The Sandy Spring Meetinghouse was built in 1817 on land that had been conveyed in 1753 by James Brooke to Roger, Richard and Basil Brooke in trust for the Society of Friends.
And while it is unlikely that the Brookes could have envisioned the building hosting a PowerPoint presentation by county planners centuries later, it has always served as a community hub, which made it an appropriate setting for the March 19 gathering.
That’s when the planners laid out their vision for a thriving village center in the heart of Sandy Spring, featuring new residential units, retail and office space, on- and off-street parking, sidewalks and bike paths.
Planner Kristin O’Connor and other planning department staff briefed residents on the updated Rural Village Center plan they are scheduled to present to the Planning Board on Thursday.
Much of the plan was created during the four-day community workshop held at the Sandy Spring Museum in early February.
“The meetinghouse was a very interesting venue and the first time we have ever held a meeting in a place of worship,” O’Connor said. “We asked a lot of questions about what we could do there, because we wanted to be respectful.”
The presentation included drawings and computer-generated graphics of what the village center might look like, in terms of density and building heights of one to three stories. About 55 people attended, including all the major property owners in the village center.
The visuals spawned a lot of questions about parking and zoning, O’Connor said. The plan addresses parking with some on-street spaces, plus a proposed parking lot behind the buildings that will line the north side of Md. 108 in the village center.
She said planners are working closely with Sandy Spring Museum officials to ensure the new zoning allows for artisans on the property to sell their wares, which is limited in the current zone.
Other concerns included traffic access points. O’Connor said she and her staff plan to meet with State Highway Administration and Montgomery County Department of Transportation officials during the next few weeks to work out some issues. They include a new road proposed in front of the fire station, which could cause traffic to stack due to its proximity to the intersection of Brooke Road and Md. 108.
Because residential units would keep the village center thriving, planners proposed new residential units, including roughly 10 duplexes, four single-family detached houses and 18 apartments.
John Salzberg, president of the Sandy Spring Civic Association, called the presentation very encouraging.
“I think the plan is very forward-thinking and positive, and am encouraged by continued involvement by the community,” he said. “We are especially pleased by the bikeway and sidewalks on both side of the street.”
O’Connor said the project is moving along at a brisk pace. At one time, this type of plan would take about three years to complete, but the Sandy Spring plan should be finished in about 18 months, she said.
After the Planning Board briefing, the staff will return to the community in May to share the final presentation. The meeting date has not been set.
The staff draft presentation to the Planning Board is scheduled for May 29, and a public hearing is slated for June.
Following Planning Board meetings, the plan will be presented to the county executive and council in November. Following the council’s scheduled public hearing in January, and work sessions in February and March, the plan is expected to be adopted in April 2015.
More information on the plan is at montgomeryplanning.org/community/sandyspring/.