Ahead of the Curve: BOZ Density Expected to Exceed “Soft Cap” by October 1

How exceeding the 30.4 million sq. ft. “soft cap” may affect development in downtown Bethesda.

By C. Robert “Bob” Dalrymple, Esq. Matthew M. Gordon, Esq.
Selzer Gurvitch Rabin Wertheimer & Polott, P.C.

The Bethesda Overlay Zone (BOZ) was established in tandem with the approval of the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan in 2017. The BOZ and the Sector Plan established a hard density cap of 32.4 million square feet of total development that would constitute full build-out of the Sector Plan based upon the availability of public facilities (primarily transportation and schools) to serve development in downtown Bethesda. This limitation includes existing on-the-ground development and approved, but unbuilt development, as defined below.

The Sector Plan also established a soft cap of 30.4 million square feet of development, which when reached would require an assessment of transportation infrastructure and/or the extent of achieving of the Sector Plan’s Non-Auto Driver Mode Share (NADMS) goals, and progress toward the acquisition of half of the new urban parks recommended, featured, and prioritized in the Sector Plan. The Sector Plan established that the Montgomery County Planning Board would make recommendations for the County Council’s consideration when the total development (built and approved but unbuilt) in downtown Bethesda reached the soft cap of 30.4 million square feet of development. 
BOZ density is ultimately allocated to development projects at the time the Montgomery County Planning Board approves a site plan application. Based upon the Planning Board’s review of pending and approved site plan applications, the total development in downtown Bethesda is anticipated to exceed 30.4 million square feet (the soft cap) by the end of the month of September. Additionally, M-NCPPC staff has identified that there is approximately 3 million square feet of development that is the subject of approved or pending sketch plan applications.

While BOZ density is not allocated until the time that the Montgomery County Planning Board approves a site plan application, there is not enough BOZ density remaining under the hard cap of 32.4 million square (approximately 2 million square feet) to accommodate the 3 million square feet of development included in sketch plan applications and approvals (also assuming that all approved but unbuilt density is timely constructed in accordance with the existing respective approved site plans).

In May of 2021, and in anticipation of the approaching soft and hard density caps, Selzer Gurvitch hosted a webinar with Montgomery County Councilmember Andrew Friedson, Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, MCDOT Director Chris Conklin, and the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Robert Kronenberg and Leslye Howerton (Deputy Director and lead Sector Planner, respectively) to discuss the consequences and implications of build-out in downtown Bethesda reaching 30.4 (the soft cap) and 32.4 million square feet (the hard cap) of development. We invite you to watch and learn more about the insightful and now most relevant discussions relating to these density caps that occurred during the May webinar, and how government may respond based upon these discussions among key decision-makers in the County.


Let Selzer Gurvitch help you.

If you have a development project that you are pursuing or interested in pursuing in downtown Bethesda, please contact Bob Dalrymple or Matt Gordon to discuss the remaining BOZ density and/or any other land use and zoning needs that you may have.

C. Robert “Bob” Dalrymple, Esq.
Shareholder, Selzer Gurvitch
(301) 634-3148
Matthew M. Gordon, Esq.
Partner, Selzer Gurvitch
(301) 634-3150


Disclaimer: The information contained in this material is not intended to be considered legal advice and should not be acted upon as such. Because of the generality of this material, the information provided may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without legal advice based on specific factual circumstances.