23 July 2010

Wheaton Sector Plan

Thank you for allowing me to represent the views of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC) today. For the record, I am Dan Somma, the Committee Chair.

The members of WUDAC are largely pleased with the Wheaton Sector plan. Several of us worked on the public process with Sandy Tallant and were briefed by her. We thank her for a very good job.

The Plan supports increased density where we think it needs to be – in the downtown’s core, along our three State roads and near the Metro. Conversely, it protects our long-established neighborhoods.

WUDAC supports the use of the new CR Zones because that zone will promote a more pedestrian-friendly downtown; will allow for mixed –use projects and the easier redevelopment of our many small in-fill parcels. Further, we applaud the elimination of the Overlay Zone, which we believe has contributed to the stagnation of our downtown.

The Committee believes that as the Sector Plan moves forward, it should place an even greater emphasis on including small retail in new construction along our arterials because this use creates street-level activity, and, importantly, Wheaton’s long- time identity as a “small retail” downtown. That said, while we cherish our “Mom and Pop” image, we don’t want the Plan to be defeatist about Wheaton’s ability to attract some office development with the creation of a signature building.

The Committee also wants to note, for the record, that while we appreciate the Plan’s strong reliance on the work of the Wheaton urban District to promote public activity and maintain the downtown, and to attract private partners, the District will need greater resources to carry out these goals.

We note also the recommendations for the County to “take back” Crossways for re-use as an elementary school and hope that if this occurs, the County will make every effort to relocate the wonderful Crossways program within Wheaton.

WUDAC members are pleased with the Plan’s recommendation to extend Price Avenue, which creates a more logical grid for the downtown and could ultimately serve as a connecting link to Westfield Wheaton.

Finally, we know that change happens slowly and that Master and Sector Plans guide us for about 20 years. Although the Wheaton Sector Plan has laudable long term goals, we would want to address some our particular short-term goals, including the enhancement and better use of Veteran’s Park and bringing some amenities or recreational facilities such as an indoor pool, to the downtown.

Thank you again for the opportunity.