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Work continues on sector plan to guide development in Ashton –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Planning continues on the Ashton Village Center Sector Plan, which could lay the foundation for future development in the small community between Sandy Spring and the Howard County line.

The Montgomery County Planning Department hosted a two-day community design workshop last month at Sandy Spring Museum to discuss and develop strategies for the sector plan.

The plan covers approximately 125 acres around the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue (Route 650) and Olney-Sandy Spring Road (Route 108) and will include land use and zoning recommendations for specific locations within the plan area.

About a dozen participants attended workshops on Oct. 15 and 16, and about 50 people attended the community meeting on the evening of Oct. 24 to hear about the planning concepts generated during the daytime sessions.

The Oct. 16 workshop included Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration and Montgomery County Department of Transportation officials leading a walk audit of Olney-Sandy Spring Road from Sandy Spring Museum to the intersection at New Hampshire Avenue.

The survey revealed safety issues and places where the pedestrian experience could be improved. The plan will recommend such improvements.

On Oct. 24, planners returned to the museum for a community meeting where they provided a summary of the design workshops and a presentation on the master plan outline.

Speaking on behalf of the newly formed Ashton Area Community Association Alliance, Kathleen Wheeler said she thought that the events were very helpful in providing an opportunity for the planners to hear the community’s concerns and priorities in protecting the unique rural character of Ashton.

“It was beneficial to see a graphic depiction of how the southeast corner of the New Hampshire and a Route 108 intersection could be developed in a way that could protect trees and result in a mixture of commercial and residential development on a scale consistent with the elements of a rural village,” she said. “It is hoped that the community and the developer can work together to come up with a plan.”

She added that she thought it was helpful for planners and representatives of the county and state transportation departments to see first-hand the safety traffic issues along Route 108 and New Hampshire Avenue, especially during Sherwood High School’s dismissal.

Sherwood sits on Olney-Sandy Spring Road, with all ingress and egress on the busy roadway.

Doug Farquhar, representing Sandy Spring-Ashton Rural Preservation Consortium, emphasized that many members of the community who attended the workshop made it absolutely clear that Ashton should be developed in harmony with the concept of a small rural town, with public, visible open spaces; preservation of mature trees; improved pedestrian access; and development that is not too dense, with front yards and porches on single-family homes, and a community gathering space surrounded by cottage-style homes.

“The county planning officials that ran the workshops clearly understood that is what the community desires,” he said. “We look forward to working with the developer of the southeast corner of the Ashton crossroads and Sandy Spring Bank to see if we can agree on a development plan and zoning requirements that meet those objectives.”

One of the larger properties likely to be developed under the new plan is the southeast corner of the Olney-Sandy Spring Road/New Hampshire Avenue intersection. It is the site of Sandy Spring Bank.

The property is owned by local resident Fred Nichols, owner of Nichols Development Company.

Nichols agreed the meetings drew a lot of participation and input from the community.

“There were some concepts generated, but I think it is something that will take time to develop,” he said.

Nichols said he intends to develop the property.

“It has to be economically feasible, but I really like to do something different and special,” he said. “I will work with the community and staff to come up with the optimal use — the entire community, not just the people who come to these meetings.”

He said he envisions more residential use.

“The commercial real estate market is changing,” he said. “I’d like to provide more services and create more of an active community with a variety of building styles that are more organic.”

Initial plan concepts will be presented to the community later in the fall.


   For more information on the Ashton Village Center Sector Plan, go to https://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/communities/area-3/ashton-village-center-sector-plan/.

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