PoP Recap: Pivotal Planning Commission Meeting

The August 30th Planning Commission (PC) meeting proved pivotal with a 3 to 2 vote to NOT recommend use of the Village Overlay Zone (VOZ) for the proposed Willshire Development. Thanks to all of you who voiced your thoughts at meetings, in letters, and through the petition--your involvement in the process has made a difference. While the PC vote is a win for those who believe dense development is at odds with our town, this is likely not the end of the story. PoP will continue to watch for developments with the Willard parcel and keep you up-to-date. 

Our bullet points below provide a brief account of the recent PC meeting; a more detailed, lengthy account is included after the bullet points if you wish to read more.

  • Miller & Smith presented a new Willshire proposal with 61 homes on 1/10th acre lots.
  • This was arguably the most well-attended PC meeting thus far. The overwhelming majority of resident testimony asked the PC to: 1.) not grant to the VOZ for Willshire, and 2.) re-visit the VOZ and re-tool. 
  • In response to the motion to approve the VOZ for the Willard property, there were 2 ayes (Calvin Sneed and Bryan Bupp) and 3 nays (Michael Tims, Kevin Schramm, Chuck Stump). 
  • The PC did not recommend approval of the VOZ for the proposed Willshire Development.
  • The decision to not grant the VOZ does not preclude Miller & Smith (or another developer) from applying again with a new proposal.

Poolesville Planning Commission Meeting: August 30, 2017

Builder’s Presentation

  1. Tom Hive, Vice President, Miller and Smith 
    1. The original plan (2016) with 96 homes missed the mark.
    2. The 2nd plan (Jan. 2017) reduced homes to 75. The plan was reworked in response to objections to the townhomes.
    3. The 3rd plan (March 2017) had 63 single family homes.
    4. The 4th plan (Aug. 2017), had 61 single family homes.                                                                                  
  2. Dave Ager, Design & Planning
    1. Master plan was adopted in 2011, identified small town character as most important. With 4 objectives:
      1. Residential with supported commercial
      2. Should be compact
      3. Should be easily distinguishable from surroundings
      4.  Encourage social interaction
    2. Master plan emphasized compactness at the center of town, to avoid sprawl at the edges. Town center was imagined to have more housing added. The village overlay zone’s purpose is to give more control than the original zoning and for the development of the town center to be more in line with the master plan vision.
    3. Newest plan has 61 units. Green buffers are expanded and the visual impact of the parkland around the John Poole House will be “2 acres.” Left edge parkland widened to 35 feet. The original zoning would allow 40-50 single family homes. The new proposal is “a slight increase.” Under the original zoning, townhouses, apartment buildings would be allowed. Under the overlay, detached homes are a better option. Increased setbacks along Fyfe and Fisher, treescape improvements.
    4. Previous discussion involved pedestrian linkages and encouraging people to socialize while also improving Fisher Avenue. The new plan has a widened sidewalk for Fisher, as well as walkways and internal sidewalks connecting everything.
    5. Overlay sets a maximum setback, which builder has used as their minimum in planning. Parking ratio is 3.6, parkland is 100% of the requirement. Forest conservation is 50% on the lot and 50% off-site. Over 25% of the land is open space.
    6. Addressing the letter from PC and their four specifications:
      1. Forest conservation area has been expanded so that it can accommodate conservation and additional landscaping, screening, etc. Existing hedgerows will be reinforced
      2. Road requirements for width have been met. There are sidewalks on both sides.       
      3. Fyfe road, widened with 3 lane section.  
      4. Access to John Poole House will be provided through the park to connect to the parking lot. The connection has been provided in the new plan.
    7. The perimeter of the development (along Fyfe and Fisher), will have homes with porches in front, garages in back.
  3. Patty Wynkoop, Vice President, Miller and Smith, Product Development
    1. Addressed VOZ guidelines with respect to architecture: Miller and Smith is willing to meet all architectural detail requirements. Some homes have garages that are rear-load, some homes have garages that are in front. The-rear load garage homes will be placed along the border of Fyfe and Fisher. There will be a variety of architectural styles, architectural details to match Poolesville’s style, natural materials and enhanced color palette.
  4. Landscape Planner for Miller & Smith
    1. Setback on Fisher Ave increased to 25 feet. Connection with the Fyfe trail is being improved, connected to children’s playground that will be there, too. Rain gardens along Fyfe and throughout the rest of the community, provide visual interest and address stormwater issues.
    2. Founder’s Park (the developer's name for the proposed park next to John Poole House) will be connected to the Willshire community, and there will be connections to tie everything to Whalen Commons, Town Hall, and the rest of Poolesville. There will be many ways to walk through the community. The existing lawn in front of the Willard house will hug the John Poole House. 
  5. Attorney representing Miller and Smith
    1. The concept plan satisfies the master plan for walkability, connectivity, and infill development.

Commissioner Questions and Comments

  1. For the front-load houses, they have 4 parking spaces each (2 in the garage, 2 in the driveway). Is that realistic?
    1. Reply: most HOA’srestrict using garage for storage, so if HOA enforces that, 2 car spaces would be available in the garage.
  2. Minimum for sidewalks is 5 feet. Promenades (such as along Fyfe) will be wider than that, currently shown at 7 feet.

