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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Rockville councilman wants more info on Avery Rd. as alternative to Carver school bus depot

Rockville City Councilman Mark Pierzchala said last night that Montgomery County is not being forthcoming about the controversial relocation of its Shady Grove bus depot, and that he wants to act now to find alternative sites. Currently, the County is now considering the Carver Educational Center at Mannakee Street and MD 355, which has touched off fierce opposition from nearby residents concerned about noise, traffic, and emissions from idling buses. Carver has also been designated as a historic district.

Pierzchala specifically requested information from City staff on why the Avery Road site once considered for the depot was eventually dropped by the County. "That's one that I have understood to be a viable site," Pierzchala said of the Avery Road property, currently home to an alternative education program at the Blair Ewing Center and a City-owned park.

Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr said the strong opposition to the Avery Road option by Aspen Hill residents was likely the reason the County turned its search elsewhere. Pierzchala said he would like to know if it was dropped simply because "one part of the County is exerting more pressure than this part of the County," or because it is not viable. "If it's viable, then we can follow up," he added.

County officials have not given City elected officials the level of detail and responsiveness needed under the circumstances, Pierzchala said. His email requests for information on Avery Road, the Gude Drive landfill and other potential sites have been met with "terse" responses from the County, he said.

Citing the urgency of the situation, Pierzchala said, "We're really under the gun" to find alternative sites that can be presented to the County.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton concurred that Gude Drive should be considered, and argued that if the County is going to spend millions on turning Carver into a bus depot, it should attempt to find a permanent depot site in a more appropriate location. Pierzchala and other elected officials have expressed concern that the supposedly-temporary Carver site will actually be a permanent site.

The Mayor and Council instructed Acting City Manager Craig Simoneau to put the bus depot issue on the May 23 meeting agenda. Pierzchala said Avery Road should be on the top of the list for discussion. Other potential sites will be discussed, as well, and officials from Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery County's Department of General Services, and Park and Planning will be invited to answer questions at that meeting. The Montgomery County Council is ultimately responsible for making the final decision, and for the communities being in this mess in the first place.

Another East Rockville site is rumored to be in play for the depot, and Newton warned that the City should avoid pitting neighborhood against neighborhood. With no location that won't impact some neighborhood in some way, Rockville could instead end up pitted against Aspen Hill with this hot potato nobody wants. Putting the depot at Avery Road triggers the domino effect of relocating the Ewing programs to the vacant English Manor school in Aspen Hill, which was the highly-controversial proposal that galvanized Aspen Hill residents to organize their ultimately-successful coalition.

Rockville residents now have formed a Carver Coalition, and MCPS is hosting a meeting on the Carver proposal tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 PM in the all-purpose room at College Gardens Elementary School, at 1700 Yale Place in Rockville.

Be there - or get a bus depot dropped on your neighborhood!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Giammo seeks answers on Carver controversy from Rockville city attorney

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton brought a request from former Rockville mayor Larry Giammo to the floor during Old/New Business at last night's Mayor and Council meeting. Giammo is requesting that the City Attorney give definitive answers to two legal questions regarding Montgomery County's plan to use the historic Carver Educational Center as a bus depot.

The questions regard which legislative body has jurisdiction in this case (several at the meeting said they believe the Montgomery County Council is that body), and a clarification on the Rockville Historic District Commission's legal role and authority in reviewing the County's request.

Newton asked City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel to respond to Giammo's request. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala initially objected to Newton unilaterally making the request, saying such a direction to City staff could only come from the body as a whole. He ultimately made a motion to direct the City Attorney to respond to Giammo's request, which passed unanimously.

Pierzchala also requested that the Carver Coalition citizen group that opposes the depot be able to get its many legal questions answered definitively, as well.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mayor & Council approve letter asking County Council to halt Carver school bus parking decision

A letter to the Montgomery County Board of Education and County Council regarding a proposed school bus depot at the Carver Educational Services Center was unanimously approved by Rockville's Mayor and Council last night. It asks the County Council to delay a declaration of "no further need" for the site as a bus parking lot until all concerns have been addressed, and all other options exhausted.

"I don't think the Board of Education is aware of the full impacts to the City," Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said before the vote. Concerns include traffic and safety in the surrounding neighborhood, additional congestion of roads in the area, and the negative impact the use would have on the Carver historic district. The bus parking is theoretically a violation of the requirement that any future uses of the Carver site respect the historic viewshed and 150' buffer area the City established in the past.

The County Council is poised to declare the County has "no further need" for its existing school bus parking facility in Shady Grove, which a developer has acquired for a residential community near Metro. As part of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's "Smart Growth Initiative," as outlined in the RFDP, a viable new parking site (or sites) for the buses and maintenance facilities was to have been identified before the existing Jeremiah Park site was turned over to the developer. That did not happen for the usual "mysterious" reasons under the Montgomery County political cartel.

Rockville elected officials expedited the drafting of a letter, in the belief that the Board of Education would be voting on the matter this morning. But later in the discussion, Maryvale ES PTA VP of Advocacy Melissa McKenna reported that no BOE vote was expected today. In a historic moment, McKenna - who had been at the meeting earlier Monday evening - informed the Mayor and Council of this via Facetime on an iPad held up by Paul Geller, a PTA official from the Sherwood cluster in Olney. 

