Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro today sent the following memo to County Executive Isiah Leggett concerning the Wheaton Redevelopment Program and the potential relocation of the headquarters of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
TO: Isiah Leggett
Montgomery County Executive
FROM: Nancy Navarro, Council President
SUBJECT: Wheaton Redevelopment Program
On Friday, April 12, 2013, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee held the first of two scheduled worksessions on the Wheaton Redevelopment Program (PDF #150401) and M-NCPPC Headquarters (PDF #138707) FY14 CIP Amendments. At the conclusion of the worksession, the joint committee agreed that we would receive a briefing from Executive Branch staff on April 24th regarding the status of discussions with private developers and your recommendation for moving forward with a plan to solicit new proposals for private development in Wheaton. While I look forward to this briefing, I want to share with you some of my concerns and clarify for the record the evolution of your administration’s position with respect to the Wheaton Redevelopment Program.
Since the Council rejected your FY13 recommendation to build a $42 million concrete platform on the WMATA bus bay site, which would have included County agencies as well as 300,000 square feet of speculative office space, your administration has established a poor track record in its implementation of Wheaton Redevelopment.
It took your administration more than eight months to decide not to move the Department of Permitting Services and the Department of Environmental Protection to Wheaton.
The Council still has not received final regulations for implementation of Bill 6-12, Small Business Assistance Program, although the legislation passed nearly one year ago.
Department of General Services has not started work on the three studies that were approved for FY13 in the Wheaton Redevelopment Program PDF.
The idea to move the M-NCPPC Headquarters to the RSC site was originally proposed by Executive Branch staff. Department of General Services Director David Dise presented this plan to me several months ago and as recently as April 10, 2013, he was quoted in The Gazette in support of this proposal. He said the previous plan to locate the M-NCPPC Headquarters to Lot #13 was “no longer a possibility.” Furthermore, Mr. Dise said, “moving the [headquarters] to the regional services center property would allow private investment to take up the Lot #13 site, which would better contribute to the vitality of the area.” At our April 12th worksession, Mr. Dise stated that the proposal you are now supporting, to open the redevelopment program up for a new bidding process, may lead to further delays.
On April 12th, I laid out a clear path forward for Wheaton Redevelopment. I support shifting control of building the M-NCPPC Headquarters from the County to M-NCPPC. The location of the headquarters would be the current Regional Services Center site south of Reedie Drive and may require acquisition of additional real property rights, as previously discussed in a closed session. Under this proposal, the Department of General Services could immediately seek bids for private development of Lot #13, which could include mixed-use residential and retail. Lot #13 would continue to be the location of a state-of-the-art urban park, which would be incorporated in the design of the private development. In addition, I support including language in the PDF that makes clear that the County will continue to pursue future relocation of agencies to Wheaton.
Under this plan, the County would likely phase the redevelopment of Wheaton by starting on the Regional Services Center site and moving to develop Lot #13 after the solicitation, selection and negotiation processes are complete. This would provide much-needed certainty to existing small businesses on Triangle Lane, who have been waiting for more than a year for the County to articulate a clear plan for Wheaton. In a letter to you from the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC) dated March 13, 2013, the Committee Chair expresses “a high degree of frustration…due to uncertainty about the project timeline and hence, how that correlates to funding for Bill 6-12 [Small Business Assistance Program].” My proposal seeks to add clarity to the Wheaton Redevelopment Program and send a strong signal to existing small businesses and residents that the County is interested in moving quickly, but prudently, in our revitalization efforts.
Your recommendation to solicit private development proposals for development on multiple publicly owned parcels in Wheaton will likely result in delaying the decision of where to locate and when to begin the M-NCPPC Headquarters. Your administration has had nearly a year for discussions with private developers, but you chose to wait until now to express your support for this direction. I cannot support a proposal that adds more uncertainty to this process, does not set a definite timeline for construction of the M-NCPPC Headquarters or chart a clear path forward to solicit proposals for private redevelopment of Lot #13. On April 24th, I look forward to hearing Mr. Dise provide a clear timeline for your proposal—from bid solicitation to initiation of the construction phase of the project.
Our constituents and small business owners should insist on leadership from their elected officials that articulates a vision for Wheaton Redevelopment. My hope is that we can all coalesce behind a proposal that will send a message to our constituents that the County is united and committed to decisive action to move Wheaton’s revitalization forward.