Tuesday, January 10, 2012

REGIONAL CENTER ISSUES: SSCAB Annual Report & Director's Monthly Report


The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board had a terrific year, during which we reaffirmed our core mission of being a forum for residents and county officials to share concerns, news and views with each other. By working extremely closely with the Silver Spring Regional Center, we also maintained our role as a facilitator among stakeholders in the diverse Silver Spring neighborhoods and extended our outreach into residential and business communities.

The highlight of 2011 was organizing the first Taste of Fenton Village, an event held on May 15 that showcased all the independent restaurants in Silver Spring’s Fenton Village neighborhood. The planning was undertaken by the board’s Commercial & Economic Development (CED) committee, which encouraged nearly two dozen “mom and pop” restaurants to participate in the event. Hundreds of area residents turned out to walk around Fenton Village on a self-guided food tour, sampling the restaurants best cuisine at $3 - $5 sample sizes. The event ended with a live musical band and dispensing raffle prizes to event participants. SSCAB board members received nothing but positive reviews from all residents who attended. Another event is already being planned for May 2012.

Below is a brief recap of meetings, discussions and events held at the meetings of the full SSCAB and our three committees:


[] Organized a meeting with PREZCO (Presidents Council of Silver Spring Civic Associations) on the county’s rewrite of the zoning codes

[] Discussed the county’s health care services with Uma Ahluwalia, Director, Department of Health and Human Services

[] Wrote a letter to the County Executive asking for a comprehensive strategy to combat youth violence

[] Discussed the difficulties of governing a municipality with Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and other notable Takoma Park residents

Neighborhoods Committee

[] Walking tours were organized in various Silver Spring neighborhoods, where interested participants and civic leaders discussed problems affecting those immediate areas. Such tours were held in the Lytonnsville and Four Corners communities

[] A bicycle tour of Langley Park to discuss concerns from small businesses and transportation advocates

[] Met with business owners from Takoma Park to discuss their business association

[] Facilitated a conversation with principals from various schools in Silver Spring and Takoma Park to discuss youth related issues

Commercial & Economic Development Committee

[] Members acting as liaisons to Silver Spring Green, a new non-profit formed in Silver Spring create sustainable practices among local governments, businesses and communities

[] Explored ways to keep the Fenton Street Market at Veterans Plaza

[] Organizing the Taste of Fenton Village event

Transportation & Pedestrian Safety Committee

[] Held a joint meeting with the county’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee to focus on transportation concerns in Silver Spring

[] Regularly meet with county and state officials from DOT, MHA, MTA, DGS and MCPD to raise awareness of transportation and pedestrian safety issues

[] Urged additional funding for better sidewalk access

[] Discussed the route for the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade and the impact of the route change on local businesses

[] Push the county to designate more spaces in county garages for shared cars

As we look toward 2012, we are confident that the SSCAB is in an excellent position to build upon our previous year’s successes. Plans are already underway to hold a second Taste of Fenton Village on May 6 and the Neighborhoods Committee continues to examine how the county can better support the needs of area youth. The addition of many new board members in 2011 will also provide additional enthusiasm and a passion for community service.

The SSCAB board meets on the second Monday of the month and committee meetings are held on the fourth Monday of the month. All are open to the public.



1. Community Issues

a. Reuse of Certain Public Facilities: The Silver Spring Regional Center has convened various meetings (including with the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board) to explain how the County will determine the reuse of the Silver Spring Library and the 3rd Police Precinct once these facilities are vacated in the next couple of years. The Department of General Services was instrumental in laying out the process and options. We expect for there to be increasing conversations in the community about this in the months to come. We have already received many inquiries from private and non-profit interests.

b. Progress Place: The Department of General Services held an information session for the Request for Interest for the property currently used by Progress Place, including Community Visions and Shepherd’s Table. These services are expected to remain in the Silver Spring Area, in the vicinity of the current location. The site being analyzed is the rear of the existing Fire Station. The community has expressed wide ranging support for this location as an alternative that minimizes impact on the established existing single family residential area.

c. Lyttonsville Purple Line Rail Yard: The Silver Spring Regional Center continues to work – and meet - with the Lyttonsville community in its deliberation with various County agencies, the State, the Federal government, and elected officials to try to minimize the impact of the Purple Line rail yard proposed to be located near the Purple Line’s Lyttonsville Station.

