Friday, December 12, 2014

A letter to the Montgomery County Planning Board: "As you may know, the site is severely reduced from its original middle school configuration, thereby constraining the ability to construct an adequate educational facility consistent with safety, environmental, and community concerns."


From the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:

Date: Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 7:26 AM
Subject: Concerns over lengthy delay in Mandatory Referral submission for B-CC Middle School #2 on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park.
To: “MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org” <MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org>

Dear Chairman Anderson,

Our community is concerned by the lengthy delay by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in submitting, for the Planning Board’s Mandatory Referral review, plans for a new middle school on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park.

As you may know, the site is severely reduced from its original middle school configuration, thereby constraining the ability to construct an adequate educational facility consistent with safety, environmental, and community concerns. This heightens the importance of your Mandatory Referral review. Yet, MCPS has failed to respond to concerns of our community and your staff, and, as of this writing, has still not submitted revised plans for the Mandatory Referral that had been originally scheduled for July of this year. After your staff requested additional information from MCPS, the hearing was rescheduled for September. After the failure of MCPS to provide the requested information, the September hearing date was cancelled and the hearing has not been rescheduled, although our understanding is that MCPS maintains that groundbreaking remains scheduled for July of 2015.

In September, staff from the Planning Board and MCPS attended a meeting of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association. While this was not an MCPS community presentation, it did give our community a chance to learn of your staff’s concerns, and to share our concerns. We have communicated periodically with staff, and our understanding is that new plans for Mandatory Referral review have not been submitted by MCPS.

Our specific concerns with the plans (as originally submitted, and as discussed in September) include:

• The number and size of unsightly retaining walls. The plans call for many hundreds of feet of retaining walls as high as 22 feet (constructed as tightly-spaced pairs of 11 foot high walls). Our understanding, based on the Cabin John MCPS site, is that most of these walls will be topped by chain-link fencing; however such fences are not indicated on the plans. Many of our neighbors have said that it is hard to understand what the walls would look like, and have asked to see a “wall schedule” depicting the proposed walls.
• Poor circulation of vehicular traffic, due to a tight layout of roadways on the site.
• Steep slopes of onsite parking lots and roadways, creating a hazard in wet or icy conditions. The lower parking lot will have more than a 30 foot elevation change, and greater than five percent grades.
• The pathway for walkers enters beside the car entrance, and then crosses the car drop-off loop, requiring students entering on foot to cross vehicular traffic, creating safety hazards.
• Excessive removal of vegetation, including specimen trees, resulting in little visual screening of the building (and retaining walls).
• Excessive discharge of stormwater into Silver Creek, which is a tributary of Rock Creek. Plans call for onsite retention of only the first inch of rainfall; all other runoff from the new building and surfaces would be discharged directly into the creek.
• We remain concerned that the estimated two-year period of construction will endanger the residents of the neighboring Alzheimer’s care facility (built on the footprint of the former Kensington Junior High).

The small site makes it difficult to meet educational criteria in a way that is sensitive to safety, environmental, and community concerns. We are concerned that the extraordinary delay in submission of plans, and the lack of responses to community and Planning Board concerns, may lead to inadequate time being available for review of plans, once they are submitted. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you contact the Montgomery County Board of Education, to request that these concerns be addressed, prior to submission of plans for Mandatory Referral review.

Sincerely yours,

James J. Pekar, Ph.D.
President, Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"I am proud of our community’s sustained engagement..."


From the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:

Dear neighbors,

I am writing with an update on the proposed use of Rock Creek Hills Park for a new middle school.

In late September, the Court of Appeals of Maryland declined our petition for certiorari, thereby upholding the previous finding of the Court of Special Appeals that we lack standing to bring suit to enforce the law and preserve the park. Specifically, the Court of Special Appeals held that adjacent property owners lack adjacent property owner standing because the County’s option to reclaim the land for educational use was not a land-use related provision. We recently met with legal counsel to review this outcome, and concluded that no further legal action should be taken.

It does look like a new, second, middle school for the Bethesda – Chevy Chase cluster will be built on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park, with groundbreaking scheduled for July 2015, and opening in August 2017. The funds have been approved by the Council, and the construction program is in the Board of Education’s capital budget work plan.