Audience Comments

  1. We are a crossroad village. What this plan does is hide a bad suburban neighborhood behind a pretty street front facade “thing.” This plan is a facade with junk behind it.
  2. Concern about overuse of Whalen Common. The facade on Fisher is Federalist, so the homes would need to be Federalist in order to match. Safety problems- snow removal and emergency vehicles will be hard. Everybody will be on Fyfe road through Fisher. Please don't vote tonight, must go through parks board first: it’s in the code. Parkland isn’t just space we can’t use or space left over- until the parks board reviews the plan, it’s in the code that a vote can’t be taken. Town government should follow rules everyone else has to follow.
  3. The planning commission has been ignoring the resident’s desires, we’ve been silenced and ignored despite attending every meeting. Petitions, community organization, etc haven’t been acknowledged. How is 61 homes, in addition to 100+ already approved, incremental growth? Parents have made sacrifices to live in this small town. If this development goes through, the small town feel that makes Poolesville special will be lost. Who will want to move out here if it feels just like everywhere else? 61 homes will not increase the attractiveness of the downtown area. Hold Miller and Smith accountable. Hold a charette. Thoughtfully create a development that works for Poolesville.
  4. Great sales pitch: a $42 million dollar development presented with a battalion of subject-matter experts to our volunteer board, who have no subject-matter experts of their own. We brought our own subject-matter expert, who coaches the Poolesville youth soccer team, and he was limited to 3 minutes. He is still willing to volunteer his time to take all of this new information and review it, in a charette, assist the planning commission in making an informed decision.
  5. Erin Bettinger, Executive Board Member, Poolesville Mom's Club: Lived here for 4 years, husband grew up here, family moved here because of Poolesville's unique qualities. Our club has 70 families in this area. The survey shows that members within the Mom's Club, overwhelming, do not support the proposed development.
  6. There needs to be a dialogue, people feel disrespected and not heard. A way to set up a respectful dialogue is to look at the master plan and overlay zone together. “Village concept with small town character”- very subjective, what is the sweet spot? 25 homes? 35-40 homes? People feel that their voices have not been heard, a vote tonight would be highly premature.
  7. Resident from the parks board: a little further down the line, the developer needs to meet with the parks board to determine where parks will be, how big, etc. All the “green slivers” along the exterior edges don’t count as parkland. Park names, like “Founder’s Park”, need to be approved by the parks board too; names are not made by the developer.
  8. Resident who lives in one of the new Poolesville townhouses on Fisher, Wootton Woods: when we bought our townhome it looked a lot different in the plans than it does right now. Many appealing, softening exterior features that were presented in the plan, don't exist with the real built product. It’s easier to use clipart than it is to plant a tree and wait for it to grow. Please aim for a higher standard when talking about trees, landscaping, parkland.
  9. A decision should not be made tonight. The town needs it own project planning expert/manger to handle this proposed development. Also, what is the Town Commissions ability to affect changes to the plan?
    1. Reply from Town of Pooleville Lawyer: this is not a plan approval here, what is pending is whether the PC is making a recommendation to the Town Commissioners to grant use of the overlay zone. Usually concept plans aren’t this detailed. All the details will be worked out after you start doing site planning and getting approval on various things.
  10. Abby Clouse-Radigan presented paper copies of the updated POP petition to all on the PC and stated that the petition now has 742 signatures. 90% are Poolesville residents. The petition gets a bump in signatures every time Willshire is on the agenda. Residents’ concerns are not abating--despite the decrease in units, concern continues to mount. Residents are concerned about how the buildings will occupy the space (not just the numbers of buildings). A 3D rending without trees should be requested so that the PC has a clear sense of the relative size and scale of the units, how they blend with the surrounding area, and how they're positioned vis-a-vis each other.
  11. Former planning commissioner involved in the last 3 master plans asks the town people to place some faith in the planning commission.
  12. The sidewalks will get plowed in with the snow the way they’re set up. The snow will be too heavy to move. Says there is more than enough water available and asks where all the people complaining were 15 years ago?
  13. Master plan calls for incremental growth, but there are already 100-200 homes in the process of being built or coming online. Surveys clearly show that town residents want a small town rural feel. Everyone will experience this community everyday- everybody wants to “do the right thing.” Focus on incremental growth, what the community will feel like if Miller and Smith builds this. Without a 3D rendering without mature trees, the only thing to do is to go see a similar Miller and Smith community looks like. Go see it.
  14. Came to Poolesville 6 years ago for the small town feel. We have something special, not opposed to all new development but does think this is too dense to fit into our current community and small town feeling. If we build this it’ll erode what’s special about Poolesville. The current proposal doesn’t sit well.
  15. Don’t vote for the overlay zone. I’m downstream of the proposed development--I live in the river now, and this plan will not help.
  16. As far as the town feel and spacing of the homes, 1/10th of an acre doesn’t work with the surrounding homes on 1/3rd to ½ of an acre. How will the roads deal with so much traffic, with up to 4 cars per home? Roundabouts won’t help. Young pedestrians will be in danger from all this increased traffic.
  17. Caroline Taylor of Montgomery Countryside Alliance: do any of the provisions (35 feet, green bits, etc) address stormwater management concerns? The adjacent property owner has a video of the water she deals with. What is the carrying capacity of the development in regards to water? We have a finite supply of water, we should watch and wait to see what happens with water before adding this new development to strain those resources. Wait and see how the things already approved tax our resources. Dense development such as the proposed one costs more to service than it generates in tax revenue.
  18. The proposed homes are inconsistent with the surrounding properties. Was density discussed in the last letter to Miller and Smith? (Reply from PC: overlay zone doesn’t specify a particular housing density, that’s why it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the last letter). If density is what most of the resident comments addressed, it should have been in your letter. A lot of the community feels that this plan is still too dense. Please do not to vote until a more appropriate density is reached.
  19. Moved here 6 years ago. Looked at Reston and got sticker shock. We were looking for more green space. Poolesville is completely different from other communities- this will definitely change the character of Poolesville. This concept is not in keeping with the character of Poolesville, which is unique in this area. If the concept is not good, don’t let the concept as-is go forward.
  20. Lived here 15 years and kids grew up in Poolesville. Came from a very dense area and loves Poolesville. Houses on 1/10th of an acre are just townhouses divided by 10 feet of grass. You are here for the people of Poolesville, not for the really nice people of the development company.
  21. Cal’s article in the Monocacy Monocle about people with “agendas” was belittling. The town is speaking, please listen. We haven’t had a stormwater drainage study--it’s very concerning. What about the traffic study? My house is right on the front-line of these issues. The residents of Tama do not want that street connection to their community, re: Glass Way.
  22. Watched how Olney grew and it pushed her family out. These new expensive homes will push people out. Don’t want to watch Poolesville lose its friendliness.
  23. Changes suggested about adding greenspace. As gatekeepers, it is the planning commissions duty to listen to the people who live here. You are being nickeled and dimed with small concessions. Opening Glass Way will not encourage walkability, the children who walk through there to school will not be able to walk through anymore if there are cars. Conversations of what the HOA might do, that’s passing the buck. If the point of this meeting is to get input of whether this plan should be recommended to the town commissioners, I say no, There are sections of the Great Wall of China that are smaller than the height of these houses.
  24. If you vote tonight, please vote against. The two egresses on Fisher have been changed to open up Glass Way, and it doesn’t make sense. The school children who currently walk on Glass Way will not be able to do so if it’s open. “Line of sight” issue doesn’t seem correct.

Individual statements from PC members:

  1. Bryan Bupp: fear of losing small town charm shouldn’t have that much impact on our decision. People have opposed additional homes being built throughout the years but those home were built and Poolesville is still a small town. Place trust in Master plan and Overlay drafters.
  2. Michael Tims: struggled with the prospect of change in the character of Poolesville. I don’t think we got the overlay plan right. This development will change the character of this town, it’ll have a strong effect, it’s too large and will be talked about for years. We need more conversation before I feel like the rural historical character of the town is preserved. That density is out of character. The plan may meet the minimum standard set by the overlay, but the standards of the overlay need to be re-examined.
  3. Kevin Schramm: when we created the overlay I thought it would give us more control but it hasn’t. We’ve been able to negotiate sidewalks, parks etc in other developments without the overlay zone. The overlay zone has opened up a Pandora's box. We need to spend more time thinking about what we want from the overlay zone.
  4. Chuck Stump: density was discussed when we were writing the overlay plan. Every single way to control density up-front could have holes poked in it, that’s why they decided not to limit density up-front. Trying to come up with a one-size-fits-all density cap would not be able to be done for all the parcels the overlay would affect. Think we should have another working session with Miller and Smith where density is addressed and negotiated, instead of having more of these meetings. Recommend not to vote tonight, instead have a meeting and discuss properly. The overlay should be revisited.
  5. Calvin Sneed, PC Chair: agrees with Bryan Bupp on everything. The POP petition doesn’t mean anything- the signatures were collected when 93 dwellings were proposed [PoP Note: it was created when it was 75 homes]. Some signatures are from people under 21 years of age [PoP Note: there’s no legal age requirement for petitions]. I represent everyone, those who come to the meetings and those who don’t, the Willards included. When we wrote the overlay zoning, we were all overwhelmingly in favor of the overlay, we spoke about wanting something like downtown Frederick.
  6. Poolesville’s Legal Counsel: we can make a motion to vote (it can be tabled) but caution against trying to force a work session. PC can give a recommendation to the commissioners, positive or negative. It would be up to the applicant whether to present to the town commissioners, regardless of whether the vote of the planning commission is positive or negative. The town commissioners are the ones to make and initiate changes to the VOZ, not the PC. The PC only interprets the VOZ.

