Council Approves White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan
The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, a major land use plan to transform the east side of the county around the Route 29 corridor into a residential and life sciences hub.
The plan was approved by a vote of 8-0, with one abstention by Councilmember Marc Elrich.
The plan, which covers about 3,000 acres, amends portions of the approved and adopted 1997 Fairland Master Plan and portions of the approved and adopted 1997 White Oak: Master Plan. The White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan area is bounded by the Capital Beltway (I-495) on the south, Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park on the west, U.S. Route 29 and Cherry Hill Road on the north and Prince George’s County on the east.
The plan recommends rezoning commercial areas to the Commercial/Residential (CR) zones, which allow a broad range of commercial uses, including general offices, technology and biotechnology, research and development, hospitals, educational institutions, some manufacturing and production. It also allows multi-family residential and supportive retail services.
The plan’s land use recommendations are based on the assumption of increased transit options via the development of a new bus rapid transit system and enhanced local bus service, according to a release from the council.
“The Council’s actions today set the stage for leveraging White Oak’s assets and establishing the kind of foundation which will finally allow the area to become a community that offers greatly enhanced opportunities to live, work, play and raise a family,” said Councilmember Branson, who represents District 5, which includes the master plan area. “This Council is ready to move East County forward and the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan will provide the long-overdue blueprint to provide what the residents want and need.”
At its July 22 worksession, the Council offered various suggestions for language in the plan that would ensure that any redevelopment of the older White Oak and Hillandale shopping centers would include significant commercial development (including retail businesses that serve the existing communities).
“This master plan adopted today is a crucial step forward in spurring economic development and east county revitalization,” said Council President Craig Rice. “It is an area that has been stagnant for too long and it is our responsibility to create an environment that will bring jobs and employment opportunities to the White Oak area and move it forward.”
The Food and Drug Administration campus brings thousands of employees and visitors to the White Oak area each day and is expected to be a catalyst for additional development. The County is pursuing development of a major life sciences center on its 115-acre property known as Site 2 and has partnered with Percontee, owners of the adjacent 185-acre site, to create the potential for a 300-acre mixed-use development. Adjacent to both these parcels is a nearly 50-acre property for the planned relocation of Washington Adventist Hospital.
“We applaud the County Council for their bold and transformational vision and for creating the blueprint for our community to leverage its most exclusive asset, the consolidated Headquarters of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Today’s action by the County Council will be the catalyst for significant growth in jobs for our community, revenues for the county and quality restaurants, shops, residences and other quality amenities that the overwhelming majority of have said they want to see happen here,” John Gudelsky, president and CEO of Global LifeSci Development Corporation/Percontee Inc. said in a press release.
County Executive Isiah Leggett called Tuesday’s approval “arduous work.”
“The East County has long been deficient in job location within the county and this plan is a huge first step toward addressing that concern,” he said in a written statement.