Anger and disappointment pervaded Tuesday night’s meeting of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, hours after the Montgomery County Council that would build a new Park and Planning headquarters in downtown Wheaton--instead of the platform that WUDAC and County Executive Isiah Leggett supported.
Committee members took out their frustration on Councilmember Hans Riemer, who came to delicately explain how the council’s budget decision was only a part of Wheaton revitalization and why the council needed WUDAC members to stay involved going forward.
“I know this has been contentious, but I really believe that we’re going to get a better and faster implementation” for Wheaton redevelopment with the council’s plan, Riemer said.
Riemer suggested quarterly meetings for all stakeholders going forward, so that everyone would be able to stay on board with the redevelopment process. But committee members, who are appointed by the county executive, said that they felt ignored by the council.
“You have to admit that it seems as if our input went for nothing with the latest budget investments, so after we’ve been deflated, it seems kind of hard to imagine that we’re all going to come and talk about the future of Wheaton,” said William Moore, who owns the IHOP on Grandview Avenue.
Moore added that the council’s plan was not subject to the same degree of public review as the B.F. Saul proposal. “I think what disappointed everybody was the fact that this new proposal seemed to come out of the blue and all of a sudden now it’s accepted,” he said.
WUDAC members went around the room, voicing their complaints.
Ken Nelson, who represents the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce on WUDAC, said that he felt like their proposal was “smacked down like the NBA finals.” Linda Amendt said that she was “very disappointed.” Henriot St. Gerard, , told Riemer that “to me, this feels like a startover.” And Hollywood East owner Janet Yu said she believed that “the community should be owed an apology.”
“There’s a sense of disgust in the way the plan was passed,” Devala Janardan said.
Much of the disappointment centered on a feeling that one office building and a town square was not the expected scope of redevelopment Wheaton deserved. Riemer agreed that more was needed, particularly services that WUDAC could play an important role in lobbying for in the budget, such as programming for the town square.
“I’m trying to revive the sense of community purpose. I think that’s crucial, and I’d like to do what I can,” Riemer said. “We’re going to need those of you who might be bitter not to go home.”
Marian Fryer, WUDAC’s vice chair, said that she’s feeling optimistic about the future because although there has been plenty of talk about Wheaton redevelopment in the past, this is the first time the council is attaching money to any plans.
“We may be unhappy about how it came down, but I’m happy about how it’s going to end up because the money is going to be there,” Fryer said.
WUDAC meets the second Tuesday of every month from 5-6:30 p.m. at the . Meetings are open to the public.