Meeting Attendees: Committee Members -- Anderson, Morrison, Abrams, Bushwick-Malloy, Ceasar, D'Arruda, Eisenstadt, Fryer, Gabaree, Hall, Horowitz, Joseph, Kramer, Lynne, Mara, Moy, Murphy, Pelz, Petersen, Scaggs, Sheard, Statland and Tretter. County Officials and Staff: Cantor, Degnan, Gasko, Lasswell, Metz, Smith, Thon and Wrenn. Members Absent: Charles, Dreyfuss, Dwyer, Glynn, Greenberg, Grossman, Guinan, Hokanson, Levin, Rubin, and Wilson. Special Guest Speaker: County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Others Present: Devin Doolan, representing Hokanson.
Co-Chairperson Anderson chaired the meeting.
Major Items Discussed:
County Executive Remarks:
The County Executive addressed the WRSC and guests. Some of the major points of his discussion included the following:
His interest in seeing the WRSC's recommendations and the results of the Main Street study.
The Westfield Shoppingtown owners are making efforts to upgrade and expand the existing shopping center and have gotten approvals for many phases of their plan including moving the Giant supermarket. A key piece of their proposal would be adding another department store.
Westfield is actively negotiating with Macy's to locate a new store in Westfield Shoppingtown as a fourth department store which would be a major piece of the upgrade and renovation of Westfield Shoppingtown.
There was a recent article in the newspaper regarding the location of Macy's at Westfield Shoppingtown but that may be premature since there is no final decision as of yet.
The County is participating in the process in significant ways. One way is that Westfield Shoppingtown is part of the Enterprise Zone so any new construction or increase in the assessable tax base there would result in property tax credits to the owners, both of the shopping center and the buildings or businesses which would locate on that site.
Another key piece of the upgrade of the shopping center would include the provision of additional parking. As part of the Westfield's negotiations with Macy's, the County has offered to pay Macy's share of the new parking garage that is to be built there.
The County's investment in the parking garage is a very significant effort on the part of the County that has never been done before for a retail store. It is part of the County's effort to assure the WRSC and the people of Wheaton that (1) the County is serious about its commitment to the WRSC's efforts and is going to invest money in Wheaton and do everything it can to help improve things and (2) because of the significance of Wheaton, it is considered a worthwhile investment of County dollars which the County would probably not consider at other locations.
The location of Macy's in Westfield Shoppingtown is not the answer to Wheaton's problem with linkages between Westfield Shoppingtown and downtown Wheaton but it is part of the answer.
Macy's is considering the Westfield's offer (with the County's assistance) and the County hopes to have an answer by the end of the year.
At the end of his presentation, the County Executive opened the floor to discussion and questions concerning the Macy's proposal. The comments are generally summarized as follows:
The location of Macy's at Westfield Shoppingtown represents a positive step to increasing the regional draw needed in Wheaton.
If the Macy's proposal does not go through, Westfield Shoppingtown still proposes to redevelop this shopping center but the alternatives are not as attractive as the Macy's proposal.
The location of Macy's in Wheaton will not be in direct competition with the Macy's proposed for downtown Washington nor any other Macy's which may be located in the region in the future.
If agreement for the Macy's project were reached, construction would probably begin next year for completion approximately a year after construction begins.
WMATA has asked people to submit proposals for its Wheaton site and are reviewing those submissions. They will select one development team to move forward with.
There are some significant developers looking at Wheaton and there are some very significant proposals with WMATA which include a combination of office and housing and other things but the process takes a long time.
The upgrade to Westfield Shoppingtown and possible development of the WMATA site would lead to further consideration by developers of downtown Wheaton such as an entertainment complex/zone and other recommendations by the WRSC and then the County would decide whether County help would be needed to facilitate those projects.
The expenditure of County funds for the Macy's proposal will not eliminate consideration by the County Council of devoting additional funds to other development projects in Wheaton but should be looked at as a demonstration of the County's commitment to the area. Contributions by the County are not necessarily limited to monetary contributions but could include possible construction of new County facilities in Wheaton or development of the public infrastructure to encourage other developers.
