Friday, July 31, 2009

Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett On Council Disapproval of a Pedestrian Bridge For the New Silver Spring Library

Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett
On Council Disapproval of a Pedestrian Bridge
For the New Silver Spring Library

July 30, 2009

"I am very disappointed that this week the Council defeated an amendment to the Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan that would have allowed a pedestrian bridge to be built connecting the Wayne Avenue garage to the new Silver Spring Library.

"From early on in the planning process for this project, I have favored the bridge as a viable means of providing safe access to the library. My staff and I have met individually with Councilmembers and, on the morning of the vote, I met with the entire Council and again urged their approval of the bridge.

"At the earliest stages of the library design I instructed my staff to make sure the library accomplished 5 important public objectives; (1) the new Silver Spring Library programs and collection will have a strong focus on the disability community; (2) the design must take full advantage of the County’s already built infrastructure, the Wayne Avenue Garage, demonstrating good fiscal stewardship; (3) in keeping with the County’s efforts to promote mass transit, walking, and cycling and reducing the overall carbon footprint of the new facility, no new parking spaces will be constructed; (4) the parking and access solution must not shift the economic burden or hardship onto other businesses or users in the Central Business District, and (5) the parking and access solution must be available from the day the library opens and cannot depend on future actions of other parties, or future construction funding or efforts."

"I believe the proposed pedestrian bridge would facilitate a better, safer access to the library for everyone – especially for families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Alternatives proposing onsite parking to achieve the same purpose would be less effective and – in fact – cost more than the pedestrian bridge. I have serious concerns that, when constructed, access to the library will be a problem for some library users.

"The Council has legislated free parking for library customers, which would, in effect, encourage use of the garage; I think the next logical step in this case would be to provide safe access from the garage to the library. In fact, surveys have shown that approximately one-third of the customers of the Silver Spring Library come by car. The absence of a pedestrian bridge would mean that a fairly large number of library users would have to navigate a number of challenges to reach the library. While our plan includes improvements to nearby intersections, this is only a partial solution.

"I will continue to work with the Silver Spring community, library and pedestrian safety advocates, seniors, and the disabilities community to reverse this unfortunate decision. I thank Councilmember George Leventhal for his unwavering support of the pedestrian bridge. He has supported our view of the bridge from the beginning.

"The Silver Spring community wants and deserves a new library, fully accessible to all. This is no time to cut corners on safety and access."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sligo Creek Golf Course to Stay Open Another Year - Washington Post

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 3:26 PM

Sligo Creek Golf Course, the nine-hole Silver Spring course beloved by women, seniors and minority golfers, will remain open at least another year, under a new plan outlined by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Leggett on Wednesday called members of the Montgomery County Council to tell them he wants to keep the course open past its planned Oct. 1 closing date and is encouraging lawmakers to approve additional funds, despite a tight budget. He also will convene a community group to try to come up with a plan to keep the course open indefinitely.

The course, whose fate was the subject of a Washington Post report Saturday, had been slated for closure this fall. The Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which operates the county's public golf courses, said it was losing too much money. Golfers and neighbors have countered that Sligo is being singled out, even though none of the revenue authority's eight public golf courses are profitable. A heated meeting at the county's planning board July 16 brought out more than 100 residents, almost all favoring keeping the golf course open.

Keith Miller, head of the authority, has said the long-term prospects are brighter for the other courses, which all are 18-hole courses that golfers say are more challenging than Sligo.

Joe Hibbeln, a Sligo golfer and Silver Spring resident, said Wednesday that he is hopeful that Leggett's plans will allow Sligo to eventually thrive as a destination for golfers looking for a convivial, unhurried course.

"It is an appropriate response to the vigorous community cry to preserve what I call historical, minority, women, senior and kid-friendly access to golf," he said.

Crossroads plan too specific, commercial property owners say - Gazette

Planning Board urges owners to give county a development timeline

by Jeremy Arias | Staff writer | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Commercial property owners and public officials last week warned the Montgomery County Planning Board not to support a sector plan that would inhibit business development along New Hampshire Avenue with excessively strict guidelines.

Montgomery and Prince George's counties are developing separate but similar sector plans for the Crossroads community, which includes parts of both counties and Takoma Park. While planners are hoping the arrival of the Maryland Transit Authority's Purple Line, a proposed 16-mile mass transit connection between the two counties, will spark redevelopment over the next 20 years, some property owners warn the plan is too far off to draw out guidelines now.

Springbrook student pleads guilty to first-degree arson, other charges - Gazette

Alleged co-conspirator placed on probation, sent for community service

by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

As the case unfolds for two Springbrook High School students charged in an alleged plot to bomb the school, prosecutors and defense attorneys in court Friday morning painted pictures of two students who lacked friends, were mad at their teachers or were too confused to understand what was happening.

Yonata Getachew, 18, of the 11500 block of Sutherland Hill Way in Silver Spring, pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court to first-degree arson, first-degree conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of reckless endangerment for his involvement in setting two fires in boys' bathrooms and locker rooms at Springbrook in April and for attempting to rupture a natural gas line in a classroom.

Council votes against walkway - Gazette

Pedestrian bridge will not be used to make easy access to new library

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The County Council will not amend a 10-year-old urban plan for Silver Spring, essentially eliminating the possibility of building a pedestrian bridge that would connect the Wayne Avenue parking garage to the new Silver Spring library.

