Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Members of the Montgomery County Council, Council Staff, and guests:"

Testimony presented at the May 3, 2011 Montgomery County Council Public Hearing on "additional requests for the FY12 Capital Budget and amendments to the FY11-16 Capital Improvements Program":

Members of the Montgomery County Council, Council Staff, and guests:

My name is James Pekar and I live at 9723 Kingston Road in Kensington.

Thank you for this opportunity to ask you to save our neighborhood park, and the homes of hundreds of elderly neighbors, from a sudden and foolish land-grab by the Board of Education.

At their meeting last Thursday, Board members spoke for acquiring the "site of the former Kensington Junior High School" for a new middle school. For example, one said that "it was a school, and now it will be a school again".

However, the site of the former Kensington Junior High School is now occupied by the Kensington Park retirement community, which provides independent and assisted living to hundreds of seniors, including many with Alzheimer's Disease. Where the school once stood, the adult housing now stands. That's a fact.

So, logically, in calling for the "it" that "was a school" to be a school "again", that Board member was advocating the eviction of our senior neighbors, and the seizure and demolition of their homes.

Board members may have misspoken due to ignorance and haste. After all, the destruction of Rock Creek Hills Park was added to their agenda five hours before the meeting; representatives of Kensington Park got three hours notice. Given the evident hurry, it does seem possible that Board members advocating acquisition of the "former school site" were simply unaware that it is home to hundreds of senior citizens, including some of our society's most vulnerable.

Indeed, despite vocal endorsements of the "former school site", the surprise resolution passed by the Board of Education does not explicitly seize Kensington Park; it instead purports that a new middle school could be squeezed into the footprint of our adjoining Rock Creek Hills Park, the former Junior High School's playing field. Nonetheless, Thursday's resolution is a mortal threat to Kensington Park, whose park setting would be replaced with a busy and crowded school complex, shoe-horned into a site that the Board of Education acknowledges is much smaller than desired for a middle school.

I call upon you to help save these seniors' homes, and our cherished neighborhood park, by stopping the Board's surprise land-grab. I ask the council to use the power of the purse, to deny funds for the study of this site, for the destruction of our neighborhood park, and for the endangerment of the hundreds of units of senior housing that overlook it.

The site selection process for the new middle school was deeply flawed, and must be re-opened.

Thank you.

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