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Book Exchange Development: What is a Step-back Transition?

Step back transition

When the Council will start its session next year, one of the development issues it will take is the Book Exchange development.

Back in October this year, the developer / applicant came to the Council and presented its preliminary DSP (Detailed Site Plan), which was voted down by the Council. However, the applicant went ahead and submitted the plan to County’s Park and Planning, who also rejected the plan and asked the developer to revise it.

At the heart of this controversy lies the compliance of a provision in the Route 1 sector plan. The proposed Book Exchange housing is a 6 stories high development which is next to historic residential neighborhood in old town College Park. According to Route 1 sector plan, the tallest buildings shall be located fronting US 1, however the building immediate next to the neighborhood should only 2 to 3 stories high.

Here is the text in Route 1 sector plan that guides such planning rules..

Generally, compatible buildings and uses should be located adjacent to each other. However, along historically commercial strips tall buildings often share rear lot lines with residential buildings.

Where corridor infill and walkable node areas are across the street from or share a rear property line with an existing residential area, a stepback transition and or a landscape buffer shall be required for all new development within the corridor infill and walkable node areas.

Stepback transitions are appropriate where corridor infill and walkable node areas are across the street from existing residential areas. This scenario is illustrated in the top two diagrams on this page, where a block that fronts US 1 is across the street from an existing

The tallest buildings shall be located fronting US 1. The development shall step down through the block to a maximum height of two or three stories facing existing residential development.

Landscape buffers in combination with stepback transitions are appropriate when corridor infill and walkable node areas share a property line with existing residential areas. The buffer area shall be consistent with the standards of the Landscape Manual.

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