- • potential for exacerbated school overcrowding,
- • school budget limitations,
- • increased traffic,
- • negative environmental affects, and
- • safety concerns.
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 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.
MCPS Proposal to Relocate the County AEP Programs to English Manor
The County Council will take up this issue on January 13, 2015.
UPDATE Jan.9:   The English Manor community meeting has been rescheduled. The new date/time information is:
- Community Meeting: English Manor School
- Thursday, January 15th at 7pm
- Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy
- 13300 Arctic Avenue
- Rockville, MD 20853
- On-site parking available
At the meeting we will discuss the proposed relocation of the Alternative Education Programs (AEPs) from the Blair G. Ewing Center (formerly the Mark Twain School on Avery Road near Norbeck Road in Rockville) to the site of the former English Manor Elementary School (on Bestor Drive near Arctic Avenue in Aspen Hill). The AEPs serve middle and high school students with behavioral or attendance problems, as well as students who have been involved with controlled substances, serious bodily injury or weapons. Several of our elected officials will be there, so please come find out what this could mean for our community, and what you can do to make your voice heard.
BACKGROUND: On November 17, 2014, the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board approved the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) released on October 30, 2014. In the CIP, MCPS proposes to move the County's Alternative Education Programs (AEPs) -- currently housed at the Blair Ewing Center on Avery Road next to Rock Creek Park -- to the site of the former English Manor School in the Aspen Hill neighborhood.
The proposal also includes plans to raze the current Blair Ewing Center building to build a new depot for all of the MCPS buses. This proposal has raised many concerns among residents, including:
As to that last, the MCPS's own website describes the AEP students as those who have been placed in the program as a result of their involvement with controlled substances, serious bodily injury, and/or weapons.
For a more detailed discussion of the concerns raised by the community, please visit www.saveenglishmanor.org.
During our December 10, 2014 AHCA Board meeting, the Board passed a resolution stating that 1) the Board supports the reopening of the English Manor School as a neighborhood elementary school to help ease the current school overcrowding, and 2) the Board opposes relocation of the MCPS AEPs to the English Manor site. We will also be seeking feedback from our membership on this issue.
Planning Board Recommendation to Rezone the Former Vitro/BAE Site
UPDATE Jan. 11: As noted below, the County Planning Board approved a recommendation of NR zoning for the former Vitro site in Aspen Hill and forwarded it to the Montgomery County Council and County Executive. An Aspen Hill Community Meeting about the Planning Board's Aspen Hill rezoning recommendation has been scheduled as follows:
- Community Meeting: Aspen Hill Rezoning (former Vitro site)
- Thursday, January 22, at 7:30pm
- Aspen Hill Library
- 4407 Aspen Hill Road
- Rockville, MD
- plenty of parking; all are welcome
UPDATE Jan. 9: The Montgomery County Council will hold its first Public Hearing on this February 3, as follows:
- 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 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. Over the next few weeks, we'll prepare some talking points that should be helpful if you need them; but sign up now! It is critically important that we have MANY people testify, and many others to fill the room. We must make our presence known!
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 for the property, which allows similar uses as the NR zoning, but would require the developer to go through additional processes at the County level to be able to build such a large building for a single retailer. Some neighborhood groups have advocated for CRN zoning, which 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 agrees that we would like to see the property being actively used to the benefit of the community. However, we do not all agree on whether either NR or CRT zoning would be positive. Some think it would be acceptable if the property will no longer be vacant. Others fear that NR or CRT zoning would allow the site to be developed with one single, large retailer (i.e. a "big box" store such as WalMart, Kmart, or Target) that could make our 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 and light pollution for residential neighbors, lowered property values, and increased crime.
The AHCA Board is actively seeking input from its membership before taking an official position on the Planning Board's Recommendation.