Councilmembers Divided on Wheaton Redevelopment Approach: May 2013

May 9, 2013

Some County Councilmembers want to move forward with the Park and Planning headquarters, separate from other redevelopment in Wheaton; others want the headquarters to be part of an overall redevelopment strategy. Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Valerie Ervin joined Council President Nancy Navarro in supporting a “split project” approach in which Park and Planning could move forward with its plans for a new headquarters building south of Reedie Drive, separate from the redevelopment possibilities being explored for other parcels of county land in Wheaton. Park and Planning prefers this option because it wants responsibility for its own building, according to Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier.

Councilmembers George Leventhal, Marc Elrich and Nancy Floreen argued in favor of a “developer proposal option” backed by County Executive Isiah Leggett. The county would solicit proposals from the private sector for redeveloping multiple projects in Wheaton together, including the Park and Planning headquarters building.

The council must also decide on the possibility of moving the county’s Department of Permitting Services and Department of Environmental Protection to Wheaton. Although Leggett recommended against the move earlier this year because of its high costs, the request for proposal process he supports as part of the second option might make a multi-agency building a more cost­effective and feasible option.

If the county does pursue the developer proposal option, it would put out to bid three publicly-owned parcels of land in Wheaton: the Mid-County Regional Services Center site at 2424 Reedie Drive, Parking Lot 13 and Parking Lot 34 (located at 2510 Ennalls Ave). Added to these would be 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring, where the Park and Planning headquarters is currently located. This property would be the one to attract developers, but for construction to occur there, Park and Planning would need to first relocate to a new headquarters in Wheaton.

With 8787 Georgia Avenue as the valuable land chip, the Reedie Drive site does not need to be part of this bundle, and letting Park and Planning manage it separately would help simplify the process. The full council will consider these options for Wheaton redevelopment at a worksession on Monday, May 13. The council must vote on these amendments and the M-NCPPC headquarters in the county’s CIP budget before the end of May.

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