New Fillmore In The Zone

A Fillmore-branded club in Silver Spring, Md., is a step closer to reality with the approval of two land-use measures that clear the path for land to be donated and developed.

Montgomery County and the state legislature will spend $8 million to build a 2,000-capacity Fillmore at the site of a former J.C. Penney in downtown Silver Spring. Lee Development Group will donate land worth about $3.5 million to Montgomery County, which will rent the building to Live Nation under the proposed deal.

One provision hinged on the Lee group donating land adjacent to the Fillmore in exchange for protection and flexibility to develop on the surrounding site, according to the Washington Post.

The land-use change means the Fillmore would be counted as a public amenity, despite charging admission and being privately operated, enabling Lee to build an adjacent project.

The zoning changes were not without controversy. The county’s Planning Board typically negotiates with developers to provide open space as part of the approval process. County Executive Isiah Leggett’s original zoning proposal would have eliminated that step and given him the power to unilaterally accept a donation of property for arts and entertainment.

The proposal was amended to require such decisions to come before the county council for passage of a resolution backing future initiatives.

In a letter to council members the day before the vote, Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson restated his opposition to the measure, according to the Post.

“We do not oppose the Fillmore; we oppose the damage the proposed amendments inflict on the integrity of planning and development review,” the paper quoted from the letter.

Councilman Marc Elrich added, “We’ve been told, ‘Give the Lees everything they want or this project goes some place else or doesn’t happen at all.’ That’s a problematic way to do business,” according to the paper.

Another measure affecting the Live Nation project and passed by the council would at least double the length of time, to 10 years, for construction to begin and provide for a five-year extension. Opponents argued the measure could slow down building projects.

The Fillmore project has surmounted several roadblocks since Live Nation won preliminary rights to open a venue in the space. Negotiations to open a Birchmere Music Hall collapsed last year and a counteroffer from I.M.P.’s Seth Hurwitz was declared by local officials to have been received too late for consideration.