In an 8-1 vote Tuesday, the council voted against County Executive Isiah Leggett's amendment to the 1999 Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan, which prohibits bridges over Wayne Avenue because it would be detrimental to nearby street-level retail.

Leggett proposes reprieve on closing Sligo Creek Golf Course - Gazette

Additional time will allow more thoughtful study of uses for Silver Spring site

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Residents who have pleaded with the county to keep Sligo Creek Golf Course open after its scheduled closing on Oct. 1 might get their wish if an idea by the county executive to keep the course open for as long as two more years is approved by the council

County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposal, sent to the Montgomery County Council today, would require a $150,000 operating subsidy to keep the course open for up to 24 months after the scheduled closing date, said Leggett spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield.

The course would remain under the auspices of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority and a task force would form to determine how to make a golf course at Sligo Creek profitable.

"This is some breathing space for the community," Lacefield said in a phone interview this afternoon.

An independent study earlier this year ruled the course was a financial drain on the county golf system.

The $150,000 would only handle operating costs and there are no plans for capital improvements, Lacefield said. The appropriation would likely be approved in the time between the end of the council's recess, Sept. 15, and the course's closing date two weeks later.

The task force would include representatives from the Revenue Authority, Park and Planning, county government and the community and be formed sometime next month, Lacefield said. The group would "develop options for the continued, self-sustaining operation of the Sligo Creek Golf Course," Leggett wrote in a letter to the council.

Lacefield said Leggett has contacted the Revenue Authority about the program and "there's not a doubt they would agree to change the lease" if the appropriation is approved.

Revenue Authority Executive Director Keith Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring sent a letter to Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson today asking for the board to include golf in the master plan study for future use of the land. On July 16, the board decided that Park and Planning should not "expend its time and effort" to consider golf as an option because it had no authority to allow golf at the course according to the lease agreement with the Revenue Authority.

The County Council ruled in April that the Revenue Authority could back out of its lease to operate Sligo Creek because the course is failing financially. Park and Planning was scheduled to operate the land, which it owns, and a master plan study is already under way to determine a new use for the land because of no-compete clause in the Revenue Authority's lease.

Ervin said today that the task force might determine that a course cannot be run profitably at Sligo Creek and the county would be faced with the same dilemma of what to do with the site in another year or two. But the proposal at least ensures the proper thought and effort will go into Sligo Creek, Ervin said.

And residents who have long demanded the course remain open know the additional time will improve the chances of the 50-year-old golf course living on, but the fight isn't over yet.

"We know we have a lot of work to do and a lot of alternatives to consider," said Woody Brosnan, president of the nearby North Woodside-Montgomery Hills Citizens Association. "But many feared that if the course closed Oct. 1 that we would never have a chance to pursue any alternatives."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Md. Golf Course's Fans Fight Planned Closing - Washington Post

Their Good Walk, Ruined?
Md. Golf Course's Fans Fight Planned Closing

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tucked just inside the Beltway, the rolling hills of Sligo Creek Golf Course are a welcoming oasis for women, seniors and beginners. The unhurried, convivial course, sandwiched among leafy Silver Spring neighborhoods, also has long attracted a large contingent of minority golfers. For many, Sligo's nine holes provide a friendly alternative to less welcoming private country clubs.

But Sligo's loyal following is facing some unhappy news. Montgomery County plans to close the course Oct. 1, saying it can no longer sustain it. County officials are looking into converting it into something else: a park, a sports field, a disc golf course or perhaps a nature center. The decision to close, rooted in a deal approved three years ago by the County Council and the planning board, has unleashed a torrent of allegations of mismanagement and malfeasance and hints of racial and economic discrimination.

"You could single out any part of our park system in isolation, or for that matter our government, and claim it does not make a profit," said Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr. (D), who represents the area in the state legislature. Golf, he noted, "was once viewed as an exclusive enclave of the upper classes. The image of golf and that of Montgomery matches much better with the reality of a diverse community and the need to be inclusive," he said at a recent planning board hearing.

Sligo's fans say that the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which operates the county's nine golf courses and the county's Gaithersburg airport, is siphoning money from Sligo to prop up the other entities. Other publicly funded recreation programs such as tennis and swimming are not required to turn a profit, they note. And, raising the specter of discrimination, critics say the revenue authority is favoring the more challenging and more expensive courses in the county's northern tier, frequented by a whiter clientele.

"Down-county and decidedly urban Sligo does not get one thin dime. It gets kicked to the curb come October 1st. There is no revenue sharing for Sligo. And the rich get richer," says the Web site.

The site, and much of the Save Sligo campaign, is the work of golfer and writer Mark Suffanti, a Silver Spring resident who has combed financial statements and state and county laws to challenge the county's decision. Suffanti and other Sligo fans point to revenue authority data showing that other county golf courses are losing thousands more dollars than Sligo but are not targeted for closure.

Keith Miller, executive director of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, has said the other courses have more ability to expand and have a brighter fiscal future, even if they are showing losses now.

"Our plan is to grow the game of golf," Miller said. Sligo's nine holes limit its potential, he said, adding that there are some nine-hole options at 18-hole courses. The revenue authority also has changed the pricing at all of its courses, he said, creating less expensive tee times when demand is lower. The authority also has set up reduced rates for families and monthly free lessons.

"We are not showing favor to the rich," he said. If Sligo closes, Montgomery still will have eight public golf courses, and a ninth operated by Rockville.

