Residents express a need for green space in Silver Spring -- Gazette.Net


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Dawn Brosnan said she doesn’t want to pay to park at her local grocery store in Silver Spring.

The Giant Food parking lot off East-West Highway, in West Silver Spring, is one of 13 sites that the Montgomery County Planning Department studied as part of its Silver Spring Green Space Guide, a long-term plan that details potential park projects in the Silver Spring Central Business District and encourages private developers to include green space in their projects.

County officials discussed the guide with roughly 30 residents Monday night at the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board’s Transportation, Energy and Environment and Neighborhoods committees’ joint meeting.

During the meeting at the Silver Spring Civic Building, several other residents expressed concerns about the need for dog parks, trees and grassy places for recreation in the community.

Under the guide, the parking lot of the Giant Food, which soon will be renovated, could become the site of a green space of between a half-acre and an acre. The park could consist of a large grassy area lined with trees in which residents could walk their dogs or engage in outdoor recreation while surrounded by local businesses.

Because the park would include the area of the Giant’s parking lot, parking for the grocery store could move underground. Though officials have finalized no plans for the project yet, Brosnan said she is concerned that parking at the grocery store soon could cost money.

If that happens, she and other residents who use the grocery store would be forced to pay to shop on top of the taxes they pay to help maintain parks elsewhere in the county, she told officials.

“We would be paying twice when the rest of Montgomery County doesn’t have to do that,” Brosnan said. “They have parks that are provided from tax dollars and they’re currently enjoying those parks and they’re being maintained.”

The Giant Food/The Blairs parking lot project would include no zoning changes or tax breaks from the county, John Marcolin, the planner coordinator and urban designer for the Urban Design/Preservation Division of the county’s Planning Department, said Tuesday.

However, the project’s developers would see greater economic success, including increased leasing and rental rates, from the addition of the green space, he added.

“What you get back economically is much greater than the investment you put into it,” Marcolin said. “A well-maintained green space is like a magnet for business.”

The Rockville-based The Tower Companies, which owns the property, did not comment on the plans.

Marcolin said planning officials will meet with those of The Tower Companies about the project next week and that a public meeting on the project is tentatively scheduled for late January.

The project is one of the planning department’s top priorities under the green space guide, according to officials, though they have set no timeline or estimated cost for its construction.

In determining a project’s priority under the guide, officials took into account the number of residential units within 800 feet, proximity to existing parks, proximity to existing potential connections, ease of implementation, transit proximity and whether it serves the Central Business District.

At the Monday meeting, Marcolin called the Giant plan “ambitious,” though he added that it could lead to a smart growth-style community near the Silver Spring Transit Center on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Colesville Road.

The project that Marcolin said is “very likely” to be developed under the guide involves the county’s Parking Lot 3, between Thayer and Silver Spring avenues, in Fenton Village. The project is part of an approved plan known as Studio Plaza that would redevelop the lot into a mixed-use development.

The project proposes a half-acre community green at street level surrounded by retail and offices with vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle access.

At the Monday meeting, several Washington, D.C., residents also voiced concerns about the lack of green space in South Silver Spring.

Jourdinia Brown, a Shepherd Park resident, said she has lived across the street from South Silver Spring for nearly 50 years. Her neighborhood over the years has been “dumped upon” because there is no green space in South Silver Spring, she said, adding that the county must correct that.

“I think you’re being very, very unfair to us by building all of these things, no green space, plus you’re lowering our property value,” Brown said.

The county is “very committed” to increasing pocket parks in downtown Silver Spring, Brooke Farquhar, of the county’s Park’s Department, said at the meeting, adding that a high demand exists for dog parks.

krose@gazette.net