Civic Green as Hot Potato

Civic Green as Hot Potato

One of the more convoluted discussions in the White Flint Sector Plan is the siting of various parks. The biggest park in the Sector is the existing Wall Local Park, at the corner of Nicholson Lane and Old Georgetown Road; the Plan contemplates revising this park (which is currently largely covered by the Montgomery Aquatic Center and a big parking lot) by shifting the parking into a structure to the north and converting the parking lot into a series of informal park fields.

The second biggest park is the proposed Civic Green, suggested as a gathering place and event location for the Sector and surrounding communities. The Civic Green concept is appealing to many participants in the Sector Plan process, but neither the size nor the location has been finalized. At its last series of worksessions, the Planning Board considered both those elements, but matters were left largely unresolved.

Part of the problem is that the proposed site abuts the current Conference Center site, which is owned by Montgomery County itself, which has leased the land to the JBG Companies (an active Friends of White Flint member). The Marriott hotel is adjacent to the proposed general location for the Civic Green. As discussed by the Planning Board, the County is considering the location for some form of low- or moderate-income housing, and does not want to release the land for a Civic Green. Thus, the Board is being forced to consider purchasing private land for the Civic Green; only one of the owners of the several small properties in the area is reported to be interested in selling. So one major question is, since the land will have to be purchased, how large a park the Civic Green will be, and the other is that no one knows exactly where on that block the Civic Green will be placed. At its last meeting, on May 7, the Planning Board seemed to indicate that the Civic Green will likely be about one acre in size, and placed north of the proposed new Main Street (sometimes called Market Street).

The May 11 Staff memo contains a letter from Steve Robins, an attorney with Lerch Early & Brewer, taking issue with a Staff report that indicates that the position of the Civic Green may be somewhere south of Main/Market Street. Robins contends that the Board decided that the location of the Civic Green would “remain as proposed in the Draft Sector Plan — that is, north of the new Main Street.” See Pps. 53-54 of the May 11 Staff memo. The Staff memo indicates that Staff “listened to the tapes” and agreed that the decision was unclear, but continues to request that the location of the Civic Green be left ambiguous.

This matter may arise again during the next series of discussions.

Barnaby Zall


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