Thursday, May 12, 2016

Residents to developer-beholden Montgomery County Council: "Your time in office is done"

A citizen uprising against developer-driven government decisions in Montgomery County continued last night in Rockviille. Hundreds of residents opposed to a Montgomery County Public Schools bus depot, proposed for the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive, crammed into the all-purpose room at College Gardens Elementary School. Led by a citizen group known as the Carver Coalition, residents were already gathering in protest outside the school more than half-an-hour before the MCPS-hosted meeting started.

Chants of "No bus depot!" and "Shame on Leggett!" echoed through the College Gardens neighborhood, as reporters from ABC7 and Montgomery Community Television interviewed residents about the controversial proposal. Once inside, the residents continued their impromptu protest as the start time of the meeting neared. [Click the thumbnail below to watch video of the protests]
video

The proposal to place 100 school buses at the Carver site is controversial for many reasons, including exhaust emissions, pedestrian and child safety, noise (the buses have to test their horns each morning at 6:00 AM), the ugly fencing that would be erected, environmental impacts, and the plan's incompatibility with the Carver site's historic district designation.

Many public officials attended, including Rockville's representatives in the General Assembly. Delegate Kumar Barve told the crowd that he, State Senator Cheryl Kagan, and Delegates Andrew Platt and Jim Gilchrist all strongly oppose the Carver depot. Also in attendance were Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, City Councilmembers Virginia Onley and Mark Pierzchala, and several City staff members, including Acting City Manager Craig Simoneau and Planning Director Susan Swift. Former Rockville mayor Larry Giammo, who has been active in the citizen efforts to stop the Carver depot, was also present.

In a question that would be posed again and again throughout the evening, Barve asked MCPS staff, "who is the ultimate decision-maker?" After an inconclusive answer, Barve responded, "I don't feel I got a crisp answer to my question." Neither did Pierzchala. "I am a little bit upset at the answer you just gave," he said. "You ought to be here able to give an answer to those process questions, and not just engineering questions," Pierzchala added.

But the state and Rockville-level elected officials will have very little power to stop the Carver plan, under the Mandatory Referral process that makes it difficult to stop government development proposals.

The Montgomery County Council has the final authority to stop the depot, but MCPS officials and even the councilmembers in attendance would not acknowledge that fact, even under pressure from citizens to specify where the buck stops in this case. In fact, councilmembers rankled attendees by cutting into the head of the line of residents patiently waiting their turn to ask MCPS officials questions.

"Let the citizens speak!" "We need to hear from the people, not from elected officials!" were among the shouts, as Councilmembers George Leventhal and Sid Katz took command of the microphone. Attendees had already sat through a lengthy Powerpoint presentation clearly designed to reduce the public comment portion of the meeting.

To Councilmember Marc Elrich's credit, he has been engaged on this issue since the beginning, and had to be cajoled by colleagues to reluctantly come forward from the back of the room. Elrich implored the Board of Education to stop the plan; Leventhal blamed County Executive Ike Leggett "and his staff - it's their job."

But Leventhal's attempt to turn the Carver Coalition's grassroots turnout effort into a ready-made campaign rally for himself, complete with prepared applause lines of just how much he really, really opposes the Carver depot, ultimately backfired. While speaking at length (while the first actual residents had yet to get the microphone) about how much he opposes using the Carver site, Leventhal neglected to tell the crowd that he had voted for the money to design and construct a Carver depot!

Mr. Leventhal not only voted to approve Resolution 18-396 on February 9 this year, but he made the motion that triggered the vote according to the meeting minutes!

When a citizen later brought Leventhal's vote for the resolution up, Leventhal committed his latest "Four Pinocchio/Pants on Fire" gaffe. Leventhal claimed the money he voted for was simply to locate an appropriate site, not to design and construct a depot at Carver.

The citizen then handed Leventhal the actual resolution he had voted for, and asked Leventhal to read it aloud. Realizing his falsehood had been exposed, Leventhal flatly refused to comply. "No, I will not read that," he said firmly, handing the paper back to his constituent.

