Agreement Reached for Retail Center
Community, developer come together on plan for Ashton Meeting Place

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007
by Liza Gutierrez, Staff Writer
Gazette Newspapers

After more than a year of discord, a community group and developers have compromised on a plan to develop a large, mixed-use shopping center in Ashton.

The Ashton Meeting Place project proposed for the southeast corner of the routes 108 and 650 intersection has undergone significant design changes and a slight jump in square footage — from 97,000 to 100,000 square feet of retail, office and residential space.

Members of the Sandy Spring Ashton Rural Preserve Consortium and developer Fred Nichols announced the new proposal at a community meeting at Sherwood High School on Thursday, which drew more than 100 people.

Main points of the plan include:

*Active storefronts along Route 108 with real doors and windows.

*Nine parking spaces along Route 108.

*Functional green space and internal sidewalks.

*Textured crosswalk paving across all four corners of the routes 108 and 650 intersection.

*Three 50-foot towers have been removed.

*The Sandy Spring Bank drive-through window will not be visible from the street.

Thirteen residential units are included in the proposal.

Land planner Phil Perrine thanked members of the residents’ group for helping tailor the plan to better fit the desires of the community.

Although it is not the ideal vision for the site as expressed by the group over the past year, ‘‘the key from this perspective is that this is a compromise,” Sandy Spring Ashton Rural Preserve Consortium co-chair Michelle Layton said.

Changes to the site have met most of the group’s concerns with exception to size, member Douglas Farquhar said. ‘‘I personally do support it,” he said.

Perrine said everyone worked diligently to come up with a compromise.

‘‘We tried to work very hard to do what we could to make things better,” he said.

There are still some hurdles the development team must overcome. Consortium member Brooke Farquhar said that county planning staff finds the amount of wetland encroachment unacceptable.

The center impacts approximately 2,000 square feet of wetlands, Nichols said. The development team plans to submit a mitigation plan that would create and enhance more than three times the area of affected wetlands, Perrine said.

It is too soon for to talk specifics about retail because securing the anchor store is the first step, Nichols said, although he confirmed there would be a coffee shop, salon and grocery store.

‘‘These discussions were not always pleasant ... [but] at the end of the day we do have a better center,” Nichols said.

Chevy Chase Bank Moving In

At the same time talks were proceeding on the southeast corner, Chevy Chase Bank announced in December that it would be adding to the commercial mix at the intersection with a new one-story, 3,700-square-foot bank on the southwest corner of the quadrant.

The bank will replace the Sole D’Italia Italian food restaurant and former Kimball’s farm market.

The structure will sit along Route 108 with a new sidewalk constructed in front. The site also will include a brick garden wall connecting to a small pedestrian plaza with benches near the entrance.

Most of the parking will be behind the bank, with some spaces along the side hidden by landscaping.

The bank hopes to start the project in October, said Joe Pearson, vice president of real estate development who also presented the project at last week’s meeting at Sherwood.

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