Montgomery County parks to do more outreach when leasing spaces -- Gazette.Net



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The Montgomery County Parks Department says it will improve communication after homeowners adjacent to Lynnbrook Local Park complained they were not notified that an activity building would be leased to a day care provider.

“I’ve been dropping kids off for 10 years at schools and preschools — it’s always a mess,” said Cathryn Garland, who lives on Newdale Road, across the street from the future day care center. “Are they going to destroy the block, and are they going to destroy the value of our homes? That hits our wallets.”

To save money, in February 2010 the county closed 11 of its least used Parks activity buildings, including the building at the Bethesda park. The move saved $181,000 from the 2010 budget.

Since the closure, Parks officials have been seeking tenants, particularly child care providers. Ken-Guar Palisades Local Park in Kensington was used temporarily as a day care facility. Nolte Local Park in Silver Spring is rented as a day care center, while an activity building in Camp Seneca Special Park is leased to the Recreation Department for a summer camp.

“One of the things that we have found out is that having a tenant in a building is always healthier for the community than having no tenant at all,” said John Nissel, division chief for facilities management for Parks.

Chevy Chase Reggio will open a second day care facility at the vacant Bethesda activity building, which Nissel said is closer to a residential street than other activity buildings used as day care centers.

The building is about 2,150 square feet and will cost Director Patricia Nava Edelen about $1,545 per month to rent. The five-year lease includes a 4 percent increase per year. Maintenance and repairs to the activity building will be funded by the tenant, not taxpayers, Nissel said.

“You can imagine how wonderful it is for a child to be in a park like that,” Edelen said. “We are not going to give the children all these elements that are built for them. We want to teach them to use their imagination. Anything around them can be a toy.”

Edelen signed the lease March 2 and received a copy signed by Parks Department Executive Director Patricia Colihan-Barney in early May.

The community was informed of the new use by a presentation at an East Bethesda Citizens Association meeting April 30.

A neighbor alerted Garland to the potential tenant, she said. She heard about the civic association presentation the day of the meeting, and was unable to attend due to a child care conflict.

Parks must send notices to residences within 1-2 miles of a park in cases of demolition, construction, renovation, or master planning, Nissel said. He said Parks officials are not legally required to inform homeowners of a new park tenant. In the future, Parks will send notices to residences within 1-2 miles of a facility with a potential tenant, said Parks Spokeswoman Melissa Chotiner.

“We typically notify the community through the civic association, in hopes that they will disseminate the information,” Nissel said. “That’s been our approach.”

Chevy Chase Reggio has a location on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase. It is a bilingual English-Spanish program with eight children. The Bethesda location is scheduled to open by September, with a maximum of 37 children in two to five years, according to parks department documents.

“All I want is to tell the community is, just give me a chance,” Edelen said. “I want to make something that the community will be so proud of.”

jablamsky@gazette.net