Montgomery Planning Board Recommends State Adopt Bethesda Plan

by Nena Perry-Brown

Montgomery Planning Board Recommends State Adopt Bethesda Plan: Figure 1
Sketch from Bethesda design guidelines draft

Last week, the Montgomery County Council approved the Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan, which will determine how Bethesda is developed over the next 20 years. This morning, the county’s planning board unanimously voted to recommend that the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission approve the plan. The board also engaged in preliminary discussions about design guidelines.

As the development potential of downtown Bethesda has expanded greatly with the new sector plan, the board recognizes how crucial it is to ensure future development be carried out responsibly and with consideration given to existing challenges and needs of the community. The future design guidelines are meant to ensure that new buildings are compatible with the surroundings, have a good relationship to the streetscape and are conducive to a walkable environment.

Montgomery Planning Board Recommends State Adopt Bethesda Plan: Figure 2
Draft building guideline recommendations

Building design guidelines thus far are delineated by the concept of a base, tower, and top. All buildings will have base standards depending on the classification of the fronting street; the guidelines recommend a continuing street wall at the base to make the scale pedestrian-friendly.

The tower is any section of floors above the base; the guidelines recommend separation between adjacent towers to allow light and air, setbacks based on street type, and a “menu” of methods to limit the appearance of bulk. The top section applies to signature tall buildings and the guidelines recommend that these add visual interest to the skyline.

As guidelines are considered, many raised the question of how specific these guidelines should be, whether focused more on intent and overall objectives rather than particular design mandates.

Additionally, the ability to implement priorities based on the design approval process could also be an issue, especially when addressing issues like stormwater management. When commissioners pointed out that some developers approach stormwater provisions in a manner that undermines public space or amenity needs, board staff pointed out that the Department of Permitting Services reviews stormwater management specifically and without consideration of unintended design conflicts.

Public comments on the draft guidelines included:

  • the idea that small patches of open space and parklets have been unsuccessful as usable public space thus far and that it may be preferable to encourage developers to combine their efforts to create one larger and more welcoming park instead.
  • that the language of the guidelines makes it difficult to waive requirements.
  • that more consideration should be added for the specific size and limitations of each site on a case-by-case basis rather than blanket design principles.
  • agreement that guidelines should be more general and goal-oriented — “words, good; numbers, bad”.

The working draft of the guidelines will be released next month. There will also be a series of stakeholder meetings throughout the summer as the board staff continues to refine the design guidelines.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mpb_recommends_state_adopt_bethesda_plan_discusses_de/12643

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »