Scotland Community Center (Finally) Gets a Date for Groundbreaking March 14, 2013
From the start of my time on the Council, I have been a strong supporter of the Scotland Community Center. I have always felt that this historically underserved community deserved a first-rate neighborhood gathering place that would help build a sense of cohesive community.
Regrettably, the project has encountered unexpected delays over recent years. However, I am very pleased to report that things are back on track, and that a groundbreaking is scheduled for March 27. Demolition of the existing building is expected to be complete in June, and the center is expected to be open to the public by July 2014.
I am very pleased that the construction phase of the project will soon be under way and that the residents of Scotland should be able to enjoy a brand new center by next summer.
More Dog Parks December 19, 2012
I have two dogs who love to be outside. For many years, I was fortunate to live nearby the C&O Canal - and Molly and Max loved it out there. But for many county residents (and also for me these days) large outdoor space for dogs is getting harder to come by.
As parts of the County become more urban, we need more dog parks. Not only are they a way for our canine friends to play and exercise, but they can also be a community's "third place" - the place that is not home or work but is a great place where neighbors can gather and socialize.
Currently there are five County dog parks, in Cabin John, Boyds, Germantown, Wheaton, and Olney. As part of its recently-approved 2012 Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) Plan, the Park and Planning Commission has identified a need for 12 additional dog parks. Parks staff is currently working on crafting a Program of Requirements, that would include features like a double gate entry system and washable surfaces.
In January, Parks staff will conduct a site selection process to identify the locations for the next set of dog parks. If you are interested in seeing more dog parks in the County, I would encourage you to contact the Park Planning and Stewardship division of MNCPPC.
The Future of the Capital Crescent Trail March 13, 2012
Ever since the 1990 Georgetown Branch Master Plan was adopted, it has been the County's intent that both a light rail line and a paved trail should be built along the Georgetown Branch right of way. And since that time the understanding has been that the State would pay for the light rail line and the County would pay for the trail. I believe that the time is right for the County to include monies for the Trail in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that is currently under review by the Council.
The Purple Line has been identified as among the highest priority projects for transportation that the County is endorsing. I have always held that the Trail is an integral component of the Purple Line. It is with all this in mind that the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, and Environment Committee, which I chair, unanimously recommended including monies for building the trail.
In the course of these deliberations there were several considerations: lighting, call boxes and landscaping issues being the easiest to resolve. The contentious issue was whether the Trail and the light rail line could fit together inside the Bethesda Tunnel. This has been the subject of a great deal of analysis by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) as well as Montgomery County's Department of Transportation. The Committee took testimony from many of the stakeholders including the Town of Chevy Chase, the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail. The Committee found that is was both too risky and too costly to have a 12 foot hiker-biker tail suspended over the train line as the design through the Tunnel called for. The risk to the Apex Buildings' structural integrity was deemed 'too high' by our Department of Transportation.
This is an extremely disappointing outcome. However, the potential for an additional $50 million price tag for suspending the Trail over the train along with the untold price of undermining the Apex Building was too much. MTA is in the process of reviewing other possible configurations for the tunnel which could include a 5 foot sidewalk. This design would allow the connectivity we seek if not the full hiker biker Trail we had hoped to achieve. We will hear back from MTA before the CIP is finalized in May so we will continue to pursue this and other options.
I am also convinced that the small part of the Trail on street, as envisioned by the Master Plan, can be made a safe experience. Monies are in the CIP for this project and we have asked that a Task Force work with the County to design the best possible hiker biker segment through Bethesda. Included in the Task Force would be representatives of the Town of Chevy Chase, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail and the Bethesda Urban Partnership. Signal phasing, changes in traffic flow and prominent signage can help to make for a safe crossing through Bethesda.
I know the Trail experience will be different, in some cases, very different than it is today. I am committed to continue to press MTA for connectively through the tunnel for walkers and I am hopeful we can see this result.
FY12 Budget: Park and Planning June 2, 2011
There is perhaps no agency more important to the economic development and shaping of our County than the Planning Department. It is in the able hands of the planning staff that master plans are drafted, forest conservation plans reviewed, and new projects are evaluated. Without the Planning Department, economic activity in the County would come to a standstill and we could not plan for exciting new developments like the recently approved White Flint Sector Plan.
In the past few years, the Planning Department's budget has been hit harder than almost any other department or agency in the County - suffering a 40 % reduction in staff over previous levels, yet charged with the same amount of work. Accordingly, the Council restored approximately $1.5 million above the County Executive's recommended FY12 Budget which will allow the Planning Department to help keep our economy moving out of the recession by being able to conduct timely review of development projects, maintain their current work program of master plans and neighborhood studies, and get to work on amending our Master Plan of Highways to plan for a countywide Bus Rapid Transit System.
Our vast system of beautiful parks is part of what makes Montgomery County so special. Like all other County departments and agencies, the Department of Parks has been charged with "doing more with less," even as the commission acquires more park land and open space. The Council restored some priorities identified by Parks staff, including park maintenance, seasonal staffing, and Park Police patrol of the Capital Crescent Trail from 2AM - 6AM. I am confident that with the good work of the Department of Parks staff, our unique parks system will continue to be a valued gem that is truly special to Montgomery County.
Update on North Bethesda Recreation Center April 15, 2011
Last month, I wrote that while the County Executive's Recommended CIP Amendments contained good news for District 1 schools, there was some disappointing news for a few other projects important to our community. The item I found most surprising was the County Executive's recommendation to completely close out the North Bethesda Recreation Center project.
I know that the residents of North Bethesda have waited a very long time for this project to get underway. That is why I wrote my colleagues on the PHED Committee and asked that as they took up the Department of Recreation's CIP Amendments, they consider alternatives to closing out this project entirely. I was pleased that they instructed Executive staff to come back to the Council with a modified PDF (Project Description Form) for the project that reflected planning and design funding in future years. The Council was presented that modified PDF during a worksession on the CIP Amendments last month; we will take a final vote on the CIP alongside the Operating Budget in May. At that time, I am confident the Council will approve a plan for the project that will provide the residents of North Bethesda an alternative to driving to Potomac or Chevy Chase.
Pearl Street and Access to the Capital Crescent Trail January 27, 2011
Unfortunately, right of way issues created a bit of an impasse - literally and figuratively - just as the Trail goes into the tunnel and meets the Bethesda Trolley Trail. With the cooperation of several parties and the development of new properties adjacent to the Trail, the right of way issues have been resolved and an interim pedestrian walkway will now be built. Ultimately the construction of the Purple Line will define the permanent access here, but until the Purple Line becomes a reality, I am pleased that people will no longer be climbing though tree roots and over embankments to reach the Trail at this particular access point.
Grand Opening of Bradley Hills Community Garden in Bethesda May 10, 2010
Now that Spring has arrived, the Bradley Park Community Garden is open for gardening! I was very pleased that the Montgomery County Department of Parks was able to transform this under-utilized space into a vibrant addition to the neighborhood. I believe that this new park will not only provide space to grow flowers and vegetables, but also grow a greater sense of community and beautify the area as well.
For more information on the Community Gardens program or to fill out an application for a place on the plot waiting list, please click here.