Gaithersburg, Montgomery Village mull missile sites -- Gazette.Net


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Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village are considering the fates of two decommissioned Nike missile bases that date back to the Cold War.

In Montgomery Village, a former missile launch site on Snouffer School Road is mostly a fallow field with fenced-in, sealed-off underground rooms that were left in place after the missiles were decommissioned. The sole entrance to the site is through a road leading from the parking lot of the Army Reserve Center at 8791 Snouffer School Road.

The site’s owner, M&D Real Estate, plans to transform the 13-acre field into the “Reserve Business Center,” with multiple industrial buildings.

The Montgomery Village Foundation Board has formed an ad hoc committee to review the site and make recommendations to the board. Richard Wright, a Montgomery Village resident, heads the ad hoc committee.

Some residents are concerned about traffic and noise coming from the new development, but any type of development would cause those issues, Wright said. The owner is proposing one two-story building and two one-story warehouses, which would occupy about 200,000 square feet.

The committee is scheduled to conduct a public meeting April 3. They plan to address M&D’s stormwater management plan, fencing and lighting for the area.

But, Wright said, the number one concern among residents is what could have been left over from the site’s days as a missile launch base. Dave Foster, an Army spokesperson, said the property was transferred from the Army to M&D “as-is” in 2008.

“There is concern about contamination,” Wright said. “If there is any, will the construction operations disturb it?”

Nike missiles were liquid-fueled and used chemicals such as nitric acid and jet fuel, according to documents from the Maryland Department of the Environment. Nike missile bases generally consisted of a missile launch site and a control site. The control counterpart for the Snouffer School Road site on 8500 Snouffer School Road is now a public park with soccer and softball fields. Foster said there is no cleanup under way or planned for either the park or the M&D-owned site.

The Nike missile site in Gaithersburg is near Muddy Branch Road at the south end of the National Institute of Standards and Technology property.

Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District spokesperson Andrea Akash said the Muddy Branch site’s groundwater was tested in the 1980s and 1990s for potential contaminants, but they found “nothing of concern.”

Gaithersburg Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture Michelle Potter said the city has had its eye on the NIST-owned property for 13 years.

“It’s an acquisition that we’ve been trying to work through since [former Representative] Connie Morella was in office,” Potter said.

NIST spokesperson Jennifer Huergo said the government agency is using the site for research involving emergency response robots.

“Our robotics team will be moving to a new facility,” Huergo said. The agency plans to vacate the site by the end of the fiscal year, she said.

Potter said the city is waiting on NIST.

“We’re trying to have that land dedicated as parkland,” she said, and depending on the city’s needs at the time, the site could become an athletics field or similar community resource.

scarignan@gazette.net