Motion to approve the VOZ for the Willard property. Vote: 2 aye (Sneed and Bupp), 3 nay (Tims, Schramm, Sneed).

 

*Please keep in mind that we strive to make accurate records, but this is a human taking notes during a fast-paced meeting.

Votes Are In: Overlay Zone NOT Recommended by Planning Commission

Great News! Last night (Aug. 30), in the face of overwhelming citizen turnout, the Planning Commission voted (3 to 2) to NOT recommend use of the Overlay Zone for the proposed Willshire Development. Without being granted the use of the Overlay Zone, developer Miller & Smith cannot move forward with the proposal as it now stands (61 homes on 1/10 acre lots). While Miller & Smith are still able to request use of the Overlay Zone from the Town Commissioners for their current plan, our Commissioners will have to weigh this request alongside the Planning Commission's recommendation. Last night's vote--while not the end of this story--is nonetheless a win for those of us who believe that dense development is not right for our small town.

Many thanks to all of you for tuning in and being a part of our local governance: your signatures, letter-writing, attendance and compelling testimony at meetings has made a big difference. Thanks to Montgomery Countryside Alliance for their work on this effort. And thanks to our Planning Commission members for their hard work in this process and for weighing the concerns of the community in their decision-making (e-mail them at townhall@lan2wan.com if you'd like to thank them yourself).

If you couldn't make it to the meeting stay tuned for our Recap, which will have a more in-depth account. In the meantime, you can join the other 1,000+ folks who watched a live-stream of the meeting on Facebook, kindly recorded by Brooks Martin. The video is still available for viewing on the Town of Poolesville Community Information Facebook page. 

Thanks for your hard work! Stay tuned for the next steps in this important process. 

Update: Planning Commission Recap & News

The Planning Commission (PC) stated (at their June meeting) that they will likely vote on whether to recommend the Willshire Development proposal at the upcoming Wednesday, July 12 meeting (7:30 p.m. at Town Hall). Miller and Smith presented an updated Willshire Development Proposal to the PC at the June 14 meeting (you can access this Miller & Smith PowerPoint presentation on the PoP homepage). Our bullet points below provide a brief account of this meeting; a more detailed, lengthy account is included after the bullet points. In the meantime, put Wednesday July 12 on your calendar--this could be your final opportunity to address the PC on the issue of Willshire.

Poolesville Planning Commission Meeting, June 14, 2014: Proposed Willshire Development

  • Miller & Smith propose 63 houses on approximately 1/10th acre lots (only the lots are shown on the plan, house footprints are not provided). For context, adjacent lots along Elgin Rd (with historic houses) are approximately 1 acre.
  • Town homes have been eliminated from the proposal.
  • Home prices will start in the upper-600s.
  • The meeting was standing room--the vast majority of people present stated that the plan is headed in the right direction, but still too dense. The majority of speakers favored a plan with 45 to a maximum of 50 homes. 
  • Overall, the tone of the PC seems dismissive of the ongoing and often-expressed concern about density. There appears to be a rush to vote on the current proposal. 
  • PC Chair, Cal Sneed, expressed satisfaction with the current plan and encouraged other PC members to be ready to vote on the proposal at the upcoming July 12th meeting.

For a detailed account of the meeting, read on:

 Chuck Ellison, of Miller & Smith, presenting:

  1.  They have revised the plan according to the March 23rd letter sent to them by the Town. Ellison thinks they’ve satisfied all the points of the letter:
  2. Total of 63 lots
  3. They have eliminated town homes
  4.  Park parcels have been changed, one parcel will create a landscaped entry to the John Poole house
  5. Included a tot lot, accessible to town residents
  6. Will provide 50% of the required afforestation on site, will plant trees and expand canopy cover

Associate Ager, of Miller & Smith, presenting:

  1. Providing parkland, 1st with a wide viewshed along Fisher Ave. and 2nd adjacent to Whalen commons. Also a tot park.
  2. John Poole house- proposed pedestrian walkway off Fisher, open so that the John Poole house is visible. Sitting areas, pergola, etc.
  3. Afforestation- adding trees along the rear of the parcel, next to the John Poole House and around the tot lot area.
  4. Pedestrian Green Way and Connectivity, from Whalen commons to John Poole house. Also improvements along Fisher Ave.
  5. The Willard house will be retained and enhanced to blend in.
  6. Improvements to Fisher Ave, streetscape, homes facing street, 25’ front setback, 10’ side setback, rear loaded homes/screened garages.
  7. Glass Way extension into Tama- stop signs, the road is 24’ wide.
  8. Landscaping and street arrangement to provide visual buffer and create smaller areas.
  9. All of the houses will be 2-story homes. No townhomes.

Planning Commission Questions:

  1. Do the courts have cull de sacs?
    1. No they have T turnarounds. Montgomery fire accepts this.
  2. The wooded area around the tot lot- how does it fit in with the tot lot? Hazard to children getting lost? Ticks? Why there?
    1. It’s a logical spot with open space to be filled. There are already 3 very large trees there. There would not be any trees within the actual tot lot. There are different levels of plantings that qualify as reforestation- so it wouldn’t necessarily become a forest per, could just be some sort of vegetation.
  3. What is the average lot size?
    1. Approximately one tenth of an acre.
  4. Can the walking path be wide enough for a bike lane?
    1. Possibly.
  5. The homes along Fisher will be larger- 5500 sf each, the smaller ones will be on the inside.
  6. Traffic control measures? Fisher, Glass Way, Fyfe, etc. How is this going to be handled?
    1. A speed bump on Glass Way
  7. Have we heard anything regarding stormwater management?
    1. No, there needs to be a completely new storm water management plan submitted to County for review.

Citizen’s comments:

