Showing posts with label bus depot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bus depot. Show all posts

Monday, February 25, 2019

Derwood, Shady Grove residents want MCPS bus depot out of neighborhood as promised

"Derwood deserves better
- now!" residents say of 
issue County officials swept
under political rug

Former Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett, the County Council and Montgomery County Public Schools managed to sweep the highly-flammable hot potato issue of the MCPS Shady Grove school bus depot under the political rug ahead of the 2018 election season. But residents nearby the depot are growing impatient, having been told over a decade ago that the facility would be gone by now. Many are residents who bought or rented new homes built right around the depot itself in the first phase of "smart growth" construction, as Leggett termed the development due to its proximity to Metro and MARC rail service at Shady Grove.

At least 340 of those residents have signed a MoveOn online petition asking new County Executive Marc Elrich to take action on the relocation of the depot. Residents in Aspen Hill and Rockville were up in arms just a few years ago, when it was revealed that the County Council had approved the plan and agreement with developers at Shady Grove without actually identifying a new site for the bus depot before doing so.

This led to protests and tense community meetings, including one where former Councilmember George Leventhal admitted to the crowd that he had voted "Yes" on the Shady Grove scheme without actually reading the text of the bill first. The County tried to move it to a historic African-American site in Rockville on Mannakee Street first. When that triggered outcry from the community, they secretly purchased another site in East Rockville where there are a large number of African-American residents. That caused a second round of protests.

Avery Road property owned by MCPS was also considered, with the idea of moving a juvenile education facility to the former English Manor site in Aspen Hill to make way for a depot, reigniting a firestorm of opposition in that community. Councilmember Hans Riemer advocated studying a former landfill site in Olney, before the whole issue was tabled as election season neared. Rockville, Aspen Hill and Olney residents emphatically stated the depot should remain where it is, putting them on a collision course with the interests of residents around the existing site. Most elected officials realize that any vote on either keeping the depot where it is, or moving it, could be a career-ending one.

With the new advocacy effort from Shady Grove and Derwood, County officials may be forced once again to reopen this "third rail" issue. The County is facing not only angry constituents who live near the current and potential bus depot sites, but also legal action by the developers with whom they had made the agreement years ago. Riemer famously stated almost three years ago that he and the Council "taken ownership of the problem."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Overflow crowd says no to bus depot at Blair Ewing site on Avery Road (Photos)

Montgomery County Councilmember
Sid Katz makes a point that he opposes
the Blair Ewing Center site being
considered for a bus depot
It was standing-room-only last night at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, as residents from Rockville, Aspen Hill, and other neighborhoods near the Blair Ewing Center turned out to oppose a potential school bus depot at that school site on Avery Road. Citizen association leaders, activists, and a handful of elected officials were in attendance, and unified in one message to Montgomery County officials - no bus depot at Ewing, which also has a public park, and is adjacent to the environmentally-sensitive Rock Creek watershed.

The meeting was moderated by Aspen Hill Civic Association President Jamison Adcock, who fought this battle to save Blair Ewing from demolition along with a citizen coalition once before, just a couple of years ago.

"This whole issue
is a mess"

Last night's meeting was a success in terms of the objective for holding it - to clearly demonstrate the strength of the community opposition to a depot at the Ewing site. But citizens are still very much in the dark as to what the County's next move will be on the depot site selection, as well as the specifics on the secretive deal the County worked out with a developer to redevelop the existing bus depot in Shady Grove.

"We're trying to figure out how much money is changing hands," Adcock said, adding that residents can only estimate the County will receive about $30 million for the site from the developer. A memo dug up from 2009, written by then-Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Jerry Weast, had called for the County to build a new depot and estimated the cost at $100 million - not including the expensive proposition of acquiring land. "I'm going to venture to guess it will cost even more," Adcock predicted, noting the size of the loss taxpayers would take if those numbers prove correct.

One resident pointed out that the $100 million figure was in 2009 dollars, and would be substantially higher with post-recession construction costs.

Adcock said MCPS had stated a depot would require 35 acres. The Ewing site is only about 22.5 acres in size. Only 16 of those are buildable, as 7 acres are in a forest preservation easement. Of the dangers to Rock Creek, Adcock said the stream valley park is "one of the things that makes the quality of life in Montgomery County special."

"It's a disgrace.
It's a disgrace"

While Aspen Hill would not be as directly effected by the noise and immediate fumes of buses at Blair Ewing, it is widely suspected that the County would try to move the special programs at Ewing to English Manor in Aspen Hill. That would prevent what the community wants, which is to reopen English Manor as a public school, to alleviate overcrowding at Aspen Hill-area schools. Aspen Hill would likely also feel the traffic backups that would result.

Another resident noted a recent traffic study, which showed that Norbeck Road cannot handle any additional traffic. When one attendee described her nightmare commute to Fairfax County, which begins on Norbeck Road, another commuter concurred. "I, too, drive to Fairfax County, where I'm considering moving because of this." Recalling a bus crash that blocked 2-lane, rural-esque Avery Road for hours during icy conditions, he added, "God forbid it should snow." Of the whole bus depot at Ewing idea, he concluded: "It's a disgrace. It's a disgrace."

Adcock agreed with the assessment of Avery, saying it is "the closest thing we have to a twisty country road."

"A tragedy
waiting to

Also complicating matters for the community, is that they won't really know exactly what they are fighting until the County releases its new assessment of potential sites in the next month or so. The only ones publicly known are Ewing and a former landfill in Olney; the latter is across the street from single-family homes.

Adcock and other civic leaders said that, for now, all they can concentrate on is continuing to demonstrate their opposition at public forums like the County Council Town Hall next Wednesday at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney.

"I drive to
Fairfax County,
where I'm
moving because
of this"

In the meantime, residents and politicians alike lambasted the County for what all agree was a terribly-executed idea to redevelop the industrial area around the Shady Grove Metro station.

"I have, as you know, been opposed to this from the very beginning," said County Councilmember Sid Katz, the only councilmember to show up at the meeting. "This whole issue is a mess. [The bus depot] shouldn't be on Avery Road. I don't know where it should be, but I know where it shouldn't be."

Katz, who was not on the Council when the bulk of the so-called "Smart Growth Initiative" related to Shady Grove was approved by the body, is also one of the few who candidly acknowledges he voted for the bills that approved funding for two highly-unpopular depots in Rockville. Both sites ended up being taken off the table after residents organized and fought back, but funding for depots at Carver and Westmore were indeed unanimously approved by the County Council in the last two years.

"I voted for that, and I was very sorry I did," Katz said of the budget bill approved for construction of a depot at Carver. In contrast, Councilmember George Leventhal stated publicly that he did not read the Carver bill before voting in favor of it, a stunning admission of reckless irresponsibility by a legislative official. How many other bills has Leventhal voted for without reading, one has to wonder?

