GAITHERSBURG — Several Gaithersburg residents came to a work session at City Hall Monday night to voice concerns about the effects of a proposed property development. At work sessions held on March 27 and July 10 last year, Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council were briefed on a proposal from Maser Consulting to construct two six-story apartment buildings and a parking garage on the site of the Kentlands Apartments.
At those sessions, officials and area residents expressed concern that the developments could have adverse effects on traffic, particularly in regards to a proposed ingress/egress entrance on Great Seneca Highway, school capacity, snow and trash removal and public green spaces. Residents of the Colonnade, a condominium association which would be abutted by the proposed development, have expressed concerns about the impact of the development on their quality of life.
Jodi Kline, an attorney with Miller, Miller and Canby, who represents the applicants, said that Maser Consulting had negotiated with Colonnade residents and incorporated their concerns into the revised proposal that was presented Monday night.
Several Colonnade residents stated that, despite some changes, they were still concerned about the project’s potential impact. Emanuelle Patella, president of the Colonnade Condominium Association, expressed frustration with the negotiating process. In her remarks, Patella said that the applicant only reached out to the association after being urged to do so by the city, and to date, had only held two meetings with the board and one town hall community meeting.
“At each of these meetings, the applicant has minimized the impact that the Kentlands Apartment project would have upon the existing owners, constituents and taxpaying residents of the Colonnade community,” Patella said. “For example, the applicant and its engineers have been dismissive of the traffic concerns raised by the residents, board members, and managers who are on the property daily. It’s also our understanding that the city urged the applicant at the prior work session meeting in 2017 to work with us to address our concerns about the impact that the project would have upon Arch Place, the main thoroughfare in the Colonnade. As of the date of this meeting, the applicant made no effort to follow the city’s suggestions and discuss the association’s concern about traffic, congestion, safety, and parking on Arch Place. In addition, we have major concerns about the wear and tear to Arch Place due to increased traffic. In addition, we are just finding out about a proposed eight-story tonight, and also just finding out that they went from about 300 units to 365.”
Shireen Ambush, property manager for the Colonnade, dismissed the concessions proposed by Maser Consulting as token gestures.
“The applicant has assumed responsibility for Granite Two, which is the new road that will necessarily have to be constructed in order to facilitate this applicant’s project,” Ambush said. “Aside from this application, there would be no Granite Two, so it’s incredible for the applicant to suggest that agreeing to pay to maintain this roadway is a concession or a generous gesture, as it would be outlandish for them not to be responsible for this road. Second, the applicant’s offer of civil engineering and traffic engineering services, which amounts to a capped sum of $3,000 and involves posing additional signage and painting the roadways: no additional professional services are involved and the work will be performed by the applicant’s contractors as their time permits…for all of these reasons, the Colonnade is speaking out this evening because it believes that the applicant is merely paying lip service and only in public to our concerns in order to give the appearance that they have engaged with our community when, in fact, they have not.”
City officials also voiced concerns about the proposal.
“My biggest concern is that this ride in/ride out at Great Seneca is going to be safe,” said Council member Michael A. Selma. “I have a problem with the fact that it’s an acceleration lane as well as a deceleration lane. The fact is that people have a habit of pulling over all the way to the right lane from the left turn lane when they’re turning onto Quince Orchard from Great Seneca. That happens all the time. That happened today when I was driving, so it’s not unusual. I’m not convinced that this is going to be a safe integration.”
The work session came one week after the Council voted to approve a Schematic Development Plan for the Johnson Property, another mixed zone development project which has sparked a great deal of public concern about quality-of-life issues.