When the Carl Sandburg Learning Center moved from Twinbrook to East Rockville to join Maryvale Elementary School, the future of the now vacant building was unknown. During the last few months, lots of vehicles were visiting the empty building along with surveyors and utility crews. None had any answers about what was planned, although the neighboring residents were curious.
Mike Stein, president of the Twinbrook Community Association, asked Rob DiSpirito, Rockville’s city manager, about it and it turns out that Montgomery County Public Schools is planning a major expansion that will add loading for seven school busses, expand the parking lot by 50 percent to add twenty-nine more spaces, and add twenty-one (21!) portable classrooms (aka trailers). MCPS recently met with the Planning and Development Services department at the City of Rockville to discuss their plans, but have not yet filed an application.
A closer look at MCPS’s Capital Improvements Program for FY2022 reveals that Jack Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, recommended to the Board of Education in October 2020 (six months ago!) to use the “former Carl Sandburg Learning Center as another elementary school holding facility” to accelerate the construction of Stonegate Elementary School for completion in September 2023 (Capital Improvements Program/Master Plan, pages 5, 1-2, 3-6). That means the school children, faculty, and staff at Stonegate will commute to Carl Sandburg for the next two years.
MCPS is moving fast and not thinking about the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Carl Sandburg Learning Center is sited just south of Twinbrook Parkway, which serves as an unofficial cross-county connector for Rockville. Sharing Twinbrook Parkway within a mile are Meadow Hall Elementary School (402 students) and Rockville High School (1448 students)—all will be starting and ending their rush hours at about the same time. By turning Carl Sandburg into a holding school, it will add to the already significant traffic snarls we face every weekday on this two-lane road (but maybe when the pandemic lifts, we’ll continue to work from home?).
If you are concerned about the size or impact of this holding school on the neighborhood, contact the Rockville Planning Commission at Planning.Commission@rockvillemd.gov and copy Jim Wasilak, chief of planning, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twinbrook residents Anne Goodman and John Tyner are planning commissioners, so you can contact them as well. The State of Maryland grants school districts significant latitude in the use of their land (basically, their decisions trump city and county government) so if you’re really concerned, you need to contact your elected officials, such as County Executive Marc Elrich, County Councilmember Sid Katz (who represents Rockville), and Bridget Newton (mayor of Rockville), who can apply political pressure.
If you are concerned about the school district’s lack of communication with the neighborhood about this major expansion project, contact Jack Smith (MCPS superintendent of schools, retiring in June); Brenda Wolf (chair of the board of education, who also represents District 5 where Carl Sandburg is located) at Brenda_Wolff@mcpsmd.org; or the entire Board of Education at email@example.com. While residents, businesses, and developers have to notify the neighborhood of significant changes to their land, school districts are largely exempt—and it’s a bad civic practice.
If you are concerned about the potential damage to the majestic old tree behind the school (anyone know the species?), well, maybe the City Forester can help at firstname.lastname@example.org, but it is on school property and they tend to treat landscaping as a low priority.
On all messages, please copy Mike Stein at Twinbrook.President@Gmail.com to keep the Twinbrook Community Association in the loop. They are local association of residents advocating for the neighborhood.
Carl Sandburg Learning Center (451 Meadow Hall Road, Rockville) had 93 students in grades PreK-6 and was built in 1962 with 52,227 square feet on 18 acres OR 31,252 square feet on 8 acres (MCPS data conflicts).
Stonegate Elementary School (14811 Notley Road, Silver Spring) has 492 students in grades K-5 (currently over capacity by 92 students with seven portable classrooms) was built in 1971 with 52,468 square feet on 10 acres.