"Who is going
to profit from
this, so we know
who to go after?"

"Illogical, ill-conceived, irresponsible." That was how Delegate Ben Kramer described the prospect of a bus depot at Blair Ewing. Kramer, who has virtually no authority to step into a County matter like the depot, can be expected to get called up from the minor leagues by the County political machine if term limits pass and five councilmembers are ousted. He said buses on a road like Avery would be "a tragedy waiting to happen."

Chiming in on the earlier concerns about the already-bad congestion on Norbeck Road, Kramer said, "You know the traffic nightmare that is Norbeck Road." Ironically, some of that congestion can be blamed on the delegate's father, Sid Kramer, who canceled the Rockville Freeway despite admitting the road would indeed reduce congestion.

Referring to the lack of information that was foremost on the minds of many, Carver Coalition volunteer Theresa Defino said, "We need to stop guessing what is going on." She advised the crowd to press the County Council and Executive to have an open process on the depot site selection this time around. Defino said public hearings should be signed before a site is chosen or purchased, not after, as happened when the County secretly purchased the Westmore/WINX property for $12 million prior to a public hearing.

Representatives of the organization Preserve Rock Creek were also in attendance.

"We're not
going to
roll over"

But leave it to residents to put things in the clearest terms.

"Who is going to profit from this, so we know who to go after," one asked, delivering the quote of the night, during a question-and-answer session. (Hint: the developers, and the politicians who get checks from them - 82% of the campaign funds received by the Council comes from developers. Councilmember Marc Elrich does not accept contributions from developers, it should be noted)

"We're nice people," Adcock said, "but we're not going to roll over. My answer is, "No."

+ + +
Here is a series of photos panning around the room to show how packed it was. The crowd overflowed out into the hallway, which can't be seen in these photos.

Aspen Hill Civic Association
President Jamison Adcock
addresses the crowd

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Residents to hold meeting Sept. 8 to fight bus depot plans at Blair Ewing Center

With the Blair Ewing Center and Mark Twain Park on Avery Road back in the crosshairs of a Montgomery County desperate to find a new school bus depot site, local residents are planning to meet on Thursday, September 8, at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center at 14625 Bauer Drive in Rockville. Blair Ewing, and the Oaks Landfill at 6001 Olney-Laytonsville Road in Olney, are the two known finalists on the County Council's list.

A couple of things are clear right now. First, there is no other "perfect" or even serviceable site that can hold the number of buses proposed anywhere in the County beyond the handful already fought over, and the two alternatives now on the table. If there were, the County would have acquired it in 2015.

Second, County politicians are now engaged in a cynical game. Rather than face the legal consequences of admitting they blew it, and that their "smart growth initiative" was simply a scheme to benefit developers, the County Executive and Council are now going poke the hornets' nests in Aspen Hill and Olney, and see if they can figure out which one will emit the fewest angry bees.

Conversely, they may also tally up the number of votes they believe will be lost in a particular community. During the Westbard controversy in Bethesda, it accidentally slipped out that some on the County Council were literally having their staff tally the number of votes they might lose, if they enraged the voters in the Westbard area. Ultimately, their math told them they could take the hit and survive.

Counting votes probably won't help here, though. Aspen Hill has vigorously fought the previous bus depot plan, and Walmart, and won both times. Olney, with its strong civic association, likewise was the only community in the County that was able to kill a planned Bus Rapid Transit route.

Unless they've come up with a magical third option, or go back to Westmore and Carver, it looks like the Council will have to pick its political poison.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Advisory board revolts against Leggett on Avery Road bus depot study

The Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board, which acts as the middleman between residents of Wheaton, Glenmont, Aspen Hill and Olney and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, has sent a letter to Leggett strongly denouncing his consideration of the Blair G. Ewing Center as a school bus depot site.

"We strongly urge that the Blair G. Ewing Center (on Avery Road) be immediately removed from any consideration," board Chair Gregory Intoccia wrote to Leggett. "This location is wholly unsuited for hundreds of buses."

The board cited environmental damage to Rock Creek and its watershed, loss of a forest conservation easement, traffic impacts on Norbeck Road, reduced traffic safety on Avery Road, the loss of Mark Twain Athletic Park on the Ewing site, and demolition of a functional school building when overcrowded schools are the norm in Montgomery County as its key objections to an Avery Road depot.

The latter loss would require existing programs at Ewing to be moved elsewhere, potentially to the vacant English Manor in Aspen Hill.

What makes the letter remarkable is not just the board going to bat for the community, but that the board members are appointed by Leggett himself. It's another sign of just how politically-toxic the bus depot issue is. There is literally no support for closing the existing depot outside of Leggett, certain County Council members, and the developer who is eager to get started redeveloping the current depot on Crabbs Branch Way in Shady Grove. Yet this thing keeps moving forward, attempting to find a political weak spot on the map.

The letter suggests that, once again, Aspen Hill will not be that weak spot. How much longer does the County risk pushing this scheme, with term limits looming on the November ballot?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Leggett removes Carver and Westmore from bus depot list - who's next?

Residents in Lincoln Park and around the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville are celebrating the success of their efforts to stop Montgomery County from relocating the Shady Grove school bus depot to their neighborhoods. County Executive Ike Leggett sent a memo to County Council President Nancy Floreen yesterday announcing he is withdrawing the current Declaration of No Further Need for the existing depot on Crabbs Branch Way, and is removing Carver and 1000 Westmore Avenue from the list of potential depot sites.

While neighbors of 1000 Westmore won't likely complain, the County did end up blowing $12,000,000 on its purchase of the Westmore site in what it claimed was a budget time so tight that taxes were raised to the highest level in County history last month.

The Crabbs Branch depot was to be vacated in 2017, and sold to a developer who would build townhomes and apartments on the site near Shady Grove Metro station.

But the letter makes clear that this so-called "Smart Growth Initiative" is not over. Leggett states that he is having his staff find more suitable locations than Carver or Westmore.

The problem, of course, is that every potential depot site also has residents nearby.

You'll notice that, despite fierce community opposition, Leggett pointedly did not remove the Blair Ewing Center from the potential depot sites in his memo.

And another bad choice, the Oaks Landfill at 6001 Olney-Laytonsville Road, is one councilmembers like Hans Riemer explicitly stated they want to have a public discussion about. There are several residential subdvisions right around the site, and homes directly across the road from it. 410 buses would honk their horns and test their backup beepers each morning at 6:00 AM.

