Details Count in Quarry Site Development

Details Count in Quarry Site Development

Neighbors concerned about lack of coordination in state-mandated traffic improvements.

A 97-unit condominium development at the Stoneyhurst Quarry site on River Road won final approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board March 21 and could start construction before summer.

The development, known simply as “The Quarry” will include four residential buildings and a community center arranged around a courtyard on 13 acres immediately west of the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Station. Fifteen of the 97 units will be “moderately priced dwelling units,” which are required under county law and sold or rented at below-market prices by a county housing commission.

The density of the development is the highest allowed by law and relied on the use of 28 transferable development rights, exchanges for open space protection elsewhere costing approximately $40,000 each.

Even as it unanimously approved the final site plan, the Planning Board conveyed a renewed emphasis on precision following planning oversight failures in Clarksburg and elsewhere.

The board spent much of its hour-long discussion of the Stoneyhurst plan clarifying how building heights would be measured and how large a clubhouse building approved for “up to 50,000 square feet” would actually be.

Building height measurements are complicated by the quarry’s below-grade floor and a Potomac Subregion Master Plan recommendation that the roofs not protrude above the tops of the quarry walls, which range from eight-to-75 feet in height. The board imposed a two-pronged limit: that no building be more than 75-feet-tall as measured from its base and that no building’s mean roof height be more than 225 feet above sea level, the approximate altitude of the tops of the quarry walls.

“If that’s the understanding of the Board, it would be a good idea to put it that way rather than the way it is currently — just for chuckles so we don’t have a violation hearing about it,” Board Vice Chair Wendy Perdue said following a 30-minute discussion about the building heights.

The lone community speaker was Thomas Durek, a homeowners association board member for the adjacent Riverhill townhouse community. He said his group supported the Quarry plan with the Planning Board staff recommendations and conditions but raised concerns about new traffic patterns on River Road.

The State Highway Administration will require the Stoneyhurst developers to pay for access improvements on River such as acceleration and deceleration lanes as well as landscaping and architectural work.

It will do the same thing in connection with development review for the Giancola Quarry, a 5-acre site less than half a mile away on the same side of River Road.

But Durek said that requiring the improvements but not coordinating them makes no sense.

“Maryland State Highway tells us that road access improvements to Stoneyhurst and Giancola will be done independently of each other and according to each developer’s schedule. So they in effect have refused coordination,” Durek said, creating “a hodgepodge of architecture on a major state highway,” with Riverhill trapped in between.

He called for a plan where Stoneyhurst, Riverhill and Giancola have identical traffic patterns for turning vehicles.

Giancola recieved site plan approval in July, 2004 for 15 single-family detached houses and 15 townhouses.

The site plan approval for Stoneyhurst includes a commitment by the applicant, William M. Rickman, to build a hard-surface bicycle path along River Road between Seven Locks Road and the gravel parking lot west of the quarry that gives access to county parkland and to pave the parking lot.