ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County officials searching for a new location for hundreds of school buses are not limiting their search just to publicly-held land.
According to County Executive spokesperson Patrick Lacefield, County staffers within the Executive’s Office are also considering whether buying private property to relocate the hundreds of buses at the Shady Grove bus depot is a viable option.
“I think that we’re probably looking broader than just the publically held land but I don’t think we’re involved in the specifics yet of square footage and costs but we’re looking at different options,” said Lacefield.
Lacefield confirmed the Avery Road site at the Blair G. Ewing Center in Rockville and the former Oaks Landfill in Laytonsville are among the sites county officials are examining for relocating the buses after County Executive Ike Leggett removed two Rockville sites at the Carver Educational Services Center and 1000 Westmore Avenue from consideration amid opposition from hundreds of local residents.
Last month, Department of General Services Director David Dise named the same sites and said there “may be interim sites” established for the buses.
Dise said the County Council asked staff to not select any sites until they decide on a permanent location for the buses, none of which would be named until they’re presented to the County Executive between late July and early September.
Those recommendations have yet to happen, according to Lacefield, who said the site selection process is still ongoing.
On Wednesday, Lacefield said the County Executive may not necessarily offer a recommendation to the County Council during the next two months but though County Council members should receive a report of some type by then.
“We’ll have information for council by September or October. I can’t say we’ll have a specific recommendation for that date; it depends on what happens between now and then,” said Lacefield.
Lacefield added, “We’re not hedging on anything. We’ve been working on this for years. It’s not a question of hurry up and wait here. There have been a number of things we’ve looked at.”
According to County Council senior legislative analyst Linda McMillan, the council has not scheduled anything related to the bus depot yet for either month.
She said central staffers from the County Council’s office are involved with what officials “are considering” about the bus depot.
“So I actually have not heard anything since Mr. Leggett sent over his memo withdrawing the declaration of no further need,” said McMillan. “So we haven’t gotten any additional information since then. So we’re waiting for the executive’s recommendation.”
“We don’t have anything scheduled,” she added. “Once we get his recommendation, then we’ll schedule it.”
Jamison Adcock, presidentof the Aspen Hill Civic Association, is leading a group of residents opposing the Avery site as a possible location.
He said there will be a community meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center so local residents can discuss the potential for Ewing Center to host the bus depot.
Adcock said all he’s heard form County officials so far is something will come out in the fall.
“There have been comments though that make me think Avery has been on everyone’s radar. Like, ‘We have to put the bus depot somewhere and there are no good solutions,’” said Adcock.
According to Adcock, members of the Aspen Hill Civic Association are working with other civic and citizen association groups from Twinbrook, Manor Lake, Flower Valley and Manor Country Club on opposing the bus depot, along with “communities up and down” Norbeck Road and Avery Road.
“They’re still very concerned about this. So this is not just Aspen Hill by any means,” he said.
He admitted the group of local residents opposing the Avery site has no official name and is not as centrally organized as the Carver Coalition, which led residential opposition to the bus depot coming to Carver at first and later Westmore.
However, he said, “We intend to fight and that involves talking to the decision makers, whoever they are. That means reaching out to the people in the communities in the affected area and right now just getting the word out.”
Adcock said local residents are preparing for the Ewing Center to be one of the suggested sites when the County Executive makes his recommendations to the County Council.
“Everyone seems to know Avery Road is going to be chosen as a bus depot site. I will be surprised if it isn’t. I will be happy but I would be surprised if it was not on the radar,” said Adcock.
He explained local residents oppose “tearing down” the site of an alternative education school, a park and trees in a conservation easement, as well as the consequences of construction near Rock Creek.
According to Adcock, adding hundred of bus trips to the rural, windy Avery Road and its access point along Route 28 (Norbeck Road) would add buses to “what is already a ridiculous amount of traffic.”
The Shady Grove Bus Depot at Jeremiah Park sits on the land that is supposed to be developed by EYA for a 45-acre, smart growth, mixed-use community.
Westside at Shady Grove is set to feature 407 townhouses, 1,114 apartment units, 131,000 square feet of office and 41,828 square feet of retail space, along with a community library, community center with pool, a clubhouse, outdoor lounge, dog park and community garden, according to EYA spokesperson Brent Burkhardt of Choptank Communications.