The only other site given serious public consideration last year was a property near the intersection of Woodfield Road and Snouffer School Road, also near homes.
Houses directly across
from 6001 Olney Laytonsville Road
Much of Rockville is now off the hook in this crazy, developer-fueled crusade - but the battle is just starting at these, and potentially other, poor choices for the depot site around the County. Residents near those locations are waking up to find the MoCo political cartel is headed their way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Montgomery County Council all talk, no action on Rockville bus depot controversy (Photos)

"Talked to death in Rockville" is a good summary of yesterday's Montgomery County Council worksession on the controversial attempts to relocate the Montgomery County Public Schools bus depot in Shady Grove. That site is supposed to be cleared by next year, so that a developer can build hundreds of townhomes and apartments there. By the end of the meeting, no votes were taken and no plan of action was determined.

While Council President Nancy Floreen did not allow a resolution to deny the Declaration of No Further Need for the Shady Grove site, by the end of the meeting she agreed to bring one forward, likely next week. The County Department of General Services was directed by Floreen to bring back a cost-benefits study for the scenario of simply leaving the depot where it is, and to provide a list of temporary and permanent sites where the buses could be moved.

But none of this officially rules out the use of Carver Educational Services Center, 1000 Westmore Avenue or the Blair Ewing Center on Avery Road, all of which have been rejected soundly by residents who would be impacted. Depending which councilmember you listen to, there are all kinds of potential outcomes, and all but one (keeping the depot at Shady Grove) would place a school bus depot in someone's neighborhood.

Only two councilmembers, Sid Katz (who represents Rockville) and Marc Elrich (an at-large member), explicitly said Carver, Westmore and Avery should be removed from the list of sites under consideration. Save Blair Ewing, a resident organization fighting a bus depot on that site, is now leading a letter/email-writing campaign to sway three more councilmembers to join Katz and Elrich in placing language eliminating those sites from the list.

So next week, the Council may unanimously vote to say that the Shady Grove depot is, in fact, still needed by the County. Does that kill the Carver/Westmore/Avery plans? Not unless that language is included in the resolution, and even then, the legal ramifications of leaving the buses in place after a developer has spent millions on its plans remain to be determined. The Council also assumes that County Executive Ike Leggett could indeed reopen talks with the developer to give the County more time to relocate the depot. There's no guarantee of that, either.

The Council did talk a lot, though. To their credit, at least a few councilmembers somewhat accepted the blame for their role in allowing this depot debacle to happen. Councilmembers George Leventhal, Roger Berliner, and Hans Riemer were particularly candid in acknowledging the Council blew it with the Shady Grove plan.

"In hindsight, that plan was unwise," Leventhal conceded to his constituents in the audience.

Interestingly, while many on the Council have vehemently argued that residential development will provide large amounts of tax revenue to the County, Leventhal and a few of his colleagues are now coming around to acknowledge what I've been saying for a decade - new residential growth does not pay for itself, and in fact, costs more in services than it brings in in new revenue. The County's structural budget deficit is proof of that.

Leventhal estimated the County has spent $407 million on the Shady Grove "Smart Growth Initiative" so far. When will that expenditure "pay for itself" as Leggett promised years ago, Leventhal asked David Dise, Director of DGS. He also suggested they add the cost of County services and schools to the cost-benefit analysis.

"If I'm in a hole, do I need to keep digging," asked Elrich of the Council's predicament. He too questioned if the potential revenue would cover the cost of relocating the depot, which he said may be "the best location we'll ever have" for it.

"We shouldn't be doing this," Elrich said. "I'm just not willing to do that to people." He counseled Dise to make sure that any site suggestion is accompanied with an explanation of how it would be "better than what you have now."

Councilmember Craig Rice, who represents the Upcounty area, misfired with the audience when he launched into a strident defense of the Shady Grove plan. He noted that some of his Clarksburg constituents live right next to a bus depot. Rice then attacked many of his own constituents, saying that "they want to keep those great things that we have in Montgomery County just to themselves."

That set off a round of booing and retorts from the audience. Floreen attempted to bring the meeting to order, as Rice hastened to add that he was not referring to the Carver Coaltion. Rice said he wants "to provide housing for everyone," although he didn't explain how that would be possible, or why it is the burden of County residents to accede to overpopulation of already-developed communities.

"What we really have here is a mess," observed Katz. "There is further need for [the Shady Grove depot]. There is no question. We need to do things in a more transparent way," he added to applause. A new depot "shouldn't be next to anybody's house," or route buses through residential streets, Katz said.

Katz argued that the City of Rockville "needs to be brought into the conversation." In explicitly calling for Carver, Westmore and Blair Ewing to be removed from consideration, Katz received another round of applause. "I usually don't get applause when I say, 'No,'" he joked. Summing up the situatiion, Katz concluded 'this does not make any sense. It doesn't make any common sense, and it doesn't make any dollars and sense."

Councilmember Nancy Navarro noted she was president of the Board of Education when the Shady Grove sector plan was passed. The plan "seemed to make a lot of sense back in the day," but not in 2016, she said. "It has not yielded the revenues promised by the County."

"I'm trying to understand where some votes are," Riemer began, speaking for many in the room. In any case, he said, he would vote against the Declaration of No Further Need the Council must pass to sell the land to the developer.

"It's not right to disadvantage current residents to clear a nuisance for future residents," Riemer said. "We played a role in this mess," he acknowledged. But at the same time, Riemer added that "I don't think we can just throw up our hands and walk away."

"We all bear some responsibility," Riemer went on, but promised that the Council has finally "taken ownership of the problem."

Councilmember Roger Berliner exhorted Floreen to allow a vote on the Declaration of No Further Need during yesterday's session, a request she failed to grant.

"The notion that this will be resolved by the end of the year seems pretty far-fetched," Berliner said. He congratulated the Council staff member who prepared the report for her prediction a decade ago that the Shady Grove plan would not pay for itself. "You were right," acknowledged Berliner, before asking Dise to provide "an honest assessment" of the situation.

Berliner commended Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, who was in attendance, for her work on behalf of her constituents against the Rockville depot proposals. "You've served your community well," Berliner told her.

"I think the Carver people can go home happy," Floreen said at the end of the session, despite it having produced no concrete results. When Floreen asked Dise for a list of potential sites, she completely ignored the fact that Council staff had done just that in its report for yesterday's session. The County DGS itself has reviewed 200 properties. Let's face it, if there was a good site, the County would have acquired it long ago.
MyMCMedia's Sonya Burke
interviews a member of the
Carver Coalition before the
Residents in the Carver Coalition
trademark yellow shirts

City Councilmember
Mark Pierzchala
(L in white shirt) was
one of several Rockville
elected officials on hand
"Like the buses, we will
not go quietly" was among
the creative signs held
by residents

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

County Council staff recommends using Carver, Westmore as bus depots

The Montgomery County Council will take up the controversial school bus depot issue this morning, but the Council staff report makes an equally controversial set of recommendations. It recommends parking Montgomery County Public School buses at the Carver Educational Services Center, and at 1000 Westmore Avenue, a property already purchased by the County for that purpose. Or, to use their convoluted language, they are "not recommending against" using them for bus parking.