As you will see in this video, Leventhal then gestured and grimaced in exasperation, before returning to his seat as the text of the resolution was read aloud by a citizen:
video

The resolution appropriated $1,725,000 for "design" ($150,000) and construction ($1,575,000) of a new depot. On Page 3 of the document, which Leventhal refused to read aloud, it clearly states that the money is for "design and construction of the front parking lot at the Carver Educational Services Center to accommodate bus parking." Oops!

So consider the scene - the County Council is attempting to portray themselves as heroes to the rescue, when every one of the councilmembers speaking voted for the Carver depot design and construction. You can't make this stuff up, folks!

Most residents, while appreciating any opposition to the depot from the County Council at this point, were not likely fooled by the 11th-hour "heroics" of the councilmembers (six of whom didn't even bother to show up; neither did County Executive Ike Leggett, nor the superintendent of MCPS).

Woodley Gardens resident Margot Stein noted that some elected officials only now have "jumped on the train at the last minute, when they saw where this was going. You've let us down desperately. You've really let us down. I'm not voting for anybody who votes for this project."

The president of the Plymouth Woods community association had a blunt message for the County Council from his residents. Reporting that 272 residents had unanimously voted to oppose the Carver depot at their meeting earlier in the evening, he took the microphone to tell councilmembers, "Your time in office is done. We're gonna get you out of here so fast - and Ike Leggett, too. You're on the way out." 

The crowd roared and applauded.

For all of the talking by the councilmembers, the only assurances residents got were that A) the Council has to give the go-ahead to relinquish the current Shady Grove bus depot to the developer that will redevelop it as residential (and let's face it, that's why we're in this mess - the developer-beholden elected officials who run our County), and that B) the Council can rescind the above-mentioned $1,725,000 for the design and construction of the Carver depot.

Moreover, parse the statements of the councilmembers very closely. They left plenty of legal room to later approve a depot at Carver in their carefully-worded comments.

Now, how about the actual public?

So many residents had questions and comments that not everyone was given the chance to speak - despite the hosts of the meeting being the owners of the building!

The resident who really brought the house down was a graduate of the original Carver school, the only public high school for African-Americans in Montgomery County during the segregation era.

"I am a product of Carver High School," he began as a hush fell over the often-noisy room. "As I look back upon my education here in the County seat of Montgomery County, and how the [Montgomery County] Board of Education did not build an elementary school for us, and did not build a junior high school for us...I am the fifth generation of a slave family. So Carver was built."

"[George Washington] Carver was not a bus driver," he continued pointedly. "Carver was a scientist. Something he tried to instill in all of us, was to get an education."

To now pretend the Carver school never existed, he said, "The rug's too small. You can't sweep it under the rug. And now we want to put a bus depot in front of this historical building? No way. No way."

The gentleman received a large ovation from the crowd.

No one in the crowd spoke in favor of building the depot.

One leader of the opposition to the depot said, "I think this is a bad idea." Turning to the audience, he asked, "Do you think this is a bad idea?" "YEAH!!" the crowd roared back.

Mayor Newton implored residents to also support the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Rockville, where MCPS is now plotting to build an additional depot at 1000 Westmore Avenue (a.k.a. the WINX property, as it is known from its radio broadcasting days), directly across the street from homes.

Resident Scott Weaver noted that his window is "110 feet from the curb of the [Carver] lot," and said he is concerned for the health of his two small children. "Who is going to introduce a motion at their elected body to stop this?" "If the will is there, what is the action" any of the elected bodies can take, asked resident Theresa Defino.

Rockville resident and longtime activist Drew Powell said he has documentation from the County Council Education Committee "from more than a year ago, this documentation says, 'We're going to put some buses at Carver.'" Powell asked why residents weren't notified at that early stage.

"Why would you put a bus depot where people live," a young girl asked. "It harms people, and it harms the environment."

One attendee thought the racial overtones of putting buses at Carver were too offensive. Noting the history of desegregation and busing, putting school buses on a historic African-American site would be "a slap in the face," he said. "Especially at this time when racial and ethnic tensions are so high."