d. New Middle School: The Silver Spring Regional Center, in collaboration with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Center are helping to get the word out and ensure that the civic leadership will be participating in the process to formulate advice to the Montgomery County Public School Superintendent regarding the evaluation of candidate sites for a new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster. (This impacts the western part of the Silver Spring Regional Area.) Meetings are scheduled for the next couple of months.

e. Pertinent Plans: The Silver Spring Regional Center continues engaged with Park and Planning as the Long Branch and Takoma/Langley Sector Plans develop. In both plans, the issue of maintaining the area as mixed income communities with opportunities for affordable housing seems to be a hot topic of discussion. Of concern is how to pursue policies for the area’s economic vitality and manage its inevitable growth without negatively impacting the community and cultural character that its existing apartment dwellers bring to the area. (While these plans are key to the future of the Area, we are also working with various elements in the community to promote existing assets and how these can be maximized to build community today as we plan for tomorrow.)

2. Advisory Board Activities/Issues:

a. Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board

[] At the December Meeting, Councilmember Floreen gave an update of the many Silver Spring issues the Council is dealing with. She also used the opportunity to listen to comments and answer questions. This was followed by a general discussion/dialogue of the history of the Silver Spring development.

[] The Board also voted to send a letter to the County Executive advising the County intervene with SHA to reconsider some of the sidewalk improvements being built on Georgia Ave in downtown Silver Spring.

[] While there were no Committee meetings in December, the Commercial and Economic Development Committee did hold a work-session to mobilize volunteers and define the ‘to-do’ task list for the May 6th Taste the World in Fenton Village event.

b. Arts & Entertainment Advisory Committee

[] Michael McBride (WMATA) was the guest at the meeting. He shared with the Committee WMATA’s approach to public space and art in transit stations – and at the Silver Spring redesigned station in particular. It was noted that beyond the infamous ‘penguins’ in the Colesville underpass, the Station will have no art… The Committee also heard a brief update/presentation from the Fillmore (which is represented on the Committee); and, reviewed how the incentives provided by the Arts & Entertainment District designation are being used. (There was some concern expressed that these benefits are not well publicized and thus there might be some opportunities for higher use if promoted more aggressively.)

c. Urban District Advisory Committee

[] The Committee heard from the Falkland developers and the First Baptist Church site developers and subsequently approved letters of support for their next step in the approval process. The Committee also heard a presentation from Rick Siebert (Parking Lot District – PLD.)

[] Additionally, after hearing from Lt. Bob Carter (3rd Police Precinct) the Committee voted to send a letter commending the County for its support of increased police presence in downtown Silver Spring, but also expressing concern regarding the evident difficulty in operationalizing this increase. (It seems the reduction in force caused by the number of transfers, reassignments, promotions and regular attrition is barely keeping up with the capacity to replace – and increase – the number of police ‘on the streets’ as budgeted.)

3. Other:
{Note: Since this is the first report of the year, it includes a list not only of what was done in December, but also many – though not all – of other issues, initiatives, programs, and projects we are working on at this time.}

a. Safety and Security Downtown: Coordination and collaboration efforts of public and private interest to ensure a safe downtown Silver Spring is becoming increasingly efficient. We have established a series of regularly scheduled internal meetings and work-sessions among the various critical agencies. This is proving to be very effective in increasing communication and ensuring we are proactive in matters related to safety and security in downtown.

b. Montgomery Hills: There are various activities going on in this area of Silver Spring, with the Regional Center active and/or coordinating them. We worked with the community on banners that will be going up in the near future. We are also ready to unveil a web-based listing of all the businesses in the area; and are designing a pedestrian level signage for the area. Nearby, we are working with Ft. Detrick as they prepare to reach out to the community regarding their activities in the Forrest Glen Annex. (Among the changes: The Walter Reed Medical Museum is now part of the Anenx.) These – and other activities – are all part of our comprehensive attention to Montgomery Hills.

c. Development Inquires and Status: Inquires regarding development opportunities in downtown Silver Spring and vicinity seems to be picking up. In the recent weeks there’s been many more ‘feelers’ from the development community regarding what is going on in Silver Spring and its potential for continued growth. The Silver Spring Regional Center, working at times with the Department of Economic Development and others, provides information and support to these inquires on an on-going bases. The Center also maintains a list of pertinent links to what is going on in the area of developments in the pipeline, under construction, and in the approved planning stages (including the major public sector projects: i.e.: The Library and the Transit Station.)

