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Developer Wants To Start Move-Ins Before Completing Required Streetscaping

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 5/27/2014, 2:20pm  ET

Construction along Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda has shut down the road to a narrow access point at Norfolk Avenue

The developer of a Bethesda apartment building wants to start letting people move in, even though crews haven’t completed the required streetlight and sidewalk work around its construction site.

Developer Bainbridge’s request for an amendment to its 2009 site plan for the 200-unit, 17-floor Bainbridge Bethesda apartment would normally be a relatively minor request. In this case, Bainbridge and its contractors have drawn scrutiny because of lawsuits from a next-door property owner and questions about properly maintaining sidewalk access along Fairmont Avenue.

In the request to amend the Planning Board-approved site plan, attorneys representing Bainbridge said Montgomery County’s requirement that the developer install LED streetlights has meant a six-month delay.

Bainbridge is asking the Planning Board to waive its requirement that all streetscaping be completed before the first occupancy permits are issued. Instead, the developer says the streetscape work will be done within six months of the first move-ins.

It also asked that it be able to pull its first occupancy permits before the Planning Board formally approves its application, which could take some time to get on the agenda.

The temporary Pedestrian Walkway that has been set up with both sidewalks closed on Fairmont Avenue“In general, the applicant has experienced delays on exterior improvements due to the extreme winter and continuing adverse weather conditions, but internal construction necessary for the applicant to obtain the first use and occupancy permit for the project has not experienced the same magnitude of delay,” read an April 30 letter penned by Linowes and Blocher attorneys Bob Dalrymple and Heather Dlhopolsky.

As part of its streetscaping requirements, Bainbridge must replace a number of surrounding concrete sidewalks with the red brick standard of downtown Bethesda.

A stack of red bricks remains on Norfolk Avenue, next to a few taped off parking meters. In the April 30 application, Bainbridge said its first apartment units would be ready for move-in by this time in May and its final apartments will be ready in August.

Construction of the 17-story, 250-unit 7770 Norfolk Ave project across the street has rendered sections of sidewalk on Fairmont Avenue inaccessible for weeks.

A few weeks ago, crews on the Bainbridge project constructed a temporary pedestrian walkway with orange traffic barriers in the southbound lane of Fairmont Avenue.