New chairman takes reins on next phase of downtown plan
Beard replaces Smith, who stepped down after four years as leader
Bob Beard knows he has big shoes to fill, but he is stepping into them with confidence and enthusiasm.
Beard was elected as the new chairman of the Olney Town Center Advisory Committee, a spot held by Jim Smith since its inception four years ago.
Smith stepped down, saying it is healthy to rotate leadership in an organization that seeks longevity and also, in part, because of his work schedule.
The committee was formed as part of the revised Olney Master Plan, which was approved in April 2005. Beard was a charter member of the committee.
"What drew me to the Olney Town Center Advisory Committee was wanting to be involved in how Olney looks 10 to 20 years from now," he said.
Beard, 50, has lived in Olney for 20 years and is self-employed in marketing and contracting. He spent three years on the board of the Homeland Village Homeowners Association before becoming involved with the Greater Olney Civic Association. He spent one year as GOCA's executive vice president, but then decided to focus his energies on the Olney Town Center Advisory Committee.
"I just really got hooked because I enjoy that kind of work," Beard said. "At one point in my life I considered becoming an architect because I have an artistic talent and an aptitude for design, schematics and plans."
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission charged the advisory committee with creating an illustrative concept plan, devising a concept for a civic center/town commons, and reviewing development proposals for parcels within the center of town before they are presented to the Montgomery County Planning Board.
The committee has accomplished two of those goals: creating the concept plan and the concepts for the civic center and town commons.
The third will be ongoing, as the advisory committee will review redevelopment plans as they come up.
Because of the economy's downturn, major redevelopment plans with the center of Olney are on hold. Original plans called for a mixed-used development project that would have included retail, office and residential space.
"That's where we are still headed long term," Beard said. "But now there just is not much redevelopment happening."
Beard said the committee recently completed design guidelines that offer loose structure to create a cohesive look to future development.
"We just want to create consistency as properties are redeveloped in terms of things like landscaping, sidewalks, signage and outdoor furniture," he said.
Beard said as chairman, he is committed to have GOCA, the Olney Chamber of Commerce and the Olney Town Center Advisory Committee work together to speak as one voice to elected officials. He also plans to continue reach out to property owners.
The committee is comprised of 12 members affiliated with civic organizations, homeowners associations, and county government or social service agencies, although one vacancy exists. Helene Rosenheim is the vice chairwoman and Jim Haddow is the secretary.
Bear said Smith will remain involved with the advisory committee.
"While stepping down as chair, I'll continue to serve on the committee as a member and chair of the Redevelopment Subcommittee, which is the first point of contact for developers and businesses who are planning a redevelopment of their property," Smith said. "We're also discussing the possibility of a street connections/transportation subcommittee that I will likely be involved in."
He said the advisory committee is fortunate that Beard, Rosenheim and Haddow stepped up as officers for the next two years.
"They all bring good leadership qualities to the committee," he said.
Smith said he believes Beard will do a fine job in his new role.
"He is seeking input from all the members for the committee's work plan for the next two years, and judging from his first meeting [last week], he will be open to much input from the business owners and the community," Smith added.
Beard called it a "team effort."
"We have many hard-working people on this committee," he said.
The Olney Town Center Advisory Committee meets the four Tuesday of every other month, starting in January, in the Olney Community Room of the Buffington RE/MAX Building, 3300 Olney-Sandy Spring Road. If necessary, subcommittee meetings or full committee meetings may be scheduled for months without a meeting. The public is encouraged to attend all meetings.
For more information on the advisory committee, visit www.olneytowncenter.org.