The formal master plan process that might allow for massive redevelopment in the Westbard section of Bethesda will kick off with a community meeting on Sept. 23.

The Montgomery County Planning Department announced the meeting this week along with a new website dedicated to the Westbard Sector Plan and a Twitter handle.

The County Council approved moving the start of the master plan rewrite up to this fall after Equity One, which recently bought Westbard’s main shopping center and many of the surrounding properties, made clear its goal to redevelop the area into a more vibrant, mixed-use style community.

Equity One outlined some of its plans in a series of community meetings earlier this year and has hired a Rockville-based public relations firm to help create its Westbard Vision website and coordinate community outreach.

In March, Equity One officials and an architect said they want to create a “signature” main street on Westbard Avenue with pedestrian crossings and upscale retailers to replace the loading docks, driveways and surface parking lots there now.
Equity One is partnering with EYA, a residential developer known for its luxury townhouse communities around the D.C. area, and promised to make an honest effort to keep every existing retailer in its new project.
But in order to make it happen, Equity One must get zoning changes that would come as a result of a new Westbard Sector Plan. Last revised in 1982, it’s the oldest master plan in Montgomery County.
Until Equity One came forward with its plans this year, the rewrite was still low down on the county Planning Department’s work schedule.
The Sept. 23 meeting will be one of many hosted by county planners. It’s set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Whitman High School Cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd.).
On its Westbard website, planners acknowledge that Equity One “is ready to redevelop” its properties, which include the Westwood Shopping Center, Westwood Towers, Springhouse by Manor Care, Bowlmor Lanes, two Citgo stations and Westwood Center II.
The Westbard Sector includes the area in and around River Road and Westbard Avenue. Planners hope to have the sector plan rewrite delivered to the County Council by June 30, 2015, with the idea that any zoning changes would go into effect by September 2016.
Other key Planning Department dates include a Planning presentation of the Scope of Work on Oct. 21 at Whitman High School, a series of Planning charettes from Nov. 10-14, a Visioning Workshop on Monday, Nov. 10 and a Planning Board public hearing on May 14, 2015.
Photo via Equity One