Westbard Development News
Monday, February 8, 2016 - The Montgomery County Planning Board adopted the draft Westbard Sector Plan on December 17, 2015. The plan is currently under review by the County Council, which held public hearings on February 2 and 4, 2016. Wood Acres PTA President Jason Sartori testified on February 2 on behalf of the Whitman Cluster of schools:
Jason Sartori previously testified on behalf of the cluster before the Planning Board, on September 24, 2015:
What’s the timeline for plan adoption?
Following the public hearings in February, the County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee will hold hearings in February and March to review and update the plan. Adoption of the plan is anticipated in June.
Why is this important?
The sector plan will guide development in Westbard for the next 20+ years (the previous sector plan was adopted in 1982). A large portion of Westbard feeds into the Whitman cluster of schools (specifically, Wood Acres ES, Pyle MS and Whitman HS) and the Planning Board’s version of the plan would allow nearly 2,500 additional residential units in Westbard. We believe that these new residential units could add as many as 760 new students to our local schools, the majority of which would attend overcrowded Whitman cluster schools.
Are there talking points about the impact on our schools?
- Despite being the biggest concern for local residents, schools are only discussed in 2 short paragraphs in the 94-page staff draft of the Westbard Sector Plan.
- The Planning Board needs to incorporate specific language in the main text of the plan regarding how the plan’s enrollment impact will be addressed.
- Which school(s) in the cluster can absorb the enrollment burden?
- Which school(s) will receive additions?
- Which former school would be reopened?
- What sites would be considered for a new school?
- What boundary changes are most likely to occur?
- We strongly object to the student generation rates MCPS uses to calculate the impact of this plan on the Whitman cluster schools.
- MCPS uses generation rates averaged across the entire southwest quadrant of the county.
- Yet generation rates for multifamily housing on the Whitman cluster side of Westbard are 2 to 5 times higher than the rates used by MCPS.
- Using these localized generation rates, we believe the plan could add more than 380 students to the Whitman cluster alone.
- Most importantly, we want to know how MCPS will address the impact on Pyle Middle School. With 1,522 students currently, Pyle is already:
- bigger than or as big as 7 high schools in the county;
- the largest middle school in the county (on the smallest property, without an adjacent park) and the second largest in the state;
- at 118% of capacity.
How can Pyle possibly be expected to absorb the 100+ additional students that Westbard can bring its way?
A little background information
On March 3, 2015, PTA President Jason Sartori held a very informative webinar about the Westbard development and its impact on our community. Couldn't attend? You can see what you missed here:
Please note, even if you participated in the live event, that both online presentations have been appended to include contact information for the Board of Education, Planning Board, and County Council. From Jason, "I encourage you to use the data provided and reach out to our county’s decision makers."
For more information about the Westbard Sector Plan and the County process:
For questions about Wood Acres and Whitman involvement in the Sector Plan email: Jason Sartori