Although our efforts – to direct the new school to a more suitable site; to enforce the law; to defend the park – did not succeed, they should be a source of pride. I am proud of our community’s sustained engagement on behalf of these goals. At this point, we need to focus on the many changes that the new school will bring, and on working together to seek best outcomes.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

Sincerely yours,
James J. Pekar, Ph.D.
President,
Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Court of Appeals has Denied our Petition for Certiorari

From the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:

Dear neighbors,

I regret to inform you that the Court of Appeals of Maryland has today declined our petition for certiorari, thereby upholding the previous finding of the Court of Special Appeals that we lack standing to bring suit to enforce the law and preserve Rock Creek Hills Park. Your RCHCA Board of Directors will consult with legal counsel regarding what steps may be available to us at this point. Thank you for your support, and please consider renewing your support for the park’s legal defense fund, at <http://tinyurl.com/ca9kp5m>, especially as we have an outstanding balance with our counsel for work done to date. Thank you again.

With best regards,
Jim Pekar
President, Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Your support is needed to protect Rock Creek Hills Park.


Heavy equipment has been used to bulldoze some of the woodlands of Rock Creek Hills Park:

April 12, 2014. (click image for full-screen)

The transfer of the park land appears to be unlawful. Litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect the park is pending. If this litigation is successful, then the transfer, and the recent destruction, will have to be reversed, and trees planted to remediate the damage.

Ongoing litigation has ongoing costs. Please consider renewing your gift and supporting the ongoing efforts to defend your park. Contributions of any amount are welcome.

If you value the park's serenity, the sanctuary, and green space; if you value the soccer games, lacrosse practices, sunrise exercise classes, and walks in the park; the playground, hockey rink, and tennis courts – or even just the right of a community to preserve its public green space from bulldozers – then please donate in support of this legal battle. You can click here to contribute to the park's legal defense fund.

Thank you.

The defense of Rock Creek Hills Park continues.

From the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:

Dear neighbors,

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals, in Annapolis, released a ruling affirming the decision of the Circuit Court in Rockville, to dismiss our litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect Rock Creek Hills Park. The panel did not rule against our arguments that the proposed conversion of the Park is unlawful; instead, their ruling was based primarily on their finding that the appealing parties lack adjacent property owner and taxpayer standing. Specifically, the Court of Special Appeals held that adjacent property owners lack adjacent property owner standing because the County's option to reclaim the land for educational use was not a land-use related provision.

This week, the RCHCA Board held an emergency meeting. After reviewing the court's ruling, and consulting with our counsel, we consider the findings of the Court of Special Appeals to be erroneous. This is particularly true given a March 27 decision of Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals, which reached the opposite conclusion in a different case that dealt with similar issues. Given this, we are preparing a motion for reconsideration, asking the Court of Special Appeals to reconsider their decision on our standing in light of the recent Court of Appeals decision, and to rule on the merits of our case. Failing that, we are prepared to file an application for Certiorari to the Court of Appeals; that is, we are prepared to ask our State's highest court to consider our case.

Your Board continues to believe that our case has considerable merit, and asks for your continued support in this matter.

Sincerely yours,
Jim Pekar - RCHCA President
John Robinson - RCHCA Litigation Committee

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"We believe that we provided the court with essential information to make a determination on the merits…"

From the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:

Dear Neighbors,

As you may know, our litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect Rock Creek Hills Park has reached the appellate stage. On Wednesday, March 5, an oral argument was held before a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis. The judges were engaged, well prepared, and the dialogue with our counsel, Bil Chen, was on point and civil. Bil was very well prepared and anticipated all the questions that were asked by the panel. The Board of Education and the County made the same arguments as they did at the initial trial, regarding standing and land use issues. The three state agencies involved also repeated their arguments regarding their twenty-year administrative practice. The M-NCPPC did not present an oral argument. We believe that we provided the court with essential information to make a determination on the merits, which should be rendered in the next three to five months. We will keep you informed of any further developments.

Sincerely yours,
Jim Pekar – RCHCA President
John Robinson – RCHCA Litigation Committee


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"The litigation ... has entered its appellate phase."


Thank you for your past support! Here is an update from Mr. John R. Robinson, President of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association, on the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:

"The litigation over the pending conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park to a new middle school has entered its appellate phase. The RCHCA initial brief was filed on December 4, 2013 and we received the government parties’ answering brief on January 24, 2014. The RCHCA reply brief is due February 19 and oral argument is scheduled for March 5, 2014. After reading all the appellate materials and the supporting record, … [we] continue to believe that the appeal has a great deal of merit."

