County Council Approves Long Branch Sector Plan
The controversial Long Branch Sector Plan to guide revitalization of Silver Spring was approved today by the Montgomery County Council in an 8-1 vote.
Councilmember Marc Elrich voted against the plan, saying that he was thankful that it “adequately protects the apartments that so many people there call home,” but that he was disappointed that they “could not assure a similar level of protection for existing small businesses.”
The Council’s decision to eliminate the proposed second stage of the plan and to not rezone most of the large residential apartment complexes led to significant changes in the draft plan originally presented.
The plan takes into consideration that development of the Purple Line—the proposed east-west transit line that will connect the Bethesda and New Carrollton Metrorail stations—will have significant impact on Long Branch and its real estate values. To prevent a loss of market affordable units, and potential displacement of lower-income residents, the Council amended the plan to retain the zoning on most of the existing multi-family developments.
Among the items addressed in the approved plan was designation of the Flower Theatre on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation. The plan is specific about retaining certain parts of the structure, including the theatre façade, two adjoining shoulders and a second wall to a depth of 40 feet from the theatre building line. The plan states that new buildings along Flower Avenue should not rise above the theatre’s height.
“This is a challenged neighborhood,” said Councilmember George Leventhal. “I know that the mix of shopping and amenities today is unsatisfactory to nearby residents. The Purple Line is the one thing that could change the economic mix and make the neighborhood more attractive for investment. This plan enables that to happen,” he said.
“With this plan, we hope we have created incentives for positive commercial redevelopment, while protecting the needs of existing community members,” said Councilmember Nancy Floreen, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.
The approved plan encourages the retention of small businesses and neighborhood-serving commercial uses.
“This plan allows for targeted redevelopment of the commercial areas around the Purple Line, but preserves existing zoning for much of the housing in the surrounding areas,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “It represents a cautious and balanced approach that seeks to preserve existing communities while creating opportunities for new housing and a higher quality commercial core.”