Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Question for Robert Harris

Mr. Harris, thank you for replying to my post on 4 Bethesda Metro Center. I have a question regarding your response.

It is true that the Planning staff saw many virtues in your client's application. (I encourage interested readers to look at the staff's recommendation for approval.) But my coverage of the issue focused on density calculation under the county's Floor Area Ratio (FAR) standard. In responding on that issue, you said:

In calculating the density for the building, the developer followed gross tract area provisions of the Zoning Ordinance and approved by the County in 1989. This calculation allows for the inclusion of road rights-of-way attributable to the property when determining FAR. There are many other development projects in Bethesda and around Montgomery County that relied on and used this calculation in determining the density of buildings.

On May 29, 2008, the staff of the Montgomery County Planning Board recognized in their staff report that Meridian calculated density precisely as defined in the zoning ordinance.
Section 59-A-2.1 of the county's zoning ordinance defines gross tract area, the denominator of FAR, as, "The total area of a lot or parcel of land including any existing or proposed streets, highways, or other land required for public use that is attributable to the lot or parcel dedicated by the owner or a predecessor in title." [Emphasis Added]

The above ordinance means that if an owner dedicates (turns over) a portion of his or her property for public use to the county (such as for a roadway), the owner and his or her successors are still entitled to use its area for the purpose of a density calculation for the remaining property. But the owner must at one point have actually owned the dedicated property used for the density calculation.

As the graphic taken from the Planning staff's report shows, half the width of Wisconsin Avenue, Old Georgetown Road, Edgemoor Lane and Montgomery Lane is included in calculating density for the project. (The blue line shows the lot area included in the staff's density calculation.) This implies that at one time, your client or a predecessor owner actually owned half of those streets.

Mr. Harris, can you tell me the date on which your client or a predecessor owner transferred half the width of Wisconsin Avenue or Old Georgetown Road to Montgomery County or the State of Maryland?

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