Groups of Bethesda citizens are heading to a state appeals court with a lawsuit challenging approval of a 309-home development on an expanse of open land in north Bethesda.
In a June ruling, a Montgomery County judge upheld the planning council’s decision to approve a preliminary plan for the Toll Brothers project. Now, the Maryland Special Court of Appeal will consider whether the planning board wrongly granted the developer’s request to cut down some large trees and clear 5.6 acres of forest.
Toll Brothers has proposed to build 159 single-family homes and 150 townhouses on the approximately 75-acre property east of Greentree Road and just north of Beltway. For more than 50 years the site has been empty except for a set of WMAL radio transmission towers, but it has long been slated for future development, Circuit Court Judge Gary wrote in his opinion. E. Bair.
The development plans have raised various concerns among surrounding residents, who are shocked by the loss of forest and the prospect of increased traffic congestion.
Doug Bonner, vice president of the Bradley Boulevard Citizens Association, said he and his neighbors were particularly concerned about the addition of cars on Fernwood Road, which is already slipping back during rush hour.
“We are not at all opposed to the development of this property. I think we have recognized that development can and must happen. We are simply opposed to this particular plan and the number of houses being considered for this development, ”he said.
Many also want Toll Brothers to provide more recreational space in the project.
They opposed the planning council’s decision to excuse Toll Brothers of meeting the county’s forest conservation standard, allowing them to preserve 10.75 acres instead of the 15.16 required by law. Much to their dismay, Toll Brothers also obtained permission to remove 34 “specimen trees,” mature trees that would otherwise be protected by county law.
The proponent argued that he could not meet forest conservation standards as he had to build major road links that passed through stands of trees. Noise abatement structures and wetland protection will claim space on the WMAL property, and Toll Brothers is also dedicating 4.3 acres to the county for a potential school site, leaving less for the development project.
In light of these challenges, the planning board excused the developer from meeting all of the forest conservation requirements and Bair upheld the decision.
“The petitioners ask the Court to reassess the evidence and come to a different conclusion from that of the Council, which is simply not the role of the Court in appealing a decision of an administrative body,” said he wrote.
Michele Rosenfeld, who represents the Bradley Boulevard Citizens Association, West Fernwood Citizens Association, Wyngate Citizens Association and individuals challenging the WMAL plan, said it will likely be months before the appeals court hears the arguments in the case.
Community groups filed a court challenge last year after the Montgomery County Planning Council approved Toll Brothers’ preliminary plan on August 3, 2017.
The call was first reported in the Montgomery Newsletter, a real estate newsletter accessible only by subscription.