Montgomery County considers different Wheaton site for M-NCPPC -- Gazette.Net







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The planned Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission headquarters is no longer headed for downtown Wheaton’s Parking Lot 13 — but it might be setting up shop not too far away.

After what he called “an evolution of thinking,” David Dise, director of the county Department of General Services, said the current site of the Mid-County Regional Services Center now is the most likely location for the headquarters building.

The plan, however, remains uncertain pending action from the Montgomery County Council, Dise said.

The previous plan — which Dise said is no longer a possibility — had been to relocate the commission from Silver Spring to a site on Parking Lot 13, just across Reedie Drive from the regional services center.

Dise said the county considered the negative effect that a “tall, dark building” would have on the plaza area on evenings and weekends when the headquarters would not be in use.

Moving the building to the regional services center property would allow private investment to take up the Lot 13 site, which would better contribute to the vitality of the area, he said.

County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said while the regional services center has been discussed as a possible location for about eight months, it was about three months ago that the county’s Department of General Services informed her of the new proposal.

Navarro said she thought the department’s mixed-use plan for Lot 13 — which would include residential and retail use as well as a park — “sounds wonderful.”

Navarro said the project is scheduled to be discussed Friday at a Government Operations & Fiscal Policy and Planning, Housing & Economic Development worksession.

The meeting will include discussion on County Executive Isiah Leggett’s recent recommendation that the M-NCPPC headquarters not include the county Permitting Services and Environmental Protection departments.

The next step in the process, Dise said, is determining whether the project falls to the county or the park and planning commission.

Filippo Leo — owner of Marchone’s Italian Deli, which sits off of Lot 13 — said he would support the headquarters move to the services center and “love to see Lot 13 left alone.”

Leo said he did not think his deli would survive the construction of the building on Lot 13 because customers would have trouble finding a place to park.

“I cannot survive two years without business,” Leo said.

Instead, he said, he would like to see a town center or a parking garage, which he said would involve construction that would take less time and be less intrusive to surrounding businesses.

However, Joe Myers, owner of Showcase of Tropical Fish, Inc., said he thinks the fact that the parking lot is still planned to undergo redevelopment means his store will go out of business.

The loss of parking, Myers said, will prevent people from going to the area’s existing small businesses.

“It’s going to just kill the Wheaton triangle,” he said.

Myers said he wants to see the county put forward a definite plan, including a timeframe, for Lot 13. He also doesn’t think the county is offering adequate help through a program that would provide funds for certain businesses hurt by redevelopment projects.

“A lot of places are trusting the county and signing leases,” he said. “The county is not playing fair with them.”