The Hillandale Bulletin
Editors note: An editorial by Hillandale Citizens Association President Mark Gagern is featured this month. Mark offers a candid analysis of Hillandale, the Citizens Association, and insight into HOW to make some big, and critical changes in our community!
Act Now, Before Its Too late
By Mark Gagern, HCA President
The HCA must be revitalized. Last months Bulletin served to help awaken our community, with much more to be done by new people in the year to come. In February, we met scores of Hillandalers who cared enough to come out to the CHI Center to learn about many important matters, and to speak their minds. We heard from county zoning and housing officials on what is and is not acceptable in our community. People expressed their concerns -- from crime, to lack of local information, to zoning infractions, to land use, membership questions, and more.
There are many projects and proposals for changes in our portion of the county. The FDA/FRC project, improvements to the White Oak golf course, a proposed transit center at White Oak and expansion of the Meaney Center are but a few issues impacting Hillandale. It is imperative that Hillandalers have a strong voice to ensure that our communitys interests are forwarded.
The fact is that until last month, due to an invigorating editorial in the Bulletin by editor Josh Feldstein, no more than a handful of residents have come to the meetings, except for huge issues, such as the fatal gas explosion last January on Cresthaven drive. In order to reverse this trend, monthly meetings will provide updates on issues of concern and opportunities to present, discuss and vote on issues. Both the positive and negative side of issues will be presented. We all need to actively participate in this process to keep Hillandale the wonderful place it is!
HCA: At A Crossroad
The HCA has been an effective and powerful force in preserving the quality of Hillandale for many years. Hillandale is now undergoing a change. Most of our homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the original owners are now retiring and moving out of the neighborhood. In recent years, a few dedicated neighbors, who have served the community tirelessly for years, have continued to provide experience and leadership to the HCA. We must involve new neighbors with fresh perspectives in the leadership of our association now. By doing so, the experience of those who have been involved as well as the traditions and history of Hillandale can be advanced.
HCA: Whats needed
As the outgoing President of the HCA, I believe the Association can and should be doing many new and productive things.
We need a much stronger political voice, able to take on political issues, and be a part of the decision making process. Currently, we are not as effective as we should be. We have more than 1,300 homes in our community, with thousands of voters. If at least 200 Hillandalers are represented in each of our monthly meetings, we will have much greater political horsepower. This is extremely important because, as a practical matter, we compete for facilities and services with other communities in Montgomery County who are much better organized. As a result they are more effective in advancing their objectives. Further, HCA must actively communicate and work with neighboring community associations and other groups in order to help raise the political profile of the eastern part of our county.
The strong political voice created by the active participation of Hillandalers will allow our association to address and effect issues that impact the value of our property and the quality of our neighborhood and lives. Some specific issues include the following:
A specific example of where the HCAs efforts should be focused is schools. Schools impact property values and ultimately quality of life more than any other single item. For people with children, or those planning a family, school issues are paramount to any decision to live in a community. Anyone who wants to sell their home understands that the quality of the neighborhood school directly affects home values. Beyond property value, we all have a strong desire to see that all children are provided with a first rate education in a first rate facility. Hillandales Cresthaven Elementary is a wonderful school but is challenged by extreme overcrowding and is in need of renovation. The school has installed many trailers to accommodate its students. Unfortunately, I believe the overcrowding combined with the dated facilities have made Cresthaven unattractive to many Hillandalers and potential Hillandalers. While Cresthaven is currently on the list of schools to be renovated, the start date has been postponed indefinably due to budget constraints. The School board has voted to build a new school in Oakview to help ease overcrowding but construction funds are not available. The HCA needs to be ready to aggressively push for funding and prepared to compete for the resources our community and children need.
While building a strong political voice is one key to preserving and
improving our neighborhood, the HCA should also focus on community
building. I believe that Hillandales greatest attribute is the
small town feeling that comes with knowing your neighbors and being
involved. Given the turnover we are now seeing, it is critical for the HCA to
provide community activities to preserve the small town feeling.
