Montgomery Village group hopes to limit golf club redevelopment -- Gazette.Net


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When Monument Realty first unveiled its intention to redevelop its newly purchased Montgomery Village Golf Club property at a May 2013 community meeting at Watkins Mill High School, many residents weren’t pleased.

On that spring night, Kevin Conroy and several other community members decided to take action by forming Village Citizens, a grassroots organization focused on working with Monument and the Montgomery Village Foundation to ensure that future redevelopment benefits the entire village.

“After that meeting, some neighbors and I stood out in the parking lot pretty perplexed as to what was going on ... and that was the evening we formed Village Citizens,” he said.

Since that first meeting, Monument has hosted three community workshops, and drawn up plans that would add almost 600 residential units and community amenities to the 147-acre parcel of land on Montgomery Village Avenue.

Conroy, along with others on the Village Citizens team, hosted a town hall-style meeting Wednesday to share the group’s position and plan of action regarding the redevelopment plans.

Conroy said the group doesn’t believe that adding almost 600 residential units on the golf course will dramatically improve the quality of life in the village.

Zoning laws for the golf course fall under the Montgomery Village’s Town Sector Zone, which was created in 1965. The sector zone limits development and population size by using population credits. Under current zoning laws, the village only has 238 population credits available, which roughly equates to the addition of 80 new residential units.

With Monument proposing about seven times that amount, the company will eventually seek to work with the Montgomery County Council and amend the zoning ordinance to raise the population cap.

Conroy said the group does not believe the number of population credits should be raised and will not support a zoning text amendment that would allow Monument to proceed with its proposed plans.

As a result, residents who attended and agreed with the plan were asked to help out by signing a petition to oppose any zoning text amendments to the Town Sector Zone. Residents who signed the petition were also encouraged to knock on doors of homes throughout the village and collect more signatures. The petition can also be signed online at villagecitizens.org.

Residents were also asked to send letters and emails explaining opposition to the amendment to members of the County Council, specifically Council President Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) of Garrett Park and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park. Rice is Montgomery Village’s district representative, and Floreen and Elrich focus on planning issues throughout the county.

Resident Terry O’Grady agreed with the group’s stance that adding population credits to the zoning plan is not the right way to go.

“If we change this town sector zone, we are opening our village to become a city,” she said. “The town sector zone is what’s protecting us as residents of the village.”

Don O’Neill, a village resident and candidate for the Montgomery Village Foundation Board of Directors, said he thought the group’s plan was lacking strength.

“I don’t think your plan is aggressive enough,” he said. “I think we’re conceding to Monument.”

O’Neill said the community should create a plan based on an old statement from Kettler Brothers Inc., the creator of Montgomery Village, that the golf course should always remain in the village.

In April 2013, the Montgomery Village Foundation appointed the Montgomery Village Golf Course Joint Property Committee to review proposed plans by the developer and make recommendations to the board.

John Driscoll, chairman of the committee, attended the meeting and said that his group has not yet been able to decide on its recommendation to the board regarding its position on the proposed development.

Speaking from his personal viewpoint, Driscoll said more development, whether now or later, is inevitably coming to the village and the county.

“We have a window of opportunity to get what you want and what I want which is a good development in Montgomery Village,” he said. “We can kill this development. This development can go five or 10 years. But it will be there. It’s coming, whether it’s Monument’s plan or somebody else’s.”

Monument’s team has long known about the need to seek a zoning text amendment to raise the population cap.

“Assuming Monument gets a favorable reception from the MVF Board of Directors on the proposed Concept Plan, we would expect to seek the [zoning text amendment] this spring,” Monument President Russell Hines wrote in an email to The Gazette.

The realty company bought the failing golf course for $5 million last March, though the estimated value of the site was about $1.6 million, according to state records. Former owner, Jack Doser, a professional golfer, ran the golf club for 34 years before declaring the multimillion-dollar business unprofitable at Montgomery Village Foundation meetings in 2011.

Monument is currently keeping the Montgomery Village Golf Club’s 18-hole course open.

jedavis@gazette.net