GAITHERSBURG – The city council unanimously approved the Lakeforest Mall property master plan earlier this month.
The master plan, Mayor Jud Ashman said at the August 16th meeting, is a "general vision" for how private developers should develop the more than 100 acre Lakeforest Mall property.
"It's a great plan," said Council Member Ryan Spiegel.
Soon-to-be-retired City Council Vice President Michael Sesma said the amended master plan approved by the city council is not a real estate development plan for the property.
"We hope though that the vision we provide in this master plan," Sesma said, "is one that the developers will take to heart - the owners will take to heart as they seek to develop the property."
All of the councilors and the mayor expressed their pleasure with the city's effort in building the Lakeforest Mall property master plan.
Spiegel said that the city had never done anything like this before.
Oftentimes when a city needs to create one of these "master plan" documents, the city will hire a consultant to do the bulk of the work. In this case, Gaithersburg staff created the Lakeforest Mall master plan in-house, with the help from some consultants.
John Schlichten, director of planning and code administration said that he is "confident" that this master plan "will be the tool to achieve the goal that has been our focus throughout this process - an epic renaissance for the east side of Gaithersburg."
Ashman said the vision for the Lakeforest Mall property goes away from big box development and giant parking lots to redeveloping the property into an "integrated urban greenspace ecosystem."
City Councilor Robert Wu said he had misgivings about "certain flexibilities of the plan," but that those concerns shouldn't overshadow a "great plan."
Outgoing City Councilor Laurie–Anne Sayles said, "There's something in this plan for everyone."
While the sentiment seemed to be that the effort put into building this plan was extraordinary, and no plan is perhaps ever perfect, now was the time to enact the plan.
"This is as good as we can get," said Sesma.
It will be up to future city councils and property owners to adhere to the master plan, amend it, or to deviate from it.
The Lakeforest Mall property, Ashman said is a center piece for Gaithersburg with "enormous potential." He said that this project needs to be an 'Grade A' project.
Neither Sesma nor Sayles are running for reelection this November. Sesma said he's retiring from public service and Sayles is making a run at Montgomery County Council.