A man who moved to College Square in 2007 recalled his realtor gushing that "What's great about Maryland is that everything is master-planned." The crowd chuckled.

"Nobody would think of putting a commercial truck depot on this site," said a 36-year resident of Mannakee Street, which runs right alongside the Carver site and into the residential neighborhood directly adjacent to it. "This use is incompatible. We should not spend one more penny on this stupid idea."

His neighbor, who has lived on the street one more year than him, told MCPS officials, "Don't screw up our city."

Another young girl said, "I won't be able to sleep in the morning" with the bus horn tests blaring, and loud buses departing the depot. "It will make me tired at school, and I won't be able to do my best."

Monique Ashton, PTA President at College Gardens ES, asked if comments at the meeting were being recorded verbatim. No, it turns out that two people were simply jotting down notes. Ashton said that presented a transparency issue, if other officials won't be able to review the full input given at the meeting. She also implored the Council to start using the money from land sales for school construction.

A resident of Ivy League Lane asked, "How possibly can you mitigate [the noise of the buses]? I just can't imagine how anyone can live in this condition." He paused for several moments, before saying, "I am speechless."

How about performing a pollution evaluation, one resident asked. Seth Adams, Director of MCPS' construction division, said they don't have the expertise to do that, but that they would try to find someone qualified to do so, now that it had been brought up.

"How any person in a normal mind can suggest this strange idea [of a bus depot at Carver]," a resident asked. "This is ridiculous, and absolutely unacceptable."

A 45-year resident of College Gardens said he had a background in nuclear engineering. "Part of my experience was in forecasting," he said. "And I forecast this project will not go forward," he said to applause.

One student said, "We are not waking up at the butt crack of dawn, and ruining our GPAs, because you decide to put a bus depot on this site." A much-younger student concurred less colorfully that "No one wants to wake up at the crack of dawn just to hear these buses honk."

Ultimately, we have the same problem here as in multiple other communities where residents are now rising up in protest - developers are running the County through their contributions to the County Council campaign accounts. Why are noisy, polluting public facilities being relocated from industrial land near the railroad tracks to residential neighborhoods across Montgomery County? Purely for developer profit. Period.

A bus depot in a residential neighborhood? Anyone with common sense knows that idea is completely nuts.

It's easy for the Council to talk, but they are eventually going to have to find a depot site.

None of the ones discussed are viable. None are appropriate. Carver? No. Westmore? Nope. Avery Road? No. Gude Drive landfill? The jury is still out on that one.

So where else can this thing go? Are they going to pit one Rockville neighborhood against another? Rockville versus Aspen Hill? The Council is so certain there won't be a depot at Carver, but where will it be, then?

Why wasn't this addressed years ago? How did the Council have time to ram through the entire Westbard sector plan in Bethesda, and numerous other developer giveaways, but not time to find a depot site? Or to kill the idea of selling the existing depot to begin with?

I think we all know the answer.








Former Rockville mayor
Larry Giammo joins the
protest
Agenda for the meeting
Delegate Kumar Barve speaks
County Councilmember Marc Elrich
Graduate of the historic
Carver high school schools
the County Council

76 comments:

Poppy said...

Sending your children to school on a lumbering, polluting yellow bus is incredibly irresponsible and definitely not progressive. Building a depot to support this sort of behavior would be a terrible idea. I put my support behind these Carverians.

Children should be sent to school in safe, sensible, green transportation like the family Tesla. There is no need to build an ugly unsightly Tesla depot as they are true multi-purpose vehicles and are not simply idle when not going to or from school.

Anonymous said...

Since the Tesla is all electric, your Tesla is essentially coal powered. How progressive. https://data.maryland.gov/Energy-and-Environment/Electricity-Generation-By-Source-In-Maryland/9x8y-nux4

Anonymous said...

First, I agree the Council comes off looking like a group of bumbling idiots, especially Leventhal.

However, what's so bad about parking buses in a parking lot at Carver? I pulled up the address on Google maps, and it's on Rockville Pike on one side, and Montgomery College's main campus on the other side. Yes, behind it are houses, but no one would say Rockville Pike and Montgomery College count as residental.

