A chance to chime in on Sandy Spring’s Rural Village Center -- Gazette.Net







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Residents, business owners, planning and design professionals and other stakeholders of the Sandy Spring area have a unique opportunity to help shape a new village center.

The Montgomery County Planning Department is hosting a free four-day charrette, or design workshop, Monday to Feb. 6 at the Sandy Spring Museum to gather ideas for transforming the heart of Sandy Spring.

Planner coordinator Kristin O’Connor said that the planning staff is looking forward to the workshop.

“It will be really cool to be immersed in the community for four straight days,” she said. “These workshops are typically only one day, but we decided because of the size of the community and the amount of effort the community has already put forth in the process, we are ready to get this show on the road.”

John Salzberg, president of the Sandy Spring Civic Association, said that residents are looking forward to the opportunity to participate. He plans to attend as many of the sessions as possible.

“We are really pleased that Park and Planning is committed to undertaking this study for our citizens and property owners,” he said.

O’Connor said that over the past few weeks, planners have met with the State Highway Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Housing Opportunities Commission, historic preservationists and property owners in preparation for the workshop.

She said that participants are encouraged to drop by when they can, and are not required, nor expected, to attend all the sessions.

Those working on the 1998 Sandy Spring/Ashton Master Plan recognized that the details of the village center concept were beyond its scope, and recommended more detailed study and analysis to develop the concept at a later date. Last spring, the County Council approved a minor master plan amendment, which will implement recommendations of the 1998 plan for the development of a village center concept in Sandy Spring.

The boundaries established for the village center are the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department Station 4 to the north, Md. 108 to the south, Brooke Road to the west, and the Sandy Spring Museum to the east.

The plan seeks to preserve the history of the area, create a civic space and village green, connect the community to the village center and examine right-of-way issues.

The discussion will include retail options, design ideas, vehicular and pedestrian movement, and the possible realignment of Brooke Road.

The plan will also identify policies, goals and projects, as well as possible opportunities to provide facilities including sidewalks, on-street parking, trails, and bike parking.

Salzberg said the association has not taken any formal position on the plan, but he said that personally speaking, the village center would ideally include some nice mixed-use buildings which include restaurants, office space and perhaps some residential use.

“Many of us like the idea of a village green and the realignment of Brooke Road, but that will require the cooperation of property owners,” he said. “Whether or not that happens is the $64,000 question.”

O’Connor said the final presentation on Feb. 6 will feature a PowerPoint presentation including input gathered at the charrette, which will be a “pretty substantial chunk” of the plan. Staff will spend a couple months refining and modifying it before submitting it to the county’s Planning Board in June.

“I think everyone is just ready for this to happen,” she said. “The community has been working on this for years, so I think they will be excited on Thursday night to see a nearly-finished product.”