After nearly 20 years in her Parkwood home, Gail Dalferes considers herself a true Kensington resident.
But even though her mail is delivered to a Kensington address, she felt voiceless during the sector plan approval process.
She said the county focused its efforts on the municipality, and people from surrounding neighborhoods, like Parkwood, were not involved in most of the meetings.
Save Kensington was born from that frustration. The group has a growing listserv with more than 600 email addresses from people living in and around town. They sponsored a community meeting May 8 to help residents understand Montgomery County’s approval process for new developments.
“We were pretty active in the sector plan process for Kensington, and we want to get ahead of the development requests that are coming in,” Dalferes said. “We don’t want to drive through town one day and see that a building is gone and a new one is coming up.”
Although Save Kensington has no official leaders, founders agreed the role of the organization will be to disseminate information to the community.
“That’s how I see our role, to digest this fire hose of information,” said Lara Akinbami, a fellow Parkwood resident.
Bringing information to the people has been a learning process — she said the organization has tended to err on the side of providing too much information.
After five years of discussion, in March the Montgomery County Council approved the Kensington Sector Plan, a 20-year outline for growth. It focuses development on Connecticut Avenue, with the largest buildings where planners have deemed the “Town Center.”
Although county planners met regularly with the town council, they kept surrounding communities up to date via the Coalition of Kensington Communities, an umbrella group whose members include the Parkwood Residents Association, said Fred Boyd, community planner for the County Planning Department.
“I met regularly with the Coalition’s executive committee, and I thought the group was extremely effective in representing the interests of their individual communities,” Boyd wrote in an email. “I’m sure that CKC members reported regularly to their associations, through meetings and newsletters, about the sector plan’s development.”
Mayor Pete Fosselman expects proposals for two or three projects in the next two years, including Konterra. Although there are no official proposals, he said there has been interest in the former Mizell Lumber & Hardware site at St. Paul Street and Metropolitan Avenue, a gas station at Connecticut Avenue and Plyers Mill Road, and Antique Village, two buildings at Howard Avenue and Fawcett Street.
Save Kensington considered it a win when the final sector plan included language that imposed additional step downs near neighborhoods, restrictions on the 75-foot building proposed by Konterra, and strongly encouraged the first floor of buildings to offer retail.
Before the County Council’s March vote, a series of robocalls encouraged people to voice their opposition to a “canyon” of apartment buildings, rather than restaurants, shops and green space that would improve the town.
“Over a decade, my wife and I were involved in building over 100 million square feet,” said Stowe Teti, a Save Kensington member. “I was still successfully labeled anti-development.”
Stowe and his wife Diana Teti run a consulting business in which they help developers shepherd a project through the planning process.
Teti also helped develop the village center concept that was included in the Kensington Sector Plan. It was presented during his unsuccessful run for council last year.
He said people became polarized by the sector plan, but it is time for Kensington to come together behind a common vision.