To cut losses at Sligo, Miller tried to add a revenue-producing driving range with night lights and a miniature golf course. But the plans were rebuffed by neighbors, who said they did not want a "golf theme park" or lights. Miller withdrew the plan, and then proposed closing the course, saying the future revenue picture was too bleak.

At the hearing, which drew more than 100 opponents of the shutdown, Douglas Wallick, a Sligo neighbor, said the decision to close is as much about golf as it is about the government's commitment to subsidizing recreation.

"How do we measure [Sligo's] positive effect on our community? How do we measure any of that in a study that solely looks at money?" Wallick asked.

Carmen Maymi, who is among a group of women who golf regularly at Sligo, said the course is known for its welcoming attitude toward female golfers. As a result, the women's group "has played there for 25 years," she said.

Elsewhere in the region, local governments say they aren't planning to cut back on golf, even though it isn't a real moneymaker anywhere. Miller cited National Golf Foundation data that predict the closure of 500 courses nationwide this year.

In Prince George's, where there are three public courses, there are no plans to cut back on golf or other publicly funded recreation, said Chris Wagnon, deputy director of facilities operations for Prince George's County's park system.

"Our philosophy in Prince George's County is to provide opportunity and amenities for county citizens in a wide variety of recreation and park activities," he said. "Our slogan is 'something for everyone.' "

Fairfax County parks spokeswoman Judy Pedersen said public golf courses are part of the county's commitment to recreation. "Our golf courses are a major part of our revenue stream," she said. "We are firmly in the golf business." Fairfax's parks authority has eight public courses. In the District, the National Park Service has three public courses, run by a contractor.

Montgomery's effort to consolidate golf under the revenue authority came about, officials said, as a cost-cutting measure that was led by then-council member Steven A. Silverman, now head of the county's economic development department, and council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large). Silverman and Leventhal said recently that they had been looking for economies of scale to help the county balance its budget and pay for other social needs.

Under the transfer, the County Council turned over golf operations to the revenue authority but allowed the parks agency to keep the land. However, the parks agency had to agree to a no-compete clause that bans it from ever using the properties as golf courses.

The dispute over what's next for Sligo could come before the County Council in the fall, but possibly not before the Oct. 1 closing. So Sligo's fans are working this summer to persuade county officials to look sooner at saving the course. The issue is a hot topic on neighborhood e-mail discussion groups.

After last week's three-hour hearing before the planning board, Royce Hanson, the panel's chairman, said that the board is bound by its contract with the revenue authority and the wishes of County Council members, and said he thought it unlikely that Sligo could stay open as a golf course.

Leventhal, who was County Council president when the initial deal was struck in 2006, said the future of Sligo poses a challenge for the council, which faces a growing shortfall and the need to pay for schools, housing and other critical services.

"I don't know what the answer is. It is a perplexing situation," Leventhal said. "All general fund taxpayers should not bear the cost so that a few people can use . . . golf. But we are not maintaining the whole government on a user fee basis. We have to decide what are luxury items and what is a core function."

He left open the possibility that Sligo could be saved.

"I am not," he added, "firmly saying 'close Sligo Golf Course.' "

Gang membership on rise in Montgomery - Gazette

However, some communities report drop in gang-related crimes

by Sebastian Montes | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Gang-related murders and membership are rising in Montgomery County, while in some communities, gang presence resists police efforts to rein them in.

Those increases come as the total number of gang crimes fell by more than a third between last summer and this spring, according to statistics compiled by Montgomery County Police.

Police attribute the nine-month decline to better intelligence, more aggressive prosecution and multi-agency outreach to at-risk youth, said Montgomery County Police Lt. Robert Bolesta, deputy director of special investigations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

American Apparel store vandalized in Silver Spring, MD - Examiner

July 22, 2009. Silver Spring, Maryland, just on the outskirts of DC, is a the seat of urban sprawl as the community grows right before the resident's very eyes. Its a neat place full of young people, diverse ethnic groups and a safe, family feel. Unfortunately, LGBT residents of SS may not feel as safe today as they did before -- the glass window of an American Apparel clothing store was shattered in what appears to be a hate-motivated crime. The DCist reported today that the shattered window display was that of pro-LGBT t-shirts.

The clothing company released this statement:

"Yesterday an American Apparel store in Silver Spring, Maryland had a window broken by someone upset over the company's support for gay marriage. Our Georgetown location and others in the areas have received similar threats. We just wanted to use this forum here to announce that not only are they not going to prevent us from speaking out on an issue that is important to this company and our employees but we'll continue to run Legalize Gay advertisements in papers across DC-Metro area. We'll also send Legalize Gay t-shirts to any group in Washington DC that is fighting for gay rights and will help support any protest or rally for the cause.We don't find this kind of thing funny and we definitely don't find it intimidating."

Report outlines ideas for safer community - Gazette

Establishing teen center, community-police councils among recommendations

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two months after the first Safe Silver Spring Summit was held to address crime in the community, the event's organizers have released a summary of suggested safety measures, including creating a teen center downtown and establishing community relations councils with police.

The event, held May 16 at Montgomery College, drew 120 people, including youth and adult residents, county officials and community organizers, to five workshops to discuss issues such as gangs, self-policing and truancy.

The event's steering committee then prepared a report based on the discussions to be distributed to County Executive Isiah Leggett, the Montgomery County Council and Montgomery County Public Schools, among other local agencies and organizations.

