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