Same with the concerns about pollution -- Rockville Pike is right there, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the County -- that is a much bigger impact on pollution than 100 buses.

Then the racial thing seems like a blatant race card play. They're just school buses. Is someone next going to complain if a school bus is parked next to Josiah Henson Park (inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin)?

The honking horn thing is a joke too. Easy solution -- have the drivers wait until they get on Rockville Pike to honk the horn.

Won't someone think of the children? They need buses to get to school. The buses need to park somewhere. As I recall, the Carver center already has a sizeable parking lot, and it's located right next to 355 so very good access to major roads.

NIMBY at its best. Let's pull out all the stops -- race card, worry about honking horns, and concerns about pollution despite being right next to Rockville Pike already.

Anonymous said...

Robert- do you really think Leventhal gives a rats ass about your opinion? I can answer that for you: NO

Anonymous said...

6:44 - Big difference between
"a" school bus is parked next to Josiah Henson Park and a parking lot of buses.

Anyone drive Westlake at morning bus time? Then you understand.
Henson Park is part of a house on Old Georgetown Road.
Not exactly comparing apples to apples.

Anonymous said...

Negative blogger finally got into the office, has his coffee, logged in and is trolling away here.

Anonymous said...

Warning:
Anyone truly interested in this REAL issue should be aware that "Poppy" is someone's idea of satire and is NOT A REAL PERSON.
Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:46 AM - Did you bother to scroll all the way to the right, for the most recent figures? The years shown when you first open that page are 1990 and 1992.

And although coal is the currently largest single source of electricity, less than half of Maryland's electricity comes from coal. And that number will continue to drop sharply as more coal-burning generating plants are closed. Dickerson and Chalk Point are scheduled to be closed before 2020.

Anonymous said...

I think Robert Dyer is the MoCo Machine's idea of satire.

Betsy said...

Poppy is actually quite hilarious and useful counterbalance to the heavy handed opinions in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Poppy's also right. If you people would just send your kids to school in the Tesla with the au pair driving, we wouldn't have to waste all this tax money on school buses in the first place.

Anonymous said...

@6:52 My comparison of Josiah Henson was purely for the race card bit, as that park also has historical meaning -- I realize that park does not have room to park 100 buses.

Anonymous said...

And another sea of old grey heads.

Poppy said...

@7:01 Thank you for pointing out that the figures posted are hopelessly out of date.

Also it should go without saying that we purchase carbon offsets for 100% of our household's energy consumption, including the charges for the Tesla and the domestic's Leaf.

Anonymous said...

"[Click the thumbnail below to watch video of the protests]"

"A plug-in is needed to display this content."

Jeez, Dyer... still using Flash?

Not Old said...

Aww look at all the snowbirds!

Anonymous said...

"Residents to developer-beholden Montgomery County Council"

What does a proposal to build a bus terminal for our public school system have to do with "greedy developers"?

Anonymous said...

7:22 AM It's right in this graph:

"For all of the talking by the councilmembers, the only assurances residents got were that A) the Council has to give the go-ahead to relinquish the current Shady Grove bus depot to the developer that will redevelop it as residential (and let's face it, that's why we're in this mess - the developer-beholden elected officials who run our County), and that B) the Council can rescind the above-mentioned $1,725,000 for the design and construction of the Carver depot."

Anonymous said...

So Robert Dyer now opposes construction of new homes within a half-mile of a Metro station? So much for "smart growth".

Anonymous said...

Is the Council even well informed enough to make decisions? Hans Reamer claimed there were two Metro stations within a mile of Westbard Avenue.

Anonymous said...

Dyer! Dyer! Dyer!

Anonymous said...

Poppy is a figment of someone's imagination.
FAKE input from a FAKE person on a REAL issue. And is taken at face value from those who come here sporadically or to weigh in on REAL issues.

Those that think you're laughing at "Poppy" are really being laughed at BY "Poppy."

