and Rogers representing the developer. But, “we have done some preliminary analysis and we believe that what Safeway is planning would be accommodated by the existing parking spaces,” he said.

“You can do a lot to make stores more efficient by changing the interior space without the necessity for additional parking,” said Callum Murray, Potomac area team leader for the Parks and Planning Commission, who had not seen the plans. “It depends on the details.”

WMCCA also took issue with plans to close one of the store’s entrances and exits, saying that it could lead to more curbside congestion.

“Safeway is working with their architect” to examine the issues raised by West Montgomery, Dugan said. No timeline for filing the proposals has been set.

At WMCCA’s Oct. 13 general meeting at the Potomac Library, members discussed several other Potomac area zoning issues.

Normandie Farm has filed an application to change its zoning from R-200 zone to Country Inn zone. The restaurant plans to add space for banquets and wedding receptions, and does not plan any lodging.

Barnes said that the WMCCA board is “basically not opposed” to Normandie Farm’s plans, but the zoning change would allow other uses that might be a concern. The board is keeping a close eye on aesthetics issues such as lighting and the restaurant’s future development plans. Under the new zoning, Normandie Farm would be allowed to add certain types of small accessory buildings to its site. Owners say such buildings are not a part of their development plans, but “by telling us they’re not doing any thing, they aren’t giving us anything,” Barnes said, since such isn’t allowed under the restaurant’s current zoning anyway. A public hearing on the rezoning will be held Nov. 19.

Barnes also told members about a special exception pending for the residence and dentist's office next to the Bank of America building on Falls Road. The building is currently operated as a home occupation and the special exception would allow it to be zoned as a medical office and have several additional employees. “We have at every turn opposed exceptions … outside of the commercial zone,” Barnes said. Members voted to approve an expenditure for legal action on this issue.

Councilmember Howard Denis (R-1) was the guest speaker at the meeting. He told members about his successful effort to arrange for police presence at Potomac Day Oct. 30.

Denis also discussed his reasons for opposing all three charter initiatives A, B, and C, which will appear on November’s ballot.

He then fielded questions from the community.