Ballard Spahr land use attorney Emily J. Vaias has been appointed to a Montgomery County advisory committee that will help implement official recommendations for the future of Downtown Bethesda, addressing land use, development, infrastructure, and other factors critical to building on the area's success.

The Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee was created "to coordinate and monitor the progress of development and address implementation of the recommendations in the Approved and Adopted Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan," according to the Montgomery County Planning Board, which approved the 17 members comprising area residents as well as business and property owners. The Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan is unique in its allocation of density for development based on a payment to help fund parks and open space, called the Park Impact Payment.

With Maryland's second-largest downtown, Bethesda has experienced a wave of growth and redevelopment in recent years, fueled in part by its connection to the Metrorail subway system serving the Washington, D.C., region. Now hotel giant Marriott International plans a $600 million corporate campus and flagship hotel at the corner of Wisconsin and Norfolk avenues.

The Montgomery County Council adopted the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan last May. It makes recommendations in the areas of land use and zoning, transportation, environment and sustainability, urban design, community facilities, open space, and historic preservation. The plan aims to "create a truly sustainable downtown by focusing on components that will bolster the elements most in need of enhancement. The overarching goals of the Plan include Parks and Open Spaces, Affordable Housing, Environmental Innovation, and Economic Competitiveness."

Ms. Vaias brings to the advisory committee nearly 25 years of experience in real estate law, focused on zoning, land use, and development. She has worked on a variety of projects in Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Charles Counties in Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia. She is currently part of the Urban Land Institute's Regionalism Initiative Council and serves on the boards of both the Purple Rail Alliance and the Homeless Persons Representation Project. Ms. Vaias has been actively involved for nearly 20 years in providing pro bono legal services through the Homeless Persons Representation Project and has been honored for her efforts by the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, the Home Builders Care Foundation, and Aunt Hattie’s Place, which provides a safe and stable home for abused and neglected children in foster care.


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