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Leggett hears Webb Tract concerns: County executive candidate supports ‘balanced growth’

Montgomery County Gazette
November 16, 2005

Isaiah “Ike” Leggett took issue last week with the county’s plans to redevelop the Shady Grove Metro station into a 21st century commercial and residential “urban village.” His problem, as he explained to an audience of 40 at a public forum in Montgomery Village, is not with growth in general, nor with the need to relocate parts or all of the County Service Park on Crabbs Branch Way to a 134-acre lot off Snouffer School Road.

The problem, he said, is with some of the base assumptions the county is making to carry its plan out.

For one thing, Leggett isn’t convinced that the county’s requirement that the project be “revenue neutral” — that it come at no cost to the public — is the best approach.

“Once you say that I think that you restrict the flexibility for some of the solutions you might be able to come up with,” he said later, referring to major projects for which the county dipped into its coffers, including the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring and the parking garages in Bethesda.

“Because [the Shady Grove project] is so integral to the county’s long-term future, we may be able to make some investment to make this work.”

Leggett, however, also insisted that he is by no means anti-growth. He pointed to his record on the County Council, three times its president and three times its vice president, as a “consensus builder,” drawing support from both the business and environmental communities for his “balanced” approach to growth.

Last Tuesday night’s forum was the first of two meetings hosted by the East Village Homes Corp. and the Mid-County Citizens Alliance to feature candidates in next year’s race for county executive.

Leggett, a member of the County Council from 1986 to 2002, came to the forum, he said, to feel first-hand “the passion and the concern that people have.”

Those concerns, for residents in the Village, Flower Hill and other neighborhoods along Snouffer School Road, have included the traffic and environmental impacts of bringing hundreds of trucks and buses from the service park — not to mention the cars of service park employees — to the property formerly known as the Webb Tract, now being called Centerpark by its developers.

County planners have said that parts or all of the service park, including the county liquor warehouse, a RideOn bus depot and maintenance building and nearly 400 county school buses, should be moved away from Shady Grove to make the area more attractive to those who would live there.

Village resident Lauren English told Leggett that she finds that unacceptable.

“Why is it OK for me to be sacrificed to someone who isn’t even a homeowner yet?” she asked, tears welling in her eyes.

Throughout the night, Leggett response to the audience was that his goal as county executive would be to make sure that development in the county be more reasonable and come as less of a burden on existing communities.

“The public wants someone to balance these issues — not to say that you’re going to stop growth but that you’re not going to go at it too aggressively,” he said later.

Copyright © 2005 The Gazette