  1. Good presentation, but torn about wanting more density in general but having a hard time visualizing what it would look like. Pleased that there will be trees planted along the back of the lot so that there’s a tight wall of evergreens providing a visual block.
  2. What about the parking? How much will the houses cost?
    1. This plan has 3.5 parking spaces per lot
    2. High $600,000 per house
  3. Resident who lives on Selby- the access on Glass Way is right on a curve, worried about kids on the curve, speeding drivers. Selby Ave speed issue. Concern about the way traffic moves.
  4. Another Selby resident- same concerns about the curve of Glass Way: speeding drivers, kids safety. People park on both sides of the street there and drive fast. There’s a lot of foot traffic there already, concerns about safety of pedestrians and walkability.
  5. Resident asks each Commissioner present “what do you think about 50 homes?”
    1. Commissioner Timms: 50 is nice. Commission is referring to the master plan, trying to find enough density to attract high quality developers. But 50 sounds good.
    2. Commissioner Sneed: Happy as is, with 63
    3. Commissioner Schramm: thinks 50 homes is fine, but isn’t necessarily opposed to 63.
    4.  Commissioner Stump: always thought 50-60 range was good.
  6. Resident from Wesmond: has two egresses on Spates Hill and Fisher. He has problems getting out on both. Wants a traffic analysis on Poolesville traffic covering different parts of the day, especially when making these kinds of density decisions. Has lived through many water restrictions and crises in Poolesville- many of his out-of-town friends have had their wells go dry and Poolesville draws more on the aquifer. Asks for a proper analysis of the water table and water use. Wants at most 50 houses. Wants park extended all the way across the front of Fisher, so that all houses are behind the park. He says the houses along Fisher will not be a visitor draw, parkland and greenery will be.
  7. Planning Commissioner insists that they have sufficient expert opinion on water usage and the streetscape. Want “walkability” (comment from resident is that this looks and sounds like Clarksburg. Says the rendering of the streetscape does not look nice regardless of what the “experts” may have said.”)
  8. Perry Kapsch, past President of Historic Medley District: Your experts are not looking at the whole story of the town. Across from the Willard property, were a line of elegant Queen Anne houses which were set back from the street. They were destroyed and replaced with the post office, liquor store, etc. If we want to go back to the grace and the dignity of historic Poolesville.
  9. Mention of congested exists in front of the insurance office. Asks about lot sizes on Fisher as well as back lots.
    1. Lots on Fisher are 50 feet wide, 100 ft deep lots- the houses 30 feet wide. Along Glass Way, houses are 25 ft wide
    2. There are bump-outs along the public streets. No side walks in the alleys. Town rule about how far the entrance of the garage is from the alley is 4 feet.
  10. Concern about cars parking with tailgates sticking out. So visitors will park where? How will post office deliver mail in tiny alleys filled with parked cars and kids?
    1. Confirmed no common walls for garages.
  11. Do Overlay Zone developments require covenants? HOA?
    1. ·Town doesn’t get into it, covenants go between landowner developers and buyers. There will be an HOA.
  12. A person has the right to park on the street of Selby Avenue. And currently on the corner, the owner parks 3 pickup trucks on that corner as is his right. This is a visibility problem.
  13. Resident who lives on Selby, behind town hall, has 4 car family, backing onto Glass Way has had many near accidents. What is the projected number of vehicles into the egress on Glass Way during peak times? It’s already a nightmare turning onto Fisher.
    1. Traffic consultant preparing a study, will be made available.
  14. Resident from Hughes Road- appreciates decrease in density from the original plan, however the issue of housing that is attractive to the elderly and single level homes is still unaddressed. Would like to see some design that allows older people to live there.
  15. The two crosswalks on Fisher Avenue are currently kind of respected but need more attention. Lights and signals, etc. Would like a speed bump on Hughes road.
  16. Resident question: can we have the footprints of the houses shown on the plans, not just the sketches of the lots?
    1. Commissioner wants to know if there’s a similarly dense neighborhood that they can visit to get a sense of the density in real life. Developer suggested the M/S development in Fulton, Howard County, Md.
  17. A 3D rendering would make it easier to get a sense of the size of the houses and how they tie into the atmosphere of the historic district. Much of the downtown is on the Register for Historic Areas, so wouldn’t it be nice to build something that harmonizes with the historic feel. The appendix of the Town Master Plan contains guidelines about appropriate scale. Has Miller and Smith looked at those guidelines?
    1. No, the guidelines were consulted only for the overlay zone.
  18. Adjacent neighbor on Elgin road- Each house will be on 1/10th of an acre, but her lot and others along Elgin are 1 acre; there is little-to-no buffer between the new development and the historic homes on Elgin Road. Concerned about the density of the proposed development, would like to get closer to the master plan ideal of 43/47 and would like to see a greater buffer area.
  19. Resident on Selby Ave-What happened to the concept of not connecting Glass Way to the development? The conversation about the traffic is a huge concern, the only two entrances would be on Fyfe and Glass. There will be cars parked on Glass Way and on Selby and it will be very dangerous for the people whose driveways are on those streets. And how will a fire truck be able to get through such a tight street with cars probably parked on both sides.
  20. Do all the houses have garages?
    1. All homes have double garages, big enough for two cars.
  21. Is there a different way to get into the development without opening up Glass Way?
  22. Are there current studies?
    1. There was a traffic study for the earlier plan, needs to be revisited with the newly opened up Glass Way.
  23. Resident on Hillard Rd- echoes the danger of the busyness of the traffic in the mornings. People aren’t stopping at the stop signs. Where will the water garden be? Questions if this development will be for people in their 50’s and 60’s, not old enough to need elderly amenities but old enough to have their children moved out.
  24. Concern about providing housing for people in their 70’s, this is one of the few opportunities Poolesville will have to provide elderly houses. Proposal for condominium housing? Something for people who want something small on one level.
    1. Miller and Smith reaffirms commitment to providing floor plans that allow the main living to be done on the ground level of the house.
  25. Resident who moved from Germantown where there are too many apartments and townhouses and dense housing. What he loves about Poolesville is the schools and the controlled growth as well as the town’s historic character and the preservation of it. Has watched Germantown explode, and has watched the unintentional consequences of their high density- has seen more than one family living in houses, bringing 6 cars per house instead of 3. There are cultures where multi-generational families are the norm. Don’t aim for adequate, aim for ample. The Town Hall parking lot will become overflow parking for the development. The greenway is beautiful but it will encourage people to park away from their homes. Builders always promise things that they don’t deliver. A lot of the people who will be immediately impacted have spoken up, but think about the welfare of the people who will be moving in- if the living conditions are unlivable and deteriorate, the demographic of the people living there will change. The downtown will change if you build, try to think about limiting the negative impacts.
  26. Resident on Selby- a year ago the debate was between 25 and 90. 63 is still too dense, 1/10th of an acre is too small, the effects of that many people on the traffic, community, and aesthetics will be huge. Please be careful what you build, there is only one chance to get this right and if a mistake is made we can’t take it back.
  27. Will there be sidewalks on Glass Way in addition to the 24’?
    1. Yes, there are planned sidewalks on both sides.
  28. The Town residents desire 40-50 homes. Nobody except the developer has proposed that over 50 is a good idea. If the average that the community is looking for is 40/50 homes, why are the commissioners not respecting that desire?
    1. Commissioners response is that they have avoided drawing a hard line of how many maximum homes will be allowed, they prefer an “exchange of ideas.” Planning Commission Chair Cal Sneed responds: 63 feels about right, sometimes you need to compromise, compared to the number we started with 63 feels good.
  29. Question directly put to the developer: “Is 50 units possible?”
    1. Miller and Smith say no, they have looked at the numbers and 50 units is not possible.
  30. This plan is going in the right direction but it’s still too dense. It’s still Clarksburg. At every meeting, over and over, the town residents have repeated their desire of around 40 to 47 homes as shown on the alternative plan associated with the petition which has been submitted to you. Why is it that this Commission has never mentioned that petition with nearly 700 signatures in favor of lower density? Why is it that all speakers at several meetings have requested lower density and yet they are ignored in this process? It appears that the Commission does not respect town residents’ views. Rather they seem so accommodating to the developer. How is 1/10th of an acre in keeping with the scale of adjacent, historic 1 acre houses? The Master Plan Design Guidelines call for compatibility. A density of 40/47 houses still requires the overlay zone. The requests of the residents in regards to the density are not being met. This has not ben a democratic process. Please listen to your town residents.
  31. Put a 3 way stop on Selby + Glass Way intersection.
  32. Attorney Jim Clifford who represents the Willards speaks: appreciates Miller and Smith, likes the development, asks what the cost of doing nothing is.
  33. How big will the houses be?
    1. 2400 sq feet living space, cost high 600’s
  34. Perry Kapsch, Beallsville Rd, former Historic Medley District President, talks about setting a dangerous precedent for other historic district 1 acre property owners to build the same 1/10th acre density in the future. Talked about the historic district of Poolesville and its significance. What Commissioners do here could make or break our historic, rural small town character. The Town could put more effort into marketing the fact that Poolesville is a Canal Town, central to the Montgomery Heritage Plan and also well a stop on the Scenic Byways of Maryland. We can better serve our businesses by doing so instead of overcrowding our town center.
  35. Resident asks the PC to provide a 30 day notice before they put the issue to a vote.
    1. PC legally not required to provide such notice
    2. PC Chair Sneed said to consider this the 30 day notice—a vote is likely to take place at the July PC meeting.

