Burtonsville in Crisis:
Solutions for Revitalization

4. County Action

Planners Initiate Neighborhood Studies

In an effort to resolve this debilitating crisis, the County commissioned a number of studies for the town.  They focused on revitalizing and developing what little land is left in a responsible and helpful manner.  One of these studies became known as the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan, which was presented to the Montgomery County Planning Board by the Planning staff on June 7, 2012. 

As part of this planning process, the County Planners held numerous meetings with the community and made presentations to the East County Citizens Advisory Board and others as they worked to solve this crisis.  However, in hindsight, it is obvious that the County Planners wasted many months focusing on minor matters that did not addressmuch less solvethe crisis.  This is because they were constantly lobbied by the local, anti-development groups that had been the problem all along.  In addition, the Planners adopted these same anti-development views that caused the crisis.  Unfortunately, they continued the long tradition of rejecting residential housing in Burtonsville.

Ironically, many of the long-time, anti-development critics live to the North of the 40-acre tract (also known as the "RC" land).  They are all on septic systems, very close to the WSSC reservoir.  If anyone would be polluting the drinking water, it would be this group, not individuals further South, who would be using new sewer lines that flowed away from the watershed and on to Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant in Southwest D.C.  Regardless of the crisis in Burtonsville and the obvious need for housing, the activists and planners continued to embrace their anti-growth obsession which was now destroying the town it was once designed to protect.

Consequently, whenever this 40-acre, RC zone was brought up at any public meetings, or afterwards, the Planners would declare that this land was not part of the Burtonsville study, and they did not want to see any development in this area in any way.

The Planners embraced the "no growth" activists by pretending that this area was rural in nature, when that is clearly not the case.  Thus, they ignored the fact that this site is surrounded by highways, commercial, shopping centers, and offices, with large transmission towers bisecting the tract.  This land is no longer rural, which false claim is being used to stop growth and ignore the crisis.

Unfortunately, the Planners have been compromised by the local politics of the area, and their study was not honest or objective.  They were influenced by the very anti-development groups that were responsible for keeping Burtonsville backward and undeveloped all these years.

While the Planners spoke of their "vision" for Route 198 and spent much time addressing this East-West axis, including proposing new landscaping and re-alignment, they ignored the longer, undeveloped North-South axis.  This corridor was the original Route 29 main street, which provided the large traffic flow that once supported Burtonsville.  Why ignore this major road?

The East-West axis was studied by the Planning Board, while the North-South axis was ignored.

After years of study, the Planners ignored the North-South main street.  They should have used this existing corridor, which is longer than the Route 198 corridor, to design a new gateway into and out of the Town.  It was a great mistake for the Planners to avoid dealing with this underused corridor, next to 40 acres of prime in-fill land that demands residential housing.  Such an obvious oversight speaks volumes about the bias of the Planners, who have done a very poor job.

The Staff plan, as proposed by Maryland National Park & Planning, will not solve anything, much less save the failing Burtonsville Crossing shopping center.  In fact, if this plan were implemented, it would seal the fate of this community by making sure that no new residential development will be developed in the next decade, if ever.  Such a counter-productive plan will not revitalize this small town, which is dying for lack of people, not for more parks or green space.

The solution for the lack of people caused by the realignment of the Route 29 bypass is to allow immediate residential development next to the shopping center.  This is the most obvious solution to this on-going crisis.  Burtonsville needs a residential core.  It needs people.

The Planners' position, and that of the local activists, is that there should be no residential development on the 40 acres next to the failing shopping center.  This position makes no sense and is wrong.  This is the only large tract of land left in town to provide residential housing, which is desperately needed to support the excessive retail that had been developed over the years.

The fact that this land is located right next to the shopping center and the rest of the commercial zone is all the better.  Burtonsville needs residential development, without delay, to stabilize and help revitalize and save this town in crisis.

The County's Route 198 "vision" is shown above, but there is no vision for Route 29A
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