It is hard to believe that staff could recommend this, after the ghastly litany of County abuses of the Lincoln Park neighborhood that was recited during a public hearing before the County Planning Board last week. That hearing concluded with the board recommending against acquisition of the Westmore site by the County - an irrelevant vote, as the County had already secretly purchased the site.

Council staff has also put the Blair Ewing Center on Avery Road back on the table, sure to be highly controversial in both Rockville and Aspen Hill. Use of the Blair Ewing Center site would create a domino effect, requiring moving the alternative education facilities there elsewhere. "Elsewhere" was English Manor Elementary School in Aspen Hill when this last came up. Avery Road was ultimately dismissed as a bus site after a well-organized opposition effort by Aspen Hill residents.

I am shocked - shocked - that Avery Road has risen from the dead. Of course, I'm joking, as I've been predicting this would happen for several months. The other site proposed for a permanent depot is the Oaks Landfill at 6001 Olney-Laytonsville Road. Both sites, particularly Olney-Laytonsville Road, are still within 6:00 AM-bus-honking earshot of nearby houses.
Residential neighborhoods lie
directly adjacent to a proposed
bus depot site at
6001 Olney-Laytonsville Road
(red pin at right)
We won't know the Council's reaction to the recommendations until later this morning. But the Council staff's intent seems to be the same as the County and MCPS: Pit neighborhoods against each other, and ultimately drop the depots where they conclude political power is weakest. Residents are simply gladiators in the arena for the Emperors-with-no-clothes' entertainment. The interesting twist here is that the residents affected by the Carver, Westmore and Avery Road sites have all been politically strong in their response so far.

The report suggests removing the Public Safety Academy and Gude Drive Landfill sites from consideration. And it recommends the Council not approve the Declaration of No Further Need for the existing Shady Grove bus depot on Crabbs Branch Way. In doing so, it assumes the County Executive can change the terms to not require the depot to be vacated and turned over to the developer in 2017. The County (a.ka. you, the taxpayer) could ultimately face legal action from that developer, which already has approval for 345 townhomes and 344 apartments on that property, known as Jeremiah Park.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Westmore bus depot contract the County Council wrought - what's their next move Tuesday? (Photos)

A picture is worth a thousand words - and here are pictures of the contract Montgomery County quietly signed to purchase 1000 Westmore Avenue for use as a school bus parking facility. 10 acres of undeveloped land in an industrial wasteland cost you, the taxpayer, $12 million at the same time that the County Council was raising your taxes to the highest level in history, and County employees were denied the wage increases guaranteed by their labor contracts.

As the Council prepares to take up the larger controversial issue of the County's "Smart Growth Initiative," and its requirement to find a new location for the Shady Grove bus depot, there are 3 things to watch for in Tuesday's worksession:

1. Will the County Council apologize to the affected communities, and admit that their votes brought us to this point?

Councilmembers, like hack actors ill-prepared for the role of a lifetime, attempted to pose as heroes-to-the rescue once the Carver Coalition was formed to fight a bus depot proposed for the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville. Problem is, the County Council are the very people who voted to approve funding for the land acquisition, design and construction of bus depots at Carver and Westmore.

That's right. The contract you see here was the direct result of a 2015 vote by the County Council, which provided the funds the County Department of General Services used to purchase the Westmore site. Whoops!

Likewise, a February 9, 2016 resolution passed unanimously by the County Council provided funds for the design and construction of a bus depot at Carver. Councilmember George Leventhal conveniently forgot about that vote when he appeared as a crusader for justice at a Carver-related public meeting. He proclaimed to have nothing to do with the Carver fiasco. When a citizen confronted him with the text of the February 9 resolution, and asked him to read it aloud, Leventhal refused to do so.

Leventhal later stated he had not read the resolution before voting for it, an incredible statement any way you slice it. Our councilmembers don't read the bills and resolutions they vote for?! Unreal.

The Council didn't admit their role then, and they haven't since. Tomorrow is a fabulous opportunity for them to belatedly admit that they alone had the true power to create this fiasco via these two votes, and their longtime support for the insane idea known as the "Smart Growth Initiative." Don't just bash DGS for an hour, own up to your major role in this mess.

2. Will Tuesday just be a back-and-forth between DGS, MCPS and the Council, which loves to hear itself talk? Or will the civic association leaders and municipal elected officials of Rockville and Gaithersburg have a seat at the table, as well?

3. Will the Council end the discussion by pulling the plug on the Smart Growth Initiative, by committing to not signing the Declaration of No Further Need for the existing bus depot on Crabbs Branch Way, thereby risking legal action by the developer?

What the Council hasn't admitted so far, but has a chance to acknowledge tomorrow, is that there is no acceptable site to relocate 410 school buses to within the borders of Montgomery County. Period.

The County has reviewed 200 properties in the desperate search for a depot. Choosing two adjacent to residential neighborhoods at Carver and Westmore proves the point that there is no dream site - otherwise, they wouldn't have risked the political uproar they now face.

Every single site discussed and dismissed in the past was in a residential area, from Potomac to the Webb Tract in Montgomery Village. Every community fought back, and they'll fight back on the Gude landfill (Derwood homes are directly adjacent) and Public Safety Academy (North Potomac homes are across the street) sites if DGS goes there next.

Only by pulling the plug will the County be unable to use the Westmore site for school bus parking. Of course, then the County (a.k.a. you, the taxpayer) will face legal action from the developer, and the costs and payouts that might entail. There again, the Council must be held accountable for its reckless actions in the Smart Growth/bus depot debacle. There must be consequences for their actions.

Tuesday is not a day for the Council to toast themselves as heroes, but a day to begin to face the music for their disregard for their constituents, and for prioritizing developers over people in Montgomery County.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Planning Board disapproves Montgomery County acquisition of Westmore Ave. bus parking site

"They're trying to
strangle us"

Montgomery County Planning Board commissioners lambasted the County's Department of General Services' plan to acquire the WINX property at 1000 Westmore Avenue in Rockville, before voting to disapprove the acquisition. Their comments followed testimony by Rockville's mayor, residents, and civic leaders, which outlined a questionable process and a lack of transparency by the County. Commissioners were also shocked to learn that the DGS had secretly signed a sales contract with the landowner of 1000 Westmore on April 28, just days before requesting a mandatory referral review by the Board.

"It looks like the horse is already out of the barn," Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss said, after reviewing a copy of the executed contract submitted moments earlier by Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. DGS, it became apparent, had not even shared the existence of the contract with the Planning Department. "The County is going to acquire this property, or default on the contract," Dreyfuss said.

Under the mandatory referral process, even the disapproval of the Board last night will not prevent the County from moving forward with its acquisition, and expected use as school bus parking for Montgomery County Public Schools. The County is desperately searching for several bus parking sites, so it can sell the existing MCPS bus depot in Shady Grove to a developer in a deal known as the "Smart Growth Initiative."

