- Montgomery County Council Public Hearing: Aspen Hill Rezoning
- (technically: Aspen Hill Minor Master Plan Amendment)
- Tuesday, February 3, at 7:30pm
- County Council Office Building
- Rockville, MD
The Maryland community of "Aspen Hill" has been defined in several different ways, and they do not all have the same boundaries. The "Aspen Hill" of the Aspen Hill Civic Association, a long-established residential community, is an unincorporated area in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Civic Association area is bounded roughly by Norbeck Road on the north, Bel Pre Road (including all properties on both sides of Bel Pre Road), Georgia Avenue down to the southern boundary of Matthew Henson State Park, then up Veirs Mill Road to Rock Creek, to Baltimore Road, and back to Norbeck Road.
Planning Board Recommendation to Rezone the Former Vitro/BAE Site
UPDATE Jan. 28: The January 22nd community meeting on the Vitro/BAE site hosted by the Aspen Hill Homeowners Group was well attended by community members who were new to the issue as well as many who have previously been involved, with many people standing for lack of chairs. Representatives of Council Members Nancy Navarro and Roger Berliner also attended to hear community concerns.
The Aspen Hill Civic Association shared results of the membership survey that showed 81% of our members oppose the current Planning Board recommendation to rezone the site as NR, and therefore the AHCA Board passed a resolution stating that it supports waiting for studies that will be part of the Aspen Hill Master Plan review beginning this summer. However, if the County Council does not see fit to do this, the only up-zoning that the AHCA and the Aspen Hill community can support is to CRN (Commercial Retail Neighborhood).
Feelings in the community are very strong but it all comes down to the hearing on February 3 before the County Council. AHCA encourages all members of the community to sign up to testify in favor of zoning for local community retail. You can also submit written comments, and it is extremely important that we have a large turnout, so even if you are not comfortable testifying, attend the hearing. Your presence will make a difference.
The Board believes it is very important that the County Council hear our concerns on the negative impact NR zoning would have. Although NR technically stands for "Neighborhood Retail," it really means "Non-Residential" because it allows high-density, high-traffic development not consistent with a quiet residential community like Aspen Hill. Please plan to testify at the Public Hearing against NR zoning, and, instead, in favor of small retail shops, restaurants, and stores consistent with a suburban residential neighborhood shopping center, along the lines of CRN zoning. There is a 3-minute limit per person. You can sign up to testify by calling the County Council at 240-777-7803. It is critically important that we have MANY people testify, and many others to fill the room. Anyone can also submit written tesimony.
The Aspen Hill Homeowners Group has prepared some talking points that should be helpful if you need them for either oral or written testimony; but sign up now!
BACKGROUND: In December, the Montgomery County Planning Board formally recommended to the County Council that the site of the former Vitro/BAE offices -- adjoining the south side of Home Depot near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road -- be rezoned. While the current zoning allows the property to be used as office space and some retail, the NR zoning code that the Planning Board recommended would allow for:
- • construction of a building of up to 218,453 square feet,
- • up to five stories in height,
- • with the entire property to be used as retail space by one or more retailers.
For the sake of comparison, the Home Depot building is currently 133,000 square feet and its planned expansion will bring it to 163,000 square feet.
The Planning Board had previously considered recommending CRT zoning, which allows uses similar to NR zoning, but would require the developer to go through additional processes at the County level to be able to build very large buildings for one or more single retailers. All neighborhood groups now advocate for CRN zoning, and that only if the rezoning cannot be deferred until the review of the 1994 Aspen Hill Master Plan, which will commence this summer. CRN zoning allows the property to be used for retail, but does not allow any single retail store to be over 50,000 square feet unless it is a grocery store.
The AHCA Board and membership would like to see the property being actively used to the benefit of the community. But all oppose developing the site with one single (or several!) large retailer(s) (i.e. "big box" stores such as WalMart, Kmart, or Target) that would turn our quiet residential neighborhood a regional retail hub. General concerns about the rezoning include the potential for increased traffic at an already dangerous intersection, competition that could put other local stores out of business, increased noise, light pollution for residential neighbors, lowered property values, and increased crime.
For more on this issue, please visit the web site of the Aspen Hill Homeowners Group.