Two out of three county council members on the housing committee agreed: Redevelopment plans for the Falkland Chase apartments should be allowed to roll forward, they said Monday afternoon in Rockville.

Committee members Michael Knapp (D-District 2) and Nancy Floreen said during a scheduled meeting that they were cool with redevelopment on the complex’s northern parcel, on the northeast corner of East-West Highway and 16th Street.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” Floreen told her colleagues. The at-large Dem calculated rents on more than 120 of the 1,020 proposed high-rise residential units would be stabilized for 20 years. Currently, 182 garden-style apartments — some of which are rent stabilized — sit on the northern parcel.

Floreen and Knapp also indicated they would back the county planning board’s idea of declaring buildings on the complex’s southern and western parcels historic. If the entire county council goes with that flow, the New Deal-era apartments would be spared the wrecking ball forever and ever (or at least until someone proposes a reversal to the county’s atlas of historic buildings).

So what did that dissenting committee member have to say?

“We’re at risk of decreasing the housing diversity,” council member Marc Elrich told his colleagues. The at-large Dem worried the site’s proximity to a Metro station and construction costs would jack rents through the shiny new roof.

“When all is said and done, this will be a significant loss in affordable housing at this site. I don’t see much value here, except in the 125 proposed MPDUs [moderately priced dwelling units],” he said.

Elrich also said car traffic along East-West Highway, 16th Street and nearby Colesville Road would be disatrous if a proposed Harris Teeter supermarket were to open on the redeveloped site. Even if apartment dwellers in the immediate hood walked to the store, many more would drive, he argued.

“We’re not getting much for what we’re giving away,” Elrich told his colleagues. “I don’t think it’s a good deal.”

The housing committee discusses the Falklands again next week before hitting the full county council with its final recommendation.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mr T in DC.

21 Responses to “Council members lean towards redevelopment at Falkland Chase”

  1. IHateYuppies says:

    I am in total agreement with Elrich here. My biggest concern is the housing affordability issue. Real estate developers cringe in horror at the thought of rent “stabilization”. The economy is in the crapper right now but I expect the developers to be aggressive with their pricing strategy as the economic situation improves by 2010 and 2011. I think 20 percent is not enough for affordable housing units anyway.

    Also, the traffic situation on East-West Hwy and 16th Street will be a complete nightmare if a large retailer like Harris Teeter moves into the new complex. You will have people coming from DC and outer parts of Silver Spring by vehicle so they can shop at Harris Teeter. Is there enough parking for such volume? After all, you need to allocate enough parking spaces for residents.

    The stretch of road on East-West Hwy between Colesville and Georgia Ave. will be a huge bottleneck for traffic flow during the daily rush hours if this behemoth residential and retail project comes through.

  2. Terry in Silver Spring says:

    I think that the north parcel is the sort of place that should be redeveloped, rather than building on farmland or woodlands, etc. Already developed land, close to metro, short commuting distance. My worry, as has been mentioned above, is the traffic there at 16th St and E-W Hwy. I live in Summit Hills and know from experience that that intersection can very busy. I was hit my a car in the north crosswalk across 16th St a few years back.

    The developers and the County have to think long and hard about traffic patterns and need to change the current medians at least.

  3. Falkland Chase Resident says:

    Do residents of Falkland Chase have any say in this matter? If anyone knows how to participate in this process, please post info here. I’m a resident of the west parcel, and this plan would cause major quality-of-life issues for residents there, as well as the surrounding community. I often must park on the north parcel, as the west parcel fills up early and the east parcel has no unreserved parking. There is simply not enough parking for FC residents if the north parcel goes.

    And, I don’t even want to imagine the effect of major construction for months or years right across the street – this is not what I signe on for here, and it violates the property management’s own community guidelines for Peaceful Enjoyment (”All residents, their family, and guests should conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb their neighbors or community staff. Noise, odors, or any other actions that cause a disturbance are not permitted. Please do not interfere with the rights, comforts, or convenience of other residents or community staff.”)

    I am so angry that this is happening in my community; this is not about any benign plans for affordable housing, but rather developer’s greed.

  4. slwexplore says:

    Yes, the intersection of 16th and East West is already pretty scary if you’re a pedestrian. Will the county consider changing the traffic light patterns at all to accommodate all of the extra traffic from the residents and customers of this new development, and give pedestrians a break in crossing 16th Street?

  5. Falkland Chaser: Your best bet would be to contact county council members directly, as the public hearing phase is over.

  6. Craig Orez says:

    Imagine for every N Falkland apartment 5.6 more, and a super-market. High density proximate to mass transit does not “smart growth” make, in and of itself. Smart growth, or in this case, transit-oriented development (TOD) would mean high density and very little capacity for cars. By reducing parking requirements the developer would have to market to residents that do not have cars and would be transit users. To encourge auto traffic, which a traffic magnet like a supermarket would be, is the opposite of smart growth or TOD.
    While more affordable units is good the county could achieve that by directing its subsidy funds to the existing N Falkland apartments. If that was done we would get increased affordability, with out the increased traffic congestion.

