GAITHERSBURG – The Montgomery Village Master Plan is causing a stir as local residents and County Council members alike try whether to change the zoning for the area is the best option for preserving open space in the 50-year-old community.
The main controversy centers on whether the Master Plan should allow residential developer Monument Realty to redevelop the golf course into a new residential neighborhood.
Although the County Council isn’t likely to vote on the master plan until January, the plan appears to have earned at least some support on the Council.
According to council member Hans Reimer (D-At large), local residents just aren’t interested in purchasing the golf course, so the next best option is the one outlined in the Master Plan.
“Local residents do not want to buy it and maintain it,” he said. “And so they aren’t willing to buy it and maintain it, then the compromise they have come up with is to allow some houses to be built on it in exchange for dedicating a huge amount of it for recreational use and park land.”
A day before the Council’s Dec. 1 public hearing regarding the Master Plan, local resident Dave Lechner questioned the rational for redeveloping the golf course.
“What I believe the County Council faces is a simple decision on whether to help continue to protect ‘open spaces’ that are supposed to be protected ‘in perpetuity’ per their own rules, or help a developer rezone 80 acres of a 140 acre prime property, bought in a bankruptcy auction for $5 (million), and then build townhouses on the property,” said Lechner in an email, adding the rezoning “would raise the value of the land” to more than $70 million if the rate was $250,000 per quarter acre lot.
“This would be a $65 (million) giveaway to a developer, and would come at the expense of almost 400 middle-class homeowners in Montgomery Village (who) own property that overlooked golf course fairways,” he added.
Reimer noted there was “very broad support in Montgomery Village” for the redevelopment, particularly from the Montgomery Village Foundation.
The council member also described the golf course as “bankrupt,” which is why it needed to be sold in the first place.
Part of the golf course would be dedicated to park land and part would be set aside for residential development.
“It’s the only proposal on the table to save green safe at all because the golf course is defunct,” said Reimer, later adding, “And I do think that in terms of recreational value, more people would be able to use this space than before.”
Reimer countered that lawyers for the county reviewed the legality of regarding the redevelopment proposal and established “there is no legal issue.”
“So that’s all there is to it. I can’t really stress enough that the Montgomery Village Foundation Board supports it,” said Reimer. “The democratic process in Montgomery Village has played out. The people have spoken.”
Reimer repeatedly mentioned the Montgomery Village Foundation’s support as being key to weighing his eventual vote on the Master Plan.
“I know there are people who oppose it but the people who are charged with representing the community there have many times over the years have stated very clearly” their support, he said. “So the people who are closest to the ground there are people I listen to very intently… and so I think the democratic process of Montgomery Village deserves a lot of respect on this issue.”
Lechner, however, supports keeping the area as close to its original design as possible..
“Montgomery Village was designed on the premise that both middle-class and non-affluent homeowners had great views of lakes, streams, pools, and a golf course. We (residents) are counting on the County Council to help preserve the visions of this planned community, not help the developer profit just because we do not have mansions overlooking our golf course, but instead have mostly modest townhouses, placed there at the request of the planning board in 1970.”