SILVER SPRING, MD – Concluding months of debate about whether a shopping center should be built in the village of Ashton, and citing concerns about parking and the center’s proposed size and character, the Montgomery County Planning Board today decided against the commercial development.
Dozens of residents of the rural community in the northeast corner of the county testified in favor of or in opposition to the project, called Ashton Meeting Place. Scores more sent written comments to the Planning Board.
Ashton Meeting Place would have brought a grocery and other retail stores, a restaurant, condominiums and offices to the intersection of Routes 650 (New Hampshire Avenue) and 108 (Ashton Road). Today’s hearing was the second Ashton Meeting Place proposal to go before the Board, which first reviewed it in April and asked the applicant to address encroachment into wetland buffers.
While the developer’s revised plan pulled all of the development out of the wetlands, today Board members expressed concern about the project’s lack of consistency with the area’s master plan, which guides development in the community. The plan, approved by the County Council in 1998, calls for specific design features – such as building size and architectural style, open space, landscaping, and orientation and connection to main streets – for projects to fit within the village-like character of Ashton and nearby Sandy Spring.
For example, the rear wall of the proposed grocery store would have stretched along Route 108, contrary to master plan guidelines for development with a main-street ambiance.
“We see a lack of active storefronts oriented toward the street,” said Planning Board member Meredith Wellington, joining the unanimous Board vote against the project. “The plan is not consistent with the master plan nor does it conform to its guidelines.”
The Board also objected to the developer's plan for parking, which ran contrary to rules limiting parking in a residential zone.