Montgomery council votes down historic designation for Wheaton Rec Center -- Gazette.Net



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After months of debate among residents, historians and county planners, the County Council voted unanimously Tuesday against designating the Wheaton Rec Center as historic, said Ken Silverman, senior legislative aide for Councilwoman Nancy Navarro.

That means the building has the all-clear for demolition.

“There has been a lot of engagement from the community, so I believe that people are probably very pleased with the council’s decision ... which reflected the sentiment of the broad community of Wheaton and Glenmont,” said Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring.

Residents have been waiting for new community facilities and now the county can move forward with its plans, she said.

In February, the council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee voted against the designation and in the same meeting six council members voted informally to reject the historic designation. Tuesday’s vote finalized the decision with a full council vote.

The rec center, built in 1963, came on the radar of the Historic Preservation Commission last summer, as it approached its 50th birthday and as the county readied to demolish it and replace it with a new building to house both a recreation center and library.

The center is on Georgia Avenue, adjacent to the Wheaton Library. Plans had been drawn to combine the lots for the new building.

The commission recommended historic designation to the planning board in the fall. The board, in turn, recommended designation to the council, to preserve the structure as a piece of the county’s history.

But many residents protested. They said the effort to preserve the building originated outside of the community and that tearing down the old building for a new one would better serve them.

The old building is small and in poor repair, and keeping it next to the new building would have reduced the green space on the lot available for recreation.

Now that the matter of historic designation is settled, planners will pick up where they left off, continuing with previous plans for a new rec center and library, said project manager Jan Wilson.

sscully@gazette.net