Monday, April 9, 2012

"I am here tonight to support the recommendation of your staff..."

[Testimony at the April 9, 2012 meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board]

Good evening, Ms. Carrier, and fellow Commissioners.

My name is Dr. James Pekar, and I am a resident of Rock Creek Hills. I am here tonight to support the recommendation of your staff, and the testimony of Mr. John Robinson. I will not repeat any of the points they have made.

I would like to address, briefly, some specifics of the middle school that Montgomery County Public Schools proposes to build upon the site of Rock Creek Hills Park, according to the feasibility study they completed last summer, even though the park fails to meet the overwhelming majority of their middle school site evaluation criteria.
  • The feasibility study proposes construction on the steep slope of the small site, in contravention of concerns expressed by this body [County Planning Board] and the County Council decades ago. This, and substantial regrading of the entire site, would raise costs; an Independent Construction Budget Estimate, commissioned by the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, puts 2017 total costs at $64.5 million, almost 40% above the MCPS estimate. Entrances for those arriving by car and and by bus would be located on different levels of the school, heightening security demands and increasing staffing requirements.
  • A middle school on this site would be the one on the smallest site, in the entire county, without an adjoining (or “co-located”) park to provide space for student recreation and sports. All final feasibility study options used "overlaid" playing fields, which would limit student athletics.
  • The MCPS Director of Construction confirms that "none of the three options provide the 125 on-site parking [spaces] called for in the educational specifications," and parking is restricted in the narrow surrounding streets.
  • 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.
Under your stewardship, Rock Creek Hills Park is a success story of multipurpose recreational greenspace, serving the needs of three constituencies: the elderly, park users, and the community. It would be a shame to lose it for a school that fails to provide parity with other middle schools in the county.

Thank you.

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