War of words continues over shopping center
Camps remain divided over size of Ashton Meeting Place


War of words continues over shopping center

Camps remain divided over size of Ashton Meeting Place


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

by Liza Gutierrez

Staff Writer

‘‘Downsize Ashton Mall” and ‘‘Support Ashton Meeting Place” signs have sprouted on lawns throughout Ashton and Sandy Spring over the past few weeks.

With a growing request for signs, ‘‘people are seeing that we are not a vocal minority as we’ve been called,” said Brooke Farquhar, member of the Sandy Spring Ashton Rural Preservation Consortium that wants a smaller center at the intersection of routes 108 and 650.

As some signs went up, some disappeared. But questions and implications about who might have removed the signs ceased along with the disappearances, said some supporters and opponents.

But the war of words between the two sides remains.

‘‘The fact is that this is not a mall,” developer Fred Nichols said.

The proposed Ashton Meeting Place mixed-use center is about 97,000 square feet. Roughly 56,000 square feet is dedicated to retail, 22,000 square feet is dedicated to office space and the rest is planned for residential units.

According to how the Montgomery County Shopping Center Directory defines shopping centers, Nichols may have a point. The county uses industry standards defined by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Traditionally, ULI does not have a ‘‘mall” category, director of retail development Anita Kramer said. But the industry uses the term to refer to the large, enclosed shopping centers that would generally fall under a regional or super-regional center category, she added. Those centers range from 500,00 to 1.5 million square feet, according to the directory.

Ashton Meeting Place would be considered a neighborhood center, which ranges from 30,000 to 100,000 square feet, and is typically anchored by a grocery store.

The Sandy Spring Ashton Rural Preservation Consortium and development team have met over the past week to continue discussion. Meanwhile, the SSARPC has organized fundraisers to cover the cost of expert consultation.

‘‘Preserve Ashton Preserves,” jams and jellies in a variety of flavors, have been donated by a local family and are being sold at the Cricket Bookshop on New Hampshire Avenue.

The group is also inviting the community to ‘‘A Musical Evening in the Woods,” a benefit concert on May 11 featuring folk singers Jesse Palidofsky and Zoe Mulford. The event will take place at Blueberry Gardens, 237 Ashton Road, and a $15 donation per seat is suggested. For more information, visit

The latest addition to their team is town planning consultant Stuart Sirota, who has worked with real estate developers, community groups and government agencies that have tapped into his expertise for downtown plans and revitalization projects, he said.



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