The former Consumer Product Safety Commission laboratory testing facility on Darnestown Road now belongs to the city of Gaithersburg, after City Manager Tony Tomasello signed the deed of transfer Tuesday.
Terms of the deal mandate that the city use the space for recreational purposes, but the city isn’t sure what the amenities will be just yet, Tomasello said.
After the federal government labeled the area a “surplus property,” the city applied in 2012 to take ownership. The acquisition was free, because the federal government is required to give surplus land at no cost when giving to a public agency, like city government.
“We think it might have some potential parkland, but it also has some pretty useful buildings, including a fairly modern warehouse with tall ceilings and an open expanse,” Tomasello said. “We have the chance to do something pretty unique there.”
Once the federal government reopens and the city gets the keys, a special committee comprising interested neighbors and citizens will be formed to work with city staff to envision how the site could be used, said Michele Potter, director of Gaithersburg’s parks and recreation department.
The city already has set aside $1.4 million for the project in its Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Improvement Plan. It expects to spend $100,000 on the property’s design in 2015, and $1 million on construction in 2016.
Two Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments have been conducted on the property, one by the federal government in 2001, and one by Gaithersburg in September 2013.
Generally, these studies identify potential contamination issues of a site by reviewing records, holding a site inspection and conducting interviews with former occupants and neighbors.
In this case, both reports revealed a possible presence of asbestos and lead paint in some of the buildings.
The Gazette has submitted a public information request to view the most recent environmental report.
If any ground contaminants are found at the site, the federal government has already agreed to fix the problem, Potter said.
“We were told, and it is in one of the reports, that if the land is disturbed by a contractor and anything is exposed, GSA will facilitate remedial cleanup by the federal government,” she said.
Tomasello said he believes the space will be a positive addition to the city.
“For a city our size, one of the most difficult things to acquire is open space,” he said. “In short of demolishing buildings on an existing site, it’s hard to find open spaces. This is a unique opportunity.”
Spanning 9.54 acres, the property includes eight buildings. It can be linked to existing bike paths and walkways along Muddy Branch Road and Darnestown Road, a city press release said.
After operating in Gaithersburg since 1975, the CPSC testing facility moved to a new Rockville location in 2011.