Landscape Designer, Montgomery Activist
By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wayne Goldstein, 56, a landscape designer and influential Montgomery County community activist focused on historic preservation and land-use concerns during a period of rapid growth and development, died April 27 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville after a heart attack.
Mr. Goldstein, who served as president of historic preservation and civic organizations, collapsed in Rockville on his way to a county hearing about the proposed expansion of Suburban Hospital.
His death brought an outpouring of warm sentiment for the Kensington resident, whose trademark ponytail and affinity for offbeat hats made him stand out in almost any crowd.
County Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) praised Mr. Goldstein for his tenacity, research abilities and advocacy for historic preservation. He said Mr. Goldstein's death "is a terrible blow to the community."
At his death, Mr. Goldstein was president of Montgomery Preservation. In recent years, he had served as president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation and the Kensington Heights Citizens Association. He was a columnist for the Sentinel weekly newspaper.
Mr. Goldstein played a key role in many community efforts across the county, including the preservation of a Cesar Pelli-designed Comsat office building near Clarksburg.
In 2007, he was credited with helping persuade the developer and County Council members that the Comsat building was among the few architecturally significant structures in Montgomery County. Pelli, a former dean of Yale University's architecture school, designed the North Terminal at Reagan National Airport and Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Mr. Goldstein's efforts could be seen as bruising. He was the target of a $2 million defamation lawsuit brought by developer Aris Mardirossian.
Mardirossian's suit was based on a letter Mr. Goldstein wrote to him asking about a rumor that the developer planned to cut trees to create a view of the Potomac River from his property. Mardirossian alleged that the letter was "widely circulated" in the county and harmed his reputation, but Mr. Goldstein's attorney called the suit frivolous. The case was pending at the time of Mr. Goldstein's death.
Wayne Michael Goldstein was born Nov. 8, 1952, in Washington and was raised in Chevy Chase. He was a 1970 graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and a 1975 graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. As a part of his self-designed college curriculum, he studied horticulture and organic gardening.
He owned and operated a landscape design business for much of his career. His community activism budded in the late 1990s when he joined an effort to rid Montgomery County of speed humps.
His most prominent early role was his unsuccessful attempt to stop Montgomery officials from razing the historic Silver Spring Armory to make way for a $321 million "town center" redevelopment project to revive a deteriorating downtown.
The armory was in severe disrepair, and Mr. Goldstein began his testimony before the county Planning Board in an eye-catching way: opening an umbrella and doing his best imitation of Gene Kelly's song-and-dance routine of "Singin' in the Rain."
Most of the armory had been demolished by the time a judge issued an order halting the work. "There's a tremendous amount of principle involved here," Mr. Goldstein told The Washington Post. "We're doing this to say, 'This was an important, historic building and this still is an important site, and we had a right to be heard and not be pushed aside.' "
Mr. Goldstein became immersed in the minutiae of county planning codes.
Amy Presley, a member of the Montgomery County Planning Board who rose to prominence when she and other Clarksburg residents uncovered irregularities in the planning process, said Mr. Goldstein had been one of her early tutors, helping her sort out the often confusing documents on file at the planning agency and describing what builders and developers are required to do.
"I have never met a more tirelessly selfless community advocate than Wayne Goldstein," Presley said. "I knew him as a tenacious and passionate leader, a brilliant and compassionate friend -- my personal primer into the world of preliminary plans, site plans and the mysterious 'Code.' "
Survivors include his mother, Trenice Goldstein of Chevy Chase; and two brothers.