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Second Glenmont Sector Plan Workshop Addresses Resident Concerns

Residents find the wait frustrating but planners’ enthusiasm encouraging.

 

Images of a new Glenmont took shape at the second community visioning workshop for the Glenmont Sector Plan Update on Feb. 22, but the projected timeline of completion appears longer than residents had hoped.

Consultants from Rhodeside & Harwell, an urban planning and landscape design firm, presented a mock-up of potential changes near the Glenmont Shopping Center and Metro station. However, they told the nearly 80 residents present that some of the plans could take 15 to 20 years to complete.  

Firm founder Deanna Rhodeside and urban designer Ed Hamm joined Area 2 planner Michael Brown and supervisor Khalid Afzal of the Montgomery County Planning Board to field questions about the redevelopment.

Compared to the 1997 sector plan vision, this plan hopes to transform Glenmont from a “transit-oriented” community to a desirable destination, with an improved look and increased family services.

Residents expressed concerns that their efforts at the workshop might take years to come to fruition. Frank Scopelliti, a CPA and resident of Glenmont for more than 40 years, has been waiting for change since 1997 and wondered if the board was “serious about developing.”

“Let me be clear, the Montgomery County [Planning Board] is an energetic group,” he said. “But the politics of the county are not backing that enthusiasm.”

When residents began to compare progress in other parts of Montgomery County, Afzal mentioned downtown Silver Spring as an example of the time it takes to redevelop a community.

“Plans for Silver Spring started in the ‘80s,” he said, “and as it was there, you cannot control all the factors” that impede progress.

A draft map of a quarter-mile radius surrounding the Glenmont Metro station featured new hiker/biker trails and additional crosswalks along Glenallan Avenue and potential designated bus lanes on Georgia Avenue. Developers also plan to relieve traffic congestion in the Layhill triangle area, among other improvements.

Hamm offered photographs of landscaping and construction in developed areas as examples of what Glenmont might look like, such as the work done at the International Boulevard and 81st Avenue intersection in Alexandria, Va.

He also showed how eight-story residential buildings with ground-floor retail and above-ground garages “could be discreetly tucked away [without] overpowering the adjacent neighborhood” of single-family homes. These solutions addressed many of residents’ most pressing concerns, according to the breakout group discussion summary notes from the previous workshop.

Brendan Gaffney, a resident of Glenmont, was not only pleased with the preliminary designs, but also with community involvement.

“The turnout here is encouraging,” he said. “I hope that this sense of engagement throughout the process will lead to some actual results.”

While many seemed frustrated at the projected timeline for change, residents appreciated the planning board’s continued outreach and accessibility.

“It’s very difficult when people bring a lot of different ideas, but they have done an outstanding job,” said Glenmont resident Jo Jones.

“They are being very receptive. I’ve seen a lot of our ideas [from the previous workshop] directly reflected in their plans,” said Ajmia Olaghere, a doctoral student at George Mason University and vice president of the Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association.

Participants broke into small groups to brainstorm new uses for land near Glenmont Circle and between Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Randolph Road, indicated by question marks on the draft map, where owners are looking to rebrand their properties. Summaries of resident suggestions will be posted on the planning board’s website in the next week or so, Brown said.

“I think it’s a good idea to check in with the community before you cast your plans in concrete,” said Glenmont resident Pauline G. Johnson, a first-time attendee. She said she is looking forward to the chance “to better assess the progress from this workshop,” at the third workshop, which will be held 7-9 p.m. on March 21, again at the Saddlebrook Park Police Headquarters at 12751 Layhill Road, Silver Spring.

Esther French (Editor) February 27, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Did you attend the workshop? Are you pleased with the preliminary designs? What should be discussed at the third workshop on March 21?
Chris Coleman February 27, 2012 at 07:01 PM
The preliminary designs are very promising! I think a lot of people were also very pleased to hear that the owners of several parcels of land adjacent to the eyesore shopping center are interested in working with the county on redevelopment. Some of the issues that my group discussed were better connections between parks and safety of road crossings, particularly on Randolph Road. Of course, so much of what's in the plan depends on getting rid of that shopping center. Hopefully the owners will realize that there's money to be made by embracing the future, rather than clinging to the dilapidated past.

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