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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
The Montgomery County Planning Department is offering the community the opportunity to have a say in the future of Ashton.
The county is preparing to draw up the new Ashton Village Center Sector Plan, a land-use document that will guide development for years to come.
“Design workshops like the one we’re holding in Ashton are a good opportunity for us as planners to go out into communities and work directly with local residents on development issues that most concern them,” said Fred Boyd, community planner with the Planning Department. “We hope residents will come to the museum and spend as much time as they can to share with us their vision for their community and work with us to bring that vision to reality.”
A two-day workshop to discuss the Ashton Village Center Sector Plan will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 16. at Sandy Spring Museum, 17901 Bentley Road.
On Oct. 24, planning staff will provide a brief synopsis of the previous week’s design workshop and discuss the outline for the plan. That meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the museum.
Additionally, Boyd will hold ongoing “office hours” at the museum from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 3 and 24, Nov. 7 and 21, and Dec. 5 and 19. He will be available to talk informally on the sector plan and answer questions about land use, design, walkability and the planning process.
Residents are encouraged to participate.
Fred Nichols, local resident and president of Nichols Contracting, agrees that community involvement is crucial.
“Everyone who participates is an author of the plan, so If you have an opinion or an idea, come and let your voice be heard,” he said.
The Sandy Spring Ashton Rural Preservation Consortium also strongly encourages residents to attend the design workshops and communicate their vision for the future of Ashton directly with the county planning staff responsible for proposing revisions to the development plan for Ashton Village Center.
“By providing input to the county planners, we can demonstrate that the community insists on developments compatible with our history and our rural character,” said Doug Farquhar, a resident of Sandy Spring and member of the consortium.
The Ashton Village Center Sector Plan will evaluate land use, zoning, transportation, environment, design and other relevant issues in Ashton, a historic crossroads community east of Olney.
The sector plan closely follows the 2015 Sandy Spring Rural Village Plan, which evaluated similar issues in the village of Sandy Spring, just west of Ashton.
The plan will cover approximately 70 acres surrounding the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue (Route 650) and Olney-Sandy Spring Road (Route 108).
The plan’s primary focus will be a review of the Sandy Spring-Ashton Rural Village Overlay Zone in light of the county’s recent comprehensive revision of its zoning ordinance. Zones applied through the revision have enabled finer-grained management of land uses, densities and building heights than was possible under the previous ordinance.
The Sandy Spring-Ashton Rural Village Overlay Zone was created to ensure a “village scale” of development in the business districts of both Sandy Spring and Ashton. It limits uses, densities and building heights.
The sector plan will re-evaluate the overlay zone, as well as the current underlying zones in Ashton, and recommend adjustments if needed to comply with the 2014 county zoning ordinance.
The Ashton Village Center Sector Plan is also expected to assess existing land-use conditions; maintain Ashton’s rural character; involve residents and other stakeholders in the plan development and review processes; develop recommendations to improve compliance with Vision Zero goals providing safe connections for all modes of transportation and enhance opportunities to provide a walkable, neighborhood-serving development.
County planners introduced the Ashton Village Center Sector Plan process to the community at a kick-off meeting in May at Sandy Spring Museum. On May 23, the Planning Board approved the scope of work for the plan.
For more information on the plan, including the complete schedule for the workshops, go to https://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/communities/area-3/ashton-village-center-sector-plan/.
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