But powerful testimony by Lincoln Park residents showed the politically-treacherous road ahead for County politicians if they decide to press on with the Westmore plan.

"As far back as I can remember, we have been struggling to live in peace in Lincoln Park, and every few years we are fighting some monster that is threatening our security," said Fran Hawkins, a 69 year resident. "When they closed historic Lincoln Park High School (Lincoln High School opened in 1935 to serve black students shut out of County high schools by segregation), they parked buses there for decades," she noted of the MCPS Stonestreet Avenue property now home to decaying trailers. Those trailers replaced the buses when the County moved the depot to 16651 Crabbs Branch Way in Shady Grove, she recalled.

Of the County's abuse of her neighborhood, Hawkins said, “they’ve strangled us. They’re trying to strangle us. That’s the only way i can put it.”

A resident of Douglas Avenue noted that Lincoln Park is a 125-year-old community, and its streets were not well-planned or wide enough to handle hundreds of large buses passing in and out of the neighborhood. She said the quiet existence of the $12 million DGS contract and the way it has handled the process were "disturbing." She questioned how much DGS Deputy Director Greg Ossont actually knew about the community, after he was quoted in the newspaper as saying the buses would not be using neighborhood streets to reach main roads.

In fact, many criticized Ossont for refusing to meet with residents or visit the neighborhood in person, including commissioners. Suzan Pitman, President of the East Rockville Civic Association, said Ossont never even responded to her personal invitation, only sending a mass form email that went to multiple residents yesterday. She questioned how the County could afford to pay $12 million dollars for 10 acres of unimproved property, while having told teachers they wouldn't receive their full raise in FY-2017.

Most residents of the area near 1000 Westmore are "working class," and unable to hire attorneys to fight the County, Pitman said. And those residents are now disillusioned with County officials, she added. "Whatever trust we had that they were looking out for the best interests of residents is gone.”

Another nearby resident who is a teacher in MCPS, said she is tired of her neighborhood being "the disposal for everything the County doesn't want. It's not fair."

"No, we do not want the buses right across from our homes," declared Gladys Lyons of Ashley Avenue, who said she didn't want to "stand on my front porch and look directly over at the buses," and hear horns honking a 4:00 AM when buses start up in the winter.

Such an outcome is "a deplorable idea," said her neighbor, Virginia Cooper, whose husband has lived there more than 50 years. The thought of hundreds of school buses turning at the corner there "gives me shivers," Cooper said.

A Frederick Avenue resident didn't want to think of that, either. "I can't imagine what it will be like to have buses zipping up and down," she said. She opposes the land acquisition “because of the way it’s been done," with no transparency. She professed to be “skeptical of the County for very good reason,” citing the failure of MCPS to clear its own Stonestreet Avenue sidewalk of snow for 10 days this past winter.

Alexandra Destinito, VP of the Lincoln Park Civic Association, said her development is "the best kept secret in town" despite being near the railroad, a Washington Gas facility, "132 ugly rusting trailers" at the MCPS site on Stonestreet, and cut-through traffic from Gude Drive. "Now MCPS would like to add the bus depot," she said. The land swap at Shady Grove is called "smart growth," she said. "Smart for whom?"

Theresa Defino, a Rockville Housing Enterprises (RHE developed Legacy at Lincoln Park) commissioner, said, "this is some sort of otherworldly crazy puppet show going on." She asked the Board to "please do us all a favor and admit the emperor’s got no clothes here.”

The solidarity with Lincoln Park and East Rockville was joined by Christina Ginsberg of the Twinbrook Civic Association, who noted her community's "strong opposition" to the Westmore plan. "We have watched in dismay as MCPS has brought forward 3 sites in Rockville," Ginsberg said, also expressing Twinbrook's opposition to depots at Carver or at the Blair Ewing Center on Avery Road. All three sites are also opposed by the Aspen Hill Civic Association, she said, which submitted a letter to the Board indicating Aspen Hill's opposition.

Ginsberg criticized County Executive Ike Leggett's suggestion to communities opposing bus depots in their neighborhood to come up with another site themselves. "“I find this tactic extremely offensive,” she said. County officials "spectacularly failed in their jobs. It is not up to the citizens to do their jobs for them," she added.

Also supporting Lincoln Park was former Rockville Mayor Larry Giammo, now the President of the West End Citizens Association, and an active opponent of the Carver depot plan. He calculated that if MCPS stuck to its plan to park 100 buses at Carver, it would leave the other 310 to park at Westmore. Giammo invited commissioners to imagine they were residents of Ashley Avenue if that came to pass.

"What is the typical morning going to be like for you," Giammo asked. It would begin at 6:00 AM, he said, when all 310 buses would be started up and left to idle. 310 horns would honk, and 310 back-up beepers would sound, as those are two of the required tests run on every bus each morning. Those sounds would start at 4:00 on frigid winter mornings, he said.

310 bus drivers would all arrive by car into the neighborhood, Giammo said. Then 310 buses would begin to roll off the site, and not always via the routes MCPS is telling the public it will use now. "I can pretty much guarantee you most of these buses are going to go to the west and the south," Giammo predicted, "and they’re going to use residential streets to get there."

Giammo also criticized the process, calling the manner in which Leggett and his staff have approached the issue "profoundly disappointing," as well as the contract "that just shows up out of nowhere."

The timing of that contract in relation to the mandatory referral process "raises serious questions," Newton said. She noted the documents refer to a "land swap. What land is being swapped?" Newton questioned the placement of bus parking 50' away from homes, as well as the challenge of getting WSSC water and sewer service to the site. How can the County justify all of the impacts of moving the depot “simply to free up space to build more homes," she asked.

Newton has sought to avoid neighborhoods within the City from being pitted against each other in this contentious process, with multiple sites targeted by the County. The City provided bus transportation last night to assist residents who otherwise would have been unable to travel to speak in Silver Spring.

The citywide response, and emotional testimony, clearly swayed commissioners. "It’s really hard not to be extremely troubled by what the residents have brought forth,” said commissioner Amy Presley. She said she was not aware of the history of County abuse of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Commissioners Marye Wells-Hartley and Natali Fani-Gonzalez strongly rebuked the County for both its proposal, and its lack of transparency, community outreach and respect for the residents.
Chair Casey Anderson
admonished County residents
and community leaders to
"step up to the plate."
What about the six-figure
salaried County officials and
deep-pocketed developers
who were tasked with finding a
depot site?
Board chair Casey Anderson took an oddly-different approach, partially defending the widely-thought-to-be indefensible County actions - while saying he was not defending them. “As opposed to everybody walking out of here saying ‘shame on the County,' " he said, residents should be asking themselves what they are going to do to help find a new depot. This was doubly strange, given that Ginsberg had earlier called similar admonishments by Leggett "extremely offensive."