Meeting closed with Sneed asking fellow PC members whether they will be prepared to vote on a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ recommendation of the Willshire proposal. It appears that a vote could take place on July 12.

*Please keep in mind that we strive to make accurate records, but this is a human taking notes during a fast-paced meeting

PoP Take-Aways: May 17 Planning Commission Meeting

The following is an important timeline of events related to the recent Willshire site-visit by MD Department of Planning (MDP) officials. In light of the reporting of this issue in The Monocacy Monocle we feel the need to clarify.

·       At former meetings, the Planning Commission (PC) was encouraged by citizens to get input from other State and County Planning and Historic Preservation experts on how best to preserve our small-town character and historic resources while developing the Willshire site.

·       On April 6, Nell Zhiehl (Preservation Planning and Museum Programs) and Steven Allen (Regional Planner) of the MDP visited the town for a tour given by PC Chair Cal Sneed, Town Commission Chair Jim Brown, and Town Manager Wade Yost.

·       The agenda for the May 17 PC meeting listed “a report dealing with a meeting between Town Officials and MDP regarding the proposed Willshire development.” The report was from notes taken by Yost, not from the experts at MDP.

·       Sneed’s report of the meeting was as follows: he, Brown, and Yost met with Ziehl and Allan from MDP. Town Commissioner Jerry Klobukowski joined mid-meeting by chance, as he happened to be at Town Hall when the group returned from their tour around town. Sneed reported that they drove around the site and that Ziehl stated that the Willshire property has no historical significance* but it is important to have a buffer zone near the John Poole House. [*It’s our understanding that, in the language of preservation and planning professionals, the phrase ‘historical significance’ means physical historical or archaeological traces present on (or in) the ground that require special treatment. When MDP states that there is “no historical significance” at a site, they are stating that there is no need for a site survey or archaeological recovery work; they are not commenting on the broader historical importance of the property. The site is, after all, within the Town’s historic district. This is a good example of why a full, expert report of the meeting and related findings would be helpful.]

·       Sneed also reported that Allan looked at the Master Plan and stated that the Overlay Zone fits with state growth initiatives, the issue of unlimited density aside. Both Ziehl and Allan said decreasing the density and going back and forth is going in the right direction and both Ziehl and Allan are open to having future meetings with Town Officials.

·       During the comment period Town Commissioners, Martin Radigan and Klobukowski, and other citizens provided comments and expressed concern about the closed nature of the meeting (PC members and Commissioners were not invited) and the decision to not request the follow-up report from experts at MDP, offered free-of-charge to the Town.

·       Chairman Sneed’s response to limiting the tour participants was that he did not want to overwhelm the State officials.

·       Planning Commissioner Kevin Schramm stated that he was surprised to see there was a meeting and wished that he would have been invited. Sneed said it is his decision to make, who is invited and when.

·       Sneed noted that in a conversation with Zhiel she complained of a citizen who contacted her via phone and addressed her/the issue in a vitriolic manner. Sneed named a desire to protect Ms. Ziehl from further abuse as one reason he unilaterally decided not to request a formal report from MD. 

·       Commissioner Klobukowski stated that he felt that an email invitation should have gone out to the PC board and the Town Commissioners about the meeting. 

·       Radigan agreed with Klobukowski and stated that he emailed Ziehl and asked for a copy of the report and was told that she would not write a report of the meeting unless the PC requested it. Sneed said there was no reason to request the report because they were doing nothing more than information gathering. Sneed initially stated “we” (presumably the PC) discussed and decided not to request the report. When pressed by Radigan, he clarified that it was his unilateral decision to not ask for the report.

·       Sneed stated that they were waiting for the final proposal before considering asking for a report. When asked by Radigan if he would schedule another meeting with the MDP, Sneed said he wasn’t sure yet.

·       Schramm asked again why they wouldn’t have Ziehl submit a written summary of the meeting.  Sneed told him to make a motion for a vote if he wants to. Schramm made a motion to request a written summary. Tims seconded Schramm’s motion for a vote. Tims, Schramm, and Chuck Stump voted for the motion; Sneed and Bupp voted against the motion.

·       Several citizens thanked Kevin Schramm for making the motion to ask for an official report.

Wade Yost reported that he attended a meeting with Willshire developer Miller & Smith and the Historic Medley District (HMD) about the arboretum at the John Poole House and that the HMD did not want to make any commitments at this time. Yost said that the PC should expect a new plan from Miller & Smith by June 17 and that the new plan was looking as if it would not contain town homes. 

MCA Community Legal Fund Underway

Our Strategy Meeting on April 8th was well-attended and very productive. We discussed next steps for PoP as we work to address the scale and scope of Willshire. A number of strategies to reach out to and inform both our community and our elected officials have been outlined. We now have an updated task list for which people are welcome to sign up. Please contact us if you'd like to help; we have a range of tasks, some that require a minimum of work if you're limited for time. 

Montgomery Countryside Alliance (MCA) Executive Director, Caroline Taylor, announced at the meeting that plans for a community legal fund are underway, should the community need to take stronger action to ensure that Willshire is harmonious with its surroundings. If the time comes, PoP will aid this effort by keeping you informed about how you can contribute to the cause. In the meantime, we will continue to circulate the Petition for Lower Density (currently with 622 signatures), provide recaps of important town meetings, announce relevant updates and events, and work to reach a broader audience. 

Many thanks for your support!

Willshire Recap: 3/15 Planning Commission Meeting

The March 15th Planning Commission (PC) meeting was well-attended and Willshire was on the agenda.

Summary: Many in attendance voiced their concerns about the development proposed for the center of town. Well over a dozen citizens spoke out in opposition to the current plan of 75 homes, including 29 three story town homes. Comments focused on:

 

  •  keeping the small town feel and the need for a long-range perspective, that this development will carry on for centuries to come and in its current state would ruin our historic town center.
  • asking why the Town hasn’t taken advantage of free expert advice from the State and County Offices and Planning and Historic Preservation to review the Miller and Smith proposal? Planning Chair Cal Sneed responded they “may do so at an appropriate time.”
  • expressing continued opposition to the high-density plan, the small amount of green space, and out-of-scale 3-story townhomes. The Planning Board was asked why it is not giving more guidance to the developer to decrease the density. They did not respond. Instead, they are only allowing for a decrease of a few units to meet storm water and open space regulations.
  • asking why the Planning Commissioners have never mentioned the overarching concern of too much density expressed by dozens of citizens at multiple hearings and by the 610 people who have signed the petition, with many comments asking for lower density? They were asked if they even read the comments.
  • asking why the lack of feasibility study or look at a senior living option; and Miller and Smith's singular focus of money (they don't live here, work here, or send their kids to school here)?  
  • asking if the Town had thought of meeting with the Willards to discuss a “dedication option” resulting in a significant tax break or grant money for the landowners in return for donation of development rights on a portion of the parcel. This would allow for creation of a historic heritage park, perhaps even named for the Willards, connecting Whalen Commons with the John Poole House.  
  • questioning Planning Chair Cal Sneed, who said he wanted to work with Miller and Smith and the Willards, stating that “if we don’t allow this, something worse could happen on this parcel.” He was challenged on this statement by several speakers. A member of Historic Medley District said that “Appendix C in the Master Plan gave them the latitude to make decisions in keeping with scale of our historic town.” Another speaker said that statement is an old tactic often used by developers and their supporters to intimidate residents. 

