A letter to the Planning Board, regarding the middle school project

Dear neighbors,

Please find below an email sent today to the Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board.

With best regards,

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jim Pekar
Date: Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 7:26 AM
Subject: Concerns over lengthy delay in Mandatory Referral submission for B-CC Middle School #2 on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park.
To: “[email protected]” <[email protected]>

Dear Chairman Anderson,

Our community is concerned by the lengthy delay by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in submitting, for the Planning Board’s Mandatory Referral review, plans for a new middle school on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park.

As you may know, the site is severely reduced from its original middle school configuration, thereby constraining the ability to construct an adequate educational facility consistent with safety, environmental, and community concerns. This heightens the importance of your Mandatory Referral review. Yet, MCPS has failed to respond to concerns of our community and your staff, and, as of this writing, has still not submitted revised plans for the Mandatory Referral that had been originally scheduled for July of this year. After your staff requested additional information from MCPS, the hearing was rescheduled for September. After the failure of MCPS to provide the requested information, the September hearing date was cancelled and the hearing has not been rescheduled, although our understanding is that MCPS maintains that groundbreaking remains scheduled for July of 2015.

In September, staff from the Planning Board and MCPS attended a meeting of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association. While this was not an MCPS community presentation, it did give our community a chance to learn of your staff’s concerns, and to share our concerns. We have communicated periodically with staff, and our understanding is that new plans for Mandatory Referral review have not been submitted by MCPS.

Our specific concerns with the plans (as originally submitted, and as discussed in September) include:

  • The number and size of unsightly retaining walls. The plans call for many hundreds of feet of retaining walls as high as 22 feet (constructed as tightly-spaced pairs of 11 foot high walls). Our understanding, based on the Cabin John MCPS site, is that most of these walls will be topped by chain-link fencing; however such fences are not indicated on the plans. Many of our neighbors have said that it is hard to understand what the walls would look like, and have asked to see a “wall schedule” depicting the proposed walls.
  • Poor circulation of vehicular traffic, due to a tight layout of roadways on the site.
  • Steep slopes of onsite parking lots and roadways, creating a hazard in wet or icy conditions. The lower parking lot will have more than a 30 foot elevation change, and greater than five percent grades.
  • The pathway for walkers enters beside the car entrance, and then crosses the car drop-off loop, requiring students entering on foot to cross vehicular traffic, creating safety hazards.
  • Excessive removal of vegetation, including specimen trees, resulting in little visual screening of the building (and retaining walls).
  • Excessive discharge of stormwater into Silver Creek, which is a tributary of Rock Creek. Plans call for onsite retention of only the first inch of rainfall; all other runoff from the new building and surfaces would be discharged directly into the creek.
  • • We remain concerned that the estimated two-year period of construction will endanger the residents of the neighboring Alzheimer’s care facility (built on the footprint of the former Kensington Junior High).

The small site makes it difficult to meet educational criteria in a way that is sensitive to safety, environmental, and community concerns. We are concerned that the extraordinary delay in submission of plans, and the lack of responses to community and Planning Board concerns, may lead to inadequate time being available for review of plans, once they are submitted. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you contact the Montgomery County Board of Education, to request that these concerns be addressed, prior to submission of plans for Mandatory Referral review.

Sincerely yours,

James J. Pekar, Ph.D.
President, Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association