Nursery to Nursing Home, Up to 120 Beds in Potomac

Will the community have the ability to participate in the public process during Covid-19 pandemic?

Spectrum Retirement Communities hopes to redevelop Potomac Petals and Plants (formerly Behnke’s Nursery) on River Road with a continuing care retirement community containing up to 100 dwelling units or 120 beds for independent living, assisting living and memory care uses.

The 5.04 acre property located at 9545 River Road is currently a nursery and garden center and surface center owned by Potomac Gardens LLC. The land is currently zoned Residential Estate 2, which would allow one house for two acres. Spectrum Retirement Communities, located in Denver, CO, seeks a conditional-use application, or special exception, from the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings on July 17, 2020, at 9:30 a.m.

Signs posted on the property say Spectrum Retirement Communities filed the application on March 18, 2020.

“Our immediate concern is that adequate notice is provided to the surrounding community and there are methods for meaningful participation in the proceedings before the Planning Board and Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, given COVID-19 constraints,” said Susanne Lee, president of West Montgomery County Citizens Association.

West Montgomery was founded in 1947 and is Potomac’s influential umbrella civic association.

Having “just learned of the proposal,” said Lee, “the citizens association is currently reviewing the application.”

“Our initial reaction is that it appears to have multiple features that are incompatible with this RE-2 site (two acre) residential zone. It's a proposal for a very large facility at a location (River and Persimmon Tree) already overwhelmed with traffic,” said Lee. “Stormwater management is a concern since any additional overflow from the property would further exacerbate the flooding caused by the Ken Branch stream.”

THE PROJECT will include up to approximately 40 Independent Living units and 60 Assisted Living and Memory Care units (or up to 80 Assisted Living and Memory Care beds, according to the Spectrum Retirement Communities.

Spectrum is represented by Steven A. Robins and Elizabeth C. Rogers of Lerch, Early & Brewer, Chtd in Bethesda. The architect is Brian Van Winkle, of Vessel Architecture and Design, in St. Louis.

“The Project will significantly improve the visual appearance of the Property and provide an opportunity to implement stormwater management and forest conservation strategies, where there currently are none,” according to Robins and Rogers.

The Residence will also provide residential amenities, generous common areas for use by residents, landscaping, streetscape improvements, associated parking, and other site improvements, according to the application dated January 31, 2020. Residents are expected to use Potomac Village for shopping and food and various medical and other needs.

THE 2002 POTOMAC MASTER PLAN, the blueprint for land use decisions in Potomac, encouraged options for senior housing as well as affordable housing.

Currently, a few facilities are currently being constructed. Brandywine Living at Potomac (120 units) on Potomac Tennis Lane is nearing completion next to the Falls Road Golf Course. Its website suggests the facility will open for residency in late 2020.

Artis Senior Living of Potomac is being constructed at 8301 River Road near the quarry.

“In addition to existing facilities, there are multiple new facilities with hundreds of units currently under construction in the Potomac Subregion providing the same levels of care and types of services proposed here,” on the nursery site, said Lee.

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