Village warms to Webb Tract plan
Community leaders in Montgomery Village are coming to grips with the fact that the county's plan for one third of the Webb Tract will likely be a better alternative than private commercial development there.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett wants to purchase 41 acres of the 130-acre vacant lot along Snouffer School Road, near the Montgomery County Airpark, and build the county's police and fire rescue academy and the county school system's food distribution warehouse.
If an 8-acre parcel abutting homes in the East Village community is preserved under Leggett's plan, Village leaders are conceding that the county's plan will have less of an impact than commercial development.
"If developed with community input, this could be the best solution to this site," Linc Perley, longtime Village resident and member of the Montgomery Village Foundation's board of directors, said at the board's meeting last week.
At issue is "Lot 7," an 8-acre wooded parcel adjacent to more than a dozen homes on Silverfield Drive, Silverfield Circle and Saint Regis Way in East Village. As proposals have come and gone for the Webb Tract, one of the few constants has been outcry to preserve Lot 7 as a buffer.
East Village leaders have considered creating a nature path through Lot 7 that would possibly connect the adjacent Lois Green Conservation Park.
"Some of those trees are 100, 200 years old," said East Village Homes Corp. President Terry O'Grady. "They're beautiful."
At the foundation's monthly meeting Thursday, resident Bob Anderson and O'Grady told the board that preserving Lot 7 would go a long way toward appeasing worried neighbors.
Under Leggett's plan, residents are bothered most by the proximity of a police driving course, which at one point was proposed as close as a few hundred feet from residents' property lines.
On Thursday, the county proposed to dedicate the first 300 feet as untouched green zone except for possibly a fence. Another 70 feet would be reserved for lighting poles and other "non-structural features," according to a county letter.
O'Grady said that if the county does not move forward with its plan, the Webb Tract's owner has a developer that wants to build a shopping center at the site. She said a shopping center would have a far worse impact on the community than the police/fire academy and the food warehouse.
County traffic studies have shown that traffic from the academy and warehouse will be one-sixth of what would be created if the site is developed commercially.
"We have to be very, very careful," said O'Grady, for years one of the leading voices on the Webb Tract. "It's a start, but we have a long way to go yet."
In the end, the board decided to tell the county it wants all of Lot 7 and to withhold a decision on supporting or opposing the Webb Tract plan overall.
The county's final designs are expected next month, with construction set to begin as early as January. That will require the County Council's approval.