I love satire. Larry Sanders Show? Brilliant. When it's obviously satire. When it's not, it's intolerant and part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

P O P P Y 2 0 1 6
Make America Pop Again

Anonymous said...

You do realize who Poppy works for, right? You know they're punking Dyer, right?

Anonymous said...

"One student said, 'We are not waking up at the butt crack of dawn, and ruining our GPAs, because you decide to put a bus depot on this site'."

NIMBYs raise their children to be so civil and reasonable.

Anonymous said...

I heard Poppy is actually Dyer's mom

Anonymous said...

You know what's really funny? This crappy townhouse development is named "Ivy League Lane".

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a poor minority neighborhood to put them?

Anonymous said...

"Poppy is a figment of someone's imagination.
FAKE input from a FAKE person on a REAL issue. And is taken at face value from those who come here sporadically or to weigh in on REAL issues.

Those that think you're laughing at "Poppy" are really being laughed at BY "Poppy."

I love satire. Larry Sanders Show? Brilliant. When it's obviously satire. When it's not, it's intolerant and part of the problem."


You do realize that you can just ignore "Poppy's" comments right?

Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous protest, as someone mentioned in a previous comment this location is right off 355 and is a fine location for this type of use as long as the buses are required to enter and leave via the entrance closes to 355. The 6:00 am horn test may be the only legitimate issue but why in the world is that a requirement anyway. Buses don't need functioning horns to be heard/see they are bigger than everything else out there. Plus how often do car horns fail that the need to be tested daily?

Anonymous said...

That lone black man must be getting tired of being treated like some kind of zoo exhibit.

Anonymous said...

Another exhibit of Robert's racism...

Anonymous said...

10:34 cozying up to the county council?
There's other options in more commercial areas.

Anonymous said...

I hope all 100 buses start their engines and and honk their horns at the exact same moment at 4:00 a.m., and destroy that "buttcrack of dawn" kid's academic career.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be the prudent, conservative location for the depot that will cost the least to tax payers that will do the most good for the most people. Whiny me-first liberals.

Anonymous said...

@1133 I hope they make their way over to Dyer's around 415 am and honk away! thats what that idiotic birdbrain deserves

Anonymous said...

"A bus depot in a residential neighborhood? Anyone with common sense knows that idea is completely nuts."

Here is a satellite image that actually gives some context.

http://rivista-cdn.bethesdamagazine.com/CarverBud.jpg?ver=1460646841

On the north, west and southwest sides of the site is the Montgomery College campus.

On the east side of the site is Rockville Pike, with a commercial area on the east side.

On the southeast side of the site is a shopping center.

On the south-central side of the site is a tiny townhouse development, which is completely surrounded by the school's parking lots and the shopping center, which continues to the southeast.

It seems like the townhouse complex is the outlier here, not the proposed school bus facility.

Anonymous said...

In the future electric autonomous cars will arrive at your door and deliver your child to school. I do not see the need to investing in this 1960's technology. It is like the purple line.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:51 AM - LOL, but that's Dyer's "daytime". A better time would be noon, when he's sleeping.

Anonymous said...

Poppy already solved this. TOWNHOUSE PEOPLE WHY DON'T YOU HAVE AU PAIRS? THIS IS YOUR FAULT!

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I would find a good quality window/door contractor (for noise reduction) because you will now have a wonderful school bus parking lot as neighbors.
The MOCO council will label this new parking lot as a wonderful new community "amenity" providing a wonderful space/location/repair facility for the benefit of all or some BS like that. It's probably already a done deal but good luck nontheless!

Anonymous said...

So, Leventhal made an ass out of himself. Again.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully they start forced busing to integrate the schools.

Anonymous said...

"[George Washington] Carver was not a bus driver," he continued pointedly. "Carver was a scientist. Something he tried to instill in all of us, was to get an education."

That sounds like something Poppy could have written.

Anonymous said...

Damn Robert, great job reporting.

Anonymous said...

These council members definitely aren't making themselves look too good. I wonder how many moco voters actually pay attention to how their elected officials behave... Sadly, it seems only when an issue directly affects their lives and their neighborhoods do people realize who they are dealing with, and who does not represent their interests.

