Graphic courtesy Montgomery County Planning Department (M-NCPPC).
Traffic congestion and pedestrian safety along Georgia Avenue were the principal concerns among attendees at a presentation kicking off planning for a Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills sector plan.
The comments primarily focused on the difficulty crossing Georgia Avenue at Forest Glen Road to get to and from the Metro, and at Seminary Place to get to shops and restaurants.
Over and over, attendees said “you take your life in your hands” at those crossings.
The purpose of this planning process is to consider “long-term land use and transportation strategies in response to the SHA Study of MD 97 (Georgia Avenue) and also to address the potential for redevelopment of the WMATA facilities in the Forest Glen Sector Plan Area.”
As such, the process is in the early stage because the SHA study has not been released. The planning staff expects SHA to recommend a preferred option that will need to be considered as part of the local planning effort.
Related to congestion, safety and the SHA study, several people raised the question of how to balance faster, more efficient traffic flow along Georgia (while reducing cut-through traffic) with the desire to create a walkable community.
Planning staff reviewed the major recommendations of the 1996 Forest Glen Sector Plan and the North and West Silver Spring Master Plan that includes Montgomery Hills (and the audience noted the recommendations that have never been implemented).
Staff also presented data about existing conditions, including demographics, current zoning versus actual land use, housing, businesses and other data.
In addition to the general traffic and safety concerns, some attendees, especially those living north of the Beltway in neighborhoods such as Forest Estates, took the opportunity to push for a long-desired tunnel under Georgia Avenue to connect to the Metro.
Several also raised the issue of traffic to and from Holy Cross Hospital and the effects on drivers on Forest Glen Road.
Residents from neighborhoods south of the Beltway tended to focus on the condition of the shops and restaurants around Seminary and Georgia, calling them dingy and dilapidated.
A few residents raised quite specific concerns. For example, one asked if something could be done to reduce the number of gas stations along Georgia. Another, a resident of the Americana Finnmark condos next to the Metro property, complained about noise from tunnel exhaust fans.
Planning staff will present a scope of work to the Planning Board, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2. Once approved, staff will begin working with stakeholders to develop recommendations that would guide future development.
The schedule anticipates ample opportunity for additional public comment before final approval and adoption, expected in the summer or fall of 2019.
For more information, contact lead planner Melissa Williams, 301.495.4642 or Melissa.Williams@montgomeryplanning.org.
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