 

More highlights: Others discussed their concern about the supply and demand issue in Poolesville. Townhomes with a price-point in at least the upper-400s (to 500s) does not fit the Poolesville buyer. People who will spend that much want amenities not found in Poolesville. Too much inventory in the housing market will impact home values.  

The PC discussed guidance that they will provide to Miller and Smith, based upon the PC discussion from January and the joint work session in February. [Please note: PoP will distribute the resulting PC document when it is made available to the public.] The PC discussed the following: 

 

  • village look and feel (ensure compliance in materials and aesthetic, and contains a senior living component)
  • walkability (a greenway to connect the Commons to the John Poole House)
  • parkland (developer should work with the Historic Medley District to restore the arboretum, continuous parkland near the John Poole House)
  • town homes (need for guest parking, 3D model requested with adjacent properties)
  • forest conservation (potential for fee-in-lieu for plantings at the arboretum)
  • Glass Way (consider traffic calming options in Tama, make the road connecting Beall to Glass Way slightly inconvenient)
  • density (allow the process to bring down the density naturally via storm water regulations and opens space/parkland)—a desired number of units will not be provided to Miller & Smith.
  • traffic (review traffic study)

The PC then opened the discussion to public comment. Many of the same issues were discussed as during the open forum, but people also shared their feelings on the PC's role in this process. Multiple people brought up that it is the PC's job to ensure the town's needs are being met, not the builder's or the landowner's needs. People said that it’s not enough to rely on the process to bring the density down—they need to give the developers guidelines on the density that would be acceptable to the town. Also it was noted that even though the code says that homes can be up to 35 feet, if they are granted the Overlay Zone, that doesn't mean that homes need to be 35 feet. The PC needs to ensure that this development maintains the town's aesthetics.

Please continue to let your commissioners and PC members know your feelings about the Willshire proposal. We'll be organizing a community meeting in the near future: if you'd like to get involved, please stay tuned.

*Please keep in mind that we strive to make accurate records, but this is a human taking notes during a fast-paced meeting.

PoP Recap: Joint Work-Session, Willshire Proposal

 The Feb. 15th Planning Commission (PC) meeting was a joint work session between the PC Members and the Poolesville Commissioners to discuss the current Willshire Development proposal, with developer Miller & Smith in attendance. Below is a bottom-line summary, with detailed notes following.

 

SUMMARY: Feb 15 PC Meeting on the Willshire Proposal for 75 homes in Town Center

  • Despite the overwhelming feedback from town residents through letters and our PoP petition for lower density (which now includes 554 individual signatures), some members of the PC and Town Commission continue to support high density.
  • It was said that the proposed development might not be feasible without the inclusion of townhomes. It could also be argued that Poolesville already has an abundance of townhomes. If you have concerns about townhomes in the town center (either their presence or whether they’re 2 or 3 stories), please make your voice heard: write commissioners and/or attend meetings to share your opinion.
  • Commissioner Jim Brown raised the specter of something unsightly being built in place of Willshire, should this plan not go through. PC member Kevin Schramm countered that zoning should not be “guided by fear.”
  • Commissioner Brown questioned why residents haven’t protested the development of 60 homes off West Willard, if they are so concerned about the impact of Willshire. Commissioner Martin Radigan noted that these homes are not in the center of town and will be have ½ to 1/3 acre lots, so density is not a concern.
  • Bottom Line: Residents have more work to do to influence the PC vote on this plan. Please encourage friends and family to attend the next meeting on March 15.

 

DETAILED NOTES: Feb. 15 Meeting

Moderator Link Hoewing opened the work session by explaining that the purpose of the meeting was for the PC and Commissioners to discuss key aspects of the Willshire proposal, adding that there would be no public input. George Coakley, former PC chairperson for 16 years, briefly presented on the current Master Plan (developed in 2011). He highlighted that it was created from 2009-2011, shortly after the economic downturn in 2008 and right after Selby’s closed. The goals in the 2011 Master Plan highlighted during Coakley’s presentation included: maintaining small-town character, developing an aesthetically pleasing streetscape, creating a core downtown area to invigorate businesses, creating mixed-use spaces in the downtown, and having businesses that create a social magnet. He also discussed a few areas that he thought were challenges for the current PC including: determining the relevancy of the Master Plan vision, determining the applicability of the overlay zone, and orchestrating collaborative planning (finding the balance between what is best for the town while meeting the needs of the property owner).

 

Cal Sneed, PC Chairman, asked each Commissioner and PC member to share what they like and don’t like about the current Willshire proposal.

 

Valaree Dickerson, Town Commissioner, stated that she likes the small-town feel but expressed concerns about the townhouse cluster (thinks we need townhomes but doesn’t want to see them when driving on Fischer Ave; issue with the height), overflow parking (wants to ensure that ample space has been planned so that the municipality lots around the Commons and Town Hall don’t end up being overflow parking), accessibility in and out of the neighborhood, the width of the streets, the green space (doesn’t want broken-up green space), and wants to ensure there will be a senior-appropriate floor plan. Dickerson commented that the Master Plan is in place to determine the direction of the community and that the town has only one chance to get it right so they need to be meticulous.

 

Chuck Stump, Town Commissioner and Commissioner Liaison to the PC, said that he saw two main issues: the townhouses and the density. He feels that the boards need to decide if they do or do not want townhomes and how much density they want to see in the Willard property.

 

Martin Radigan, Town Commissioner, noted feedback from letters and petition comments from the community including: townhomes (most people don’t want townhomes on this site or they want them smaller and put towards the back of the property), more continuous green space is needed, more of a buffer for the John Poole House is needed, and that density should be kept around 35-45 homes. He stated that the Willard property is a geographically important parcel and we only have one shot to get it right. The overwhelming feedback he has heard from residents is that people want to keep the density of Willshire way down.

 

Bryan Bupp, PC Member, commented that the town has an opportunity to highlight historic buildings and that he has been reading and listening to the concerns of community citizens (losing small-town charm and concerns with town zoning).

 

Michael Timms, PC Member, stated concerns include: density, traffic flow with only one egress, additional traffic in town, the need for continuous green space, and walkability along the length of the commercial district. He questioned how realistic business viability is with the 6500-population cap for Poolesville. He also asked if the builder could be made to provide some of the things that the town needs such as improving the walkability of the commercial district.