The restrictions on liquor licenses are confusing regarding number of facilities and location of those facilities. However, restaurants that are not chains do not have the same restrictions. Based on the existing requirements, the licensing laws are not extremely conducive to chain restaurants looking to locate at multiple sites in the County. Liquor licensing requirements are under State law but each county has its own requirements regarding the sale of alcohol.
Any feasibility studies such as a study to determine the need for hotel uses in Wheaton would be done by the private sector and the County would generally rely on that information.
The Center for Cultural Diversity will be located in leased space in Wheaton at the beginning of next year. The Wheaton area is attractive for this type of use because of its central location and accessibility.
The issue of the removal of billboards in the County is presently in the appeals stage in the courts system and the County will not enforce the removal of billboards until the judicial process has been concluded.
The recommendations of the WRSC and the rationale for those recommendations would act as guidelines for the County in seeking developers who would then consider what the WRSC has determined as desirable development and make a determination regarding the feasibility of those development proposals and whether they would invest their money in it. If the WRSC determined that a certain type of development was undesirable, the County would not consider any proposals for that use.
The County must work with the State Highway Administration for proposals involving State roadways. In addition, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety is working on a countywide plan. The WRSC will have an opportunity to comment on the Commission's recommendations.
Sam Statland, Co-chair of the Marketing and Business Development Subcommittee distributed a copy of a draft marketing brochure to WRSC members and asked that the members review the draft and make comments as soon as possible. The draft of the brochure is due for submission to the Department of Economic Development the week of October 23, 2000. The draft was reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee meeting on October 12, 2000.
The draft brochure gives a general overview of Wheaton including demographics and would be used as a marketing tool which would be given out by various County government offices in response to inquiries about Wheaton and can be customized to address specific interests by enclosing materials tailored to the type of interest expressed. The brochure would also be made available through the Chamber of Commerce and Wheaton area businesses.
The draft brochure was approved by the WRSC.
Marketing and Business Development
Mr. Statland noted that the creation of a web site for the Wheaton Redevelopment Program effort and a logo for Wheaton should be explored expeditiously and that the proposed brochure should be included in the web site.
Mr. Statland noted that it was very important for the subcommittees to meet and get people involved within their committee and then come back and report to the WRSC as a whole.
He also noted that it was important for the Executive Committee meeting to have at least one member from each subcommittee to attend and offer insight from their group so that everyone will know what is going on in each subcommittee which can help the group to have open discussion of issues and decide whether or not to support those issues.
To facilitate that, Mr. Statland suggested that a time should be set for each of the subcommittees to meet on a regular basis and then have an Executive Committee meeting three or four days before that meeting.
The subcommittee has scheduled its meeting for the first Monday of the month at 5 PM in the WRSC conference room.
Transportation and Public Safety
Sean Gabaree indicated that the subcommittee has put together a list of its priorities.
No regular meeting date has been decided on. The proposed meeting date would be either the first or fourth Wednesday of the month.
Natalie Cantor invited WRSC members to attend the meeting of the Wheaton Urban District Committee on 11/14/2000 at 4:30 p.m. Al Genetti, Director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation is scheduled to address the Wheaton Urban District and will be addressing the response of DPWT to the trouble spots identified by the Wheaton Urban District and DPWT's mitigation efforts. Changes in the transportation scheme for Wheaton will be discussed and the comments of the WRSC would be welcome.
The role of the subcommittee was discussed as it relates to combining the consideration of existing problems and short-term solutions, long-range planning, contingency planning based on possible development scenarios so that responsibilities and efforts of other entities such as WUDAC, MNCP&P, the County, State Highway Administration which may have similar goals and responsibilities can be incorporated into the subcommittee's recommendations and so that the subcommittee can interact with those other entities without duplicating or infringing on their efforts.
It was suggested that the subcommittee identify and set up a two-way communication relationship with WUDAC and others to share it's long-range vision and to keep abreast of the more immediate plans and action items that are occurring in the area. It was also suggested that the subcommittee should contact the ISTEA Coordinator for Montgomery County in order to identify funding sources that may be available in the form of grants for transportation improvements in Wheaton.