Ongoing litigation has ongoing costs. Please consider renewing your gift and supporting the ongoing efforts to save your park. Contributions of any amount are welcome. If you value the park's serenity, the sanctuary, and green space; if you value the soccer games, lacrosse practices, sunrise exercise classes, and walks in the park; the playground, hockey rink, and tennis courts – or even just the right of a community to preserve its public green space from bulldozers – then please donate in support of this legal battle. You can click here to contribute to the park's legal defense fund via via PayPal.

Thank you again for your support. We will continue to keep you updated on our progress.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The defense of Rock Creek Hills Park continues.


Yesterday the Planning Board approved the transfer of Rock Creek Hills Park to the County. A judicial appeal is underway; if the appeal is successful, this transfer will have to be rescinded.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Top Ten Reasons to Preserve Rock Creek Hills Park.


[an email response to a request for public comment]

Date: Tue, Jun 4, 2013
Subject: The top ten reasons to preserve Rock Creek Hills Park.

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

In response to the recent request for public comment regarding a proposal to acquire Rock Creek Hills Park, here are THE TOP TEN REASONS TO PRESERVE ROCK CREEK HILLS PARK:

10. The Montgomery County Parks Director said that the proposed school "would obliterate the park;" the Montgomery County Public Schools official who ran the feasibility study acknowledged that, if the school is built, "there's not going to be any trees left."

9. Our county's Housing Opportunities Commission used tax-exempt bonds to build the Kensington Park Retirement Community, which stands on much of the footprint of the former Kensington Junior High School. These senior citizens regularly use the park, especially its walking path, which would be off-limits to them.

8. The feasibility study proposes replacing the park's two full-size soccer fields, which saw 1200 hours of permitted use last year, with smaller "overlaid" fields that would limit athletics. The proposed school would be the middle school on the smallest site, in the entire county, without an adjoining (or “co-located”) park to provide space for student recreation and sports.

7. The park fails to meet most of the Board of Education's middle school site standards, including criteria for location, size, topography, and access. Indeed, the site fails to meet each element of the official "access" criterion: Frontage on a primary [70 foot right-of-way] road; three access points (for safety, to separate cars, buses, and trucks); community sidewalks. None of the final feasibility study options have three access points, or a separate service drive.

6. The feasibility study proposes construction on the steep slope of the small site, in contravention of concerns expressed by the Planning Board and County Council decades ago. This, and substantial regrading of the entire site, would raise costs; an Independent Construction Budget Estimate puts 2017 total costs at $64.5 million. Entrances for those arriving by car and and by bus would be located on different levels of the school, increasing staffing requirements and heightening security demands.

5. Ms. Laura Berthiaume, then a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, stated that, because Rock Creek Hills Park is not of "adequate size," if the proposed B-CC middle school #2 were to be built there, then it would soon become necessary to build a third middle school, on the site of the former Montgomery Hills Junior High (currently the Yeshiva and Torah School of Greater Washington).

4. Given all the above, it is reasonable to ask, how was the site chosen? The park was not the first choice of the first site selection advisory committee, and the Gazette newspaper reported: " '... misinformation may have prejudiced the votes of committee members' [of the second site selection advisory committee], said Brooke Farquhar, a supervisor ... for the county parks department."

3. The Montgomery County Board of Education did no comparative analysis of alternative sites, including the alternate recommended by the second site selection advisory committee, which is more than twice the size of Rock Creek Hills Park. Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Fran├žoise Carrier noted: "While two MCPS personnel attended our mandatory referral meeting and participated when asked, neither had any information about what the MCPS program would look like on that [alternate] site."

2. The B-CC High School NAACP Parents' Council wrote that they "cannot support the recommendation to build the new middle school in a potentially racially divisive and socially isolating location. ... We, therefore, ask the Superintendent and the Board of Education to decline to adopt Rock Creek Hills Local Park as the site for the new middle school."

AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO PRESERVE ROCK CREEK HILLS PARK IS:

1. Transfer of the land appears to violate state and federal law, and there is a judicial appeal request underway. If the appeal is granted, and is successful, then any changes to the park, including ownership and physical changes, will need to be reversed.

Sincerely yours,
James J. Pekar, Ph.D.
Kensington, Maryland


Monday, June 3, 2013

Please share your thoughts today!




This sign requesting public comment was posted near the main park entrance. Although the sign doesn't say so, we were told today that the deadline for your comments is this Thursday, June 6th.