The suggested safety measures ranging from abstract concepts like "provide neighborhoods with more information about arrests and convictions" to concrete steps such as "form a non-profit organization to develop solutions to Silver Spring crime and apply for grants."

"Some of them are fairly easy to implement," said Tony Hausner of Prezco, an umbrella group of civic associations in Silver Spring that planned the event. "Community relations councils with the police department is something that should be very straightforward.

"Empowering teenagers to play more of a leadership role is certainly more challenging," he added.

Residents also supported a truancy center for Silver Spring.

County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, who sponsored the summit, has commissioned the county Office of Legislative Oversight to conduct a full report of truancy in the county, with potential legislation to follow.

"It's astounding how many kids are chronically truant," Ervin (D-Dist. 5), of Silver Spring, said. "Ten percent [of students in the county], more than 9,000 kids, are truant on any given day."

Some of the solutions mirror programs in other jurisdictions. The Southeastern District of the Baltimore Police Department has established a council where the community holds meetings and advises police on issues in the city. Howard County offers a Choose Civility program to promote better public behavior, which the report suggests as an effort to ease any tensions in downtown Silver Spring.

Other solutions include an all-youth subcommittee of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board and safety assessments conducted by police in apartment complexes with a large percentage of renters.

Many residents are also in favor of a dedicated teen center that will serve as a hangout in absence of the artificial turf at Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street that closed last summer.

Recommended locations include the current site of the Silver Spring Library or the Old Blair Auditorium at Silver Spring International Middle School, which could be built by youth, the report says.

Leggett noted the teen center, community council and steps toward addressing truancy as recommendations that could be implemented, but that the solutions will have to compete against projects countywide in a tough budget year, said his spokesman, Patrick Lacefield.

"There are obvious limits to what we are able to do given the continuing economic downturn," Lacefield said. "… But as we begin to put together a budget for next year, these sorts of recommendations are helpful."

The committee is scheduled to meet again Sept. 14 to discuss future steps.

For a copy of the Safe Silver Spring Executive Summary or for more information about Safe Silver Spring, e-mail or call Tony Hausner at 301-641-0497.

Vote puts damper on plans for pedestrian bridge at library - Gazette

Bridge would have connected parking garage to new Silver Spring library

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two Montgomery County Council committees on Tuesday voted not to amend a 10-year-old urban plan for Silver Spring, in effect voting against a pedestrian bridge that would connect the Wayne Avenue parking garage to the new Silver Spring library.

In a joint work session, the council's Health and Human Services committee and Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee voted 4-1 not to amend the 1999 Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan that prohibits bridges over Wayne Avenue because it would be detrimental to nearby street-level retail.

The pedestrian bridge had been proposed, and supported by County Executive Isiah Leggett and the county Commission of People with Disabilities, to allow the disabled and elderly to get to the library without having to cross the busy intersection of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue.

Silver Spring library skybridge rejected - Greater Greater Washington

by Colleen Mitchell

Proposals for a skybridge connecting Silver Spring's new library to the adjacent parking garage became even more remote yesterday, as Montgomery County's Health and Human Services and Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committees voted to uphold the existing prohibitions against skybridges in downtown Silver Spring.

The Silver Spring CBD Urban Renewal Plan prohibits the construction of a pedestrian bridge across Wayne Avenue. The "parking access" bridge was being proposed to connect the Wayne Avenue garage to the new Silver Spring library. From the outset of the project, library designs have included a parking access bridge. This outdated design concept from the 1960s destroys streetlife, vitality and development in urban areas, and creates automobile-dominated roadways that fail to meet the needs of those on foot or bike. Cities across the country, including Baltimore, have been going to great lengths over the last few years to dismantle these skywalks in an effort to revitalize urban communities.

To alleviate Councilmembers' concerns about ADA access, planning staff developed a plan to accommodate the required 7 handicapped parking spaces in addition to a drop off location on the library site itself, providing safe and convenient access for those with mobility limitations. This strategy is more cost-effective and has significantly fewer negative impacts for downtown Silver Spring.

The full Council will make the final decision next Tuesday, July 28th.

Montgomery Council Names Planning Nominee - Washington Post

Marye Wells-Harley of Silver Spring was nominated Tuesday to a four-year term on the Montgomery County Planning Board. Wells-Harley, 66, is the former parks and recreation director for Prince George's County. If her appointment is approved by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), she would be the first African American woman to serve on Montgomery's five-member planning board.

Wells-Harley was selected from a pool of 18 applicants for the part-time post, which pays $30,000 annually. She succeeds John Robinson, who served two terms and was ineligible for reappointment.

-- Miranda S. Spivack, July 22, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Residents demand county keep golf on Sligo Creek site - Gazette

Planning Board officials say it would violate legal agreement with Revenue Authority

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Friday, July 17, 2009

In a raucous, contentious hearing before the Montgomery County Planning Board Thursday, residents demanded that the Parks Department keep golf at Sligo Creek Golf Course in Silver Spring after it is shut down Oct. 1, but board members said it is not in their legal authority to keep golf on the land.

About 25 of the 37 people who testified before the board said they wanted the facility to remain a golf course, and each was met with loud applause and chants of "listen to the people" from the standing-room-only crowd of about 80.

"I would gladly lie down in front of a bulldozer before I see one hill leveled or one tree or one blade of grass cut down on behalf of this mysterious need to close this golf course," Karen Goozner, a nearby resident, said in a spirited testimony that was interrupted several times by cheers.

