Developers make second attempt at Towne Crest proposal -- Gazette.Net


A plan to revitalize an aging Gaithersburg community is meeting stiff resistance from the Montgomery County Planning Board and neighboring community Washington Grove.

The developers of Towne Crest presented a plan in September to transform the eight-acre parcel, which currently has about 100 town houses and apartment units built in the 1960s. Towne Crest developers unveiled a design that would transform the community into a high-density residential neighborhood with 356 apartments and single-family homes.

When the Montgomery County Planning Board denied the developers a zoning change allowing the high density, the developers went back to the drawing board. They now are proposing a 329-unit plan with more moderately priced units, but still need the lot to be rezoned.

The developers, Republic Land Development, presented their plan to the Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings on Friday, the first of three days allotted for the hearing.

“We’ve scaled back the best we can,” said Stacy Hornstein, director of development for Republic. “One of the most expensive amenities is structured parking. ...You need to have some critical mass in order to get to that amenity.”

Though the development is outside Gaithersburg proper, the city’s planning commission supports the revitalization. In a letter to Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Francoise Carrier, the city said redevelopment of the site “could serve as a catalyst for further redevelopment within the surrounding area.”

Towne Crest is bordered by Washington Grove to the south and the Wedgewood Court town house community to the north. Shirley DeLoatch, president of the Wedgewood Court Townhouses Homeowners Association, also supported the revitalization, as it would improve the appearance of the neighborhood.

Four Washington Grove homes along Daylily Lane are on the edge of the Towne Crest development. The backyards of Daylily Lane residents are separated from Towne Crest’s town houses by a tall wooden fence.

The town’s mayor, Georgette Cole, said redeveloping the property would benefit the area, but there are a few caveats.

“We’d just like it to be pulled back from 7 Daylily [Lane],” she said. According to Cole, some Washington Grove residents feel that the new plan is better, but 329 still is too many units.

“The density is still too high,” she said.

About 60 Washington Grove residents showed up at the September Montgomery County Planning Board hearing, in which Republic Land Development presented its initial plan to build 356 units. A few residents said the proposed development was unjustified in its density, didn’t obey required setbacks and would be intrusive to Daylily Lane homeowners.

One Daylily Lane resident supports the redevelopment.

“I believe approval of the project would greatly enhance the area and is compatible with mine and other surrounding uses,” Washington Grove resident William Acheampong said in a letter to the county planning board.

According to Cole, one Daylily Lane resident plans to testify against the development when Washington Grove makes its case to the Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings in the coming weeks.

Carrier, who opposed the development in September because of its high density, told a county hearing examiner that the 329-unit plan would not make a significant impact on the board’s decision.

“The Planning Board would be unlikely to find the decrease in density persuasive on the key point of master plan compliance,” she wrote. “I consider it very unlikely that the majority of the planning board would disagree with this conclusion.”

The county will continue the hearing for the Towne Crest application on Feb. 25.