Planners offer update, seek input
by Terri Hogan
Residents and county planners are still working on turning the vision of a Sandy Spring Village Center into a reality.
Park and Planning representatives John Carter and Fred Boyd attended the Jan. 14 meeting of Sandy Spring Civic Association to update the community on the development of the Sandy Spring Village Center, with an objective of establishing a limited amendment to the Sandy Spring/Ashton Master Plan.
Last April, the Montgomery County Council approved the limited amendment process, which allows the public to submit applications to amend a master plan or sector plan without waiting years for major revisions of those plans. Minor master plan amendments undergo the same approval process as master plans, including multiple public hearings and approval by the Montgomery County Planning Board and County Council.
“The County Council and Planning Board are searching for ways to have more flexibility in the way they evaluate land-use opportunities in small areas,” said Boyd, a community planner. “The master plans are extremely comprehensive and undergo an extensive review. To some extent, these limited amendments give us a way to see a good idea and act on it.”
The 1998 Sandy Spring/Ashton Master Plan included plans for a village center, and recommended that the concept focus on three elements: design and construction of a new fire station that would serve as a community focal point; realignment of Brooke Road to improve both pedestrian and vehicular circulation in the village center; and creation of a village green.
Boyd described a village center as “the very small scale business district of a very, very, very small defined area.”
“Sandy Spring was historically a village — a small community of houses, institutions and businesses,” he said. “It is and has been a defined area, and part of that is the small built-up area where the businesses are located.”
The community seeks a village center to be the heart of Sandy Spring, for local commerce and community gatherings.
The council allocated time and funding in the fiscal year 2013 budget for three limited amendments.
In addition to Sandy Spring, a limited amendment is planned for Pooks Hill. The third is to be determined.
Because the Clarksburg Master Plan was recently given priority by the County Council, the timetable for the limited amendments was pushed back. A public hearing for the Sandy Spring limited amendment initially recommended for December 2013 has been pushed back to January 2015.
“Sandy Spring is a little different in that we are fulfilling a promise from the 1998 Master Plan to develop a village center concept, but we just haven’t had the time and money to do that until now,” Boyd said.
The new fire station referred to in the master plan opened on Brooke Road in 2001, establishing the focal point for the village center. The concept could determine how to create the village center around it, including the feasibility of the village green and realignment of Brooke Road. The plan may necessitate the relocation of existing commercial buildings.
The village center plan would also incorporate the new commercial residential neighborhood (CRN) and commercial residential town (CRT) zones, which allow for a mix of commercial and residential development.
Civic Association President John Salzburg said the presentation by Carter and Boyd was well-received, as residents have long wanted to create a more vibrant downtown.
“Some people were a little disappointed that Ashton wasn’t included, but this just pertains to the rural village overlay zone in Sandy Spring, in particular, the north side of Route 108,” he said.
In May 2010, a group made up of residents and one representing the business community met to define their visions for how Sandy Spring can retain its rural character while accommodating growth. Topics such as buildings, public spaces, transportation, housing, retail, services and restaurants were discussed and documented as part of the concept plan for the village center.
Salzburg said that they continue to seek input from residents and business owners and encourage them to take part in the development plan through additional meetings.
Boyd said that the next community meeting would likely be scheduled for late February or early March.
Also at the meeting, new civic association officers were elected. Salzburg takes over as the new president; Roger Wolcott, secretary; Christine Hill-Wilson, treasurer and Audrey Dutton, parliamentarian. Salzburg said the board is looking for a vice president and a corresponding secretary.
The organization meets on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Ross Boddy Community Center, at 18529 Brooke Road in Sandy Spring.
For more information, go to www.sandyspringcivic.com.