Westbard lawsuit dismissed, citizen group to appeal


Artist depiction of a community green in the proposed development, which Judge Jordan’s decision will permit. Photo courtesy Zoe Kaufmann.

By Zoe Kaufmann

A Montgomery County Circuit Court reaffirmed the legitimacy of the growth plan for the Westbard neighborhood March 9, dismissing a lawsuit filed by Westbard residents. Judge Richard E. Jordan’s March 15 decision denied each count brought by community group SaveWestbard, which claimed that the Montgomery County Planning Board illegally negotiated property zoning with developers and failed to consider greenhouse gas emissions in the growth plan. The plaintiffs also accused the Montgomery County District Council of failing to hold a public hearing on the plan before approving it.

The court found that the Board adequately considered the environmental impacts of the new plan by including, for example, a bicycle network. Furthermore, because the Court considers the sector plan a “planning decision” and not a “zoning decision,” and because there was no contract between developers and the Council, the plaintiffs’ claims of illegal negotiations over zoning are inadequate.

Additionally, the judge found that, because the County Council—also known as the “District Council”—held a hearing, allegations that the “District Council” had not held a hearing were unfounded.

SaveWestbard, whose lawsuit aimed to void the new Westbard Sector Plan and thus limit further commercial development of the Westbard area, plans to appeal the ruling, the group’s representative Patricia Kolesar said.

“For now, the implication is that we have lost and the developer can do what it wants,” Kolesar said. “We are going to appeal this decision; so it’s not quite over yet.”

Regency Centers, the company planning to develop Westbard, was targeted in the lawsuit because the controversial growth plan was created to accommodate the corporation’s new development plans. The ruling allows the new plans to continue.

“We’re happy with this ruling,” Erin Girard, Regency’s attorney, told Bethesda Beat.

“We think it’s correct and in compliance with the law, and we intend to move forward just like we did before.”