Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

Leggett’s proposal for county service park gets mixed reviews

County executive also wants to move First District police station out of Rockville

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Some Derwood residents are relieved by County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposal to move most of the facilities at the County Service Park in Derwood to sites in Gaithersburg and Rockville.

‘‘I think it’s good that they’re moving these facilities,” Pat Labuda, president of the Greater Shady Grove Civic Alliance, said at the group’s Jan. 9 meeting. ‘‘We’re like the armpit of Montgomery County here.”

According to the plan, unveiled in December, Leggett would relocate the county’s liquor warehouse and the county school system’s food warehouse to the 96-acre GE Technology Park on Route 28, between the Kentlands and Lakelands communities in Gaithersburg.

The proposal also calls for moving county police headquarters and the department’s First District police station, the county Board of Elections, the county’s Office of Homeland Security and the classrooms and gym for the Public Safety Training Academy, all located in Rockville, into a six-story office building on the site.

Details of the plan, such as cost and when or if it will be approved, are unknown.

The County Council will have to sign off on the relocation plan. Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for Leggett (D), said the council is reviewing the plan and that if it is approved, the relocations would happen in pieces.

County Council President Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said Monday night that council members still have questions about the cost, timing and other alternative sites.

‘‘I think at this point there are so many questions,” Knapp said.

If the First District station were to move to the site, it would be located outside of the district it serves.

‘‘The notion is that the [new] First District station location would still serve the district well, and effectiveness would be pursued by having the First District with other public safety agencies,” Lacefield said.

Rockville Mayor Susan R. Hoffmann said she does not think Rockville residents would notice a difference in police service if the First District were to leave its location on Seven Locks Road next to the Montgomery County Detention Center.

‘‘Moving the police station would not affect service in the city because when one calls 911, for example, over 80 percent of calls get a response from the city police,” Hoffmann said.

The City of Rockville has a police department that supplements the county department.

However, Patricia Woodward, president of the West End Citizen’s Association, said: ‘‘I just can’t conceive of the move. Just because something is outdated does not mean it can’t be improved upon, especially because there’s the detention center there.”

The move was proposed in part because the police station is aging and needs major renovations, Lacefield said.

Moving the First District police station away from the detention center would not be a problem, Hoffmann said.

‘‘While county police are fairly close by, so are city police,” the mayor said. ‘‘They have guards who are responsible for the security and safety of the detention center.”

The county Board of Elections, which is housed in the former Edwin M. Broome Middle School on Twinbrook Parkway, is in an old building that is ‘‘well beyond aging,” Lacefield said.

Representatives for the Board of Elections would not comment on the specifics of the proposed move.

‘‘We have been briefed on the proposal and have been involved in discussions regarding that possibility,” Marjorie Roher, Board of Elections spokeswoman, said.

Moving those agencies out of their current aging facilities opens up the possibility of reusing those facilities, Lacefield added. He said the First District station could be used by the detention center.

Service park reaction

Meanwhile, Derwood residents got a chance to ask questions and sound off about Leggett’s plan during a meeting last week.

Labuda called Leggett’s plan a ‘‘step in the right direction. We’re happy with the recommendations, but we just want them to go further and move EMOC,” she said.

Keeping that facility in the service park would be ‘‘inappropriate” and would not allow for the maximum amount of development to occur within close proximity to the Metro station.

Moving facilities out of the service park, which straddles Crabbs Branch Way in the heart of the Shady Grove Sector Plan, has long been a priority for making the sector plan work. The plan would allow for high-density residential development around the Shady Grove Metro station.

The Montgomery County Public Schools bus depot at Crabbs Branch, which is home to more than 400 buses, would move to the county’s Gude Drive landfill site. The Equipment Maintenance and Operations Center (EMOC), Park and Planning’s Shady Grove Maintenance Facility and the county’s day-laborer center would remain in the service park, according to the plan.

Karen Kumm and Nkosi Yearwood, lead planners for the Shady Grove Sector, fielded questions at the meeting.

Many questions revolved around what would be built if the facilities moved out and what would happen if the County Council does not approve Leggett’s plan.

Kumm said the sector plan calls for creating a residential, pedestrian-friendly community where residents can walk to the Metro station. If none of the facilities move, development would still occur, but at a lesser density.

The Planning Board is scheduled to be briefed on Leggett’s plan on Thursday, Kumm said.

Joseph Parello, a member of the Shady Grove Advisory Committee and second vice president of the Greater Shady Grove Civic Alliance, said he would like to see everything move out of the service park.

‘‘I’m all for moving that stuff out of the area,” he said. ‘‘It should not be there. The Metro is a place for residential development, not commercial or industrial uses.”

Staff Writer Sebastian Montes contributed to this story.