Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moose Lodge eyes parcel in Fenton Village for new location - Gazette

Zoning change, plans for a park at the site are complicating the proposed deal

by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer | July 23, 2008

The Silver Spring Moose Lodge has entered into a contract with a property owner at Fenton Street and Burlington Avenue in Fenton Village to purchase a building, but the proposed project would require a number of concessions before moving forward.

‘‘We’re just trying to work with the community now to see if it’s possible for all of us to get what we need out of the parcel,” said Eric Hensal, governor of the Silver Spring Moose Lodge. ‘‘For a while, it’s going to be up in the air for us.”

The Moose Lodge’s current property on Wayne Avenue was purchased by the county earlier this year for $2.5 million, plus $100,000 in relocation expenses, and will be used as part of the future Silver Spring Library site.

To replace the now county-owned site, the lodge has offered property owner James J. Madden Inc., a plumbing, heating and air conditioning firm at 904 Philadelphia Ave., $1.7 million for a 12,000-square-foot tract where the group would rebuild a new lodge. Enough money would be left over from the sale of the former site to demolish most of the building and construct a new lodge on the property, Hensal said.

The property owner declined to comment on the potential sale.

Preliminary designs show a two-story project with a cellar, a rooftop terrace that could be built out as a third floor and 14 parking spaces. The Washington Area Wheelchair Society would be a potential new tenant.

The Moose Lodge has until the end of September before the contract expires, Hensal said. The next step will be working with residents to build support for the project, which also would require the approval of the County Council in the form of revised zoning in the area.

‘‘It’s an odd situation. ... It’s industrially zoned, but it’s in the central business district,” Hensal said. ‘‘We’re limited in what we can do there.”

Gary Stith, director of the county government-operated Silver Spring Regional Center, said the property, zoned I-4 for industrial use, would require either a special exception to replace the current business with the private club, or an amendment to the zoning ordinance. County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said she would sponsor a zoning text amendment if the community supported it.

Karen Roper, a member of the East Silver Spring Citizens Association, an adjacent neighborhood, said her community has voted to support the lodge’s proposal. One of the main concerns of neighbors is how a long-promised park in the area would fit into the project, she said.

The park, meant to serve as a gateway to Fenton Village, is included in the master plan for the community, but has not come to fruition despite attempts by the county’s planning department to purchase property for the green space, Stith said. The county now owns a small landscaped parcel near the Moose Lodge’s potential new site.

Kathy Jentz, who lives near the proposed new Moose Lodge, said the park was the ‘‘primary priority.”

‘‘We’re willing to work with the Moose Lodge if it gets that goal accomplished,” Jentz said.

Hensal said the lodge would like to work with the county to acquire even more land to construct a Moose Lodge ‘‘surrounded by park,” giving the neighborhood more green space than before.

‘‘We want to go in there and help the park happen,” Hensal said. While the group will be able to function without a home for the time being, Hensal said, the lodge will cease to exist if the group does not find a replacement building for ‘‘the long haul.”

‘‘We were relocated because of a county project, and we would really like to be able to work with the county to remain as close as possible to the original location,” Hensal said.

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