d. Silver Spring Stories: Two recent events - the Smithsonian Institute ‘conversation’ at the AFI and the showing of the movie (“Rights of Butterflies”) with the Gilchrist Center - sparked an on-going interest in continuing the community discussion regarding how to ensure that the issue of ‘immigration and migration’ is incorporated in our traditional civic infrastructure. Among other things, this is facilitating our intent to recruit members from this segment of our community to serve on boards, committees, and commissions. We are also working closely with OCP on related issues.

e. Long Branch Community Economic Development: There are various constructive efforts coming together in Long Branch that indicate a positive movement towards affirming the existing community economic development assets of that area worthy of being celebrated today as they plan for the future (i.e. Purple Line and Master Plan.) The Regional Center is working closely with the Long Branch Business League (through the Montgomery Housing Partnership consultant to the Department of Housing and Community Revitalization) and a new entrepreneurship effort (the Flower Avenue Antique and Flea Market) to stimulate community and economic activity in the area. We are also working with DOT on efforts to improve pedestrian safety, particularly on Piney Branch.

f. Takoma Park’s New Ave: The Silver Spring Regional Center continues to work closely with the City of Takoma Park in its many efforts that impact the broader Silver Spring Area. Among these are their initiative to highlight New Hampshire Avenue as a community asset, under the ‘flagship’ effort aptly named “New Ave”. We participated in merchants meetings and are helping to promote this initiative through our communications tools.

g. “Downtown” Silver Spring: The Silver Spring Regional Center has begun to work closely with Downtown Silver Spring (the Corporate entity) as they bring together their new Management Team. This has been - and will continue to be - a critical partnership to ensure the long term, viable and sustainable success of downtown Silver Spring.

h. Thanksgiving Parade Debrief and Area Promotion: Together with the Recreation Department we held a debriefing session with the community to go over ‘what worked’ and ‘what can be improved’ for the Thanksgiving Parade. This year we were very intentional in using the Parade as an opportunity to promote the small, independently owned businesses throughout downtown Silver Spring, particularly in the southern end of downtown (Fenton Village) where the Parade ends. We also used the opportunity to promote the Small Business Saturday national effort (the Saturday after “Black Friday”.) Volunteers and our AmeriCorp were instrumental in passing out flyers to Parade participants.

i. Silver Spring Regional Outdoor Markets: The Silver Spring Regional Center is working with Sen. Jaime Raskin and others to bring together the various (at least seven!) outdoor markets in the Silver Spring Area and vicinity to develop a joint promotional campaign and maximize cross-marketing opportunities. This effort is as much a ‘community building’ effort as it is an ‘economic development effort’… The emerging theme is “Life Happens Where Community & Commerce Meet”.

j. Signage for downtown Silver Spring: The Convention and Visitors Bureau brought to us the opportunity to provide input and advice for State Highway signage that would identify destinations points in Silver Spring. A community meeting was held to help formulate options for the proposed signage system. The Silver Spring Regional Center is coordinating this effort as we continue to also pursue how to most effectively institute a comprehensive way-finding system for downtown Silver Spring.

k. New Community Efforts: We continue providing whatever support we can (mostly technical assistance and information) to three new efforts that have proven to be very successful in Silver Spring. These are Silver Spring Green, Silver Spring Senior Village, and Safe Silver Spring. We routinely meet with the leadership of these efforts as well as participate in their meetings, gatherings, and events as often as possible.

l. Up-Coming: Looking forward to January, there are two key events we are part of that are critical to the Regional Center and help us ‘build community’. These are: County Executive Budget Forum (Thursday, January 12th) and the MLK, Jr. Day of Service (Monday, January 16th.) We are working with other agencies (particularly the OMB and OCP respectively, to promote these events and ensure their success.



Anonymous said...

What ever happened to Silver Spring First Night? It went away during the construction of Ellsworth, but now we have more than enough venues to host it again. The Civic Center, AFI, Filmore, Round House at the north end of the CBD and Mont. College Arts Center and the B&O Station at the south end, and a healthy collection of restaurants, coffee shops and churches and clubs in between offer more than enough variety for performance venues. I have attended the Raleigh NC and the Annapolis First Nights, and even the last Silver Spring First Night. It seems to me that Silver Spring is ready and able to host First Night again.

pantsface said...

Thank you for this recap on the meetings and reports! This blog is a great resource for residents who cannot make the meetings. :)

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