Discovery Communications to reopen Discovery Garden in Silver Spring on weekends
Seeks to amend site agreement since new hours violate the old one
The Discovery Garden in Silver Spring, a public park that closed in early September in response to a hostage crisis at Discovery Communications, will reopen immediately during daylight hours on weekends only, according to a statement from the company on Tuesday.
Discovery plans to file an amendment to its site agreement with the Montgomery County Planning Department in the next few weeks to make modest changes to the Discovery Garden, said Tammy Shea, vice president of corporate communications for Discovery. The company, which did not detail what the changes would be, also plans to reopen its public lobby.
An independent firm hired by Discovery completed a security assessment soon after James J. Lee entered the headquarters Sept. 1 waving a starter pistol and wearing metallic canisters strapped to his body. Lee took three men hostage and was fatally shot by law enforcement officers. The independent firm identified a number of adjustments that should be made to the lobby and Discovery Garden to guarantee the safety of Discovery's employees, the children in the on-site daycare center and the public, according to the statement.
Closing the gates violates Discovery's site agreement with the county, which requires public access to the garden from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. during Eastern daylight time and from 7 a.m. to dark during Eastern standard time.
Discovery will also seek permits from the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services to begin work on modifications to the interior lobby, according to the statement.
"They're proposing a site plan amendment," said Valerie Berton, spokeswoman for Montgomery County Planning Department. "We haven't seen what it is yet."
Montgomery County Planning Board will meet only twice in December, and the calendar is already full, Berton said. This means that January is the earliest the Planning Board could hold a hearing about the Discovery Garden, she said. The timetable on the hearing process is driven by when the site plan amendment application arrives, she said.
Technically, developers are required to follow their site agreement until amendments are granted, Berton said. If they don't, the Department of Permitting Services usually issues a letter of non-compliance. The developer would then have either 30 or 60 days to bring the property into compliance or go before the Planning Board to amend the site agreement.
Because of the unique security issue Discovery faced, the county is giving Discovery the time it needs to complete security assessments, according to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).
Discovery discussed the proposed changes with Leggett and his staff as well as County Council President Nancy M. Floreen (D-At large) and the Montgomery County Police Department, according to the statement.
"We're not letting acts of attempted terrorism of any kind slow down Montgomery County," Floreen said.