This was the most interesting use of technology at a Rockville meeting since a developer used a Blackberry to jam the microphone, while delivering news that wasn't expected to be well-received by the public years ago. This time the technological breakthrough was actually of help to officials, but Pierzchala couldn't help but wonder about "the propriety of having a tablet speaking to us."

The letter was largely drafted by Pierzchala, who said he did extensive research on the issue. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton added additional points earlier Monday evening, including new remarks from Nancy Piccard of historic preservation organization Peerless Rockville. Moving the buses to Carver would be "detrimental on many levels," notes the letter, which supports an existing letter from BOE member Phil Kauffman, who is running for reelection this year.

"This gets us on the record," Pierzchala told his colleagues. "This to me is something we're saying that really needs to be evaluated." Noting that Montgomery County Public Schools had declined an invitation to address the Mayor and Council earlier this year, Pierzchala said, "There is a whole lot wrong, in my opinion, with this process at the County level." He added that dispersing buses to numerous sites would be counterproductive, as many buses need help getting started in cold weather. If mechanics are not on the same site as the parking, he warned, kids could end up stranded at bus stops.

McKenna said she thought James Song of MCPS "would have been willing to come," but he had no information to present. No study has yet been done, and no funds have been appropriated in that direction, she said.

"I don't buy that they didn't know what to do," Pierzchala said. "[MCPS] could have suggested they would come to the city, as well," Newton argued.

Councilmember Beryl Feinberg was not happy with the process on the Carver debate up to this point. "What disturbs me about this is that we have not had a session to discuss this issue," she said. "It would have been a more open and transparent [process] if we had had a hearing and staff report. It feels like it's being a rush. All the facts have not been right out here." 

Newton acknowledged that, but said the apparent rush to judgement by County officials required them to act expeditiously, particularly when it was thought a vote was imminent today. "That's kind of what happens on some of these issues. We need to take a stand," Newton said.

"There has never been a presentation here," Feinberg responded. "It has never been presented to us as an elected body. This process is not something we should be proud of." Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr said all members knew the letter would be coming before them Monday night. "I see no reason to not vote on this tonight," she said.

Pierzchala moved to approve the letter after the Mayor and Council refined the final paragraphs. His motion was seconded by Councilmember Virginia Onley. Acting City Manager Craig Simoneau said the letter would be sent out Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Residents protest proposed school bus parking lot at Carver Center in Rockville

Outraged residents spoke out last night about a Montgomery County Government blunder that has resulted in a school bus parking lot being proposed at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville. Even more troubling - some residents, as well as City Councilman Mark Pierzchala, see evidence the lot may not just be a short-term plan.

A resident of College Square called the bus plan "malpractice" at Monday's Mayor and Council meeting. He said the smart growth plan "went off the rails" after the County failed to enforce the agreement that the developer purchasing the current Crabbs Branch Way bus depot would have to find a new bus parking site. The private developer plans to build housing on the depot site.

Another resident who lives near the Carver Center said she is concerned for the health and safety of her two young children. But in addition to her fears about noise, pollution and neighborhood traffic congestion, she suspects a potentially more-sinister County plot. Montgomery County Public Schools currently plans to merge the adjacent Rock Terrace School with Tilden in Bethesda. That move, she said, "would create a very large area for bus parking." Several other speakers concurred, and the potential for maintenance and fuel facilities on such a larger site were predicted.

Pierzchala shares those concerns. He noted that MCPS is bonding over a million dollars for the bus site plan at Carver. "You don't bond something if you're just going to use it for a few years," Pierzchala noted.

Other concerns expressed by residents include the plan for an ugly high fence at the historic school site, and questions over not only how buses would get in and out of the site, but the traffic generated by their drivers taking their personal vehicles to and from work twice a day. Many mentioned the dirty tactics by the County Council in giving virtually no advance notice, and holding the only public hearing on the matter during workday hours when residents would be unable to attend to testify.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton sought to not only assure residents that she would "do everything in my power" to stop the plan, but also to dispel "an unfortunate statement" by an unnamed County Councilmember that Newton supports the plan. County Councilmember Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) was quoted in The Sentinel as saying, "“The mayor was supportive of the plan." "I just want to set the record straight," Newton said in making clear her opposition to the current proposal.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Residents upset after Montgomery County Council drops bus depot in Rockville neighborhood

Many Rockville residents are wondering why they weren't informed by Montgomery County or the City of Rockville that Montgomery County Public Schools planned to turn the front parking lot at the Carver Educational Services Center into a makeshift bus depot. Now it's happened, as the Montgomery County Council yesterday provided MCPS with the funds to do so - $1,725,000, to be exact.

Expect 100 school buses to eventually appear on the lot at Mannakee Street and Hungerford Drive, as a result of the County's so-called "Smart Growth Initiative" - also known as "public officials making sweetheart real estate deals with County assets for private developer profit." The result of the Shady Grove bus depot site being sold for private real estate development is that all those buses have to go somewhere. Others will be stored nearby at 1700 Crabbs Branch Way.

MCPS will have to submit its plans to the City for review and to receive the necessary permits.

The West End Citizens Association did not receive notice from either governmental party, and residents there - and in Woodley Gardens and College Gardens - are wondering if these buses will have to traverse parts of their neighborhood. This particular location does not have curb cuts that exit directly onto a major road, meaning residential streets will have to deal with bus traffic. Another concern is that buses will park and idle in neighborhoods.

One would assume that, unless all 100 buses take Mannakee to MD 355, they will of necessity have to use Nelson Street to access I-270, to reach their destinations elsewhere in the County.

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