Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The future look of Germantown

Draft master plan to be released May 23; public hearing set for June 30

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In addition to crafting zoning and land use recommendations, county planners working on an update to Germantown’s master plan are developing a set of design guidelines to govern the look and atmosphere of the community’s downtown.

The study plan area for the update to the 1989 master plan, 2,460 acres stretching from Crystal Rock Drive and the CSX railroad tracks to Route 355, will be defined by tree-lined streets, storefronts with large windows and grassy urban parks, planners told the Montgomery County Planning Board at a May 8 worksession. The study area is currently defined by low-rise buildings, big box stores and vast parking lots, ‘‘not a very attractive streetscape,” said Karen Kumm, a county planner assigned to the Germantown area.

‘‘This plan is about transformation, transforming the Town Center of Germantown,” Kumm said, using Alexandria, Va., as a visual reference.

The board generally approved of the recommendations.

‘‘We will be conscious to where the compatibility friction points might be,” said Sue Edwards, another county planner assigned to Germantown.

A draft master plan is expected to be released on May 23, and a public hearing will be held June 30. The document is expected to be sent to the County Council and County Executive for approval in late September.

The study area will be divided into six distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character and downtown centers at future transit stops, Edwards told the board. Buildings will be highest at the stops and gradually step down away from the neighborhood centers, though building heights and rooftop designs will be varied to help break up the skyline.

Streets will feature landscaped medians, shorter crosswalks and wide sidewalks to accommodate foot traffic and café-style seating, according to Planning Board documents. Unique facades and building shapes will help make the structures seem less imposing, planners said, and buildings may also have multiple entrances. There will be parking on streets, and structured parking will be tucked behind buildings or above street-level retail.

Germantown’s design guidelines will be defined further after the final draft is approved, Kumm said.

Germantown will also benefit from an expanded and improved road network that reduces congestion and creates a safer environment for pedestrians, planners said.

Though the proposed extended Midcounty Highway, also referred to as M-83, is outside of the study area, planners have requested that the county Department of Public Works and Transportation further research an alternative that would improve Route 355, according to the documents.

To attend

The Germantown Master Plan Community Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. June 10 at the Upcounty Regional Service Center, 12900 Middlebrook Road.