Wednesday, April 2, 2008

JHU’s development plan for farm would have met late owner’s wishes

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The Gazette has done an excellent job of covering the planning process for the Belward development. I appreciate the opportunity given me to express my views on this project (‘‘Neighbors question plan for housing, retail at Belward,” March 26 article).

However, what was not included in the article was that my comments came from a personal connection with Elizabeth Banks, the late owner of the Belward farm. I spent hours chatting with her, sometimes about Belward, but most often about her thoughts and her life. We were friends.

I asked her many times to take an active role in planning the development of her land. She didn’t wish to; however, she did tell me what she didn’t want: 108 acres of houses. That’s not what we want either.

Considerable research has been done to determine what would make this campus world class. The answer is that scientists work long hours — often far into the night — and they need to live, eat and recreate where they work. To advance science, this campus must include limited housing and retail amenities. This will also help address the neighbors’ valid concerns about increased congestion and traffic in the area.

While I respect the opinions of the neighbors who also knew Ms. Banks, I want to ensure the community that we are moving forward with nothing but respect for her wishes and admiration for a woman who had the vision to provide Montgomery County and Johns Hopkins with this amazing opportunity to advance humanity through science, research and education.

Elaine Amir, Rockville

The writer is executive director, Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County.