Burtonsville in Crisis:
Solutions for Revitalization

6. Planners Deny Housing

Recommend Park and Bike Path in North Burtonsville

After years of preventing development in Burtonsville, it appeared that this 40-acre tract would finally receive some much-needed attention.  However, on July 12, 2012, the Planners reaffirmed their long-standing opposition against any development in this area.  The Planners refused to consider any new rezoning or residential development.  They claimed this land was "rural" in nature and must be protected from development.  The Planners were determined to keep the RC zone in place and only allow a bike path and park.  See Memorandum, Worksession No. 2.

Planners Recommend More Parks in RC Zone

The Planners propose yet another park for the RC zone next to the shopping center, even though there are "approximately 450 acres of existing parks" within the two-mile Community Legacy Area ("CLA"), according to the Burtonsville Legacy Plan, page 17.  Today, there are at least ten parks in Burtonsville with an additional 80 acres of parks proposed, including "a 30-acre expansion to the Fairland Recreational Park in the Eastern portion of the CLA" and the 40-acre tract next to the failing shopping center.

"Montgomery County Park and Planning owns and maintains sporting facilities for all the parks in the Burtonsville area.  In fact, within the Burtonsville area (beyond the CLA) there are approximately 1,785 acres of public park space."  Clearly, Burtonsville, with over 2,000 acres of parkland in the area, does not need any more parks.  This obsession with parks is a diversion:  it is a political strategy to stop growth.

The Planners refused to study the North-South axis, much less consider any residential housing.  They even vowed at one public hearing that this RC land would never be developed.  To underscore their bias, they supported such myths as, "the site cannot be sewered properly" or "the drinking water would be ruined by any residential development."  These positions are false.

Planners Promote Anti-Growth Agenda

To further underscore the anti-growth agenda of the local planners, Katherine Nelson, an environmental planner, was interviewed for an on-line video (start video at 5:20) regarding the recommendations for the 40-acre RC tract, which is posted on the Montgomery website, Burtonsville Crossing Neighorhood Plan, under "watch" an excerpt. 

Here, Ms. Nelson pretends that the land next to the shopping center is rural in nature and therefore must never be developed.  In a blatant falsehood, this County employee explained that the typical impervious coverage for this RC zone was 5-6%, and therefore the County was being generous to allow an 8% lot coverage, a number so low that it prohibits any development on this large tract surrounded by highways. 

The facts are very different:  the typical impervious use in the local RC zone is 25-50% lot coverage.  This fact was pointed out by Mike Nagy, attorney for the 40-acre RC tract, during his presentation to the Planning Board on July 12.  No one refuted these facts.

The County planner should not be allowed to promote propaganda or their personal, private agendas.  We expect better from our County Government.  The County needs to take this video down and correct the record.  They have knowingly made a number of false and misleading statements, and they need to apologize to the community.

In spite of the County Council's request to study this 40-acre tract, the Planners insisted on ignoring the RC land and refused to study or change it.  They determined that this land will not receive sewer or be developed.  How can you have a "complete community," one that is "balanced and livable," as the County envisioned, without people?  This is the problem with Burtonsville, it has too few people, too much commercial, and too much parkland.  Burtonsville currently has over 450 acres of park land, with more being added annually.  However, the town has no residential core.  The town needs people, not parks.

Planners Manipulate and Misrepresent Public Opinion

The Burtonsville Neighborhood Study was not a fair or objective process.  While the planners claim that they were listening to the residents at the many public hearings, this is not true.  The public meetings were tightly controlled.  Those who were pro-development were discouraged from speaking, while those who did not want development were encouraged and prominently featured at every hearing.  It was not a fair or democratic process.

Example:  At the East County Meeting on February 17, 2011, a number of people spoke passionately that they wanted Burtonsville to look like Maple Lawn.  But, yet, this common view was ignored and deliberately omitted from the study because the planners were relentlessly promoting a no development agenda.

Consequently, it is very misleading for the County planners to claim that the “neighbors told planners that they wanted more public spaces.”  The majority want Burtonsville to look like Maple Lawn.  They want smart development, growth, and progress.

The present "no growth, no development" plan does not reflect a "broad consensus" of the residents or the local merchants.  The vast majority want Burtonsville to look like Maple Lawn and they want this 40-acre tract to be developed for residential housing to support the community.  However, the Planners are working hard to make sure this never happens and they are once again manipulating the facts to maintain the no growth tradition, which has ruined Burtonsville for all to see.

Planners Manipulate Environmental Study

In a continued effort effort to stop residential development next to the shopping center, the Planners cite environmental concerns.  They claimed this issue is about the "health of the citizens and the quality of the drinking water."  To prove this point, they submitted a study from the Chesapeake Stormwater Network to the Planning Board

The Planners referenced Technical Bulletin #3.  More specifically, they cited a chart entitled, “Higher imperviousness = lower environmental quality” (see CSN Technical Bulletin #3 , "Implications of the Impervious Cover Model:  Stream Classification, Urban Subwatershed Management and Permitting," Version 1.0).

The Planners claimed this study supports an 8% impervious cap on the subject property and prohibits development in order to protect water quality.  However, this study says no such thing.  The Planners are manipulating the study.

The impervious recommendations in this study did not apply to a single 40-acre tract, but for many thousands of acres in the entire watershed (over 20,000 acres).  The Planners have misused this data, making it say what they wanted to hear.  This is a dishonest error that must be corrected.

The impervious level of the watershed in question is presently at 4-5%, well below the 8% number that is being misused to stop development.  The Chesapeake Watershed study supports a typical 30% lot coverage on the 40-acre tract under discussion.  It does not support an 8% impervious cap as the Planners claim.    

All the data, including the 2012 Patuxent Watershed implementation Plan, supports a 30% impervious level.  Such development would not have any effect on the overall imperviousness level of the watershed.  In fact, it only raises the impervious levels a small fraction, i.e., .045627678%.  This means there is no negative impact as claimed, nor is there any danger that the watershed will increase to an 8% impervious as the Planners claim.

There is no excuse for such deliberate manipulation and misrepresentation of the data.  There are no credible environmental reasons to stop housing on this tract of land.  It is time this fact is known to the public and the County Council.  The Chesapeake Watershed study supports residential development on this 40-acre tract.

Planners Propose Residential Zoning for Commercial Shopping Center

Realizing that the town needs people, the Planners claimed that the failing Burtonsville Crossing shopping center would create residential housing if they were given the proper zoning.  As such, the County Planners are proposing to grant residential zoning to the Burtonsville Crossing shopping center, which is already fully built-out with 90% impervious lot coverage.  This is an empty and diversionary gesture because this 13-acre commercial site will not generate any residential housing within the next decade, if ever. 

The Owners of the shopping center have no plans to demolish the site and re-build it with residential housing.  The planners are well aware of this fact.  They are simply trying to fool the community and make it appear that they have addressed the lack of housing, when they have made certain that there will be no new residential housing in Burtonsville.

It is obvious that the Planners should have proposed residential housing on the 40-acre "residential" tract, which can be immediately developed into multi-family housing.

The Planners' proposal to place residential zoning on top of a fully-built commercial shopping center is absurd.  The residential housing should go on the residential-zoned land next to the shopping center.   Such a balanced and logical approach is the proper solution to save Burtonsville.

To grant residential zoning rights to the small 13-acre shopping center, which already has 90% impervious coverage, will not produce any new residential housing.  The Planners' recommendation for a park in the residential zone is convoluted and bizarre.  The 40-acre RC land should be rezoned and developed into high-density, residential housing.  This is the only solution to save Burtonsville.
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