Thursday, February 28, 2008

Edgemoor Edges Toward Expansion


Way back in the first year of the 43rd President, Armont Development Corporation applied for a zoning change to build a 12-unit residential and 9,000-s.f. office building which would share a 38-unit garage on a 28,000 s.f. site in Bethesda. The application for Edgemoor At Arlington North, at 7425 Arlington Road, was granted, but Armont sat on the site for the past seven years. A short time ago and one real estate cycle later, Armont saw an opportunity to acquire nearly 10,000 s.f. of adjacent land to increase the size and scope of the project - the development firm acquired the land and needs to rezone it for an expanded development.

Armont seeks to amend the development plan to include the new property, to build a 31 unit residential building with 50 underground parking spaces, and has abandoned the idea of mixing office space into the plans. Montgomery National Capital Parks and Planning Commission reviewed the new plan today at their Planning Board meeting; the staff has recommended approval.

Back in January, Armont staffers met with residents of the area to discuss their concerns and issues. The Planning Department recognized that "[i]t appears that the two sides were not able to reach a mutual agreement...although some initiatives in the applicant part were recognized as positive steps." Community members had issues with the building's height, its proximity to neighboring townhouses and its massing and density (other than that everything was fine). In light of the opposition, Armont withdrew its application for a 57-foot structure, scaling it back to 48 feet.

The next step for Armont takes place in the office of Montgomery County's Hearing Examiner, Fran├žoise Carrier, who will hold a public hearing on March 7th. Once the Hearing Examiner submits her findings to the County Council, all concerned parties have 10 days to submit their respective arguments to the Council, which will then decide whether or not the arguments are worth hearing.

The Edgemoor would sit four blocks from the Bethesda Metro station on the red line, fronting Arlington Road for more than 200 feet and Montgomery Lane for 100 feet. The adjacent property that Armont is seeking to have rezoned is a slice of land to the north of their ready-to-be-developed chunk, betwixt Arlington Road, Montgomery Lane and W Lane. The expansion portion is currently zoned R-60, but needs a TS-R Zoning District to be able to house the type of project Armont is planning. In Maryland, land can only be zoned TS-R "in areas where multi-family residential development is recommended by the Sector Plan and where it will encourage use of transit stations." Edgemoor at Arlington North - 1,200 feet from the red line - would seem to meet that criteria.

The total building will add 69,000 s.f. of space, providing 31, one, two and three-bedroom units, along with 3,000 s.f. of public space and 5,000 s.f. of recreation space; 12% of the units will be designated affordable housing. Along with the normal amenities like open space, etc., Armont will upgrade the pedestrian crosswalks at Arlington Road and Montgomery Lane because, as the Planning Department's staff report indicates, "Area residents have found that vehicles cannot be relied on to stop for pedestrians, despite a painted crosswalk."

Because Arlington Road is a transitional urban area (and a fantastic Tim Robbins flick), the Community Based Planning Staff laid out guidelines in the Sector Plan for "townhouse style and scale" developments for the area. Armont complied, the building will measure 35 feet from Arlington Road, and stepping back from the main road will grade up to 48 feet to reduce visual massing. Planning Board staff recommended approval in a memorandum dated February 15, and will hear public concerns on March 5.

Bethesda real estate development news

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