During the Association’s Annual Member Meeting on May 23rd, 2019, the Association voted in favor of a revision to the Association’s bylaws. The new bylaws as amended can be found here. One of the notable changes was a decision by the Association to remove “Montgomery Hills” from the Association’s name. It shall now be known as the North Woodside Citizens’ Association.
The North Woodside Montgomery Hills Citizens Association convened its annual meeting at Woodlin Elementary School on Wednesday, May 17.
One of the main orders of business was electing association officers. By voice vote, the following roles were approved: Geoff Gerhardt, president (left); David Cox, vice president; Anne Kennedy, secretary; Jim Mannion, treasurer; and Scott Hensley, editor of The Beacon. Geoff Gerhardt gave an update on the activities of the association and led a discussion about the various construction projects and traffic issues in the neighborhood, including the closure of the Talbot Avenue bridge. (See page 1 for more information.) Jim Mannion reviewed the association’s finances and encouraged people to pay their annual dues.
Our guest speaker was Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Service Center. Rodriguez is an enthusiastic advocate for our neighborhood and downtown Silver Spring. He talked about how increasing residential density downtown is leading to more foot traffic and a livelier feel, day and night. He acknowledged that the construction that is transforming downtown can also make it difficult at times to navigate the streets by car and to find places to park.
The association has inquired about the possibility of getting a Capital Bikeshare station located in the county owned parking lot across Seminary Road from Snider’s Super Foods. Rodriguez was supportive of the idea. After the meeting he suggested in an email to a county official that a bikeshare station shouldn’t be contingent on a revised sector plan for the Montgomery Hills business district along Georgia Avenue.
With Rodriguez’s encouragement, the association is exploring the idea of holding a food truck fair in the parking lot. Local merchants would also be encouraged to participate. The association still needs to find out if the idea is feasible.
A Wider Circle, the poverty fighting nonprofit, is a familiar fiber in the fabric of our North Woodside community.
Trucks bearing the organization’s logo often pass through our neighborhood on Second Avenue. Many residents volunteer, helping out in its neighbor to neighbor, workforce development and wraparound support programs. Others donate furniture, housewares or offer financial support.
Slowly but surely, this neighborhood fixture just behind Woodlin Elementary School is undergoing a transformation. After two adjacent tenants, Rod Miller Plumbing and JDKA Coffee, moved out earlier this year, a long planned renovation and remodeling project began. The ambitious undertaking has been in the works since 2015, when A Wider Circle purchased the 51 year old building at 9159 Brookville Road.
Minor interior changes came first. Next, building permits were filed. Finally, this spring, structural engineers inspected the building to determine the breadth and depth of the work required. “They told us the building’s bones are good, so we are happy about that,” said Mark Bergel, founder and executive director of A Wider Circle.
Bergel’s ideas for renovation were modest at first. But they grew as he realized the potential positive impact of increased space and more efficient building systems including new elevators to move heavy items between floors on A Wider Circle’s clientele.
The furniture showroom is slated to triple in size to 3,000 square feet, allowing the nonprofit to serve twice as many people annually with chairs, couches and other items for their homes. Classrooms and computer labs will more than quadruple to about 2,500 square feet. “Our goal is to provide comprehensive support to those who come to us,” said Bergel. “With these renovations, we can nearly double the number of people we will serve per year and propel the movement to end poverty in many other ways.”
The full cost of the project is estimated at $7 million to $7.5 million. “We don’t have those kinds of funds at hand”, Bergel says. “We are knocking things out, one at a time.”
He and his staff continue to seek inkind donations and support for work related to renovation and remodeling, including general contracting, demolition, drywall, plumbing, HVAC installation and electrical work. A strong economy and aggressive forecasts for commercial construction in the D.C. region have made it a challenging environment for meeting A Wider Circle’s requests for inkind support. “We’d love to assemble a Dream Team of local helpers,” says Bergel. “But if we cannot, we’ll do it bit by bit. We never want to bite off more than we can chew.”
North Woodside’s neighborhood school, Woodlin Elementary, welcomed Craig O. Jackson as its new principal this fall.
Mr. Jackson has worked in education for over 20 years. Most recently, he was principal intern at Cannon Road Elementary School in Silver Spring. He also served as assistant principal at Dr. Sally K. Ride Elementary School, assistant school administrator at Sligo Middle School, technology teacher at John F. Kennedy High School and as a health and physical education teacher in the DC Public Schools system.
Though he has worked in both middle and high schools, Mr. Jackson says he was drawn to elementary school administration because, “You can have that first crack at getting kids to love school.” He is focused on meeting each child where he or she is, he says, and doing what is needed to move that child forward. Since so many of Woodlin’ s children are beyond school ready when they enter kindergarten, Mr. Jackson will offer more enrichment and acceleration opportunities for kids who need more challenges.