Rockville "has a responsibility like the rest of us do," Anderson continued. "How are you going to help the county figure out where to put some of [the buses]? Step up to the plate.” Anderson challenged the leaders of Rockville and Gaithersburg to "exercise some political leadership," in having their jurisdictions be part of the solution. Residents across the County shouldn't say, “not here, not there, no not there either," Anderson scolded. "The buses need a place to park!”

For her part, Newton said the City is indeed ready to work with all parties to help find a permanent solution to the bus depot crisis. She mentioned the former Gude Drive landfill, and the soon-to-be-vacated County Public Safety Training Center, as two potential sites. Both sites would almost certainly face opposition from residents in Derwood and North Potomac, respectively.
Will the residents of Grinnell Dr.
and Dubuque Ct.
"step up to the plate" for hundreds
of horns honking at 6 AM?
Not likely
Will the folks
in these North Potomac
houses across from the
Public Safety Academy warm
to horn blasts at 4 AM on
frigid mornings? Don't
bank on it
The ball is now in the County Council's court for its discussion of the bus depot debacle next Tuesday. They voted to fund depots at Carver and Westmore, but have tried to sweep those votes under the rug. The reality is, they got us this far and created this mess along with Leggett.

Now the only way out - unless you believe that the County's review of 200 properties countywide somehow missed a "dream bus depot site" - is to either face the wrath of voters by placing these depots over their objections, or to risk the legal consequences of forcing the County to back out of the Shady Grove deal by refusing to approve the Declaration of No Further Need for the existing depot.

This will be entertaining political theater, indeed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

MoCo planning staff recommends disapproval of 1000 Westmore Ave. as bus depot site

A second Rockville site targeted by Montgomery County as a potential school bus depot, 1000 Westmore Avenue, failed to gain approval from staff at the County Planning Department yesterday. The staff report recommends the County Planning Board disapprove the County's request to acquire the site, a proposal to be taken up by the Board at its June 16 meeting.

In the report, staff indicates that they conclude the proposed acquisition of the site by the County for parking school buses there is inconsistent with the County's master plan and the existing zoning of the property. They say the County has failed to provide sufficient information regarding all of the potential impacts on the surrounding residential neighborhood. In absence of that information, staff says they have independently concluded that the noise impact could be far higher with buses than under other light industrial uses in that zone. Other impacts identified by staff include traffic, safety and environmental issues.

Indicative of the rush to acquire any usable site for buses, the result of County elected officials' failure to do so prior to the deadline for turning over the existing Shady Grove bus depot to developers, the County did not submit a Site Selection Study or analysis. Without such a study, staff wrote, they cannot support the acquisition of this - or any other - site by the County for a bus depot or parking lot.

The IM 2.5-H-50 zoning of the Westmore site does not allow industrial uses with excessive noise, dust or other disruptive impacts, and does not require the sort of transportation links that a fleet of buses would need to get in and out of the neighborhood.

In another indication that the County Council did not do its homework, the County Department of General Services Deputy Director Greg Ossont wrote to planners that DGS is using money allocated to it by the Council last summer to buy the Westmore site. All nine councilmembers voted in February to approve funding for design and construction of a bus depot at the other controversial Rockville site, the Carver Educational Services Center. Several councilmembers have now attempted to distance themselves from that vote, claiming they had not read the resolution they voted for.

Were it not for those two actions by the Council (among others), we would not be in this situation today, an embarrassment the Council understandably wants to downplay. Never has "the dog ate my homework" caused so much trouble for so many communities.

Planning staff heard loud and clear from Rockville's Mayor and Council, and residents, that Westmore - like Carver - was completely unacceptable for a depot. The Legacy at Lincoln Park Homeowners Association, the Lincoln Park Civic Association, Rockville Housing Enterprises, and the East Rockville Civic Association were among the formal organizations weighing in against the bus plan for Westmore.

Several letters noted that the bus plan is in conflict with the Lincoln Park neighborhood plan residents collaborated with the City to pass in 2007, which included the intent to phase out industrial uses around the community.

The final decision now rests with the Planning Board.

Should the Board follow the recommendation, and with the Carver proposal on life support, the County will be in full panic mode shortly in its effort to find a site. Ossont has recently indicated the Gude landfill is off the table due to environmental issues. Where to next? Derwood? Avery Road? Darnestown? The plot thickens.

The question now is, which MoCo community is going to be left without a chair when the music stops in this fiasco, unless the Council simply blows up the whole "Smart Growth Initiative" project, allowing the depot to remain at Shady Grove. It is unclear whether they would face legal action from the developer if they were to do so.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Montgomery County has "open data" - until you ask for it

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer has used the concept of open data ostensibly to promote transparency in government - but more often has used it to promote himself in the local media. Rockville residents seeking answers about why their quiet residential neighborhoods have been selected to receive Montgomery County Public School bus depots are now finding government isn't quite as open as Mr. Riemer boasted.

In December 2014, Riemer touted the County's "new policy of sharing valuable data openly with the public. The new law is a foundation for a new digital strategy for Montgomery County, which I have helped formulate with County Executive Ike Leggett and his superb team."

Was government information open to the public in May 2016? Only if you have $4892 burning a hole in your pocket.

Land-use attorney Michele Rosenfeld made Maryland Public Information Act requests of MCPS and the Montgomery County Department of General Services for all public records relating to the designation of the Carver Educational Services Center parking lot as a bus depot.

On May 23, the DGS informed Rosenfeld that her request would cost $2332 to process. The same day, MCPS told her their charge would be $2560. Even the Mayor and Council of Rockville have been stonewalled by the County and MCPS in seeking information about the bus depot fiasco. In fact, representatives from both declined to show up at a Mayor and Council meeting where the topic was discussed.

How many County government officials does it take to screw in a lightbulb - or, in this case, comply with an MPIA request? At least 8, with at least four apiece from DGS and MCPS, according to the letters.

The result?

County officials either have to grant a public interest waiver - entirely justified under the circumstances, or someone has to come up with $4892 to find out what secret process led to the Montgomery County Council voting in February to fund design and construction of a school bus depot at Carver. Of course, the Council now claims with a straight face that they did not read the resolution before voting for it (the only other alternative being that they did read it, and are lying to their consituents - neither answer is a good one, folks).

On his campaign website, Hans Riemer says, "Montgomery County’s government is YOUR government. You live here. You pay our taxes. You pay the salaries of each and every public employee, including me. You have a right to know what your government is doing. And I have made protecting that right a central part of my work."