Parks Department officials presented four future uses for the 65-acre site off of Sligo Creek Parkway, including a nature center, a sports complex, a recreation park and a golf course. In April, officials began a master plan study to determine the reuse of the course after the County Council ruled the Montgomery County Revenue Authority could hand back operations of the course to Park and Planning on Oct. 1 because it is failing financially.

Thursday's hearing was held so the board could approve the schedule and procedure for the master plan study. But it evolved into a contentious back-and-forth between residents and board members on why the board could not approve golf at Sligo Creek amidst passionate testimony favoring it.

"The course will return to us on Oct. 1 and we are not in the position, either under contract or with funds, to operate it as a course from that date," said Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson, who repeatedly had to reprimand the crowd after numerous angry outbursts. "We do need to make plans… as to how best to handle the situation that I think neither this board, nor most of the folks here this evening, wished to have happen.

"But we have to face reality."

Park and Planning leased operation of four courses, including Sligo Creek, to the Revenue Authority in 2006. The Revenue Authority already owned five courses. There is a clause in that lease, which the County Council approved, that prohibits Sligo Creek from operating as a golf course if the Revenue Authority feels it will compete with its other courses.

"We have no authority to negotiate the decision and we have no funding," said board Vice Chairman John Robinson, who was serving his final day on the board. "Those issues are for the Revenue Authority and the [County] Council."

The board decided that for now, Parks Department staff should not "expend its time and effort" to consider a golf course for the land because for that to happen, the Revenue Authority would have to amend its lease with Park and Planning.

"At the moment, staff is trying very hard to present other options because if it does not become a reality that the contract is opened up, we have to be ready to roll with something," said Mary Bradford, director of Parks for the county.

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said Friday there is "room to negotiate," but the council has not had official contact with the Revenue Authority.

Ervin suggested other possibilities, including partnering with nonprofit vendors to operate the course or subsidizing the course through funds from the Capital Improvements Program and having the Revenue Authority continue to operate the course.

"The community needs to take a step back and not get into a combative stance," Ervin said in a phone interview. "At the end of the day, the community will get what it wants without being combative."

Revenue Authority Director Keith Miller could not be reached for comment Friday.

The board rejected the sports complex alternative because of its effect on the environment, leaving a recreation park and a nature preserve – both of which received support from a few residents – for the parks department to consider.

After Oct. 1, the Park and Planning Commission will handle upkeep of the Sligo Creek course until a new use is determined, costing an estimated $56,000, and the park will be available for passive recreation like jogging, dog walking and nature appreciation. Planners have previously estimated the future use of the course will be determined by spring 2010.

A community meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9 to update residents on the progress of the study.

Silgo Creek Golf Course - Update from the Planning Board Meeting

The following, from Stephen C. Brown,appears under "Recent News" on the Facebook group, Preserve Sligo Creek Golf Course.

***The July 16 meeting: All seats were filled. As many people were standing as seated. WTOP, the Gazette and Channel 8 were there. Pro-golf testimony was excellent. If you spoke last night, don't throw your notes away. We didn't get the answer we wanted, but I would urge anyone feeling disappointed to consider just how encouraging the meeting was.

The disappointing part: the Planning Board directed Parks staff to continue exploring alternate uses since they thought it unrealistic to count on the lease being re-negotiated. Parks and Planning lack the authority to renegotiate the lease themselves, and wondered out loud about the likelihood that the County Council would reconsider its policy not to subsidize golf.

However, Council staff were present. They heard hours of eloquent, heart-felt, intelligent testimony from both golfers and non-golfers wishing to save the golf course. They heard the boisterous audience. They heard Director of Parks Mary Bradford defend her decision to have kept golf as a "marker" in the re-use exploration despite Parks' unwillingness to ignore the no-compete clause. The Council, she said (and I paraphrase), may decide Sligo is a unique situation requiring a special exception to the policy not to subsidize golf. (Anyone distracted by her unfortunate "old shoe" analogy should consider her statement in its entirety. She was far from dismissive.)

Not having persuaded Parks and Planning to take a firm stance in defense of Sligo golf was a little like watching an excellent drive land in a bunker. It's still a good drive. We're still in play. Contact the County Council--especially if you were among last night's excellent speakers.

I was in the back of the room last night, and couldn't hear every speaker's name. Moreover, my notes are inadequate to honor all the excellent testimony. That said:

Special thanks to:

Delegate Alfred Carr, who testified that he would monitor the situation and warned against losing this invaluable amenity;

Jeffrey Russell for his impassioned opening salvo establishing that golf is an act of environmental stewardship, especially when compared to proposed alternatives; and for his impassioned plea at night's end to "CONTACT THE COUNCIL IMMEDIATELY!"

Woody Brosnan, for finding the parallel between the individual ethics of golf and the individual ethics of environmental stewardship--and for his rallying cry to "Listen to the people! Listen to the taxpayer!"

