Friday, March 27, 2015

"So please, uphold the law, adopt your staff recommendation. Save some trees, protect a creek, and most importantly, protect children."

[Testimony before the Montgomery County Planning Board, 26 March 2015 (as prepared).]

My name is Dr. James Pekar. I reside at 9723 Kingston Road, Kensington, directly across Saul Road from Rock Creek Hills Park. I serve as President of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association. I won’t need more than five minutes of your time, to testify in support of your staff recommendation.

As you may know, we’ve worked to preserve Rock Creek Hills Park, because it is our neighborhood’s central green space, and because the site is obviously inappropriate and inadequate to the proposed school, and will yield a middle school that does not provide parity with others in the County.

In 1986, a memo from your staff assessed the Park, stating: “Development outside the flat portions of the site should be restricted... The site slopes steeply on three sides, and drains into a tributary of Rock Creek…” And that year, our County Council resolved that: “Primary consideration [shall be given] to the conservation of the trees and other unique natural features for the continuing enjoyment of the … community.”

The park fails to meet the Board of Education’s official middle school site criteria for location, size, topography, and access. Indeed, the site fails to meet each element of the "access" criterion: Frontage on a primary (70’ right-of-way) road; three access points (for safety, to separate cars, buses, and trucks); community sidewalks.

In light of the foregoing, I wish I could ask you tonight to recognize that, “If it does not fit, you must not permit!”  –  not because we disagree with your staff’s recommendation, but because the decision to build is wrong. We understand, however, that this hearing assumes that the school will be built on the site of the park, and seeks the best possible outcome. With that understanding, I am compelled to testify in support of your staff recommendation to uphold Maryland’s Forest Conservation Law by moving the car entrance up the hill, preserving a riparian forest stand. This doesn’t just save trees and protect the creek – it reduces retaining walls, reduces stormwater runoff, and improves pedestrian safety. It represents the safest, most balanced approach to the site.

There are many reasons to support the recommendation of your staff (which is consistent with your staff memo from almost three decades ago). Let me mention just one. As noted in your staff’s transportation memorandum of February 27th (of this year), “…the relocated access point would have more than the minimum 200-foot sight distance required on secondary residential streets…” In contrast, the car access point proposed in the submission has intersections just 100 feet and 150 feet away (on either side), well within the 200 foot sight distance requirement, raising serious concerns about safety.

So please, uphold the law, adopt your staff recommendation. Save some trees, protect a creek, and most importantly, protect children. Thank you.