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Wheaton News

Much of the talk around Wheaton concerns the planned revitalization of the Central Business Disctrict (CBD). Provided below are the public summaries of some of the Wheaton Redevelopment Steering Committee's meetings. Visit our interactive calendar to learn the dates of future meetings. A copy of the most recent summary that has been made available to us is presented below. In future months this information will be archived for your referral, and all text will remain searchable via the search function on WheatonNet.

Wheaton 2020: Planning for the Future

Summary of the Wheaton Redevelopment Steering Committee Held On 2/21/01

Members Present: Anderson, Morrison, Abrams, Bushwick-Malloy, Ceasar, Dwyer, Eisenstadt, Fryer, Gabaree, Hall, Kramer, Lynne, Mara, Moy, Murphy, Pelz, Petersen, Sheard, Statland, Tretter. Members Absent: Charles, D'Arruda, Dreyfuss, Glynn, Greenberg, Guinan, Hokanson, Horowitz, Joseph, Levin, Rubin, Scaggs, and Wilson.

Co-Chairman Anderson chaired the meeting.

Major Items Discussed:

Redevelopment Report:

Wrenn reported that he testified in front of the legislators in Annapolis last week in support of the Community Legacy Bill, which is being reviewed by the committees. The bill would set up $15 million funding per year for three years and would be administered through a Community Legacy Board to be established for the State's Department of Housing and Community Development. The funding program would be flexible and overarches into many areas to assist in revitalization of older commercial centers as opposed to a lot of State programs that have specific target areas and which have very specific criteria or thresholds.

Westfield Shoppingtown and Macy's have not completed their transaction but are still working on it. They were very candid that closing of Montgomery Wards complicated the matter and they have to work through some issues regarding that before they can complete their arrangements. The County Executive scheduled some time to meet with Westfield's senior executives during his trip to the west coast to get firsthand knowledge of where they are and what is going on and will bring that news back.

Wrenn attended a Development Review Committee meeting on a site plan submitted for the Little Tavern site which is moving through the regulatory process. The issue that was identified at the Development Review Committee was one that the WRSC had brought up earlier about the requirement of doing all of the public streetscaping around a relatively small project which the developer could have a hard time justifying financially. The County may or may not have a role in that but it is an issue that is generally being looked at as it relates to small in-fill projects. The applicant did not have a traffic study prepared and needs to complete some additional work before the project is accepted as a full application. It will take a few more months before it continues to move forward in the review process.

A request to the State for aid for financial support for streetscaping has been submitted. The request is for $2.5 million from the State. The County would match those funds for streetscape improvements in Wheaton. This was not included in the base budget that the Governor put together but is now being considered as a possible supplement to the budget. We are providing support to our representatives in Annapolis and compiling information on the committees that are reviewing that request.

A lunch meeting with the Delegation has been scheduled for March 6, 2001 to present a review of what is happening in Wheaton, what the goals are and the types of support being sought from the state.

The Jones property is now under contract. A former contract for development was withdrawn. The current contract holder is going through a study period to determine the preliminary planning and financial analysis of the project which would probably be for residential development. In addition, a residential developer has contacted the Wheaton Redevelopment office to express interest in contacting the owners of the Wheaton Lumber site for possible acquisition.

A large concert promoter/music venue operator recently met with staff to begin the process of exploring whether there is real potential to work with them on doing something in Wheaton. They were very exploratory at this stage but are interested in working with us to try to evaluate possible site locations and opportunities.

Steering Committee Status Report:

Morrison passed out a list of the WRSC's achievements made in conjunction with WUDAC, MCCAB, and MCRSC. The WRSC reports to the County Executive on a regular basis to present what's going on in Wheaton. The number of people actively involved in the process has increased from about five to 75.

Subcommittee Reports

Housing and Education -- It was reported that John Witt from Code Enforcement spoke at the last subcommittee meeting. Witt discussed their efforts to make it easier to get in touch with Code Enforcement, understand exactly what is and isn't a violation of the Code and, as well as programs to help seniors and other low-income occupants deal with upgrading their home if they encounter code violations. The subcommittee proposed to invite developers or realtors to tour the area to determine strengths and weaknesses in the housing inventory in Wheaton. The subcommittee also proposed bringing in education/school professionals to discuss weak test scores in Wheaton schools.

Urban Design and Image -- It was reported that the subcommittee is basically moving along in its analysis of the charrette scenarios. The subcommittee has met with Park and Planning to start work on CAD and exploring different ways to prepare models. The subcommittee is still working on scheduling a tour of the Courthouse, Ballston and Clarendon areas. Members of the Steering Committee were requested to submit any articles they may find regarding redevelopment to the subcommittee.

Outreach and Community Development -- It was reported that the subcommittee approved the letter to be sent to media sources soliciting new members for the subcommittee so that it would be more representative of all segments of the community. Copies of a brochure soliciting new members will be printed in several languages and should be ready by the town meeting on February 27. A representative of Transit Services is scheduled to speak at the next subcommittee meeting about "adopting" the bus stop in front of Safeway.

Marketing and Business Development -- It was reported that the subcommittee is getting close on the marketing brochure and showed the Steering Committee sample images of the brochure layout and invited members to submit their comments by February 22. Funds for developing the brochure are coming from the Department of Economic Development. The brochure can be kept up to date or target specific users through the use of inserts. Robson is coordinating the brochure and the web page as far as the theme, verbiage, bar coding, etc. which will also be coordinated with the Economic Development web site.

Transportation and Public Safety -- It was reported that the subcommittee met with planning representatives from the State Highway Administration. Three programs that would benefit Wheaton include Access 2000, the Neighborhood Conservation Program and the Sidewalk Improvement Program. The subcommittee is in the process of developing a survey to determine the need for shuttle bus service in Wheaton. The subcommittee plans to meet with Lee Starkholf from the operations side of SHA at its next meeting.

Wheaton Urban District Overview -- Fryer, Cantor and Thon gave a brief overview of the creation, mission and responsibilities of WUDAC; the overlapping responsibilities of the WUDAC, Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board and the WRSC; the budget process; and the special events. It was noted that WUDAC currently has two vacancies and the application process and membership criteria were discussed. The need to ensure coordination between the three entities was discussed and staff was requested to provide WRSC members with copies of the WUDAC agenda and minutes.

Press Relations -- Hall gave a presentation outlining the "do and don't" aspects of dealing with the media. It was suggested that all interviews with the media be coordinated through the Wheaton Redevelopment Program office which will coordinate with appropriate committee members.

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