Peter A(?), who pointed out that it's less expensive to keep the course open than to re-open it;

Karen Goozner, who found compelling rhetorical power in obvious truth: "It doesn't make sense!" Karen indicated readiness to lay down in front of a bulldozer;

Jim Kiebom, a veteran golfer who has played some of the world's the finest courses, but testified that Sligo is the best value he has yet encountered;

Spencer More, who instructed the board on the axiom of not fixing what isn't broken;

Mike Welch, who pointed out that alternate uses proposed by residents from elsewhere in the county are "a little rich. If I advocated for soccer fields in Takoma Park, they'd have a stroke;"

[?] O'Hara, whose family plays both soccer and golf, but, if forced to choose, would support golf at Sligo; who also pointed out that the proposed nature preserve where kids can play would be redundant, as anyone would notice while driving along Sligo Creek Parkway;

John Taylor, who, having installed on his own dime irrigation on six of Sligo's holes, spoke with authority about the overstated costs of capital improvement;

Coco [with-whom-I-shared-a-beer-afterward-but-whose-last-name-I-still-don't-know], who pointed out that the proposed closure has been strangely under-publicized and that public will on the issue cannot properly have been measured;

Melanie Hennigan, the self-described aging athlete who plays in three soccer leagues and testified to the existing availability of soccer fields, who wants golf as an option whenever age limits her from soccer; who, as an architect, warned against the environmentally detrimental effect of re-landscaping; who exhorted the board, "You can't let this happen! You're better than this! The County is better than this!"

Christine Patrick, of the South Four Corners Citizens Group, whose neighborhood (Argyle) both in name and activity identifies itself with Sligo Golf; who drew an uproar of support when she pointed out that the proposed alternative uses had not been weighed against the needs of the area;

The Officer of the Sligo Ladies' Golf League, which has been playing year round for 25 years, who was offended by the prospect of being denied this resource, who called for a new audit of Sligo finances;

[?] Abrams, who golfs Sligo with his boys of 13 and 15, and, echoing the idea of golf as instructing individual ethics, offered the touching anecdote about his 13 yo spontaneously replacing a divot out of a desire to preserve the beauty of the course;

Joseph Hibbeln, with whom I shared a beer after, who spoke persuasively about the irresponsibility of acting only on "one bid", that of the MCRA; we now have second bid, the numbers presented by Mark Suffanti and Minor Sachless, but in government you need a third, to which end the course ought to be kept open for a year to properly track finances;

Andy Freeman, who, when one of the commissioners asked fellow board members if Parks had ever given a golf course back to the community, yelled from the back of the room, "We'll take it!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Giving voice to youth - Gazette

Young filmmakers learn unexpected lessons

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When members of the Silver Spring-based youth group the Gandhi Brigade shot a documentary last summer about youth in the juvenile justice system, they got an unexpected first-hand look at the problems facing their subjects.

On their way from a Metro station to a filming location in Washington, D.C., they gave one of the film's subjects some money to pick up stationery supplies a nearby store. As the teen returned from shopping, seven police officers were in tow.

Planners to review Sligo Golf Course reuse plan - Gazette

People and Places | Jason Tomassini and Jeremy Arias | Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Montgomery County Planning Board will discuss objectives, outreach and the schedule for the Sligo Creek Golf Course Reuse Master Plan 7 p.m. Thursday at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission headquarters at 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring.

Parks staff will review several objectives for developing the master plan, outreach and the plan process and schedule. The board is requested to approve the project's objectives, outreach strategy and plan schedule, as well as re-affirm the County Council decision to close Sligo Creek Golf Course on Oct. 1 after the Montgomery County Revenue Authority backed out its lease to operate the course because it was ruled a financial drain on the county golf system.

Residents debate library design - Gazette

Exterior plans offer different aesthetics

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Residents are split over which two exterior design options for the new Silver Spring library would draw more people into the building and provide proper access to library users.

One design presented in a community meeting Thursday features an all-glass façade on the Fenton Street side of the building, a mostly concrete front on Wayne Avenue and a series of tiered, green roofs.

The library will be built on the corner of Wayne and Fenton.

In the other option, the sides of the building — mostly glass facades on both Wayne and Fenton — would not be parallel to the streets and instead the building would be turned to follow the proposed Purple Line tracks that will run through the site.

Residents oppose increased traffic through neighborhoods - Gazette

At Crossroads meeting, residents question development

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 15, 2009
City residents at a Crossroads sector plan meeting Monday adamantly opposed a recommendation that would route New Hampshire Avenue traffic onto residential streets.

They also expressed skepticism at development that would make their community resemble Bethesda or Silver Spring.

Hosted by the City of Takoma Park at the Tijuana Mexican Café on University Boulevard, residents met with city officials in an effort to analyze the Montgomery County Sector Plan. The city staff will consider resident comments in drafting its official recommendations, which will be presented to the county Planning Board July 23.

Both Montgomery and Prince George's counties are developing separate but similar sector plans for the Crossroads, which includes parts of both counties and Takoma Park. The region is expected to attract businesses and redevelopment with the arrival of the Maryland Transit Authority's Purple Line, a proposed 16-mile mass transit connection.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Environmental group to launch rain gardens project - Gazette

Twenty-five stormwater new management systems intended to improve water quality in Sligo Creek

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A citizens group has installed several rain gardens along Sligo Creek and will install several more in the coming months to improve the stormwater management along the waterway and regulate the volatile water level at the creek.

The Friends of Sligo Creek, a local citizens group dedicated to improving the quality of the creek, received nearly $10,000 in grants to install about 25 rain gardens within the Sligo Creek Watershed, which covers 11.6 square miles from Wheaton to Hyattsville.

Twelve rain gardens have been installed at county residences within the watershed and the group is determining at least a dozen more sites for the gardens. The gardens are installed by the Silver Spring-based immigrant advocacy group Casa of Maryland.

