Thursday, February 23, 2012

Last night...

Last night the site selection advisory committee for Bethesda - Chevy Chase Middle School #2 held its final meeting. After lengthly consideration of private sites, the group evaluated the two remaining public sites, ranking Rock Creek Hills Park above North Chevy Chase Park.

The two park sites will undergo "mandatory referral" review by the Planning Board, after which the Superintendent of Schools will recommend a site to the Board of Education, who would then request the County Council to fund construction.

Rock Creek Hills Park fails to meet the overwhelming majority of the official site evaluation criteria. The site does not appear to provide parity with other middle schools in the county.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A thank you to the Parks Department.

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 larger version.)

"The role of parks in a community..." [repost]

"The role of parks in a community is really so important to people of all ages."
 - from comments by Montgomery County Councilmember Ms. Nancy Floreen at the 7/25/11 joint meeting of the Council's Education (ED) and Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committees.

"I moved into my house ... because it's down the street from a park." [repost]

"I moved into my house  –  it's rather small, not much room  –  because it's down the street from a park."
 - from comments by Mr. Christopher Barclay, Vice President, Montgomery County Board of Education, at the 6/30/11 joint meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Maryland – National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What does the 2011 "feasibility study" say about Rock Creek Hills Park? [repost]

Rock Creek Hills Park is unique among listed candidate sites for B-CC middle school #2 in that a "feasibility study" regarding the proposal to replace the park with a middle school complex has been completed. Given the expenditure of money, time, and effort on this feasibility study, it is prudent to ask: What does the 2011 feasibility study say about Rock Creek Hills Park as a potential middle school site? In fact, the feasibility study illuminates site deficiencies that are consequences of the decision made thirty years ago to deed one-third of the former Kensington Junior High School site to the Housing Opportunities Commission, which built the Kensington Park Retirement Community on much of the footprint of the old school. Consider:

The 2011 feasibility study shows that Rock Creek Hills Park is too small.
• In June, when the first design schematics were presented by Samaha Associates, the Virginia firm that was paid $67,500 to conduct the feasibility study, two of the three options presented routed school buses over basketball courts:

Busball, anyone? Early signs of struggles with the small site.

• In October, all three final feasibility study options used "overlaid" playing fields:

When is a soccer field not a soccer field? 
Whenever someone's playing softball.
When is a tennis court not a tennis court?
Whenever someone's running track.
(And when is a basketball court not a basketball court? 
When "portable classrooms" are parked on it.)

• In December, the Montgomery County Public Schools Director of Construction wrote that "none of the three [final feasibility study] options provide the 125 on-site parking [spaces] called for in the educational specifications".

The 2011 feasibility study shows that Rock Creek Hills Park has inadequate access.
One official site criterion is "access", which has four parts: Frontage on a primary (70 foot right-of-way) road; three access points; a separate service drive; community sidewalks.  The park fails to meet each of these elements, and in particular: 
• None of the three final feasibility study "options" have three access points;
• None of the three final feasibility study "options" have a separate service drive.

The 2011 feasibility study shows that the proposed construction would obliterate Rock Creek Hills Park.
• In July, the Montgomery County Parks Director said that construction would "obliterate" the park.
• In AugustMontgomery County Public Schools appeared to agree that "there's not going to be any trees left":

"... you're doing grading and adjusting the levels everyplace, 
so there's not going to be any trees left."

The 2011 feasibility study proposed a middle school that is too small to meet projected enrollment; to meet bus, faculty, parent and visitor parking; and to provide adequate playing fields. To accommodate 1200 students would require expansion, which will increase costs and limit sports programs even more. The site does not provide parity with other middle schools in the county.

Friday, February 10, 2012

But Can They Build It?

Rock Creek Hills Park is unique among listed candidate sites for B-CC middle school #2 in that a "feasibility study" regarding the proposal to replace the park with a 3–4 story middle school complex has been completed. At Wednesday's meeting of the site selection advisory committee, Montgomery County Public Schools staff briefed committee members on the results of that study, without mentioning that all final feasibility study options require extensive & expensive regrading (for example, the athletic field would be dropped four feet) and the destruction of stands of specimen and significant trees, which would require Planning Board approval.

MCPS has not submitted a Forest Conservation Plan to the Planning Board, whose review is required and binding. An appropriate Forest Conservation Plan that preserves identified priority-one forest would result in 8.17 acres of buildable land, smaller than the MCPS-specified 10.1 acre minimum for a middle school (at Wednesday's meeting, the site of the former Lynbrook Elementary School was eliminated from consideration after its buildable area was found to be 8.5 acres).

Also at Wednesday's meeting, Parks Department staff reiterated Planning Board Chair Carrier's stated position that "parks are not free," and that compensation would be required for the loss of this very valuable asset.