Anonymous said...

And that would be part of the definition of a NIMBY

Anonymous said...

5:33. Uhhh so I guess we should just be happy with whatever the developers and council want to put in our neighborhoods and shut up, huh?!?! Wow! Sounds like a great way to live. Maybe next election the slogan will be "vote for us...we know what's best for you" or something along those lines... Hoping for term limits to pass.

Anonymous said...

I notice that the current and former mayors of Rockville are opposed to the bus depot relocation, as are hundreds of residents. Maryland state delegates and senators appear to be skeptical, too.

It seems irresponsible to have allocated funding for this project without traffic and environmental impact assessments. MCPS and/or the County Council need to do better.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 6.42: citizens should have more say about what is happening in their neighborhoods. I'm not sure about term limits, but Westbard, Lyttonsville and Carver have many disturbing similarities.

Anonymous said...

7:07 AM: Not even remotely amusing. Same thing for the posts from "Poppy".

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with 6:58. The only heavy handed opinions are those of the trolls who hurl ad hominem insults Dyer and make age-ist comments. Were I Dyer, I would delete these.

By the way: substantive debate is terrific. Insults are unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Queen Victoria has arrived.

Anonymous said...

Not really. There's a range of ages depicted. And even if most of the demonstrators were older-- so what?

Anonymous said...

You might not be old, but you make up for it by confirming the worst stereotypes about Millennials.

Aww. Not.

Anonymous said...

Racist comment. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Environmental impact is also relevant, and traffic concerns should be vetted.

Anonymous said...

Our county council members and state legislators largely coast because most people don't pay attention to what they're doing.

Anonymous said...

No, it would be the definition of a busy person with multiple responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, yes-- but that appears to be changing.

Anonymous said...

???

Anonymous said...

Sure. But it's fair to point out that they're stale, tired and past their sell-by date.

Anonymous said...

Not funny, not clever.

Anonymous said...

Why is there a need for an environmental or traffic impact? It's 100-200 vehicles, twice a day, down one of the busiest roads in the county. What is that, a 0.01% increase in vehicles on 355 every day?

Robert Dyer said...

8:00: There will also be 100+ personal vehicles for the drivers and support personnel, which won't come all via 355. And there is no curb cut onto 355; buses will all use Mannakee Street.

Facts aside, who would have any passion to defend the idea of a bus depot at Carver other than the developer who is eager to redevelop the existing Shady Grove depot?

By the way, opposing the stupidity of not identifying a viable depot site at an earlier point does not mean a person opposes development at Metro - I never wrote in opposition to the redevelopment of the Reed Brothers Dodge and CarMax sites at Shady Grove.

The real question is, should hard-to-relocate industrial uses like bus depots be redeveloped at all?

Anonymous said...

Funny how Dyer was praising a new bus depot (Montgomery Mall) just a week ago.

Robert Dyer said...

9:50: There aren't people living right next to that, and it has a handful of bus routes that stop there. The Carver site would have 100 buses yards away from people's windows! Are you with the developer? There's literally no one else who could defend the Carver proposal.

Anonymous said...

9:50PM - please tell me you're not dumb enough to think that a bus stop and a bus parking lot are the same. I thought you were smarter than that.
You're just giving Dyer a hard time, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Those opposing this location - where do they propose it go instead?

Anonymous said...

There are several places to look into. Space off Gude. Vacant commercial/warehouse lots. What about further up county?
Is there a list of places they considered but rejected?

Anonymous said...

5:49 AM = comment of the year candidate!

Anonymous said...

It is odd that the proposals that citizens are united against continue to move forward.

Anonymous said...

I am a citizen and I don't mind this. Not my problem.

Anonymous said...

12:37 do you mind how rude levethal acts? Also, do you live in that area?

Anonymous said...

More race baiting and ageism from the pro developer crowd. It would make sense if you were all wannabe satirists like Poppy, but you aren't clever enough to pull it off.

peter said...

Isn't the Carver building where most of the MCPS admin staff are?