Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wayside Elementary School addition alarms some over the Glen’s future

Peace and quiet of the rustic area should be protected, some say

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Some Potomac residents are concerned that a proposed addition to Wayside Elementary School will bring more noise and traffic to what they consider one of the most peaceful areas of Montgomery County — the Glen.

At a Planning Board hearing on Thursday, Commissioner Jean B. Cryor and West Montgomery County Citizens Association environmental chairwoman and president-elect Ginny Barnes both expressed concern with the addition. They said that bringing more children and noisy buses to the area is destroying the peacefulness and beauty of the Glen.

The Glen is a rustic area of Potomac that forms a narrow stream corridor, much of which is in the Watts Branch Stream Valley Park. It is unofficially bounded by Falls Road and South Glen Road; Glen Road and Beekman Place; Glen Road and Piney Meetinghouse Road; and Glen Mill Road and Red Barn Lane.

Wayside’s addition has been proposed by Montgomery County Public Schools because of an expanding student population at the school, which is located on Glen Road.

The 18,351-square-foot addition will include 10 classrooms, space for full-day kindergarten, a computer laboratory, and vocal and instrumental practice and performance areas with storage space. Expanded on-site parking and a vehicle drop-off lane will also be added.

The school is supposed to have no more than 491 students but is currently operating over its capacity at 604 students. After the addition, it will accommodate 675 students.

On Thursday, the Planning Board heard the mandatory referral for the project, which is a mechanism by which public projects come in front of the board. The board plays an advisory role for public projects and hears comments as a way to get them on the public record.

Officials with MCPS hope construction on the $6.8 million project will begin in less than one month. It should be completed before the start of the 2008-09 school year.

Barnes said that the addition to the school will increase traffic and safety issues on the narrow roads and the one lane bridge in the Glen.

‘‘This expansion solidifies the ongoing pressures regarding traffic and safety in the Glen,” she said. ‘‘It actually creates conditions that will put increasing pressure on a treasured historic and natural resource – Potomac’s historic Glen.”

Also, she said the site does not meet green standards and it doesn’t include enough new trees. It is exempt from the Forest Conservation Law.

Cryor, a Potomac resident, also said the addition would have a negative effect but she said she believes that it will still be built.

‘‘Not one person I know wants to destroy the Glen; it’s the only peaceful, beautiful place that we have in this part of the county,” Cryor said. ‘‘I wish I could sit here and say no you [MCPS] have to build another school but I know you’re not going to do that.”

Commissioner Gene Lynch said that in the future, the school system should look for another way to accommodate the area’s growth.