Council approves land purchase near Fairland Park
Property was destined for inclusion in large development
The County Council on Tuesday paved the way to add 52 acres to Fairland Regional Park, eliminating the possibility of using the land as part of a large-scale housing development.
The property, which will be bought by the county for $8.75 million, is located east of Route 29 and next to McKnew Local Park. The land was owned by Fairland Development LLC.
The council voted 7-0 for the park addition, with two members, George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park and Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At large) of North Bethesda, absent. Leventhal is in China and Trachtenberg is in Boston, council spokesman Neil H. Greenberger said.
In May, the county Planning Board approved a development plan that would have included the 52 acres as part of a 365-home development. The site also included a proposed elementary school.
Losing the acreage could eliminate 100 homes and jeopardize the school's construction, said Stuart Rochester, chairman of the Fairland Master Plan Committee.
David Moon, chief of staff for Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring, said Tuesday that Navarro supports the measure in part because the 52 acres could be a buffer zone for the nearby Intercounty Connector.
According to a news release from Navarro's office, the move has been supported by the Sierra Club of Montgomery County, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Montgomery Countryside Alliance and the East County Citizens Advisory Board. The 52 acres of land was originally priced at $11.55 million, the release states.
"[Navarro] jumped on it as a priority for District 4," Moon said.
Dominic Quattrocchi, a senior county planner, told the council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee July 2 that preserving the 52 acres is important because of its unique habitat as a coastal plain and its diversity of wildlife.
"Its potential biodiversity to the county should not be overlooked," said Quattrocchi, who said most of the land in the county is part of the Piedmont region that runs through some of the eastern United States.
In January, The Artery Group of Bethesda, which includes Fairland Development LLC, sought to sell 62 acres, which would have included 137 lots, according to a June 23 memorandum sent to the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee from the Department of Parks. Instead, the two sides agreed on 52.88 acres.
"Artery's need for cash was obviously driving this proposal," the memorandum states.
The money used to buy the land will come from the commission's Advanced Land Acquisition Revolving Fund. According to a July 2 council staff report, ALARF can be used, with council approval, "to purchase land for highways, schools and other uses."