Tonight, county planners are hosting a charrette, or community design workshop, about the future of Burtonsville. It'll be at 7pm at the East County Regional Service Center, located at 3300 Briggs Chaney Road.
As you may know, the Planning Department is developing a plan for the Burtonsville Commercial Crossroads, defined as the area around the intersection of Route 29 and Route 198. Businesses in the neighborhood have been struggling since the Burtonsville Bypass opened in 2006, while the new Burtonsville Town Square shopping center has
It's hard to be optimistic about Burtonsville, especially after a charrette three years ago in which shopkeepers complained about sidewalks and residents protested against "undesirables" moving in. Even planning director Rollin Stanley, who usually has something good to say about a place, has trouble talking up Burtonsville when he comes for a visit on the Planning Department's own TV show, Montgomery Plans:
At the now largely-abandoned Burtonsville Crossing shopping center, he tries to talk up the remaining stores. "You've got assets here," he says. "You've got a Hair Cuttery. Everybody needs their hair cut. And two beer and wine stores, a little more than normal." Driving (not walking) down Route 198 (did he at least have a coffee at Soretti's?), he laments, "For the most part, what you see will be here a long time."
Finally, the host asks if Burtonsville Town Square is "similar" to "other Town Squares" in Montgomery County. The answer to that is kind of obvious:
(Note the presence of an actual town square.)
It looks like Burtonsville residents are beginning to see the difference. Results from a meeting planners had with the East County Citizens Advisory Board last month (PDF!) seem promising. In that meeting, members of the board - which is composed of seventeen East County residents appointed by the County Council - suggest a number of improvements to Burtonsville. They include better landscaping along Route 198, creating a "mixed use zone" that would allow housing and offices in addition to existing shops, having "more entertainment venues" in the area, and improving pedestrian and transit access. That sounds like a place people might actually want to visit, which is more than you can say about Burtonsville now.
Going to graduate school three hours away will keep me from attending (is social media an appropriate substitute for participating in person?), but I hope those who support a better Burtonsville and not just the status quo will come out and say their piece. Unlike the 2008 charrette, which was focused on minor improvements, the Planning Department appears to be interested in more substantial changes.
Don't screw this up, y'all. If East County wants nice things like Rockville and Bethesda, it has to know what to ask for and how to ask for them. Now's your chance.