Pedestrian walkway to increase foot traffic in south Silver Spring - Gazette

Merchants hope pedestrian linkages project will help businesses

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A one-lane road and pedestrian walkway will be constructed in south Silver Spring as part of a larger project of linkages that residents and business owners say will make the neighborhood less dependent on automobiles and will increase foot traffic.

Last month, the county's Department of General Services demolished a one-story building at 1008 East West Highway that used to be a Thrifty Rental Car service. The county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs bought the property three years ago to construct a pedestrian walkway that will also have a one-way street for vehicles and eight parallel parking spaces.

The pathway will connect Kennett Street and East West Highway and break up the large, obtrusive block between 13th and Newell streets. The pathway joins the Arts Alley at 8030 Georgia Ave. and another pathway from Georgia Avenue to Blair Mill Road as projects that officials say will improve "walkability" in south Silver Spring.

Neighbors of Holy Cross hospital accept expansion, while residents near Suburban are fighting growth plan - Gazette

by Andrew Ujifusa | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Two expanding downcounty hospitals are having very different experiences trying to cooperate with adjacent neighborhoods.

Officials at the Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring and nearby residents describe a collaborative design process that began almost two years ago and incorporated key residential suggestions. But for several years, Suburban Hospital in Bethesda and the adjacent Huntington Terrace Citizens Association have disagreed on a proposed expansion that will demolish 23 nearby hospital-owned homes and close one block of Lincoln Street, a residential thoroughfare.

Buffalo Soldier chronicles his battles in Europe and at home - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When James Daugherty returned to the United States after fighting in World War II, he sat down with a pen and paper and wrote a book, not to cash in on his dramatic war experiences but as a way for his children and grandchildren to pass on the story of his life in war and peace.

Sixty years later, Daugherty's book, "The Buffalo Saga," has been published after he decided the story about the mistreatment of African-American soldiers during the war deserved a larger audience.

Daugherty, a Silver Spring resident, was drafted into the war at age 19 and fought in the U.S. Army's 92nd Infantry Division, an all African-American unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Free summer lunch program expands - Gazette

Seven county schools offer meals to low-income students

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In its second year, a county program that serves free lunches in the summer to students in low-income neighborhood has expanded to seven sites throughout the county to ensure the rising numbers of students that qualify for free meals do not go hungry when school is out.

"Hunger doesn't take a summer break," said Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring, who helped begin the county's summer lunch program last year, when it provided free meals at one school, Georgian Forest Elementary School in Wheaton.

This year's program, which began June 17, expanded to seven schools, including Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park where officials met Monday to a kick-off the program. In addition to Rolling Terrace, the summer lunch program is available at Georgian Forest and Strathmore elementary schools in Layhill, John F. Kennedy High School in Glenmont, Maryvale Elementary in Rockville and Summit Hall and Whetstone elementary schools in Gaithersburg.

New Silver Spring Library Design - Community Meeting - Thursday, July 9, 2009

There is an IMPORTANT meeting TONIGHT at the Silver Spring Library to discuss the NEW Silver Spring Library design.

As you know, the NEW library will be located at the corners of Fenton and Bonifant Streets and Wayne Avenue, and will be one of the most important PUBLIC and COMMUNITY buildings in Silver Spring.

This may be our LAST CHANCE to provide input for the NEW Silver Spring Library design!

County officials are projecting that over ONE MILLION people will use the new Library every year, so the design is key. This is your chance to weigh in on things like elevators or escalators, community rooms, outdoor gardens, glass or brick, public art, parking, access for seniors, kids, and disabled patrons, etc.

So check out the proposals from the 18 Jun meeting at - and then come to tonight’s meeting with your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.

What: New Silver Spring Library Design Community Meeting (Charrette #4)

When: TONIGHT, Thursday, July 9, 2009

Where: Silver Spring Library

Time: 7 to 9 pm.

Bring the kids, bring a friend.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pedestrian Safety in Silver Spring

Working together representatives of the Seven Oaks-Evanswood Citizens Association, the East Silver Spring Citizens Asssociation, the Presidents’ Council of Silver Spring Civic Associations, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Councilmember Valerie Ervin, and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett have strongly advocated for pedestrian friendly solutions throughout Silver Spring

Recently, we conducted a “walkthrough” along Dale Drive to identify solutions for pedestrian safety and traffic calming at key intersections, particularly at Ellsworth, Pershing, Greenbrier, Dartmouth, Mansfield, Hartford and Thayer.

With two schools nearby--Sligo Creek Elementary and Silver Spring International Middle School--neighbors are concerned about speeding vehicles and unsafe intersections. The local civic associations are working with the County Department of Transportation for long-term CIP solutions as well as short-term SPOT solutions to the community's pedestrian challenges.

In this picture, Bruce Altevogt, Seven Oaks Evanswood Citizens Association, Khursheed “KB” Bilgrami Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Alan Bowser, Park Hills Civic Association

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Silver Spring Fourth of July

In the Silver Spring community of Park Hills, neighbors living on Deerfield Avenue and Bonifant Street celebrated the 4th of July at their 10th Annual Jim Foley Memorial Watermelon Feast! They welcomed new neighbors and a new baby, Vivian Rose Richardson.

A special guest at this year's Independence Day celebration was the "Park Hills Barack Obama Presidential Inauguration Flag." The flag was flown over the United States Capitol during the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, and presented as a gift to the Park Hills Civic Association earlier this year.

