The Montgomery County Parks Department is keeping its promise to do more community outreach before leasing vacant activity buildings.
The department has scheduled meetings in Kensington and Clarksburg, where prospective tenants will be introduced to the community, spokeswoman Kate Stookey said.
“We’re not just introducing them and saying, ‘You know what, the lease has already been signed,’” Stookey said.
To save money, the county in February 2010 closed 11 of its lesser-used parks activity buildings, and has since started to seek tenants, including child care providers.
Some neighbors have raised concerns about noise, traffic and parking as the buildings are reopened.
In Kensington, Alef Bet Montessori School wants to use the Ken-Guar Palisades Park activity building for a school. Students will be immersed in Hebrew, which will be integrated into the program, said Ellie Lichtash, the school’s executive director.
Lichtash said plans are to use the activity building for 15 to 17 students in first through fourth grades. The building has a capacity of 30 to 35 people, she said.
Alef Bet Montessori opened in 2005 in Rockville, where it serves children 18 months through kindergarten. The school will maintain its current location, and Lichtash hopes that one day students will be on one campus in a new location.
She said the Kensington campus primarily will operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the parking lot is large enough to accommodate park visitors while school is in session.
“If there is a conflict, we can always talk about it, find terms that are agreeable on both sides,” she said. “This facility should serve the community, not be a place of conflict.”
A public meeting on Alef Bet’s plans is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ken-Gar Park Activity Building, 4140 Wexford Drive, Kensington.
In Bethesda’s Lynnbrook Local Park, residents adjacent to a mothballed activity building complained in May they were not notified the facility was leased to day care provider Chevy Chase Reggio. Their concerns included noise from a day care center, which was scheduled to open in September.
The parks department staff notified the community during a meeting of the East Bethesda Citizens Association April 30, nearly two months after Chevy Chase Reggio director Patricia Nava Edelen signed a lease.
Since then, parks department representatives have met three times with association members and neighbors “to try and find a workable solution that addresses concerns about traffic, parking and noise,” Abbigail Irelan, a parks department spokeswoman, wrote in an email. “We are making headway, but still need to involve the [Department of Transportation] in a public meeting with the [East Bethesda Citizens Association] to talk in more detail about various parking and traffic options.”
The Lynnbrook activity building is about 2,150 square feet and has a $1,545 monthly rent. The five-year lease includes a 4 percent annual increase. Maintenance and repairs are paid for by the tenant.
The parks department is seeking to lease eight additional activity buildings, two of which have prospective tenants, including buildings in Ken-Gar and Clarksburg Neighborhood Park. Notices about potential tenants have been sent to homeowners, civic associations and residents within a half-mile of the parks, Stookey said.
“For us, it’s about giving the community notice, but it’s also about making sure the community and the tenant are in sync,” she said.
Meetings to review plans for leases at Colesville Local Park in Silver Spring, Maplewood-Alta Vista Local Park in Bethesda, North Chevy Chase Local Park, and North Four Corners Local Park in Silver Spring were canceled after the YMCA Arylawn and Silver Spring withdrew proposals. YMCA had planned to use the buildings for summer camp and after-school programs, but the buildings will not be available until October, said Pamela Curran, chief operating officer for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.
Ken-Guar Palisades Local Park in Kensington was used temporarily as a day care facility after it was closed in 2010. 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 county recreation department for a summer camp.