  7. Falkland Chase Resident says:

    Speaking of this high-traffic supermarket, it should be mentioned that there’s a Giant a block away, and a Safeway within a mile from this corner. The area doesn’t need more big markets; this is just another smokescreen for real estate developers’ profit margin.

  8. Corona says:

    Amen Craig, amen.

    People like to bitch and moan about how those against this development don’t see the “bigger picture” of Moderately-Priced units and more residential availability.

    You know what the bigger picture is? Sacrificing 182 units that normal, average joes can afford (even if they aren’t MPUs) for 125 MPUS and 895 units that start at $1500 a month for a studio and $1700 a month for a one-bedroom. (For comparision, the two latest DTSS apartment complexes are Veridian and Portico. Veridian starts at $1700 for a one bedroom. Portico starts at $2000! for a one bedroom) Oh yeah, and sacrificing green space for a supermarket that’s going to create massive congestion on East-West Highway. An area that’s already massively congested!

    In regards to cars/vehicles, many of the newer area complexes charge around $100 per car for a parking spot (or only include one spot for free and charge $100 for an additional). I respect the push to get people who live in apartment complexes that close to the metro to get rid of the cars, and I respect the effort to appeal to those w/o cars to live there. The problem is, the people who can actually afford these higher rents are the people that can also afford to live in this area, have cars, and keep them at these complexes, even with a higher fee. Thus, the vehicles remain.

  9. Mike says:

    What no one in the County (nor the Country for that matter) has the courage to discuss is when enough development (i.e. population) is enough for a given area. That’s the discusson that needs to be had, as we press forward figuring out how to devote every last square of land to higher and higher density, while quality of life for most of us (save the developer out in Potomac) suffers.

  10. tj says:

    Downtown Silver Spring is an increasingly urbanized area. Folks have to realize that the area is a place that more people want to live as evidenced by all the new apartment buildings being built. As far as people not being able to afford to live in DTSS then they should move to a more affordable neighborhood. There are wealthier neighborhoods that I’d like to live in but I can’t afford. As far as traffic and parking issues are concerned, if people got rid of their cars then they don’t have to worry about the traffic congestion and parking. Problem solved.

  11. Woodsider says:

    Amen, tj, amen. There are no assurances in anything in life. If you live in an apartment, you get rent increases and possibly have to move because of redevelopment. If you live in a house, you have to deal with property tax increases, nearby urban areas and all that entails. If you bought a house with a railroad right of way in the backyard (or you built a country club/golf course split by it) you might have to deal with a light rail line coming through. Building higher density near the metro station makes sense. It puts more residents in the downtown area and will go a long way to animate the streets with the kinds of people that are the least likely to be violent. They will patronize DTSS business and attract more. Many of the residents of Falkland, Summit Hills & nearby developments DRIVE to the nearby Giant. How many would walk to Harris Teeter if it were across the street…or downtstairs?

  12. IHateYuppies says:

    TJ and Woodsider,

    Here’s the problem, people don’t want to get rid of their cars. I know everyone who lives in Summit Hills has a car parked somewhere. Many current Falkland Chase residents have vehicles as well. Why? Because DTSS is STILL underdeveloped when it comes to retail and dining options. Unless I see Best Buy; The Sports Authority; Target; Bed, Bath and Beyond; and a TON of more restaurants setting up real estate in DTSS…I will continue to own a vehicle.

    Harris Teeter would be a significant magnet for customers using cars. As is the case with most larger supermarket chains. Many customers will drive from DC, Wheaton, and Bethesda to shop at Harris Teeter. The parking and nearby traffic gridlock would be a nightmare. The developer should entertain smaller lots options such as deli shops and specialty stores that would require more foot traffic. Grocery stores make for lousy foot-traffic visitation.

    Last, people of all socio-economic backgrounds should have reasonable access to public transit points such as Metro stations. Living near a Metro station should not just be a privilege for the high-income folks. I would think middle and working class would also enjoy a short walk to the Metro station for commuting purposes.

  13. tj says:

    IHY-

    I agree with you that most people don’t want to get rid of their cars but I don’t believe it is because that DTSS is underdeveloped. I believe that folks have just become too attached to their cars. It has become an extension of themselves and they don’t want to lose a part of themselves. As far as the immediate area lacking certain businesses I would agree but I would make the point that many of the businesses that DTSS lacks are easily accessible by mass transportation. Wheaton Plaza, which has Target, Macys, Best Buy (across the street), etc. is an easy two stop train red from DTSS. There are buses from DTSS that go to Wheaton Plaza. The mall at Prince Georges is only a 4 stop ride (with transfer). A quick train ride takes you to the District and to the many restaurants they have to offer.