Soccer group makes play for golf course - Gazette

MSI proposes multimillion-dollar, multipurpose complex at Sligo Creek

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A multimillion-dollar soccer field project and a Frisbee golf course are two options being considered for Sligo Creek Golf Course in Silver Spring if the unlikely option of keeping golf at the course cannot be achieved.

Montgomery Soccer Inc. is proposing two grass and four synthetic fields covering a third of the 65-acre plot at 9701 Sligo Creek Parkway. The synthetic fields would include light fixtures up to 60 feet tall, said Doug Schuessler, executive director of MSI, which serves about 14,000 youth players in the county.

It would be a multimillion dollar project, Schuessler said, with MSI willing to "participate significantly in the cost of construction and maintenance of the fields." Through use from MSI players and possibly schools and the county's rec department, the fields would add much-needed soccer fields to the downcounty area. Existing fields in the area experience heavy use. The Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, which offers several fields, is far removed from the downcounty area, Schuessler said.

It would cost roughly $250,000 to install a grass field and between $600,000 and $1.2 million for each synthetic field, which have lower maintenance costs and provide better quality, he said.

Schuessler made the announcement at a June 23 town hall meeting hosted by the North Hills of Sligo Creek Civic Association. Residents at the meeting were concerned about the cost of such a project now that the land will be operated by a county agency. They also were concerned about the environmental impact. A few years ago the community rejected the Revenue Authority's proposal of a lighted driving range that would increase revenue at the course.

Councilmembers seek compromise on Silver Spring Library bridge - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Members of the Montgomery County Council searched for compromises Tuesday to appease both sides of a long and divisive debate over a proposed pedestrian bridge that would connect the Wayne Avenue Garage to a planned Silver Spring Library that would be located across the street from the garage.

The bridge would allow disabled people and the elderly to access the library without crossing Wayne at the intersection of Fenton Street. But to construct a bridge, the Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan drafted in 1999 would have to be amended by the council. The plan prohibits a bridge over Wayne because it would take away pedestrian traffic that nearby businesses rely on.

If a bridge were not built, architects could consider an option that would expand the library from six stories to seven to accommodate street-level parking for the disabled, said David Dise, director of the county's Department of General Services. That plan would add $3.5 million to the project.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Blair G. Ewing - Washington Post Editorial

In Montgomery County, where civic activism is intense, he went at it full tilt.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"WOE BE THE person who underestimates Blair Ewing," said his Montgomery County Council colleague Michael L. Subin (D-At Large) eight years ago in a Post interview. "Blair doesn't get out there and worry about whether he is going to win. If he thinks something is right, he's going to pursue it whether he has the votes or not." On the council and during an extraordinary 22 years on the county Board of Education, Blair G. Ewing often didn't have those votes. But Mr. Ewing, who died in Rockville on Monday at the age of 75, was an ardent champion of much that would come to pass in the county.

From the moment he moved from Binghamton, N.Y., to Silver Spring in 1967 to become a program analyst and planning and management specialist for a series of federal agencies, Mr. Ewing immersed himself in the civic currents of Montgomery, focusing on growth and education policies. When he won a seat on the school board in 1976, the group was dominated by members who shared his strong belief in racial integration.

But the board makeup soon changed; Mr. Ewing became a lone wolf opposing efforts to undo an integration plan to bus white students from mostly affluent households in Chevy Chase to heavily black Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring. In 1981, over his impassioned objections, the board voted to close Rosemary Hills. Mr. Ewing let fly: "Frankly, this board doesn't give a damn about minorities. . . . It is clear to me that the majority members of the board appeal, in steadily less subtle ways, to the worst instincts of some of their fellow citizens."

A year later, the State Board of Education overturned the county's decision as "arbitrary and unreasonable" and ordered the school to remain open. Voters, too, got the message and tossed out the errant members; in two years, Rosemary Hills achieved record enrollment and national recognition as a model of integration.

Mr. Ewing's unflagging -- and all too frequently uncompromising -- advocacy of generous spending for school improvements sat well with parents in the years of flush budgets and rising enrollments and earned him hero status among the unions. But when lean years stirred voter resistance to rising taxes, he simply tuned out the opposition and pressed on for more funding, citing the needs of a system serving rising numbers of poor, special education and non-English-speaking students. However worthy Mr. Ewing's spending proposals may have been, fiscal realists had to curb or reject many of them, and his influence waned.

Elected to the council in 1998, Mr. Ewing led a managed-growth faction that fought road construction, including the desperately needed intercounty connector that is only now materializing. After losing a reelection bid in 2002, he came out of retirement two years ago when Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) appointed him to the State Board of Education, where he served until his death.

Behind his relentless, sometimes caustic style, Blair Ewing had a soft, caring side and a heartfelt desire to make Montgomery County an attractive home for all its people. That's a cause he clearly helped to advance.

The Fourth of July from Wiki

In the United States, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, political speeches and ceremonies, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the national day of the United States.


During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Adams' prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

One of the most enduring myths about Independence Day is that Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The myth had become so firmly established that, decades after the event and nearing the end of their lives, even the elderly Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had come to believe that they and the other delegates had signed the Declaration on the fourth. Most delegates actually signed the Declaration on August 2, 1776. In a remarkable series of coincidences, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two founding fathers of the United States and the only two men who signed the Declaration of Independence to become president, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the United States' 50th anniversary. President James Monroe died exactly five years later, on July 4, 1831, but he was not a signatory to the Declaration of Independence.