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West Lane Neighbors Still Have Misgivings About Apartment Project

By Aaron Kraut

Thursday - 1/23/2014, 9:30am  ET

A rendering of what the 4831 West Lane apartment could look like with other planned future development. The 4831 building is shown in the middle of the image, via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentThe developer of a seven-story, 120-unit apartment building less than 1,000 feet from the Bethesda Metro will submit its plans to the Planning Department next week.

At a required pre-submittal community meeting on Wednesday, it was clear some nearby residents still opposed the 4831 West Lane project. D.C.-based developer SJG won support from the County Council in a separate and lengthy rezoning process, largely because of the site’s proximity to Metro.

Nine residents attended Wednesday’s meeting. Some anticipated “considerable” additional traffic on the narrow West Lane and Montgomery Lane, home to a townhome development, condo buildings and a group of single family homes being bought up and redeveloped.

Pat Harris, the attorney from Lerch, Early & Brewer representing SJG, said the developer’s traffic study, discussed in detail during rezoning, projects just 26 additional A.M. and 26 additional P.M. peak hour car trips from the apartment building. The developer anticipates many of the residents in the building will use the Metro.

One resident at the meeting asked if that meant neighbors could expect to hear a garage door opening and closing 26 times a day.

SJG bought four single-family lots in the neighborhood, three of which were already zoned TS-R, or Transit Station-Residential. The fourth had to be rezoned and during the process residents in neighboring condominium buildings raised concerns about traffic, service vehicles and the building’s height.

The developer made a number of changes to its plan early last year, with a main building entrance set back from the corner of Montgomery and West Lanes, a 15-foot setback from the north property line and a sixth and seventh floor set back from the edge of the rest of the building to make it appear smaller.

SJG Principal Ashley Wiltshire confirmed the units would likely be rentals, which worried some nearby condo residents concerned about moving trucks, service vehicles and guest parking.

The building, as proposed in the Site Plan and Preliminary Plan applications SJG will submit next week, will have an underground, 118-space garage with a garage door and loading dock along West Lane. The project will also require the developer widen West Lane.

Across the street, a five-floor, four-unit luxury condo has just started excavation work at 4825 Montgomery Lane. Around the corner, a seven-story, 25-unit luxury condo called The Lauren is approved and expected to start construction sometime this year.

Harris said SJG will have to coordinate with Montgomery County and other developers on its construction project, which won’t start until after the project has been approved — likely by the end of this year. With a projected groundbreaking in early 2015 and a 20-month buildout, the West Lane apartments would be complete in 2016.

The first Planning Board hearing on the project is expected to happen this summer.

Image via Montgomery County Planning Department