In reality? Not so much. Should you have to pay again, to buy the "right to know what your government is doing?"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

East Rockville residents organize against Westmore bus depot

The second front of the battle to stop a Montgomery County Public School bus depot from being located in Rockville is taking shape in the Lincoln Park area of East Rockville. MCPS has proposed a second bus depot for the former WINX radio property at 1000 Westmore Avenue. Citizens have created an online presence to oppose the plan, similar to the Carver Coalition effort against a depot at that site.

Calling themselves the East Side Coalition, they now have a blog and their first post - blasting the idea of using Lincoln Park and East Rockville as a dumping ground for something no one wants. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council unanimously agreed Monday to write a letter opposing the Westmore initiative. Like the Carver plan, the Westmore site is adjacent to homes, and would degrade a historic district.

A Montgomery County Council worksession on the controversy over the plan to abandon the existing Shady Grove bus depot, and allow a developer to turn it into residential property, is now scheduled for June 21.

All nine County Council members voted to approve design and construction of the Carver depot on February 9, but are now backpedaling furiously in the face of strong and organized community opposition. On Monday, County Council President Nancy Floreen astonishingly blamed residents for the Council's own failure to find an alternative site.

Friday, May 13, 2016

3 County Councilmembers want to put DNFN for Shady Grove bus depot on Council agenda in June

Montgomery County Councilmembers George Leventhal, Sidney Katz and Marc Elrich - all of whom attended the Carver bus depot meeting Wednesday night and said they opposed using the Carver Center for bus parking - have now asked their colleagues to put the required Declaration of No Further Need for the existing bus depot on the June agenda.

The Council must vote to approve a DNFN before the County can sell the current depot site to a developer that is preparing to redevelop it as residential. In a memo, the three say that putting it on the agenda will allow for a thorough discussion of an issue that has concerned several neighborhoods, including those around the Carver site, Lincoln Park (where a second depot is being proposed at 1000 Westmore Avenue) and Aspen Hill (where the potential use of the Avery Road site would likely push the alternative education Blair Ewing Center to the English Manor school).

Residents, the councilmen write, have been left "angry and confused" by the process and uncertainty. Wednesday night's meeting did little to reduce either. It also became apparent that, according to the councilmen themselves, they did not read the resolution they voted to approve February 9, which funded conversion of Carver to a bus depot.

At the conclusion of their memo, which also went to County Executie Ike Leggett and the Board of Education, the councilmen ask the BOE to "cease any and all activity related to the proposed Carver site."

The memo is a step forward from the buck-passing Wednesday in providing at least two concrete next steps. But those will depend on how the Council and BOE act and or vote in response to the memo. Can the Council legally back out of the agreement, can that action withstand a legal challenge from the developer, and if they lose, where will the buses go?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rockville residents hear many excuses, few answers at Carver bus depot meeting (Video+photos)

A citizen uprising against developer-driven government decisions in Montgomery County continued last night in Rockviille. Hundreds of residents opposed to a Montgomery County Public Schools bus depot, proposed for the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive, crammed into the all-purpose room at College Gardens Elementary School. Led by a citizen group known as the Carver Coalition, residents were already gathering in protest outside the school more than half-an-hour before the MCPS-hosted meeting started.

Chants of "No bus depot!" and "Shame on Leggett!" echoed through the College Gardens neighborhood, as reporters from ABC7 and Montgomery Community Television interviewed residents about the controversial proposal. Once inside, the residents continued their impromptu protest as the start time of the meeting neared. [Click the thumbnail below to watch video of the protests]

The proposal to place 100 school buses at the Carver site is controversial for many reasons, including exhaust emissions, pedestrian and child safety, noise (the buses have to test their horns each morning at 6:00 AM), the ugly fencing that would be erected, environmental impacts, and the plan's incompatibility with the Carver site's historic district designation.

Many public officials attended, including Rockville's representatives in the General Assembly. Delegate Kumar Barve told the crowd that he, State Senator Cheryl Kagan, and Delegates Andrew Platt and Jim Gilchrist all strongly oppose the Carver depot. Also in attendance were Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, City Councilmembers Virginia Onley and Mark Pierzchala, and several City staff members, including Acting City Manager Craig Simoneau and Planning Director Susan Swift. Former Rockville mayor Larry Giammo, who has been active in the citizen efforts to stop the Carver depot, was also present.

In a question that would be posed again and again throughout the evening, Barve asked MCPS staff, "who is the ultimate decision-maker?" After an inconclusive answer, Barve responded, "I don't feel I got a crisp answer to my question." Neither did Pierzchala. "I am a little bit upset at the answer you just gave," he said. "You ought to be here able to give an answer to those process questions, and not just engineering questions," Pierzchala added.

But the state and Rockville-level elected officials will have very little power to stop the Carver plan, under the Mandatory Referral process that makes it difficult to stop government development proposals.

The Montgomery County Council has the final authority to stop the depot, but MCPS officials and even the councilmembers in attendance would not acknowledge that fact, even under pressure from citizens to specify where the buck stops in this case. In fact, councilmembers rankled attendees by cutting into the head of the line of residents patiently waiting their turn to ask MCPS officials questions.

"Let the citizens speak!" "We need to hear from the people, not from elected officials!" were among the shouts, as Councilmembers George Leventhal and Sid Katz took command of the microphone. Attendees had already sat through a lengthy Powerpoint presentation clearly designed to reduce the public comment portion of the meeting.

To Councilmember Marc Elrich's credit, he has been engaged on this issue since the beginning, and had to be cajoled by colleagues to reluctantly come forward from the back of the room. Elrich implored the Board of Education to stop the plan; Leventhal blamed County Executive Ike Leggett "and his staff - it's their job."

But Leventhal's attempt to turn the Carver Coalition's grassroots turnout effort into a ready-made campaign rally for himself, complete with prepared applause lines of just how much he really, really opposes the Carver depot, ultimately backfired. While speaking at length (while the first actual residents had yet to get the microphone) about how much he opposes using the Carver site, Leventhal neglected to tell the crowd that he had voted for the money to design and construct a Carver depot!

Mr. Leventhal not only voted to approve Resolution 18-396 on February 9 this year, but he made the motion that triggered the vote according to the meeting minutes!

When a citizen later brought Leventhal's vote for the resolution up, Leventhal committed his latest "Four Pinocchio/Pants on Fire" gaffe. Leventhal claimed the money he voted for was simply to locate an appropriate site, not to design and construct a depot at Carver.

The citizen then handed Leventhal the actual resolution he had voted for, and asked Leventhal to read it aloud. Realizing his falsehood had been exposed, Leventhal flatly refused to comply. "No, I will not read that," he said firmly, handing the paper back to his constituent.

As you will see in this video, Leventhal then gestured and grimaced in exasperation, before returning to his seat as the text of the resolution was read aloud by a citizen:

The resolution appropriated $1,725,000 for "design" ($150,000) and construction ($1,575,000) of a new depot. On Page 3 of the document, which Leventhal refused to read aloud, it clearly states that the money is for "design and construction of the front parking lot at the Carver Educational Services Center to accommodate bus parking." Oops!

