KENSINGTON – A proposed Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) plan for a historic site gained additional support after a presentation to the Kensington Town Council on Sept. 9.
Although the council voted to support the plan, the project will also need to be approved by the county council.
Montgomery Parks, a division of M-NCPPC, wants to sell sections of Warner Circle Special Park, including the Warner Mansion and the Carriage House of the town’s founder, to a developer, who proposed rehabilitating the historic buildings to house condominiums. Montgomery Parks’ Joey Lampl told the council that developer Washington Landmark Construction (WLC) submitted an unsolicited proposal to purchase the property, renovate it and convert it into condos, and also foot the bill. After receiving the proposal from WLC, Montgomery Parks signed a letter of intent with the developer.
Montgomery Parks knew for a few years that renovations would cost $5 million to $6 million and building maintenance would cost $70,000 per year, but it was having trouble finding someone to work with and help fund the project.
Before the plan for WLC to purchase the buildings can continue, the county council must approve it.
The developer would pay for the cost of all the renovations, Lampl said. While WLC would own the buildings, Montgomery Parks would own the land where the buildings sit.
Then, Montgomery Parks would pursue having the rest of the land function as public park land.
Lampl listed a few groups who said they supported the condominium idea, including county councilmembers whom Montgomery Parks contacted. After Lampl presented a briefing on the plan, councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
Montgomery Parks acquired the 4.5 acres of land through the county in 2005-2006 for $6.4 million with funding from Montgomery Parks’ Legacy Open Space program, Lampl said. The piece of land is in the Kensington Historic District.
According to Lampl’s presentation, the acquisition in 2005-2006 received approval “to meet three policy purposes: Preservation of buildings, open space, (and) a (third) public benefit through adaptive reuse.”
If a company such as WLC converted the buildings into condominiums, that would be “adaptive reuse,” Lampl said.
Residents present at the meeting who commented on the resolution said they supported it.
Kensington resident Jason Gerson,a member of the independent group Friends of Warner Circle, said that he and other members support the proposed plan and are excited to see how the proposal turns out.
Resident Priscilla Arenas said she appreciates the suggestion of converting the manor and carriage house into condominiums.
“The condos are a great idea, and I’m familiar with (the developer because I am a) … long-term supporter of Save Our Seminary (project),” Arenas said. “But what I don’t understand is, if it’s $6 million to rehab it, how much are these condos going to cost? There’s only 12 condos.”
Lampl responded that she did not have price information available.
“As the mayor said, when the time is right, for Karl Voglmayr, who’s the principal, to come here and tell you (about the proposal), I’m sure he would be very forthcoming (with that),” Lampl said.
Councilmember Bridget Hill-Zayat asked why the developer was not present for the meeting. Mayor Tracey Furman responded that Montgomery Parks must sort through a few logistics first.
“We’re trying to get this to the next level, so that they can enter into negotiations with the developer,” Furman said. “They need to get (to) that step, do negotiations and then he can come and do a presentation (to the council) of what it would look like.”
Until then, the council would approve a resolution to say they favor the proposed plan.
“We’re here to offer our support to Parks, and to pass a resolution that we support the direction that they’re taking, and that’’ why we’re here today,” Furman said.