Sidewalk proposal draws opposition
Majority of residents don't want sidewalks on College View Drive in Wheaton
Residents of a historic Wheaton neighborhood are concerned the county was on the path to installing a sidewalk before it held a public hearing where residents overwhelmingly opposed the paths.
"It really seems to me that the county is very bent on building this, it's as if they want to spend money and we all know they don't have it," said Larry Converse, one of several neighbors who opposes the 2,130-foot sidewalk on College View Drive in Wheaton between Newport Mill Road and Gail Street.
Part of the roughly $110,000 sidewalk would be in the Hammond Wood neighborhood, a development with no sidewalks and rolling lawns. The neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places and was designed by Charles Goodman, a mid-century modern architect who also designed the original National Airport.
Testimony submitted to the county was strongly opposed to the sidewalk, with two residents writing in support and dozens against, including the Rock Creek Palisades Citizens' Association. Converse said the five-foot-wide path will "essentially cut my front yard in half," and could endanger the root system of some 50-year-old azaleas. Several more neighbors will lose large trees. But at the December public hearing, opponents were disillusioned when hearing examiner Mohammad Siddique reacted with skepticism to claims that they don't mind walking in the street.
Siddique, who said he will make his decision in about three weeks, said that while he does not feel residents really want to walk in the street, he did not go to the meeting with his decision made.
"I do read all the arguments and I weigh them on their merit," Siddique said. "Safety certainly has to be considered, but it's not a given that the sidewalk will be built. That's why the hearing examiner hears both sides."
If Siddique approves the sidewalk, funding would come from money set aside from the Capital Improvement Budget for the Annual Sidewalk Program. According to the county Web site for the Annual Sidewalk Program, sidewalk installation is not contingent upon property owners' approval, but "the decision is made based on a public use and need for the community-at-large."
Deb Burkholder, who requested the sidewalk through the Montgomery County Annual Sidewalk Program, said she did so because she noticed people walking in the street, including students walking to and from Newport Mill Middle School and Albert Einstein High School.
"I think it's a safety issue," said Burkholder. "Why not have sidewalks? We live in the city."
Converse contends the county should have given more than two weeks notice about the public hearing. Notifications were sent to residents on College View DriveConverse alerted the rest of the neighborhood himself. County rules limit notification to residents adjacent to proposed construction, and to a neighborhood homeowners association when applicable.
"They're determined to run roughshod over neighborhood wishes," Converse said. "I find it very curious, this drive to spend all this money for a sidewalk to nowhere."