18 April 2012

Councilman Hans Riemer Addresses WUDAC April Meeting

Councilman Hans Riemer made a surprise appearance at our April 10th meeting. In what could be considered a first attempt at fence mending after the council voted 9-0 on an alternative plan in opposition to the Wheaton Community's vision on urban redevelopment, Mr. Riemer explained the council's view for the Urban District revitalization. The plan calls for a county investment of $66 million to build a Park and Planning Headquarters and a Town Square in what is known as lot 13 near Reedie and Grandview.  In his address Mr. Riemer stressed that the council took its position in the belief that its plan was superior in that it would ensure a more rapid investment in the downtown area. He felt this plan would be less disruptive to nearby small businesses and quickly add foot traffic to spur daytime economic growth. He stated that the council did take the community's concerns into account and that this was just the first installment into a long term commitment to Wheaton. He recommended future quarterly meetings with community groups to continue this dialogue. Some items on his wish list for future consideration include possible free WIFI in the Urban District, bike sharing and rapid transit, and a task force to study the issue of safety perception in Wheaton and a survey of every street to ensure walkability.

Mr. Riemer took questions and comments from WUDAC Committee members. WUDAC vice-chair Marian Fryer expressed optimism because after years of false starts, at least now there are actual dollars to be invested in Wheaton. She reminded attendees that redevelopment is a process and that we need to continue to be engaged because there is plenty of time to affect the outcome. Matt Barry, large business representative and General Manager of Westfield, also expessed optimism and felt Mr. Riemer was right about the need for a safety review and a comprehensive vision dialogue.

Janet Yu, resident representative, summed up the feelings of many when she stated that the "excitement" the community felt of " building something together" was deflated by the council's action. Another residential representative, Henriot St. Gerard, reminded Mr. Riemer  that redevelopment was more than just the construction of a building and felt it was a mistake to ignore the private investment that B.F. Saul would have committed to Wheaton. Councilman Riemer replied that BF Saul wanted a hefty guaranteed return that the council felt did not warrant the risk of county money.

William Moore, large business representative, expressed his concerns that any future community dialogue may be ignored, much like the community backed plan that was tabled. WUDAC members Devala Janardan, Linda Amendt and Ken Nelson also expressed their frustration that the council's vote totally disregarded the feelings of the Wheaton Community.

12 April 2012

Costco Presents Updated Gas Station Proposal to WUDAC

Costco representatives Erich Brann and Pat Harris attended our April 10th meeting and presented an updated proposal for the construction of a gas station at Westfield. According to Mr. Brann, many improvements have been made to address the concerns of the nearby Kensington Heights community. Highlights of their plan include: double walled piping with leak detectors that will shut the station down in the event of a breach; a variable height sound resistant "green" wall to shield the community from noise of idling cars; an air permeator inside the tank to capture vapors and return them to the tank; storm water management and lighting controls.

In spite of these enhancements, the Costco representatives were somewhat evasive when asked by WUDAC as to whether the Kensington Heights community has embraced this updated proposal, stating only that they feel the community has received bad counsel and is "misguided" about the project.

Costco will hold an open house April 25th from 7-9:00pm at the Crossway Community Center located at 3015 Upton Drive in Kensington. All concerned residents are invited to meet with Costco representatives and review the updated plan.

WUDAC has decided to withhold opinion on this plan until after members have had more time to study the proposal and gage community sentiment.

News flash: The Costco store construction now already underway has been moving ahead of schedule. The Grand Opening is now planned for October 12, 2012

11 April 2012

County Council Votes to Support Their Vision for Wheaton

The County Council yesterday voted 9-0 to support a proposed Wheaton Redevelopment Capital Improvements(CIP) budget of 66.1 million, a plan recommended by their Senior Legislative Analyst Jacob Sesker. The county investment in Wheaton, though welcome, was a rejection of a community and WUDAC supported planned Public/Private partnership proposed by County Executive Ike Leggett which would have leveraged a 42 million County investment into a 200 to 300 million private investment by B.F Saul and others. The proposed CIP includes funding for an M-NCPPC(Park and Planning Commission) headquarters on parking lot 13, an area bounded by Grandview and Triangle Lane; parking; a Town Square; a financial feasibility study regarding the Metro busbay site; a parking study; planning for the Metro site, starting in FY 18; and planning studies regarding creating local jobs, job training and small business protection. In May, the County Council will conduct a final vote on all capital budget elements.
Although WUDAC is disappointed that the Council did not share the community's vision for the Wheaton Urban District, we will continue to be actively engaged in the ongoing legislative process and urge the Wheaton Community to do the same!

William Moore