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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
A townhouse development planned for Sandy Spring is moving forward despite several months of controversy, including some residents who wanted the project stopped altogether.
The Montgomery County Planning Board on March 24 unanimously approved the preliminary plan and site plan for the development, which calls for 19 townhouses to be built on the south side of Olney-Sandy Spring Road (Route 108), just to the west of the Sandy Spring Bank building.
Some residents of the community had expressed concerns, particularly about the building height along Route 108, even though the height – approved at 36 feet – falls within the parameters of the Sandy Spring Rural Village Plan.
The Sandy Spring Rural Village Plan, which was approved and adopted a year ago after extensive feedback from the community, recommends that the property be used for a residential development of up to 24 townhouses, with a maximum height of 45 feet.
Five people testified at the Planning Board hearing — two opposed to the project and three in support of it. Planning Board staff reported that they had received 24 letters containing a mix of support, concern and requests for denial/substantial changes. The letters were mostly based on master plan conformance, density and architectural concerns.
“I have a really hard time quarrelling with this project,” Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson said. “In fact, it is not just in the spirit, I think it meets what is in the plan to the letter. So, it frustrates me really to see a lot of correspondence that says ‘how can we trust the plans when you are going to approve this?’ and this is exactly, I think, what was contemplated, and it’s not deviating in any way, as far as I can tell.”
At its Dec. 7 meeting, the Sandy Spring Civic Association voted on whether to support the project as presented. After a lengthy, somewhat contentious discussion, the vote resulted in a tie.
Civic association President John Salzberg declined to comment on the Planning Board’s approval, since he did not attend the hearing.
In recent weeks, Sandy Spring-based Nichols Contracting Inc. worked with the Planning Board staff and the community to tweak the plan, resulting in reduced building heights and dividing the row of six units along Route 108 into two sections of three units, creating more green space.
The Planning Board praised Fred Nichols of Nichols Contracting for his cooperation and outreach efforts.
“Hopefully this is a stimulus to promote development in Sandy Spring,” Nichols said.
The developer has contracted with NVR to build the project and hopes to start construction in June.
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