Thursday, January 29, 2015


The Blair Ewing/Mark Twain site,
now being coveted by Montgomery County
as an MCPS bus depot, is
close to Twinbrook and adjacent to
Rock Creek Park
Much of the heated debate over the plan to give Montgomery County Public Schools' Shady Grove bus depot to developers has been in the Aspen Hill area, where an MCPS program with a reputation for frequent police intervention is being moved from the existing Blair Ewing Center (a.k.a. Mark Twain School) on Avery Road.

But that Avery Road site along Norbeck Road is also close to the Twinbrook neighborhood in Rockville, RedGate golf course, and Rock Creek Park. That has many Twinbrook residents alarmed, and left with little time to react with this "smart growth" land swap moving full steam ahead.

$16.6 million dollars had previously been allocated to renovate the Blair Ewing Center school, which could hold 600 students in a time of vast overcrowding in MCPS facilities. Yet the Montgomery County Council Education Committee is scheduled to vote today to take back those funds, paving the way for demolition of Blair Ewing, and moving the "smart growth" scheme forward. $32 million will be spent to redevelop the site into a bus depot, money that is being spent for the sole purpose of private developer profit at the current Shady Grove depot site. Money which, of course, could instead go to new school construction in Rockville or Aspen Hill.

Christina Ginsberg, past president and current treasurer for the Twinbrook Citizens Association, has written a letter to County elected officials on behalf of current president Richard Gottfried to express their concern. In it, Ginsberg implores the County to "stop fast-tracking the bus depot. The whole project needs to be reconsidered before it becomes an embarrassment to Montgomery County."

Among the issues of concern:

The Avery Road site's Mark Twain School Athletic Park was funded by the City of Rockville and Project Open Space funds, and is used for various team sports. City taxpayers covered 25% of the construction costs, and Maryland put $591,750 in P.O.S. funds to cover the rest. All of that money would now be for naught.

The 500 buses using the depot would be driving in and out of already-jammed Norbeck Road, which would cause traffic issues for neighborhoods in Rockville and Aspen Hill.

Demolition of the school is contrary to the Rockville Pike Plan's allowance for a major influx of new residents and students to the city.

And the already-shaky RedGate Golf Course could be impacted negatively, as well.

Perhaps most jarring, is the decision to place the massive depot literally on the edge of Rock Creek Park, with its already-strained water quality and downstream flow into the District. Ginsberg warns of the environmental impact of runoff from the vehicles and site into Rock Creek, writing that the depot would be "essentially an industrial facility next to a nationally significant piece of parkland and a waterway that traverses historic areas of the District of Columbia.  I would hope that you are as interested in preserving parkland DOWNCOUNTY as you are in preserving parkland upcounty, as with Ten Mile Creek."

The County Council has shown very little concern with waterways in the downcounty area, having sold off part of Little Falls Stream Valley Park to a private developer. It is now threatening to approve a massive redevelopment of the Westbard area that would drop over 3000 new residents on the banks of the Little Falls watershed.

Ginsberg notes that the school system is "crying poor" in Annapolis for construction money, even as it plans to demolish an existing school and spend tens of millions of dollars to do so. And with little warning to residents.

"When we, the taxpayers, see this kind of hidden and backdoor deal being pushed through, and we are told, yet again, at the 11th hour, that it is a 'done deal', we know there is something badly wrong," Ginsberg wrote.

This is at least the second County project in the last month that is being rammed through as a "done deal", before citizens have even seen the details. The other one - a new Transit Authority - popped up last Friday afternoon.

Image: Google Maps

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