“Holding facilities are utilized for capital projects, such as major capital projects and large-scale addition projects, to
house students and staff during construction. By relocating students and staff to a holding facility, MCPS is able to reduce the length of time required for construction and provide a safe and secure environment for the students and staff.” Currently, there are six holding facilities for elementary schools: Emory Grove, Fairland, Grosvenor, North Lake, Radnor, and the former Carl Sandburg Learning Center.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has released the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan in preparation for public hearings. Veirs Mill Road cuts through Twinbrook in southern Rockville before connecting with the Rockville Pike in downtown. This plan only focuses on the areas of Veirs Mill Road south of Rockville’s borders, however, coordinating the commission’s and county’s plans with Rockville’s is crucial to ensure compatibility as well as reduce impacts and ensure benefits to residents and businesses (remember the struggles on the Rockville Pike?). Planning began in January 2017 and while the draft Master Plan was released in April 2018, the Commission has not established any public hearing dates (things move slowly in the county). The draft Master Plan and more details available at http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/communities/area-2/veirs-mill-corridor-plan/
The Master Plan examines land use, urban design, housing, transportation (including pedestrians and bicycles), parks and trails, environment, and community facilities, then provides findings and recommendations by four districts. The Plan identified the major challenges as Continue reading →
If you’re wondering what development projects are happening in Montgomery County, the Planning Department has an easy at-a-glance map that quickly highlights projects for an area that interests you. Simply go to http://mcatlas.org/devfinder/ and move the map around and click on a location. Instantly, it draws a circle from 1-10 miles in diameter, highlights the property, and provides a list of all the projects. For example, within a mile of the Twinbrook Metro Station, there are 18 development projects in the hopper with the Planning Department. Remember, if you’re on a county border (as Twinbrook is), what’s happening in the City of Rockville won’t appear. You’ll need to also check the Rockville’s website for information.
Development isn’t just happening south of Rockville in White Flint. There’s lots going on northwest of Rockville along West Montgomery/Key West Avenue.
The Twinbrook Swimming Pool (TSP) opens for the summer season on Sunday, May 28 but the following Saturday, June 3 will have a day full of activities including a craft fair and yard sale from 8 am to 1 pm, and a community day from 12 noon to 6 pm for $6 per person. I recently stopped by to find volunteers getting the place ready for opening (photos below). Along with 50-meter swimming lanes and diving pond, there’s a sand volleyball court, a deck for special events, picnic tables, dozens of lounge chairs, a “bar of snacks,” restrooms, and a playground for young kids. For children who are serious about swimming, TSP hosts the Ducks, a competitive swim team for kids and teens that’s part of the Montgomery County Swim League. To join, membership rates range from $345 (individual) to $605 (family) along with a special introductory rate of $128. For more details, visit TwinbrookPool.org.
You may have never noticed the pool because you can’t see it from the street— Continue reading →
REI, the outdoor sports store at the southern edge of Rockville at 1701 Rockville Pike, has announced it’s moving south about 1500 feet to become part of the new Pike & Rose mega-shopping center/experience in White Flint. With the loss of Sports Authority and Hudson Trail Outfitters in recent years, this neighborhood’s remaining sports stores are smaller specialists: Revolution Cycles, Performance Bicycle, and Road Runner Sports. REI has announced the following schedule:
- March 18, 2017: Garage Sale
- April 15: Last day accepting shop work
- April 23: Last day in Rockville
- April 25: Opening at Pike & Rose in White Flint
- April 28-30: Grand opening events
Competition for tenants along the Rockville Pike continues to intensify as the internet becomes a more popular place to shop and customers seek more interesting and engaging experiences. The simple stripmalls that line Rockville Pike will be with us for a while but the richer social environments of Pike & Rose and Rockville Town Square will be more attractive gathering places. JBG‘s efforts around the Twinbrook Metro Station is expected to follow this new model, however, it seems that development has stalled for the last year and doesn’t have sufficient gravity to attract a sustainable customer base (Terano and Galvan, the last major projects, opened in 2015).
A dozen residents attended an information session on the replacement of water mains in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville last night to learn more about the extent and impact of construction during the next two years. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, one of the largest the water and sewer utilities in the nation, serves portions of Rockville and will be replacing the nearly 8 miles of water mains and installing 0.18 miles of new sewer lines in the area roughly bounded by McAullife, Linthicum, Marcia, and Meadow Hall with sections out Tweed Street and Twinbrook Parkway to Viers Mill Road (that’s 332 homes; see map below for details). The post-war neighborhood of Twinbrook is now passing the 50-year threshold, which means that the lifespan of the water system is coming to an end, a situation that’s Continue reading →
The new and larger 24-hour Safeway store that opened in December on Rockville Pike near the Twinbrook Metro in Rockville is having a domino effect on other businesses in the area. When it opened, it made the Safeway in the Twinbrook Shopping Center at 2200 Viers Mills Road redundant, so it closed a couple months ago and left another empty store in the shopping center. Recent rumors suggest that it soon be filled by Lotte Mart, a South Korean market chain with more than 200 stores worldwide, including Gaithersburg and Wheaton, but its arrival won’t be welcomed by everyone—the nearby small Asian Market will close, leaving another hole in the shopping center.
