County Considering Higher Densities along Twinbrook and Viers Mills Road

Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan, Public Hearing Draft, April 2018.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has released the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan in preparation for public hearings. Veirs Mill Road cuts through Twinbrook in southern Rockville before connecting with the Rockville Pike in downtown. This plan only focuses on the areas of Veirs Mill Road south of Rockville’s borders, however, coordinating the commission’s and county’s plans with Rockville’s is crucial to ensure compatibility as well as reduce impacts and ensure benefits to residents and businesses (remember the struggles on the Rockville Pike?). Planning began in January 2017 and while the draft Master Plan was released in April 2018, the Commission has not established any public hearing dates (things move slowly in the county). The draft Master Plan and more details available at http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/communities/area-2/veirs-mill-corridor-plan/

The Master Plan examines land use, urban design, housing, transportation (including pedestrians and bicycles), parks and trails, environment, and community facilities, then provides findings and recommendations by four districts. The Plan identified the major challenges as (page 7):

  • Veirs Mill Road creates a barrier to cohesive communities as well as pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.
  • Current pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is inadequate, resulting in unsafe conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.

The major opportunities are:

  • Planned implementation of bus rapid transit [BRT] on Veirs Mill Road could increase transit ridership, reduce commute times for existing riders, stimulate reinvestment in the public infrastructure and help reduce single occupancy vehicle trips. [BRT is planned for the entire length of Viers Mill Road with a stop at Twinbrook Parkway; other stops in Rockville are most likely included but are not identified in this plan because it is focused on the county.]
  • Existing commercial node at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Randolph Road could be redeveloped to introduce additional neighborhood-serving uses and provide a central community gathering space.
  • If the existing commercial uses are unlikely to redevelop, short-term site improvements could be implemented to improve connections with adjacent communities.

One of the major solutions is a significant change to the street layout to provide more landscaping, add bike and pedestrian paths (sometimes shared, sometimes not), and reserving a lane for buses and right turns.

A proposed “complete street” on Viers Mill Road on a section that has a constrained right-of-way. Page 24 of Veirs Mill Master Plan.

For Rockville, the section on the Twinbrook District is the most important because it abuts the city’s southern boundary and includes several multi-family residential areas such as Halpine View, Parkway Woods, and Halpine Hamlet. These apartments are major providers of affordable housing in Montgomery County and Rockville, but their age and proximity to public transit makes them “vulnerable to redevelopment” (page 97), but given the plan’s recommendations, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad situation. Secondly, traffic on Veirs Mills and affected cross-streets (such as Twinbrook Parkway) is not analyzed except for road widths and number of lanes and a desire to give equal priority to cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Traffic volumes are omitted, but the plan states that “transportation modeling is being performed for the corridor to analyze the impact of Vision Zero recommendations as well as the impact of limited redevelopment of several sites.” (page 28)

Recommendation (page 98)

  • Confirm the existing R-20 zoning of the Rock Creek Woods Apartments and the R-30 zoning of the northern Halpine View apartments (13001 Twinbrook Parkway and 5508 Dowgate Court).
  • Support a future local map amendment to rezone the Rock Creek Woods Apartments to permit strategic redevelopment of higher density residential uses at this potential bus rapid transit station location.
  • Rezone the southern Halpine View property (12813 Twinbrook Parkway), the Housing Opportunities Commission property (12901 Twinbrook Parkway) and the Montgomery Housing Partnership (5501 Halpine Place) property to CRT 1.25, C-0.25, R-1.0, H-85 to allow increased residential density near the Twinbrook Metrorail Station.
    • The plan recommends maximizing residential development with a minimal amount of commercial density to fulfill the requirements of the CRT zone.
    • Building height and massing should transition to existing garden-style apartments and single-family detached homes north and west of the property.

3.4.2 Urban Design (page 102)

  • Support partial redevelopment within existing multifamily properties to add higher density housing at locations that can support existing mass transit alternatives.
    • Promote the integration of new development with existing multifamily structures to remain.
    • Incorporate existing landscape features, such as significant tree canopy.
    • Explore connections to adjacent regional trails.
    • Seek synergies between long-term redevelopment and adjacent affordable housing complexes.
  • Future development should extend Halpine Place to meet Rock Creek Mill Road to the south, connecting with Fishers Lane.

3.4.3 Parks, Trails and Open Space

For the parks, trails and open space in the Twinbrook District, this plan recommends:

With the redevelopment of Parkway Woods, Halpine Hamlet and the southern portion of Halpine View apartments, provide:

  • A paved trail connection to the new Twinbrook Trail connector to the Rock Creek Trail.
  • A public open space consistent with a Neighborhood Green Urban Park (as defined in the
    PROS Plan), at least a half-acre in size, to include play structures, shaded seating and a flexible lawn area.

Twinbrook Proposed Land Use. Map 24, page 99 of draft Veirs Mill Master Plan.

At this point, the Master Plan is at an FYI phase until public hearings are determined. At that point, you’ll be able to voice your support or objections to the plan.

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