 

Town Commissioner Jerry Klobukowski’s comments on the current plan included: once houses are built there is no going back; we need to highlight the town’s agricultural and historical roots (green-way to John Poole house and fixing the gazebo); include more concentrated green space; do not accept a fee-in-lieu for park space; must ensure there is an HOA and a management company set-up; need to connect Glass Way to the Willshire development; does not favor townhomes (he wants no variances for townhomes and no shared wall between garages). Klobukowski also brought up an idea suggested via letter to the commissioners by a town citizen, which suggested a Willard Agricultural Center and Research Facility along with about 30 homes on the property. He asked that a 3D mock-up of the concept plan be made and presented by the developer, Miller & Smith, because the current map just shows lots.

 

Kevin Schramm, PC Member, discussed things that make Poolesville unique (that we are surrounded by a moat of the agricultural reserve and that we cherish that we don’t look like every other place). He noted that the sidewalks are horrible between the Commons and 109 and stated that he would like to see the houses in the Willshire concept plan moved back to create a sidewalk.

 

Jim Brown, Town Commission President, noted that he isn’t concerned about an age-in place option because the developer, Miller & Smith, said that they would have a senior-friendly floor plan option. He also said that density isn’t a concern and that he couldn’t comment on it because neither he nor anyone else (at the table or in the audience) is an urban planner. Brown feels that the PC has made it clear to the developer that we need to enhance our history and that the PC will take care of the green space. He feels that townhouses are a make or break deal – that the proposal may not go forward without the townhomes. He said that traffic concerns are important and that we have people who study this. He felt that Poolesville needs to set the bar higher (not just say we are who we are) and to look at the long-term, big picture. He questioned why people have not been upset about a neighborhood proposed near the high school off West Willard that would add about 60 homes. (Radigan countered that these homes are on ½ to 1/3 acre lots so density is not a concern, and that they are not at the town center.) Brown talked about the Master Plan (says we aren’t going to develop in the agricultural reserve and instead would concentrate development in the center of town) and the vision statement from the Master Plan (says density in the downtown area is important). He then stated that the Willards could sell that property tomorrow and it could be developed per current zoning as a commercial property. He emphasized that the Willshire proposal needs to be treated with respect. He also stated that he doesn’t have a density number in mind. Kevin Schramm then stated that zoning decisions should not be made “out of fear.”

 

Cal Sneed, PC Chairman, stated that he has great fear about alternative uses if the Willshire development doesn’t go through. He stated that, when going through the process, density will naturally reduce (by adding: dedicated parkland, forestation, and the John Poole Greenway). He stated that he wants to see some number under 74. He wants to see the parkland maxed out and consolidated. Sneed stated that it needs to have a street that connects to Glass Way and he stated that this requirement is in the Master Plan. He has no problem with the townhomes and no issue with the townhomes peeking up above single-family homes. He stated that he feels that the Master Plan is relevant and that the village feel and density in the downtown is a good idea. He also feels that the overlay zone gives the town the ability to negotiate with the developer. He noted that he doesn’t think an additional 20 to 30 homes (above the current zoning of approximately 35-46 homes) will take away from the small-town feel. He stated that traffic was his biggest concern and that Glass Way needs to be opened. He also stated that senior housing is a terrific idea but doesn’t work for Poolesville because we don’t have a hospital nearby.

 

After each PC Member and Commissioner shared their thoughts, a discussion of some of the areas of concern took place. Some members expressed concern about changes in town demographics, economy, and the fact that our Master Plan might look differently if we had had the benefit of social media as a way to gather more resident feedback (Radigan, Klobukowski, and Schramm), while others emphasized that we need to implement the Master Plan (Dickerson, Sneed, Brown) and that the overlay zone is important to get to our 6,500 population to sustain our businesses. Radigan discussed the Town Survey included in our Master Plan, which found that residents were most concerned about growth in town. Some PC Members and Commissioners (Brown, Sneed, Bupp) stated that they read input from community members concerned about growth and felt that the addition of these homes would not take away from the small-town character and people are always concerned about growth. The overlay zone was briefly discussed with Link Hoewing stating that the purpose of the overlay is to help the town to have its needs met (i.e., sidewalks, John Poole House, moving powerlines underground) and to look towards needs in the future. Klobukowski stated that the Master Plan states that the downtown area should have mixed use properties (small shops with apartments above), but he feels that homes are better. He stated that businesses fail regardless of the population and that the PC and Commissioners can’t ensure the economic viability of businesses. Brown stated that Mooey’s needed 14 more people a day to sustain business and that we need growth to help our businesses. Radigan asked Town Manager Wade Yost for the number of homes that were currently being built (or are in the plans to be built). Yost stated that there are about 160 homes that are either approved or are looking to obtain approval. Radigan reminded the PC members and Commissioners that these will bring an additional 500 people into Poolesville, which should help to sustain businesses.

 

Brown stated that there is no trend of more kids in the town schools. Schramm countered that PES is 30 students over and has been for the past few years. Brown clarified that there are no significant trends compared to down county.

 

Hoewing noted that the town could look to tie the Willshire project into improving the streetscape and the Historic Medley assets. Yost noted that the current Willshire proposal shows property lines not homes. Timms noted that the density of Willshire is about twice the density of the rest of Poolesville. Brown noted that the project needs to stay within town character and that townhomes probably need to be there to make the project financially viable. Yost noted that only Klobukowski said that he wanted no townhomes. Radigan asked to discuss townhome placement. Brown and Yost noted that the townhomes can’t be placed at the back of the lot because of the proximity to Tama and Brightwell properties. Brown asked the developer if there is a lower spot on the property to place the townhomes. Developer stated that no, the property is relatively flat. Radigan noted that he wants the townhomes to be less prominent. Stump noted if they are shorter you won’t be able to see them. Klobukowski again noted that he wants to see a 3D model. Sneed noted that the townhomes could be moved back a row in the concept plan to move them farther from the street.

 

All members agreed on the need for continuous parkland and that they will not accept a fee-in-lieu for afforestation. Yost noted that for both would be about 3.5 acres.

 

Hoewing asked to get a consensus on senior housing. Dickerson noted they just want an option for senior appropriate floor plans.

 

Yost noted that there are still some minor details to work out, like attached garages. He stated that the next steps will be for the PC to create a concise list of things they want altered during the next PC meeting. In the future, once the PC is happy with the plan, they will make a recommendation to the Commissioners who will vote on the use of the overlay zone. Then the plan will move back to the PC to work out the details.

 

Sneed asked if anyone is opposed to the use of the overlay zone. Stump said that he is unsure at this time. Radigan said he hasn’t heard people oppose the overlay zone so much as oppose the density.

 

In a nutshell: residents have more work to do to influence the PC vote on this plan. Please encourage friends and family to attend the next meeting on March 15.

 

Save the Date: Planning Commission Meeting, Wednesday, March 15 at 7:30 pm

Voice your concerns, hold the PC accountable to the stated concerns of residents!

PoP Petition Submitted to Town Hall

The initial results of our petition have been submitted to the town; it will be shared with all members of the Planning Commission and the Town Commission. At the time of submission we had 533 signatures, but the number continues to climb! It is worth noting that these 533 signatures were collected within little more than a two-week period! We can't thank you enough for your support, for spreading the word, for carrying petitions, and for listing your name in support. This petition will provide our town officials with valuable community-based feedback to consider as they prepare for their work-session meeting with the developer this Wednesday (2/15, 7:30 at Town Hall). The meeting agenda is available here.