As the owner of Asian Market explained, “between the increased rent and the new competition [Lotte Mart], I can’t stay in business. It’s already hard enough to make a profit while working 16 hour days, so I’ll be closing at the end of August and looking for a job working for someone else.” Although it’s small store with just three aisles, it represented a wide range of culinary cultures, including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Cambodian, Korean, Philipino, and Indonesian, that are not typically found in the larger Lotte Mart or Great Wall. To clear out its inventory, it is selling its bottled, canned, and dry goods (except rice) at a 20 percent discount. The soy sauce and sambals are all gone, but there still was plenty of Thai curry, coconut milk, and noodles on the shelves when I visited a couple days ago.
The former Safeway store, just like the Twinbrook Library, is on a parcel that is owned separately from the rest of the shopping center but serve as anchors that attract customers. The building is almost twenty years old but still serviceable, but too small for today’s major grocery, department, or hardware stores. An Asian or Hispanic grocery store seems to be the most likely candidate, especially with the demographics of the neighborhood, and when it comes in, it too will have a domino effect on the rest of the shopping center. Whether it will be good or bad remains to be seen. It’s pushed one business out but could attract others—and it badly needs to fill the half dozen stores that are empty.
The Rockville Bike Hub (RBH) will host a bicycle drive on Saturday, June 11, between 3 and 6 p.m., during the Bikes, Brews and Barbecue event outside Revolution Cycles at 5750 Fishers Lane adjacent to the Twinbrook Metro. All bikes will be accepted but the critical need is for bicycles for children in first through fifth grade. Adult bikes will be used for education and volunteer training or donated to Bikes for the World.
In partnership with the City of Rockville, the non-profit, RBH recently gave away more than 30 bicycles to local elementary school children as a reward for performing a small service project. “In general, a bike gives a child a sense of independence and freedom and the ability to broaden the area that they can explore in their neighborhoods,” said Rockville Bike Hub Board President Steve Andruski. “Our hope is that, it turns into a lifelong activity and they become connected to the bicycling community.”
In addition to collecting bikes, the Rockville Bike Hub will be Continue reading →
The Blizzard of 2016 has left the Mid-Atlantic and for the next few days we’ll be digging ourselves out of nearly two feet of snow (although with the winds, there are drifts that are much higher). The Twinbrook neighborhood has crews of shovelers and blowers working to clear homes and cars and City of Rockville crews are plowing streets. The major streets in Twinbrook, such as Twinbrook Parkway and Viers Mill Road, are open to one or two lanes but they’re not back to normal and I wouldn’t venture outfor another day unless it’s an emergency. Minor streets vary significantly–some have a passable lane, others were plowed yesterday and now have a layer of snow. But even if you could get out, there isn’t any place to go. Most stores and restaurants remain closed because their parking lots need to be cleared and they’ll soon be faced with the problem of figuring out where to put all that snow. After 2010’s blizzard, I remember a mountain of snow at Trader Joes that didn’t disappear until late March–becoming ever dirtier over time that by the end, it looked like coal.
It’s difficult to get local information and the best source I’ve found is Twitter. To see what’s happening, use hashtags #blizzard2016, #Rockville, or #RKV or follow @Rockville411, @MontgomeryCoMD, @MDSHA, @WMATA, or @DrGridlock.
If you want to take your kids sledding, you’ll probably want to walk to your nearest park if it has a hill (Rockville Central produced a Google Map with suggestions ages ago). The best one is at the Rockville Civic Center, which has a famous sledding hill near Glenview Mansion. Montgomery County Parks has a list of approved sledding sites in their parks.
A couple reminders from the City of Rockville: Continue reading →
About 17 inches of snow has fallen so far in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville. During a break from the winds, I carved out a path to Twinbrook Parkway and shot this short video from Meadow Hall Road. City crews have maintained a one-lane road on Twinbrook Parkway, enough for emergency vehicles but not for anyone else. Side roads are unplowed. I’d plan on staying inside for another day.