So consider the scene - the County Council is attempting to portray themselves as heroes to the rescue, when every one of the councilmembers speaking voted for the Carver depot design and construction. You can't make this stuff up, folks!

Most residents, while appreciating any opposition to the depot from the County Council at this point, were not likely fooled by the 11th-hour "heroics" of the councilmembers (six of whom didn't even bother to show up; neither did County Executive Ike Leggett, nor the superintendent of MCPS).

Woodley Gardens resident Margot Stein noted that some elected officials only now have "jumped on the train at the last minute, when they saw where this was going. You've let us down desperately. You've really let us down. I'm not voting for anybody who votes for this project."

The president of the Plymouth Woods community association had a blunt message for the County Council from his residents. Reporting that 272 residents had unanimously voted to oppose the Carver depot at their meeting earlier in the evening, he took the microphone to tell councilmembers, "Your time in office is done. We're gonna get you out of here so fast - and Ike Leggett, too. You're on the way out." 

The crowd roared and applauded.

For all of the talking by the councilmembers, the only assurances residents got were that A) the Council has to give the go-ahead to relinquish the current Shady Grove bus depot to the developer that will redevelop it as residential (and let's face it, that's why we're in this mess - the developer-beholden elected officials who run our County), and that B) the Council can rescind the above-mentioned $1,725,000 for the design and construction of the Carver depot.

Moreover, parse the statements of the councilmembers very closely. They left plenty of legal room to later approve a depot at Carver in their carefully-worded comments.

Now, how about the actual public?

So many residents had questions and comments that not everyone was given the chance to speak - despite the hosts of the meeting being the owners of the building!

The resident who really brought the house down was a graduate of the original Carver school, the only public high school for African-Americans in Montgomery County during the segregation era.

"I am a product of Carver High School," he began as a hush fell over the often-noisy room. "As I look back upon my education here in the County seat of Montgomery County, and how the [Montgomery County] Board of Education did not build an elementary school for us, and did not build a junior high school for us...I am the fifth generation of a slave family. So Carver was built."

"[George Washington] Carver was not a bus driver," he continued pointedly. "Carver was a scientist. Something he tried to instill in all of us, was to get an education."

To now pretend the Carver school never existed, he said, "The rug's too small. You can't sweep it under the rug. And now we want to put a bus depot in front of this historical building? No way. No way."

The gentleman received a large ovation from the crowd.

No one in the crowd spoke in favor of building the depot.

One leader of the opposition to the depot said, "I think this is a bad idea." Turning to the audience, he asked, "Do you think this is a bad idea?" "YEAH!!" the crowd roared back.

Mayor Newton implored residents to also support the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Rockville, where MCPS is now plotting to build an additional depot at 1000 Westmore Avenue (a.k.a. the WINX property, as it is known from its radio broadcasting days), directly across the street from homes.

Resident Scott Weaver noted that his window is "110 feet from the curb of the [Carver] lot," and said he is concerned for the health of his two small children. "Who is going to introduce a motion at their elected body to stop this?" "If the will is there, what is the action" any of the elected bodies can take, asked resident Theresa Defino.

Rockville resident and longtime activist Drew Powell said he has documentation from the County Council Education Committee "from more than a year ago, this documentation says, 'We're going to put some buses at Carver.'" Powell asked why residents weren't notified at that early stage.

"Why would you put a bus depot where people live," a young girl asked. "It harms people, and it harms the environment."

One attendee thought the racial overtones of putting buses at Carver were too offensive. Noting the history of desegregation and busing, putting school buses on a historic African-American site would be "a slap in the face," he said. "Especially at this time when racial and ethnic tensions are so high."

A man who moved to College Square in 2007 recalled his realtor gushing that "What's great about Maryland is that everything is master-planned." The crowd chuckled.

"Nobody would think of putting a commercial truck depot on this site," said a 36-year resident of Mannakee Street, which runs right alongside the Carver site and into the residential neighborhood directly adjacent to it. "This use is incompatible. We should not spend one more penny on this stupid idea."

His neighbor, who has lived on the street one more year than him, told MCPS officials, "Don't screw up our city."

Another young girl said, "I won't be able to sleep in the morning" with the bus horn tests blaring, and loud buses departing the depot. "It will make me tired at school, and I won't be able to do my best."

Monique Ashton, PTA President at College Gardens ES, asked if comments at the meeting were being recorded verbatim. No, it turns out that two people were simply jotting down notes. Ashton said that presented a transparency issue, if other officials won't be able to review the full input given at the meeting. She also implored the Council to start using the money from land sales for school construction.

A resident of Ivy League Lane asked, "How possibly can you mitigate [the noise of the buses]? I just can't imagine how anyone can live in this condition." He paused for several moments, before saying, "I am speechless."

How about performing a pollution evaluation, one resident asked. Seth Adams, Director of MCPS' construction division, said they don't have the expertise to do that, but that they would try to find someone qualified to do so, now that it had been brought up.

"How any person in a normal mind can suggest this strange idea [of a bus depot at Carver]," a resident asked. "This is ridiculous, and absolutely unacceptable."

A 45-year resident of College Gardens said he had a background in nuclear engineering. "Part of my experience was in forecasting," he said. "And I forecast this project will not go forward," he said to applause.

One student said, "We are not waking up at the butt crack of dawn, and ruining our GPAs, because you decide to put a bus depot on this site." A much-younger student concurred less colorfully that "No one wants to wake up at the crack of dawn just to hear these buses honk."

Ultimately, we have the same problem here as in multiple other communities where residents are now rising up in protest - developers are running the County through their contributions to the County Council campaign accounts. Why are noisy, polluting public facilities being relocated from industrial land near the railroad tracks to residential neighborhoods across Montgomery County? Purely for developer profit. Period.

A bus depot in a residential neighborhood? Anyone with common sense knows that idea is completely nuts.

It's easy for the Council to talk, but they are eventually going to have to find a depot site.

None of the ones discussed are viable. None are appropriate. Carver? No. Westmore? Nope. Avery Road? No. Gude Drive landfill? The jury is still out on that one.

So where else can this thing go? Are they going to pit one Rockville neighborhood against another? Rockville versus Aspen Hill? The Council is so certain there won't be a depot at Carver, but where will it be, then?

Why wasn't this addressed years ago? How did the Council have time to ram through the entire Westbard sector plan in Bethesda, and numerous other developer giveaways, but not time to find a depot site? Or to kill the idea of selling the existing depot to begin with?

I think we all know the answer.

Former Rockville mayor
Larry Giammo joins the
Agenda for the meeting
Delegate Kumar Barve speaks
County Councilmember Marc Elrich
Graduate of the historic
Carver high school schools
the County Council