After two years of controversy, the County Council voted to rezone the former Chelsea School site just outside downtown Silver Spring on Tuesday, opening the door for a proposed townhouse development.
Seven councilmembers voted in favor of rezoning the private school's five-acre property at Pershing Drive and Springvale Road from the R-60 zone, which allows single-family homes, to the RT-12.5 zone. This allows Bethesda-based developer EYA to move ahead with their proposal to replace the school with 63 townhomes and restore a historic single-family home in a development called Chelsea Court
In this report, the council asserted that EYA's revised design would be an appropriate transition between downtown Silver Spring and the adjacent Seven Oaks-Evanswood neighborhood while providing adequate buffers from surrounding houses and attempting to reduce cut-through traffic.
At-large Councilmember Marc Elrich voted against the rezoning, while District 5 Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who represents the neighborhood where the project would be built,
EYA first proposed rezoning the property to allow 76 townhomes two years ago when the school announced it was moving. While many residents and county planners supported the proposal, not everyone was convinced.
In the summer of 2010, a group of residents in Seven Oaks-Evanswood formed the Chelsea School Task Force to oppose the project, citing concerns about the project's density and the perceived loss of open space.
The County Council agreed and rejected EYA's proposal last fall. However, they asked the developer to revisit their design and have it reviewed by the county's Hearing Examiner before coming back for another council vote.
EYA returned with a new proposal, containing just 64 homes and additional open space, that was approved by the Hearing Examiner last month.
With the rezoning approved, EYA will now be able to submit a site plan to the Planning Board for approval. According to an e-mail sent out to community members, they will also hold an open house this summer to "talk with neighbors about what they would like to see in such details as architecture and landscaping."
The County Council won't make everyone happy with their choice to allow townhouses at the Chelsea School, but they made the right one. We can't fault residents for liking their neighborhood the way it is; after all, it's a very nice place to live. Nor can we pull up the bridge and deny other people the opportunity to enjoy it as well.