Several residents faulted Tuesday night the density and potential traffic that could follow the Montgomery County Council’s passage of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, a land-use guide for a Silver Spring neighborhood founded by a freed slave in the 1850s.
“I know all this development will stifle my neighborhood’s life,” resident Patricia Tyson told the council during a hearing on the proposed plan, which has been in the works since 2012. The number of new homes proposed for the neighborhood would be far too much for the community to absorb, she said.
“I believe this plan will add intolerable traffic congestion, make the area unaffordable to lower and middle-class residents, and destroy the current character of Lyttonsville,” added Erwin Rose, who has lived in the community since 2001.
The area covered by the plan currently has 499 single-family homes and townhouses planner Melissa Williams told the council in a morning briefing. Under the plan, the maximum number of units would increase to 1,334. Multifamily units would grow from 2,864 to a maximum of 5,577.
However, Williams said the maximum numbers are rarely achieved and a “crude calculation” of looking at acreage and applying zoning. For example, under current zoning, the plan area could have 1,290 single-family and townhouse units, and 3,912 multifamily units, she said.
“The proposed level of development is beyond what my little community can handle,” Rosemary Hills resident Lynn Amano said.
The hearing at the County Council Building also drew many supporters of the sector plan. The community will have two Purple Line stops—on Lyttonsville Road and at Woodside/16th Street—which drew support from representatives from Purple Line Now, the Action Committee for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which all support the light-rail line to be built from Bethesda to New Carrollton.
Several people said they supported that the plan maintained a light industrial area north of the Purple Line, the only light industrial area in Montgomery County that remains inside the Beltway. Leonor Chaves, a resident, noted the light industrial area has 475 businesses that employ 2,500.
Others supported the planned walkability of the envisioned community, added parklands, small retail area, and bike lanes. The sector plan also drew support from local developers EYA and Federal Realty Investment Trust. EYA is trying to redevelop three parcels in the community into transit-oriented development. Federal Realty owns an apartment complex on the west side of the plan area.
A second hearing is planned for Thursday night at the Council Office Building, and 17 people have signed up to testify. The council will tour the area Oct. 7.
Since its founding, Lyttonsville has suffered from neglect from the public and private sectors. It lacked paved streets and running water until the 1970s. The county once had a trash heap and incinerator in the neighborhood.
Work on the sector plan began in 2012, and Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson said the fits and starts of the Purple Line, now planned to start construction later this year, were one reason why the plan took so long to complete.
As the sector plan progressed, the board engaged in an intensive community outreach, including holding numerous meetings with residents and creating a hot line for those who had questions.
Anderson told the council he believed the criticisms of the plan would be directed toward specific details and not the framework that was built on consensus.
Resident Mark Mendez seemed to agree. “No one gets what they want in a master plan. This list checks a lot of boxes for me,” he said.
But resident Abe Schuchman criticized the lack of a full-service grocery store in the plan, which would mean people would still have to get in their cars to shop, despite the plan’s walkability. And Jonathan Foley of the Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center Advisory Board said the plan needed to address specifically how the center on Lyttonsville Road would handle the new residents.
Council President Nancy Floreen said committees are scheduled to take up the plan in November, which could lead to a full committee vote by the end of the year.
Image credit: Montgomery County Planning Board