Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vistas project gets OK after easement plan compromise

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After numerous talks aimed at a compromise between neighbors of the proposed Vistas community and the developer, Churchill Development Corp., Gaithersburg City Council on Monday unanimously approved a schematic development plan for the project.

The agreement approved Monday includes a memorandum of understanding between Churchill and Quince Orchard Park residents that stipulates creating a cross-easement to share recreational amenities.

The Vistas community is planned along Great Seneca Highway, south of Quince Orchard Road.

The agreement also includes a proposal where Churchill will pay $195,000 and an additional $500 per household to the Quince Orchard Park Homeowners Association for an expansion of the neighborhood’s clubhouse and pool upgrades.

The easement would last for 10 years, but it’s likely the Vistas will be annexed by Quince Orchard Park before the first residents move in, Felton said.

Churchill rejected a tentative agreement shortly before the July 9 council meeting, prompting Felton to request more time to negotiate.

The plan now includes more Vistas recreational facilities, including a gazebo and a pavilion, Felton said.

‘‘I’m glad everybody got together on this,” said Councilman Henry F. Marraffa Jr.

Marraffa was the lone dissenter during the July 9 meeting, when council voted to delay action on the proposed Vistas schematic development plan.

The plans for development, which would include 13 single-family detached homes, 38 townhouses and 32 two-over-two condominiums on about 13 acres, has seen several revisions reducing its size since it was originally proposed in 2004.

A road code waiver is expected for council consideration by Aug. 20 and construction could begin late fall or in winter, Felton said.

Broadstone plan advances

The Gaithersburg City Council unanimously approved an environmental waiver for the Broadstone Apartments redevelopment project on Monday.

The waiver permits the developer of Fairfield West Deer Park to build within a stream valley buffer, which is already extended into by the existing complex and is not expected to cause threats to public safety, according to development documents.

The decision follows approval of several development provisions council members approved earlier this month, and allows Fairfield to progress in its plan aimed to replace the 350-unit garden-style complex with 415 total homes, at the corner of West Deer Park Road and Route 355.

Hundreds of families are will be displaced as the project proceeds, however the city currently is ironing out a program slated to assist tenants with purchasing homes.

Public mute on compensation

No Gaithersburg residents spoke during the public hearing Monday evening about a proposed salary hike for the mayor and City Council and Planning Commission members.

After a series of meetings this spring, the Compensation Review Committee approved a 60 percent raise over five years for the city’s part-time mayor and council members.

This means an increase in the mayor’s annual salary from $12,000 to $18,500 and council members’ salaries from $10,000 to $15,000 by November 2009. The salaries would then annually increase by $500 for the next three years.

The six-member Planning Commission also would see an immediate pay raise from $1,500 to $3,000, and a proposed amendment to the City Charter would require the compensation committee meet every four years, instead of on the current ad hoc basis.

City officials are accepting public comment on the proposal until 5 p.m. Aug. 15. The council is expected to vote on the recommendation during its Aug. 20 meeting.