Historically, the Neighborhood Watch has sponsored the Fall Festival at the CHI
center. This year, there was a Holiday party at the CHI center. Lets have more
parties! The only limits are suggestions and people.
The HCA is led by the executive committee, which is comprised of the elected officers and four at large representatives plus the chairpersons of the standing committees. The purpose of the committee is to act on behalf of the association on any matter requiring action prior to the next general meeting. Because of poor attendance at general meetings there is little difference between committee and general meetings. As a result, issues are left to a few people who serve on the executive committee with little input from the community. This is not the way the process should work.
Rather, each month everyone from the neighborhood should attend the associations general meeting where the communitys issues and business can be held in public with the participation of all. Community members present will vote on the issues, and actions will be taken accordingly. Thats the way it was once, and the way it can become again but only if residents come to the meetings!
The next meeting is Wednesday March 27th at 7:30 PM at CHI. Please come out, get updates, visit with old friends, meet new neighbors, suggest new business and participate.
How Do You Get Involved?
Just let us know who you are! We need people now! New officers for the next year need to be nominated for election in May. Please help your neighborhood by stepping forward to serve in any of the following positions: President, Executive Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer or At-Large Representative. We also need chairpersons and committee members for the following committees:
Hillandale Crime Watch
Liaison to Allied Civic Group
Zoning and Planning
Army Laboratory Liaison
We need your help! Come to the March 25th meeting, and you will learn about the openings in the HCA, and be able to offer nominations be it for yourself or a willing neighbor. Elections will take place in April. To nominate someone, you may also call me at 301/434-8968, Matt Lavine at 301/434-0095, or May Savage at 301/ 445-1630.
Notice of Hillandale Citizens Association General Meeting
The community is invited to attend the HCAs General Meeting on Monday, March 25th 2002, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the CHI (the Center for the Handicapped) on New Hampshire Ave. The agenda:
1. FDA/FRC presentation, followed by Q&A.
2. HCA open forum, with new nominations taken.
· Express your concerns and opinions on all Hillandale-related issues.
FRC Campus: What Do You Know?
There are 730 acres on the Federal Research Center (FRC) campus site, but only 130 will be used for the FDA complex, and approximately 100 acres will be maintained for the golf course. Do you know what's going to happen to the (approximately) 520 acres left on the campus across from Hillandale? No one does, really, and unless you express your feelings, now, as a member of the community, you may never get the chance to do so again-- the project will be presented to you, the homeowners, as accomplished fact.
At the next general meeting on Wednesday March 25th at the HCI at 7:30 PM, LabQuest will put on a presentation for Hillandale residents concerning some of the latest developments in the FDA building project. This will be a fairly well orchestrated presentation that will NOT solicit input from community members but rather will show residents what is going to happen.
LabQuest is a county executive committee, created by a County Executive order, set up to provide information about the FDA to the residents of Montgomery County. The county pays lawyers to advise this committee, which includes General Services Administration (GSA) representatives, the architect Kling Lindquest, employees of the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), FDA representatives, local elected officials and a few appointed citizens. This project is a very large money-making venture for the county, and the county government is investing in it very seriously.
The Food and Drug Administration, presently located on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville, has 6,235 employees who are scheduled to relocate to the new FDA complex here on New Hampshire Avenue at the completion of construction. The FDA also anticipated approval for a new sub-office to be added to their organization, and potentially may hire some security/anti-terrorism employees as well, bringing the total number of employees to about 7,000. These 7,000 people will be commuting into this area five days a week, and that will seriously create a strain on an already crowded road with little latitude for change. The county and state have foreseen the commuting difficulties, and has developed some plans to address with the transportation explosion. However, can the residents of Hillandale be sure these plans will really work?
