Community voices support at Burtonsville Crossroads public hearing -- Gazette.Net







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This story was corrected at 3:44 p.m. on Oct. 2, 2012.

There were no surprises at the public hearing Sept. 20 on the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan.

Only 17 residents attended the hearing, but Kristin O’Connor, senior planner for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said she was pleased with the community response offered at the hour-long hearing.

“So far, we’ve done a massive amount of outreach, so it does not surprise me that we didn’t have a huge amount of people coming out against or having issues with the proposal,” O’Connor said. “It pays off in the end to really do that community outreach early and often.”

During the public hearing, many community members spoke in support of reviving the Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center on Old Columbia Pike and preserving the rural cluster zoning of the 40 acres of rural space located behind the shopping center. A group called Committee to Save Burtonsville — comprised of multiple landowners — hopes to rezone the area and its density to build 230 additional homes. As of Tuesday morning, a petition on started in July to garner community support for the project has 65 signatures.

Support for the neighborhood plan during the hearing came from residents and community members concerned about the Rocky Gorge Reservoir in Howard and Montgomery counties, which provides drinking water to 650,000 people in both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Donald Chamberlin, who spoke on behalf of the Patuxent Watershed Protective Association, said the additional 230 homes would “increase environmental problems” and “put the public drinking water supply at risk.” He noted that the additional development would have a great deal of environmental impact, including runoff and “stress” on the reservoir system.

“This is a problem we do not need to create. ... You don’t mess with that drinking water for that many people,” Chamberlin said.

Burtonsville resident Barry Polisar said he is concerned about what effect the new development would have on the local agricultural community.

“It would be a shame to lose this agricultural land when there is interest in local food production and to remove fields that are currently in production,” Polisar said. “That land is zoned for a reason and to change the zoning to accommodate a developer’s financial interest is wrong.”

Council member Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said Monday night that he thought the public hearing was generally positive, but worried about the implications of developing the 40 acres of rural space.

“The idea that you would wreck the watershed and pollute that reservoir is just ludicrous to me,” he said. “It’s the wrong place for that kind of project.”

The county council is expected to take feedback from the public hearing into consideration when it discusses the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan on Oct. 8.

In an earlier version of the story, Donald Chamberlin’s name was incorrectly stated. The story incorrectly reported the discussion on the 40 acres of rural space behind the Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center. Many residents support keeping the rural cluster zoning for the acreage and oppose development due to potential impact on the reservoir system, located in Howard and Montgomery counties.