Wednesday, July 16, 2008

City asks college to consider foundation property for growth

Space in Silver Spring currently used as parking lot

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Montgomery College should consider acquiring nearby properties owned by the college’s nonprofit foundation, Takoma Park City Council members told school officials on Monday, in order to avoid future encroachment on the residential neighborhood near the main Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus.

College leaders last month identified properties for possible purchase, including a storage facility that sits in the middle of the campus, but the council is now asking that the college also look at a site owned by the foundation near Burlington and Georgia avenues in Silver Spring, farther from Takoma Park homes.

That space is currently used as a parking lot for the neighboring Cafritz Arts Center but is being considered for the site of a future foundation building, a foundation official said.

The college needs to build a new science and math center, a new student resource center and library, a new child care center and potentially more buildings in order to meet projected enrollment increases and fill an estimated 95,000-square-foot space deficit. Some residents, however, have worried about how the expansion would affect the neighborhood of historic houses surrounding the college.

The community college, which also has campuses in Rockville and Germantown, has to submit an updated facility master plan to state and county authorities by February 2009 that meets those projected needs using property already owned by the college.

At a June 24 community meeting, officials unveiled three potential expansion designs that featured major renovations to the main part of campus along Fenton Street but left open the possibility of acquiring properties farther off site, including a self-storage facility at 7722 Fenton St.

During a review of the college’s plans on Monday, Takoma Park council members encouraged college officials to also use properties along the intersection of Georgia and Burlington avenues, away from the main campus, that are owned by the Montgomery College Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization governed by college alumni and business and community leaders.

David Capp, associate vice president and chief facilities officer for the college, said the college and foundation are different entities and the college would need to acquire the Burlington Avenue property. Except for one nonvoting member, no college employees serve on the foundation’s board.

If that property were to be developed by either the foundation or college, however, it could have up to nine stories, as opposed to the three or four envisioned for main campus buildings, and might be used for a public-private partnership that could include retail or office space.

Councilman Josh Wright (Ward 1) and others questioned why the foundation couldn’t turn over the property to the college.

‘‘I’m not a lawyer, but it does seem to me that foundation’s purpose is to support the college and the college’s efforts,” Wright said.

Donna Pina, the foundation’s executive director, said Tuesday that the foundation is not considering turning over that land to the college.

‘‘The thought was that that property would be held for some future use, maybe a public-private partnership that would generate revenue for the foundation, which in turn would benefit the college through scholarships [and other means],” she said.

Wright also suggested that buildings on the west side of campus could be used to house students and academic activities during renovation of the main campus and might reduce the renovation’s effects on local residents.

Brad Stewart, the campus provost, said he understood Wright’s concerns and would discuss the proposal with the college’s board of trustees.

Councilwoman Colleen Clay (Ward 2) said that the only long-term solution to any of the issues would be to have state and county support to acquire more property.

‘‘Where are you going to go in the long run if there isn’t a serious dialogue and mechanism for the state to get real about acquiring land for the college?” she asked.

Some residents said Monday they worried that the college would not acquire any of the discussed properties and be forced to develop the main portion of campus as a result.

‘‘We are now attaining the massiveness that we have always been worried about and spoken against,” said Lorraine Pearsall, who lives on Takoma Avenue.

Councilman Terry Seamens (Ward 4) said the college needs to find ways to appease those residents in order to receive support from the council.

‘‘We want you in the community,” Seamens said. ‘‘We see the great value that you have for the community, but we also have a lot of residents that are neighbors of yours, and the better neighbor you are to them, the more support you’ll have from the council.”

Learn more

To read details about Montgomery College’s expansion plans, go to⁄Departments⁄facilitiesca⁄master.htm