New Road Construction
The State of Maryland has allotted $10-12 million in its budget for transportation improvements in the vicinity of the FDA complex. Construction is slated to begin in 2003. Currently, provisions have been made to widen New Hampshire Ave. to include a fourth lane that will run from the fire station up to the Rte. 29 off/on ramps. At present, the only option for commuters to the FDA site is to drive, although a few extra direct bus routes have been proposed for from the Silver Spring metro station, and some from "appropriate spots in the western part of the county". Obviously, a large number of FDA commuters will drive in from 495, and the best solution would seem to be to widen New Hampshire from 495 to the complex. Widening New Hampshire from 495 to the firehouse is impossible, however, because the county cannot obtain right-of-way there; businesses, houses and the church are too close to the road edge. Similarly, the southbound side of New Hampshire Avenue will not be widened at all, because the county cannot obtain right-of-way here either. An access lane called Micholson Lane by the former site of Hardware City that curves around to meet Northwest Drive has already been built. Leading up to the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Powder Mill Road, where the church and Hillandale entrance stand, a third traffic lane will be added.
A new entrance has been proposed to the campus site in an attempt to lighten the traffic load on New Hampshire. Montgomery County has also approved an access lane to be built there (and this approval is included in the Fairland master plan), allowing the federal government to purchase right-of-way from Percontee, the limestone quarry and concrete recyclers, on Cherry Hill Road. If the federal government is interested, and then is successful in its bid to purchase that right-of-way, an access lane could be built between Maryland Farms (a strip mall) and Percontee on Cherry Hill Road. A bridge would be built over the stretch of Paint Branch that runs through campus, and this entrance gate to the complex would be called the Northeast Gate. With this additional entrance built, the traffic load would be somewhat lessened for New Hampshire Avenue, as Cherry Hill Road would take some traffic from commuters to the site traveling southbound on Rte 29.
Future needs for the Federal Research Complex (FRC, or the FDA campus) have been projected by a specialized committee set up by the county. The impact of the complex upon the community in the next twenty, and then fifty, years is positive overall, according to this study. However, the committee recommended that light rail transportation be made available in this area. The county's proposed "Outer Purple Line" would have to run from White Oak to Wheaton to Grosvenor. The line's termination would have to include a parking lot built at White Oak Shopping Center for commuters, at present projected to accommodate 3,500 to 4,000 cars. The plan that Gov. Glendenning favors, the "Inner Purple Line" would run from College Park to Bethesda, but would include a spur to White Oak. No projections have been made for parking lot size for the spur proposal, although the size would likely be similar. However, no funds have been allotted for such a project, nor have any plans been made: these are, at present, simply projections.
Court Action May Fail
If residents have read in the Washington Post or heard of the national Sierra Club lawsuit, they should know that the suit will probably be dismissed. The national chapter (the Montgomery County chapter was not involved in the suit at all) was concerned about the environmental impact of the FDA complex, given that there is no transportation infrastructure to support the complex as it presently stands. The Club had been vocal in its recommendation that the complex be moved downtown, someplace where transportation was already available. However, as Congress had passed regulations to authorize the White Oak site that surpasses the original executive order the Club is using as the basis of its suit. At present, the Justice Dept. will likely file to dismiss the Sierra Club's suit, and it seems that Justice will be successful.
Are You Ready?
Whatever your feelings are about the site's construction, it is important that you focus on the following facts: it is going to be built; it is going to be built in your neighborhood, thus affecting your schools, your property values, your commuting, and your daily life on the quantum level. Decisions are being made about this project daily, with or without your input (presently, the planning's been done largely without your input). The county and state government, at the time of this writing, favors the building of other federal offices on the FRC campus. However, other alternatives, such as homes and businesses, have been suggested. Since the GSA manages the property, which is owned by the Feds, its unclear how feasible those ideas are. It does not seem likely, however, that the land will be left undeveloped. New building means new ingress and egress in the neighborhood, additional cars, much more traffic, and a greater environmental (and potentially negative) impact on the community. Make certain you're not being taken for a ride; investigate and read about other local communities with large federal complexes, such as Gaithersburg with its NIST campus and Bethesda with its NIH campus. At the presentation on March 25th, Hillandale residents must come prepared with questions, most importantly: what is going to be done with that extra land? And what will my community get out of it? -- Jennifer Davis, Assistant Editor.