Home Depot plans 30,000-square-foot expansion next to potential Wal-Mart -- Gazette.Net


Some Aspen Hill residents have been vocal in their opposition to a potential Wal-Mart opening, but a significant expansion by Home Depot next door has not attracted the same attention.

The 133,000-square-foot Home Depot on Georgia Avenue near Connecticut Avenue received approval in March for a 30,000-square-foot expansion.

The Montgomery County Planning Board imposed numerous conditions that the retail giant is in the process of completing. They include providing an easement for possible future improvements that could include a wider pathway along Georgia and Connecticut; installing vehicular signs to upgrade pedestrian safety; and trimming trees along Georgia.

The State Highway Administration also requested a traffic signal warrant study for access points at Georgia and Connecticut, but there is not a condition to install a signal.

“We are in the process of satisfying the conditions of the approval,” said Meghan Basinger, a spokeswoman for Home Depot of Atlanta, which hopes to complete the expansion by next year.

The case does not go before the County Council, said Renee Kamen, a senior planner with the county planning department. Once staff signs off on certain completed conditions, Home Depot must apply to the Department of Permitting Services, which monitors the progress of conditions that are required through the permitting stage, she said.

Judy Fink, a resident near the Home Depot and potential Wal-Mart site, said a recently formed homeowners group with which she is involved hasn’t discussed the Home Depot expansion. The group opposes a Wal-Mart at the nearby site — which has had a vacant 265,000-square-foot building since 2010, when military and aerospace contractor BAE Systems moved out — due to the potential for increased traffic in the adjacent neighborhoods and other concerns.

Lee Development Group of Silver Spring seeks to change that site’s zoning from office to allow retail through a minor master plan amendment process, but President Bruce H. Lee said it’s not a given that Wal-Mart will be the tenant if the site is rezoned. He noted that any tenant there would have a space of about 120,000 square feet, smaller than the present Home Depot.

Vitro Corp. first occupied that building and at one time, had two other buildings in a campus there, but those two were torn down in the 1990s to make way for Home Depot.

Fink expected traffic to increase with the Home Depot expansion, but she noted it was “not like plunking a Wal-Mart on the corner of another of the busy intersections in the area.” It’s possible that Georgia and Connecticut avenues could take the brunt of the increased traffic around Home Depot, she said.

Members of the Aspen Hill Civic Association have met with Home Depot representatives and support the expansion, said Alexandra Minckler, president of the civic association. She said the original plan in the 1990s allowed for construction of a 163,000-square-foot store.

Home Depot has “maintained promises for the most part” and is responsive, Minckler said.

“They reached out to the association and neighbors prior to and during this recent approval for feedback and inquiries,” she said. “It’s been a good example of managing a large and successful business into the neighborhood.”