Redevelopment Plan to Change Montgomery County Neighborhood

The Montgomery County Council approved a plan to redevelop the site of the Westwood Shopping Center in the Westbard community.

The plan calls for new townhouses and high rise apartment buildings, with 15 percent set aside as moderate income housing. A press release from the county said the goal of the development is to provide needed public benefits and amenities, allow residents to age in place and increase and improve housing choices.

"(This is) the vision for the next 30 years," said Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen. "That's what people need to accept."

"Our Westbard community will be a more liven community community, a greener community, a more prosperous community," said Roger Berliner, vice president of the Montgomery County Council.

Some residents of the neighborhood strongly oppose the plan, fearing an influx of people would cause problems with traffic density and overcrowding at schools in the Walt Whitman High School cluster.

"Naturally, we're disappointed," said Patricia Kolesar, from Save Westbard, a group opposed to the council's plan. "We've spent the last year and a half begging council to listen to its citizens. They do not listen to their citizens. They do what they want to do."

The council compromised on an alternative that cut the original housing plan in half to about 1,200 new residents.

Other residents are welcoming the change, saying it will transform Montgomery County. The master plan will change Westbard Avenue with parks and a civic center, new retail stores and restaurants in a walkable urban town center.

Equity One, the developer of the project, said in a statement, "We look forward to the next stage as we move towards a new mixed-use Westwood that's modern, convenient and community friendly."

The plan also calls for revitalization of the current shopping center and for shuttle buses that will easily carry residents to the Metrorail and Purple Line stations at Friendship Heights and Bethesda.

"This shopping center is so, like, antiquated compared to some in the area," said neighborhood resident Christy Stults. "I think it will enhance shopping for people around here."

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