Residents invited to weigh in on future
Sandy Spring Civic Association will tally comments in December
The Sandy Spring Civic Association wants residents of the town and surrounding communities to weigh in on what types of businesses and amenities they would like to see in downtown Sandy Spring, in the hopes that the civic group can work with planners and developers to make that happen.
A survey, available online at www.sandyspringcivic.org, is open to all residents of Sandy Spring, Ashton, Olney, Brookeville and other nearby neighborhoods through Saturday.
Joy Turner, corresponding secretary of the Sandy Spring Civic Association, said the goals of the survey are to revitalize the Sandy Spring Village Center to meet the needs of residents and those in nearby neighborhoods and for it to again become a vital part of the community.
The civic association will form a committee similar to the Olney Town Center Advisory Committee, which is forming a vision for revitalizing the heart of Olney, that will include representatives of diverse groups and organizations in the community, county planners and developers, Turner said.
To be called the Sandy Spring Revitalization Committee, the new group will hold a charrette to discuss what the community wants and how to satisfy those needs. The survey results will be included in that charrette, she said.
Turner said the survey is a result of an effort that began several years ago to revitalize the center of town.
"With Ashton Meeting Place and other recent zoning issues on the table, we now have a more definitive idea of what can be built within the parameters of the master plan," she said, referring to the mixed-use project slated for the southeast corner of Route 108 and New Hampshire Avenue.
The County Council last month passed a zoning test amendment (ZTA) that limits what types of businesses can come into Sandy Spring and Ashton, thwarting Columbia-based Siena Corporation's plans to build an ezStorage facility on Sandy Spring Road (Route 108) across from Sandy Spring Museum.
That project received strong criticism from many in the community, who believed it was an inappropriate use for a prime parcel in the center of town.
Gas stations, laboratories, department stores and a variety of other uses had already been listed as prohibited in the area, which is part of a Rural Village Overlay Zone, but the amendment took that one step further by adding pawn shops, combination retail stores, adult entertainment businesses, warehouses and storage services like ezStorage.
"Now that we have all our I's dotted and T's crossed, as well as all the technical pieces such as zoning and height requirements, this allows us to really get in and begin to create our vision," Turner said.
Helene Rosenheim, community liaison for the Mid-County Services Center, said the county is eager to help Sandy Spring develop as residents would like.
"We have worked closely with the residents of Sandy Spring because the county wants to help them shape the way the village center is developed," Rosenheim said. "We've seen the success in Olney and the problems in Ashton, and these are the kinds of facilitations our staff is good at."
Rosenheim said her office was able to provide limited resources to support the community's planning efforts.
"We helped to facilitate the initial planning process and helped with the planning structure," she said. "Having a good plan that leads to a common series of goals of the master plan and village center will create something that the community wants to see."
The survey consists of three questions. The first lists 25 types of businesses, including restaurants, a private school and a pharmacy, and participants are asked whether they find each acceptable or not acceptable.
The second asks for other types of businesses not listed and the third asks for specific brand-name businesses.
The results are weighted, based on the address of the participant a response from a Sandy Spring resident would be weighted higher than that of a Silver Spring resident.
"Just as Sandy Spring residents go into Olney, we recognize that residents of Olney and surrounding communities will come to Sandy Spring," Turner said. "Local businesses can't survive with just the local people patronizing it, so that is why we are looking at a five-mile radius."
The results will be tabulated and announced at the Dec. 7 meeting of the Sandy Spring Civic Association.
To date, more than 250 people have completed the survey. Turner said the civic association has already noticed patterns.
"People have been pretty passionate," she said. "We are seeing that they want interactive things and local restaurants, rather than chain establishments. They also want it walkable, so it is truly a meeting place like it was in the 1800s."
Turner said Sandy Spring recently received a grant from Heritage Montgomery to erect bronze signs at each end of the town.
"These are all efforts to help redefine Sandy Spring," she said. "After industrialization, it slowly caved in on itself."