So, please provide your comments to:
Bernie Fitzgerald
Real Estate Specialist
Department of General Services
Office of Real Estate
101 Monroe Street, 9th Floor
Rockville, Maryland 20850
240-777-6076
240-777-6011 Fax
<Bernie.Fitzgerald@montgomerycountymd.gov>

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Counsel, the Association, and the individual plaintiffs have reviewed the April 23 order carefully..."


A message from Mr. John M. Robinson, President, Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association, on the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association website:
Dear Members, 
As you are aware, on April 11, 2013, Judge Rubin made an oral ruling against the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association and the individual plaintiffs on matters relating to the proposed conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park. On April 23, 2013, Judge Rubin entered a 13 page written Declaratory Judgement stating his reasons. Counsel, the Association, and the individual plaintiffs have reviewed the April 23 order carefully and have again concluded that the Court erred in ruling that (1) the plaintiffs have no standing to challenge the proposed conversion, (2) the Board of Education has a valid reclaim right to the park, and (3) the government defendants did not violate any statutes in deciding to convert the park without further review by the state agencies having statutory jurisdiction over the proposed conversion. Therefore the Association and the individual plaintiffs are appealing the April 23 order...
Yours,
John M. Robinson

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

– TO BE CONTINUED –


On March 14th there was a two-hour hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court on our lawsuit regarding the proposed conversion of Rock Creek Hills Park to school site use. The hearing is continued (adjourned) until April 11th. Our counsel believes that the continuance reflects the Court’s efforts to render a well-informed decision.

Your effort to defend this:
("The site contains 4 forest stands with a total of 3.55 acres of forest onsite."
-From the "Natural Resource Inventory & Forest Stand Delineation")
from being turned into this:
(This 11-foot retaining wall appeared at 
Cabin John Middle School without warning.)
CONTINUES.

Your effort to defend this:
(The two full-size soccer fields of Rock Creek Hills Park 
are in high demand in the dense Downcounty area.)
from being turned into this:
(Feasibility study proposed smaller "overlaid" fields 
that would limit athletics.)
CONTINUES.

Your effort to defend this:
(Rock Creek Hills Park serves as a buffer 
for Silver Creek, which feeds into Rock Creek, 
and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.)
CONTINUES.

The Montgomery County Parks Director said that the proposed school "would obliterate the park;" the MCPS official who ran the feasibility study acknowledged that "there's not going to be any trees left." 

Your contributions are needed to meet upcoming legal fees. Click *here* to make a contribution to the park's legal defense fund, then click *here* to go the park's Facebook page, where you can let fellow park supporters know that you have contributed, and why!

Thank you.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Help Preserve Rock Creek Hills Park.

Please contribute now.

Supporters of Rock Creek Hills Park have contributed to the ongoing legal effort to enforce federal, state, and county park protection laws and overturn a decision to obliterate the park. We've come really far, but there's much more to do.

If you value the park's serenity, the sanctuary, and green space; if you value the soccer games, lacrosse practices, sunrise exercise classes, and walks in the park; the playground, hockey rink, and tennis courts – or even just the right of a community to preserve its public green space from bulldozers – then please donate in support of this legal battle. Please send your contribution today.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, in opposing the decision to take the park, noted that their recent Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan identified the two full-size soccer fields of Rock Creek Hills Park as among those most urgently needed to accommodate surging demand for athletic fields in the dense Down County area.

We need your help to meet upcoming legal fees. Please join neighbors, friends, supporters, and park users in making a difference through a donation to the fund, and support our legal defense of the park.

Please make checks to the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, noted to the Litigation Fund, and mail them to Mr. John M. Robinson at 9616 Old Spring Road, Kensington, MD, 20895. Or, click on the "Donate" button on the right to contribute via PayPal (you don't need a PayPal account, just a credit card).

Thank you for your help. Please, after you contribute, go to the Save Rock Creek Hills Park facebook page, let us know that you have donated, and tell us why!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Citizens Ask Court to Enforce Law, Protect Park.


Residents of Rock Creek Hills and the Kensington Park Retirement Community, led by the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, have filed litigation in Montgomery County Circuit Court to protect Rock Creek Hills Park. The proposed conversion of Rock Creek Hills Park to non-park use would violate state and federal law, and so citizens have asked the court to enforce the law. The plaintiffs are hopeful that they will prevail, and that the park and all its recreational assets will be protected for future generations.

A Thank You to the Parks Department. [repost]


A thank you to the Parks Department, for recent landscape improvements to Rock Creek Hills Park, and the refreshed & repainted park sign.

(Photo 2/18/12; click image for full-screen.)

(Reposted from February of this year.)