The members of the Woodlin interview panel selected Mr. Jackson as principal, in part, because they were impressed with his track record of building relationships and collaborating with key stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers and community members. For example, during his tenure at Cannon Road, Mr. Jackson created a community partnership with senior citizens in the neighborhood, who became regular volunteers in the school’s classrooms.
Mr. Jackson is getting to know Woodlin’s Parent Teacher Association and says he is impressed. He is working closely with PTA leadership to determine where the administration and parent leaders can best focus their advocacy and school improvement efforts. Above all, he says it is important to him that the administration and the PTA stay in close communication and send unified messages.
Mr. Jackson and his wife have children ages 16, 14 and 2. They live just over the border in Washington, D.C. He grew up as a student in Montgomery County schools.
Traffic. Nobody likes it, but a certain amount is to be expected in a community that is located near a thriving urban center. Unfortunately, there are a number of construction projects about to get underway that are likely to increase traffic in and around our neighborhood.
The North Woodside-Montgomery Hills Citizens Association will continue to work with officials from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, state transportation agencies, Purple Line and others to minimize the impact. But there is an inevitable it’s going to get worse before it gets better aspect to the next several years. Here is a short summary of the projects about to get started or that are in the planning stages.
Seminary Road Intersection
The Seminary Road Intersection Improvement Project is intended to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the so-called mixing bowl where Second Avenue meets Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Linden Lane. Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2018 and be completed roughly 12 months later. While traffic will be allowed to use the intersection throughout the project, backups and delays should be expected.
In May, the county’s Department of Transportation hosted a meeting at Woodlin Elementary where officials walked through the project’s schedule and heard testimony from residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. At that meeting, I provided input on the project on behalf of NWMHCA. One of the points I emphasized is that our neighborhood is greatly impacted by cut-through traffic on Second Avenue, which often backs up at the mixing bowl intersection. I pointed out that this problem could be reduced by allowing left turns at rush hour from Georgia Avenue onto Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Forest Glen Road.
Purple Line and Talbot Bridge
In late April, the Talbot Avenue Bridge was permanently closed to vehicle traffic following an inspection that found the bridge was no longer safe for cars. DOT says the bridge is still safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. No advance notice of the closure was given to the surrounding communities. NWMHCA worked with DOT to develop better detour signage than what was originally put in place.
Now that the lawsuit regarding the Purple Line has (mostly) been resolved, replacing the Talbot Bridge is high on the county’s priority list. The new bridge is slated to be about 41 feet wide (compared with 11 feet wide for the current bridge) in order to accommodate three lanes two for vehicle traffic and one for the Capital Crescent Trail.
NWMHCA petitioned county and Purple Line officials to reduce the size of the new bridge to be more consistent with the current bridge. We asked that the new bridge have one lane for alternating two-way vehicle traffic and one lane for the trail. However, we were informed that this proposal would violate federal safety standards, which requires new bridges to have two lanes for vehicle traffic. Therefore, the new bridge would be built as originally planned.
We are now actively working with the Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills civic associations on ways to ensure that both vehicle and trail traffic can use the bridge safely. We want to promote traffic calming measures on the surrounding streets and look at ways to improve the aesthetics of the new bridge. We are also supporting efforts spearheaded by Lyttonsville to preserve portions of the current bridge in order to memorialize its unique history.
Lyttonsville Place Bridge
The Lyttonsville Place Bridge will also be replaced as part of the Purple Line project. The timing is unclear, but it looks like the Lyttonsville Bridge will be closed after the Talbot Bridge is replaced. It is likely that some traffic that would ordinarily go over the Lyttonsville Bridge would be rerouted over the Talbot Bridge. We are working with DOT on strategies to minimize the effect on North Woodside. These would includes establishing a detour route that will encourage traffic to travel on larger state roads like 16th Street and making sure trucks aren’t allowed over the new Talbot Bridge. The situation is going to be further complicated by construction on the Spring Street Bridge as part of the Purple Line.
Seminary Road Bridge
This winter, the state Department of Transportation will start work rehabilitating the Seminary Road Bridge over Interstate 495. The project will take about a year to complete. The state plans on keeping two lanes of traffic open through- out the project, but lane shifts will be required and traffic back-ups could occur.
Georgia Avenue Study
The Maryland Department of Transportation has spent several years looking at ways to improve Georgia Avenue from 16th Street to Forest Glen Road. The planning study was funded by the county, although no funds have been set aside to actually make any of the proposed changes.
Options being looked at by DOT include installing a median, adding a dedicated bike lane and providing left turns lanes from Georgia Avenue onto Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Forest Glen Road. In September, Maryland DOT announced it was still working on identifying the preferred alternative for the project and conducting additional engineering analysis. The preferred alternative is supposed to be announced this fall. At this point, it is unclear how the planning study will be affected by Gov. Hogan’s proposal to add four lanes to the Beltway.