PoP Highlights: Jan. 18 Planning Commission Meeting with Miller & Smith

The January 18 Planning Commission meeting was well-attended, with people overflowing into the atrium of Town Hall. While there were items on the agenda other than Willshire, this meeting recap will focus entirely on Willshire and the updated Concept Plan submitted by Miller & Smith. You can access the Miller & Smith PowerPoint slides here.

 

Chuck Ellison, Miller & Smith VP, opened the Willshire presentation by stating that they worked to incorporate the guidelines provided by the Planning Commission in November (2016), while working with existing codes and ordinances. In a nutshell:

  Ø  The updated Concept Plan for Willshire includes 75 homes (including the original Willard house).

  Ø  Density was reduced from the original plan by only 22%--this means that just 18 homes were removed.

  Ø  34% of the homes are three-story townhouses (29 out of 75).

  Ø  Miller & Smith is requesting concessions from the Town that run counter to the guidelines created by the Planning Commission (outlined nicely in the November Meeting minutes):

·       The townhouses all include a third level;

·       The garages in the plan are approx. 50 sq feet larger;

·       There will be no accommodations for senior housing; 

·       The Planning Commission requested "10% usable recreational parkland;" this means about 1.4 acres need to be dedicated parkland. The new Concept Plan only has about .7 acres of dedicated usable parkland (see PowerPoint slide 3). It proposes that the other half be built "in-kind," without providing further detail. "In-kind" means the creation of equivalent parkland somewhere off-site or the provision of in-kind services in-lieu of said parkland. Miller & Smith did not elaborate on what in-kind services they intend to propose.

  Ø  The Planning Commission requested a 3-D rendering of aspects of the Concept Plan, particularly the townhouses.

 

Debbie Rosenstein, housing market expert presenting on behalf of Miller & Smith, justified the lack senior accommodations in the new Willshire Concept Plan with the following:

  Ø  Traditional senior housing (that includes assisted living facilities) would not work at the Willshire site because there are no “on-site amenities” like a nearby hospital and public transportation;

  Ø  Instead, a first-floor master bedroom/bath floor plan “single family product” could be sold to “active adults” and “empty nesters.”                     

  Ø  Chuck Ellison commented that Miller & Smith need to create a plan that works economically, apparently indicating that a senior housing component would not work financially for the developer. 

  Ø  When asked, Miller & Smith said that no demand analysis for senior accommodations had been done for Willshire/Poolesville.

  Ø  Planning Commission Member Kevin Shramm commented that this parcel of land represents the Town’s last opportunity to create senior housing in the center of town—our last chance to create accommodations for folks who have spent their lives here and raised families here and who want to stay here.

 

Dave Baker, Land Planner for Townscape Design, presented the details of the new Concept Plan that he designed. In a nutshell:

  Ø  A playground has been added.

  Ø  A small buffer line of trees around the periphery of the parcel to remains.

·       The visual rendering of green space in the Concept Plan doesn’t appear to show much actual parkland; green space looks to include the tree/buffer line and the spaces between houses and rows of townhouses.

·       Town Manager Wade Yost reminded Miller & Smith that storm water management features are not considered park/green space and shouldn’t be conflated.

·       Miller & Smith indicated that the storm water management details have yet to be figured out, which leaves the question of which areas are actually park/green space.

·       A couple Planning Commission members suggested increased parkland in front of the John Poole House that ties into a pedestrian walkway to Whalen Commons. Others suggested park space to compliment the historic garden restoration project at the John Poole House. There was also discussion of the need for a more defined entrance to the John Poole House with a parking area for visitors.

  Ø  Glass Lane connection in the Concept Plan is a pedestrian-only walk-through.

  Ø  “Open-space network” (meaning walking paths?) is open for discussion and review.

 

The audience was asked to hold questions until the presentation was complete and the Planning Commission members had an opportunity to ask an initial round of questions. Citizen comments fell into the following main categories:

  Ø  Density—many voiced concerns that the plan remains too dense.

  Ø  Fit—lack of compatibility with town character and aesthetics.

·       The suggestion of holding a charrette was put forth; a workshop-style event where citizens brainstorm in small-groups to create an improved plan.

·       A request was made for a map showing what a buildout of the current zoning would look like, using ½-acre and 1/3-acre lots, to inform the process. Commenter stated that otherwise it appears the Overlay Zone is a fait accompli.

  Ø  Water—extreme caution was advised by Caroline Taylor of MCA. She cited the fact that other towns and jurisdictions in our region are planning for the predicted coming decrease in water supply (i.e. WSSC exploring reservoir in Potomac for their water users, Frederick City and the District of Columbia, as well as a new NVA reservoir). It was recommended that the Town review its water plan with a mind toward the advent of significant drought cycles as well as actual data as to how the groundwater aquifer will support the development recently constructed, under construction, or already approved to be built. 

  Ø  Affordability—several speakers (with audience concurrence) questioned an assertion that Willshire provides affordable options. Several noted that, with starting price-points in the upper 400s (for townhouses) and 600s (for single-family homes), Willshire homes are not legitimately affordable options. Related points:

·       Many options currently exist in the Poolesville housing market at 400k and lower;

·       Someone verified with Miller & Smith that the starting prices they were quoting are based on the 93-unit Concept Plan; price points rise with the decrease of units and Miller & Smith acknowledged that they had not updated their starting prices accordingly (so they will be higher than quoted above);

·       Willshire will require an HOA and these fees are likely to be considerable. Miller & Smith had not yet calculated an approximate HOA fee.

  Ø  Lack of green space:

·       Several commented that the Concept Plan Map did not appear to have much green space;

·       There were a couple comments that spaces between homes shouldn’t be considered functional community green space;

·       The State of Maryland uses a standard ratio of 30 acres of parkland per 1000 residents. With the potential for 240 new residents, Willshire would generate a need for approximately 7 acres of parkland. 

·       Several expressed concerns that it’s difficult to tell what is intended green space and what constitutes storm water management features.

  Ø  Townhouses:

·       Several expressed a desire for less and/or no townhouses at all (citing displeasure with the new three-story townhouses currently under construction by the elementary school).

·       Broad disapproval of having three-story townhouses was expressed.

·       Cal Sneed asked Miller & Smith if they had considered incorporating English-style basements to avoid having three stories above ground. Chuck Ellison replied that they had not, and that having a garage on the ground floor works counter to this idea.

  Ø  Traffic—how will increased traffic impact safety and the livability of Poolesville.

  Ø  Why now?—It was asked whether we need to proceed with such dense development so quickly. It was suggested that Poolesville slow down, because so much is at stake and so much stands to be lost if we don’t get this right.

 

Chairman of the Planning Commission, Cal Sneed, closed the discussion by stating that sorting out Willshire will be a long process with plenty of opportunity for review. Bottom line: most citizens in the audience oppose the density of 75 units (one person in the audience spoke in favor of the new proposal).

Meadowlark SoccerPlex Application Withdrawn

The Town of Poolesville issued the following statement regarding Meadowlark on Dec. 1:

"After weighing their options and considering public input, the applicant requesting a Special Exception Use Permit for the construction of soccer fields and a pavilion along Hughes Road and Budd Road has withdrawn the application."  

You can find this same statement via the original Town Notification here.