Six fifth-grade students from Burtonsville Elementary School sat patiently in the sixth row of the Montgomery County Council’s hearing room on Nov. 21 awaiting to hear discussion on Agenda Item 16.
The item at the council work session focused on the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan, a project that aims to transform a 191-acre area near the intersection of Md. 198 and the old U.S. 29 in Burtonsville into a multi-use development that would incorporate residential and retail areas accessible to pedestrians, bikers and drivers.
Mahlet Gebretsadik, 10; Noiell Gojam, 10; Myles Hunter, 10; Chris Mbah, 9; Joshua Nwoga, 10; and Ryan Santhoshkumar, 10 — all of Burtonsville — are from Burtonsville DIscoverers, one of the school’s Destination ImagiNation teams. The nonprofit program provides challenges to allow students to experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving, according to its website. The program is offered to students in kindergarten through college in the United States and 30 other countries.
Diane Hunter, a coach for one of Burtonsville’s teams for Destination ImagiNation, said the students chose an outreach project — where they identify a need and find a solution to the challenge — to help the community. The Burtonsville resident said the project that the kids do all on their own encourages them to do creative, out-of-the-box thinking.
The students, as part of the project, asked the council to consider allowing an international food court, a play area and a movie theater in the new development. They suggested the amenities because they wanted an area that would be fun for kids and their families. While they were unable to address the council during Tuesday’s work session, they had provided testimony to the council at a student town hall forum on Oct. 10, where each child was allowed to talk about the concerns within their community.
Their ideas were taken into consideration, according to the council, and the plan for Burtonsville includes a new park and civic green, which will provide the play area the students were hoping for. The kids said they were “excited” and “felt good” about the zoning approval that would allow for some of their ideas to come to fruition.
“This project is fun and I like how we are helping other people in our community,” said Mahlet.
During the work session, Glenn Orlin, deputy council staff director, provided the council information on fiscal impact and transportation elements, and Marlene Michaelson, senior legislative analyst, gave recommendations to the council from the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee on the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan.
Orlin said the county’s Economic Development Fund’s Fiscal Impact Model — which calculates the costs and benefits of economic development projects — estimates $5.4 million in additional revenue annually for the county — “half from income taxes and the balance from property, energy and other taxes and fees.” The model also projects about $3.6 million in annual spending for the county. Orlin estimated there would be about $1.8 million in net annual revenue from the project once it’s complete.
Additionally, Orlin’s report says the existing roads in Burtonsville should be able to handle the traffic volume added by the new development.
Michaelson said the committee recommended keeping the current zoning for the rural edge neighborhood in order to protect the nearby Patuxent Watershed, which serves parts of Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Aside from some small language changes, the committee supported the plan. The council unanimously approved all of the recommendations from the committee.
The council is expected to take action on the plan Dec. 4 before planning takes action on Dec. 19.