Committee urges council to reject historic designation of Wheaton Rec Center -- Gazette.Net


The Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee is asking the County Council to reject the Planning Board’s recommendation that the Wheaton Rec Center be designated as historic.

In a letter expected to be sent this week, the committee wrote that the Wheaton community has been waiting for a modern facility and the effort to preserve the recreation center originated outside the community. The designation could further delay construction of new facilities.

“WUDAC does not seek to question the historic significance generally of the Wheaton Youth Center, nor its technical fitness for inclusion in the Master Plan for Historic Preservation,” the letter read. “However, we are very concerned that approval of this nomination will unacceptably delay construction of the new Wheaton Library/Recreation Center.”

The letter comes as the County Council prepares to consider the Planning Board’s recommendation that the Rec Center, built in 1963, be designated as historic, requiring that it be preserved. The building’s historic consideration came up last summer during the planning process to demolish the building and replace it with a new joint rec center and library, using the current rec center lot, at 11711 Georgia Ave., and adjacent library lot.

The Historic Preservation Commission recommended the designation based on the building’s architectural and community significance, with the support of local historians.

Planning board members determined that historic designation would not necessarily obstruct the county’s ability to meet the community’s needs with an updated recreation center and library.

But accommodating the old building would require new designs and likely break up the green space on the lot. The building is in poor condition and would require renovations to bring it to modern standards.

Committee Chairman Henriot St. Gerard said that in a presentation to the committee, Historic Preservation Commission staff said that the designation would not raise costs of the project. But St. Gerard remains skeptical.

The committee also opposed the designation during hearings before the Planning Board last fall.

“It is ironic,” the letter read, “that the historic preservation effort of a center built to serve Wheaton’s youth in 1963 has already delayed and may further compromise the modern facilities that would best serve Wheaton’s youth in 2014 and beyond.”

The small Wheaton facility falls behind more modern rec centers throughout the county.

The committee wrote that maintaining the building would benefit those outside the community at the expense of Wheaton residents, many of whom have testified against the designation.

Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring has opposed the designation in the past.

“We’re getting a feeling that there is support [on the council against designation] and concern that if this is moved forward, there will be delays and cost more money,” St. Gerard said.

The council is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on the center at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.