No Buses in Residential Neighborhoods
PETITION: We, the undersigned citizens of Montgomery County, MD, hereby petition the Montgomery County (MC) Council (the Council) and the MC Board of Education (the Board) to stop the currently proposed plan to locate a school bus depot or parking lot with maintenance operations to 1000 Westmore Avenue, Rockville, MD and to seek a permanent location for all of the buses as part of its solution to the impending relocation of the Crabbs Branch Way (aka Jeremiah Park) School Bus Depot.
DEMAND FOR ACTION: For the reasons cited below, we oppose the actions of the Council and the Board to relocate these buses to Westmore Avenue in the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood. We demand that the Council and/or the Board authorize a public review of this property acquisition instead of the administrative review initiated on April 22, 2016, and engage in the full process of impact studies and public dissemination that normally accompanies a project of this scope.
We further demand that the Council and Board find an alternative solution and location that excludes the use of residential neighborhoods and that the Council delay the Declaration of No Further Need (DNFN) that closes the existing Crabbs Branch depot until such time that an alternative location is found.
CAUSE AND CONCERN: Locating a bus depot or parking lot to Lincoln Park will have a material adverse effect on the quality of life and property values for all of us who live within the surrounding neighborhoods and the city of Rockville. Specifically:
- An increase of potentially four hundred (400) or more school bus trips (plus several hundred personal trips by bus drivers and employees) per day in an already heavily congested area. Lincoln Park and East Rockville are bordered by North Horners Lane on the east and North Stonestreet Avenue on the west. Both of these streets are heavily trafficked already, and are the only way to access the Westmore site. Lined with residences and cars, as well as shared bicycle lanes, both of these areas have considerable pedestrian traffic due to proximity of the Rockville Metro Station. The neighborhood streets are not designed for commercial traffic.
- A significant increase in noise levels that the County estimates will begin as early as 4:30 a.m. and will exceed existing County noise ordinances. Ashley Avenue residences share a border with the proposed bus lot, some within 50-100 feet of the Westmore site and several others within 150 feet.
- A significant increase in the emission of diesel fumes as buses idle and prepare to exit Westmore within close proximity to residences. The County has noted the impact of fumes and bus lights on surrounding residents when considering environmental impacts of buses at high schools (Source: memo dated February 7, 2013 to the Education Committee of the Council). No such studies for Lincoln Park and the impact of a larger number of buses have been done.
- The creation of a bus compound adjacent to the Washington Gas operations field creates a hazardous condition for the surrounding area. If for no other reason, the bus depot or parking lot should not be moved to Westmore Avenue, where it will be surrounded by a natural gas field. That much diesel fuel in such close proximity to that much natural gas is a recipe for disaster and will reduce residential home values and the desirability of both Lincoln Park and East Rockville.
- No attempt to model or otherwise assess these impacts has been done by the Council or the Board. A memo to the Council by its staff (dated February 6, 2015) outlining partial relocation solutions stated [highlight and italics added] that “none [of the relocation options] has been fully studied and all have significant unknown factors and possible concerns that would need further analysis and review.” No such analysis and review have taken place. We find no evidence that the Council and Board have sought to model the traffic impacts, noise impacts, environmental concerns, aesthetics and effects on conservation district zoning.
- Other alternative sites have not been fully explored. In their haste to develop the Shady Grove corridor, the County and School Board have failed to consider the many detrimental effects of their decision to relocate buses to residential neighborhoods.
- Commercial land developers were tasked with submitting acceptable bus depot relocation solutions in their proposals as part of the County’s Request For Development Proposal (RFDP) (Source: JLL RFDP: pages 5 & 6) and failed to do so. The needs, wants and shortcomings of private developers at Shady Grove have been placed ahead of the well-being of the citizens in our neighborhoods. Rockville is consistently rated as one of the best places to live in the country, and the school district is the crown jewel of the county. These achievements will suffer if developers continue to be prioritized over residents, and if new construction is allowed to supplant rather than supplement existing neighborhoods.
- The decision to relocate the 430 buses currently located at the Shady Grove bus depot to residential neighborhoods has been misleadingly advertised as an interim solution in a deliberate attempt to make the plan more palatable to the community. However, the statements of Mr. Song on December 8, 2015 to the Board and the actions of the Board and Council indicate that this solution is of an undefined term that may exceed ten years, may be part of a permanent solution and may also be the first step to the construction of a large bus depot in Lincoln Park.
SUMMARY: For petition to the Council and Board and in demand for the actions requested and for the reasons cited, we, the undersigned as residents and eligible voters in Montgomery County, MD, respectfully submit this document.