Housing and Education Subcommittee
Greg Eisenstadt reported that the subcommittee had its first organizational meeting on October 16, 2000.
The emphasis of the discussion at that meeting dealt with education and some discussion of the correlation of housing to education.
The subcommittee has scheduled its meetings for the second Thursday of each month at 5 PM at the Crossways building.
Urban Design and Image
Carl Tretter reported that the subcommittee has had two meetings.
The first meeting was with the Park and Planning Commission to introduce themselves to the staff and to get familiar with what they have done since the 1990 sector plan, to get an idea of what their current focus is and how flexible they would be in the redevelopment process.
The second meeting was to set up the goals of the subcommittee. The goals of the subcommittee are somewhat limited by what is happening with the Marketplace Study.
Ms. Pelz requested copies of the drawings prepared by Main Street prior to the next meeting of the subcommittee.
Mr. Tretter noted that the subcommittee has put in a request for a CAD so that it can do a workable, living model of whatever comes out of the process. He noted that the cost was approximately $50,000. He also noted that the Park and Planning Commission staff had CAD capabilities at present.
It was suggested that the subcommittee look into whether a local architect, high school or university with CAD facilities may donate the use of the program to the subcommittee.
Mr. Moy noted that the CAD modeling was suggested as an alternative to a working model because of the expense of creating a working model, the difficulty in modifying it as changes occur and the difficulty in storing a large model.
It was suggested that both the marketing brochure and the CAD model be displayed at Westfield Shoppingtown so that it would be accessible to the public.
The subcommittee has scheduled its meetings for the Monday following the WRSC regular monthly meeting at 7 PM in the WRSC conference room.
Outreach and Community Development
Marian Fryer reported that the subcommittee was unable to meet prior to the WRSC meeting. The first meeting of the subcommittee is scheduled for October 24, 2000 at 5 PM in the WRSC Conference Room.
She indicated that the subcommittee has started to develop a list of goals and would like to meet with the Marketing and Business Development subcommittee to discuss some of those items which include developing a logo, slogan, etc.
Marian Fryer reminded the WRSC that the Wheaton Citizens Coalition was holding its next meeting on October 25, 2000 at 7 PM at the HarTzeon Synagogue. The first hour of the WCC meeting will consist of a Community News Forum with WTTG-TV Fox 5 at which there will be an opportunity to talk to news managers, anchors and reporters about issues and concerns impacting the neighborhood. The WCC business meeting will follow the forum.
Natalie Cantor reported that the regional centers had been given funds for neighborhood and community initiative grants. The grants are for some beautification projects that will benefit the public and also for things that neighborhoods may want to do like launch a web site or do some sort of visioning process. The grants are up to $2,500 and the applications are available at the Mid-County Services Center and on the County web site. The deadline for filing the application is November 15, 2000. There will be a second opportunity in March to possibly obtain a second grant. She asked the WRSC members to please advise their constituents of the availability of the grants.
Michael Hall reported that Holy Cross Hospital had a staff recommendation to approve its master plan. The Hospital is scheduled to present its Master Plan to the Park and Planning Commission for its consideration on October 19, 2000 and will also present it to the Board of Appeals. The Hospital plans to modernize 216,000 square feet which includes a considerable amount of existing space in the hospital and outside areas including parking, a physician office wing on top of an expanded emergency room and a professional and community education center. The Hospital is targeting five areas -- women's services, children's services, senior services, oncology and surgical. In response to a question, Mr. Hall noted that the community was in support of the plan. He noted that the Hospital met with the community prior to developing any specific plans and they worked together in developing the current proposal from the very beginning.
Vicki Anderson referenced the recommendation of Mr. Statland for a regular meeting of the Executive Committee that would have representatives of each of the subcommittees. The WRSC scheduled the Executive Committee meeting for the second Wednesday of the month at 7 PM in the WRSC Conference Room.
The next meeting of the WRSC is scheduled for Wednesday, November 15, 2000 at 7 PM. Staff will provide a reminder notice prior to the meeting.