County buys 130 acres for preservation
Nov. 8, 2004
Douglas Tallman
Staff Writer

For nearly $5 million, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has preserved 130 acres across Montgomery County through its Legacy Open Space program.

Nearly half that money has been used to buy 3.25 wooded acres in historic Capitol View Park. The land consists of 14 parcels along Capitol View Avenue between Leafy Avenue and Beechbank Road in Kensington.

"It has a feeling of country, of spaciousness. That's why we were happy the county took advantage of this open space," said Carol Ireland, a Capitol View activist.

The commission bought the land through Legacy Open Space, a county program to conserve land.

The parcels -- recorded lots owned by Bruce, Christopher and Stuart Cohen -- would have been developed had the county not taken action, said Brenda Sandberg, the county's Legacy Open Space program manager.

Derick P. Berlage, chairman of the Montgomery Planning Board, lives around the corner from the Capitol View site.

"There's a tipping point when so much new development takes place and a historic district loses a sense of place," Berlage said. "This land purchase keeps us on the correct side of that tipping point."

The neighborhood is historic because it shows a progression of architectural styles, Ireland said. Capitol View includes a farmhouse from the 19th century, Victorian homes from the early 20th century, postwar homes, as well as modern houses.

The park and planning commission spent $2.36 million in September for the land. The per-acre price -- $727,273 -- put the property well ahead of assessments in the neighborhood. A 0.22-acre site for a home sold in June has been assessed at what would work out to be $574,721 per acre.

But Bill Gries, a land appraiser with Park and Planning, said the cost paid for the lots was "better than fair for the taxpayer."

The cost works out to $168,571 per lot.

"We negotiated hard and long to get it down to where it did," Gries said.

The other plots added to Legacy Open Space are:

*The Darby House and Store in Beallsville, on 0.67 acres for $670,000.

*A 50.6-acre addition to the Rachel Carson Conservation Park in Olney for $170,000.

*And 50.2 acres to the Serpentine Barrens in Potomac for a cost of about $1.7 million. The project involves 258 acres in five installments. The last two installments will be completed by July 2006.