Montgomery County has initiated a full-fledged attempt to immerse public opinion into every step of the planning process. County planners have reached out for public comment in a variety of ways, holding more than a half dozen meetings of the White Flint Citizens Advisory Committee, devoting an entire episode of its insanely popular public access show “Montgomery Plans” to the future of White Flint, and taking a comprehensive look at the 15-year-old North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan together with the community.With the early design phase nearing its end, tomorrow's agenda is expected to include discussion of both revisions to Route 355, which is proposed to be beautified and tailored to be less pedestrian-hating, and the sporadic construction of new mixed-use sectors along the Rockville Pike corridor. The next step, after the current hodgepodge of community meetings has reached its end, will be to obtain approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board. The Planning Board's review will require a new phase of public work-sessions, although their decision is rumored to be due by the end of January, 2008. The final step in the design phase requires the Montgomery County Council and County Executives to hold yet another set of public hearings, after which the Council will infuse their input into the plan. Once the anthology of community input forums has come to a halt, an overall development guide for White Flint will be distributed; the tentative date is for the last quarter of 2008.
Planners are still working the initial kinks out of the design, however the over-arching goals for White Flint have been established for some time. When asked in a televised interview what the proposed design would include, Margaret Rifkin, lead planner for the White Flint Sector Plan said "We're especially going to be focusing on how to integrate more residential [space] and make this area around the metro station a really fabulous place to live and a great place to work." Rifkin added that "The community has embraced the big idea that's in the current plan, which is that White Flint will be the main urban center for North Bethesda."
Apparently the community has also agreed that Rockville Pike is ostensibly similar to an airport runway. Rifkin discussed this in a televised interview, proclaiming that she hopes that the major form-giving elements of the new White Flint will be of public domain; her vision is that open public space and new streets will help re-define the area. Route 355 would need special attention, she admitted, involving a complete character overhaul that integrates a more beautiful streetscape with the functionality of a main thoroughfare.