Thursday, November 17, 2005

Council vote affirms growth limit policy that would have protected Seven Locks

County leaders have disregarded their own development guidelines as they pressed ahead to shut down Seven Locks Elementary School, build a triple-sized "replacement school" on a narrow wooded lane, and prepare for construction of possibly hundreds of subsidized high-density housing units at the corner of a clogged intersection.

In its November 15 vote to reject a proposal to curb congestion and sprawl, the Montgomery County Council drew new attention to its existing policy that considers new development in light of traffic congestion at local intersections and development's impact on public schools.

The move was another indication that county leaders were breaking established policy during their shadowy decisions to shut down Seven Locks and build a school three times the size on Kendale Road.

The issues:

1. Too narrow. Kendale Road is a wooded country lane only 22 feet wide - too narrow for two school buses to pass one another and therefore dangerous to children traveling to and from school. The county has no plans to widen Kendale Road or even construct a sidewalk, as it plans to build and open the new school by 2007.

2. Too dangerous. The southern end of Kendale Road empties into Bradley Boulevard, just yards from the busy and sometimes dangerous intersection of Bradley and River Road. During morning and afternoon rush hours, the stretch of road is often clogged with cars.

3. More road blockage planned. To County officials say they plan to block regular traffic from entering the southern end of Kendale from Bradley, thus preventing bus and family traffic to the school from the Bradley & River intersection, and forcing traffic through a steep intersection on the side of a hill from Bradley to Kentsdale Road, and then to the northern entrance of Kendale.

4. Height & density restrictions lifted. County officials continue to tell residents that there are "currently no plans" to surplus the existing Seven Locks schoolyard at the overcrowded Seven Locks and Bradley intersection, even though officials plan to build high-density housing on the site. The county quietly waived height and density restrictions on that site, indicating that the high-density housing plans are indeed in the works. If constructed, the housing project would add hundreds of cars to the already overcrowded Seven Locks & Bradley intersection - and school construction officials admit that the architectural designs for the Kendale school allow no room for possibly hundreds of new students expected to be living in the project.

Bottom line: The county continues to press ahead with its Kendale school/housing project in complete violation of its own policy against adding to traffic congestion.