    As far as Harris Teeter is concerned, as I indicated before, if folks from DTSS would walk to the supermarket then they wouldn’t have to deal with the parking and traffic congestion. If folks live outside the DTSS area and need a car to get there I say TOO BAD. Deal with it (or move to the DTSS area).

    The county’s requirement for MPDU’s allows folks of lower socio-economic backgrounds to be part of more affluent communities. With that said, there are numerous metro stations in the area that service lower socio-economic communities.

  14. Woodside Park Bob says:

    Concerning the Harris Teeter, we need to encourage more competition and stop protecting Giant and Safeway. At the urging of Giant, Safeway, and their employees union the County Council passed a restriction on the size of new grocery stores a few years ago. That’s the reason there are no Wegmans in Montgomery County. Everyone would benefit from lower prices if there were more competition. A Harris Teeter would help. Repealing the size limit so we could get a Wegmans would also help.

  15. Corona says:

    I’m all in favor of a Harris Teeter and more grocery store options. I just think that that is a poor place to put it.

    As far as cars and people giving them up, there are two main issues with people in this area giving up cars. One is the fact that so many people living in this area are transplants from the Northern states, who want to have a car to go home to visit their parents and relatives on an at least monthly basis. They were not born around here and thus need their car to visit family.

    The second is that there are a good many people living in DTSS that do not work in Silver Spring and need to drive to work. There are alot of District workers who can take the metro, that’s great. And even though alot of people hate metro buses, for whatever reason, you can take those too to nearby areas. But for the other great many of us who don’t have a reasonable commute by bus or train, or even an option to commute at all by bus or train due to office location, driving is the only way to get to work.

    There is a lovely light rail being discussed that could get some of us out of the cars, however, although that seems to be its own source of contention….:-)

  16. Woodsider says:

    Grocery stores have lousy foot traffic? Have you been the Harris Teeter on Kalorama or the Safeway on 17th or at Chevy Chase Circle? What about the Whole Foods on L or the Giant in Friendship Heights? These stores attract enormous amounts of foot traffic and their congestion from cars is certainly neither gridlocked nor worse than EW HWY & 16th.

  17. paul_silver_spring says:

    Ihateyuppies – first, I appreciate your perspectives on these comments sections – you always have something interesting to say. That being said – seeing an alias of “IHateYuppies” followed by a call for Best Buy and Target in their backyard is funny.

    I disagree on the reasoning for why most people have cars here. Most people have cars because it’s DC and not NYC. I think NYC is possibly the ONLY city that reaches nearly the percentage of the population that it does without cars. Both because of superior mass transit and also because of the insane cost of keeping a car there. Even go to downtown DC and I think you’ll find a majority of residents still have cars. It’s VERY difficult to live anywhere in the DC area without one. And I think that’s true of the majority of cities except NYC, possibly followed by Chicago (from what I’ve heard – never been there).

    Now, that’s not to say most people USE then on a daily basis. I share a car with my wife and we use it on weekends, and a couple times a month one of us needs to drive on a weekday. And THAT can be attributed to the density that DTSS has successfully acheived. I’m not sure how much more convenience we can seriously expect – when compared to any other area in the region we’ve got as much as we can ask for I think. We live near a metro. If we NEED a best buy, target or anything else we COULD get to one on metro if we wanted (and it’s only 2 stops north!). I don’t even know how many NYC residential neighborhoods you don’t need to at least go a couple subway stops for the convenience of big box stores like that.

    Anyway… I think urban density is good. If it’s an appealing neighborhood it’s going to get more expensive, that’s just economics. I definitely have a limitted number of apartments in DTSS that I’m willing to pay the rent for, and if that becomes none then I’ll leave. The county can help with MPDUs, but that comes with the price of those being essentially paid for by higher rents for everyone else – that’s just economics. So you do get some gap in the middle, so you can’t go too crazy with the numbers of MPDUs. The only other thing that brings down prices is competition and that comes with more density. If there are more vacant apartments than people looking for an apartment, then rents will come down – again, just straight economics. If that causes congestion, then it’s the county’s responsibility to respond with better roads and more mass transit. They can require the devolopers to share that cost through impact fees, which they do, and that’s great – but it’s not a reason to put a stop of sustainable dense urban development.

  18. JG says:

    IHY: “Because DTSS is STILL underdeveloped when it comes to retail and dining options.”

    I disagree with IHY on a great deal, including the broader point in this discussion, but I agree 100% on the above. The fact that downtown Silver Spring doesn’t have a sports bar is really crazy. We have quite a few dining options, however as for going out and spending money at bar/restaurant we have very little. And I don’t buy the “it’s MoCo” argument… Bethesda is also in the same county and has tons of options for drinking and/or watching sports. And no, McGinty’s doesn’t count.

  19. trider says:

    JG

    check out Galaxy Billiards – gonna have whatever game you want on one of its zillion teevees

    I agree with the general point tho – need more bars and live music

  20. Mike says:

    It’s tough to open a bar anywhere in MoCo because the law requires you to get 50 percent of your revenues from food sales.

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