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A rural village plan will breathe new life into Sandy Spring

Sandy Spring could one day be a small, walkable community at the center of rural life in northeast Montgomery County, if all goes according to plan.

Rendering of the Sandy Spring rural village core by John Carter.

For 15 years, Sandy Spring residents asked for a plan to revitalize their rural village, which has gotten passed over as suburbanization swept the area. Montgomery County planners say a new open space, walkable main street, and some new housing and retail could turn things around.

Residents want new commercial establishments, coffee shops, and retail in the village center. As redevelopment takes place in the small community on Route 108 near New Hampshire Avenue, the changes will allow new mixed-use buildings located closer to the street to activate public space.

3D rendering of MD 108 and Brooke Road looking east. Rendering by MNCPPC.

The preliminary concepts encourage quality open space for public gatherings and community activities at the intersection of MD 108 and Brooke Road. As the historic center of Sandy Spring, the intersection is home to one of Maryland's oldest post offices. More public gathering space will strengthen civic engagement, create a sense of place, and generate opportunities for special events and festivals.

Sandy Spring streetscape rendering by John Carter.

Changes can also make the area more walkable. Today, the north side of MD 108 has no sidewalk and 90-degree parking in the right-of-way, requiring vehicles to back out into the road. Not only is the design dangerous, it creates traffic when village center activity increases.

Following the "Complete Streets" standard, there will be a wide, pedestrian-focused sidewalk and parallel parking. Bike lanes and improved pedestrian movements at intersections will give all users safe and equal access to the public space. These modifications are timely because Pepco is relocating its utilities underground in the area, further enhancing the corridor.

Over the last 10 years, many newer residents of varied income levels have also settled into the rural village. While these recent changes have increased competing interests and viewpoints, it is still a community founded on togetherness and communication.

Sandy Spring planning area and conceptual layout. Rendering by Roberto Duke.

Quakers established Sandy Spring in the early 18th century as a rural village based on communal exchange of ideas on social and political concerns, agriculture, and family. Today, many descendants of those Quaker families remain as their trademark brand of gentility still influences the town.

A high percentage of high-income residents own houses in the area. One quarter of households have incomes over $200,000, proving the town's potential for upscale business, specialty retail, and restaurants within the rural village.

Sandy Spring in the beginning.

Due to the uniqueness of Sandy Spring and the limited size of the planning area, Montgomery planners staff took a different approach to the planning process. In February, they held a four-day planning workshop in Sandy Spring focused on specific land use topics and time devoted to interacting with residents on their vision for the future of their village.

In other words, the heavily lifting of planning work was essentially done in four days. With the collaborative community vision of residents firmly in hand, staff developed illustrations and renderings in advance of recent community outreach meetings. The renderings are currently on display at the Sandy Spring Museum through April 2014.

Planners will develop a draft plan over the coming months with continued community follow-up and intend to have an adopted plan by April 2015.

If the Planning Board and then the Montgomery County Council adopt it, planners will quickly follow up with a sectional zoning amendment to rezone the property within the planning area. This will trigger the development and land use standards to implement the plan's vision.

Ryan Sigworth is an urban planner at the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. He bikes or takes public transit to work from his house in Adams Morgan, where he has lived car-free with his wife and cat since 2009. He is a cyclist, urbanist, and smart growth advocate who blogs on his personal blog, The DCyclist. 


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Calling Sandy Spring "rural" is a bit of a stretch...

by King Terrapin on Apr 15, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

It does look a bit exurban but it very much reminds me of around where I grew up which would have been called rural until the 80s of so when it go suburbanized. Easy to see the agricultural roots.

by BTA on Apr 15, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

I do agree it is not quite rural, but it is a pretty sleepy place. That said, due to the Z2, it is actually more transit accessible than some new "Urbanist" developments nearby such as Maple Lawn in Fulton.

by A.P. on Apr 15, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

I'm confused, are they planning to destroy the Urban BBQ, Passion Bakery, etc. that's there right now?

by asffa on Apr 15, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

Sandy Spring is not exurban except to the most urban of transient urbanites in the area. Maybe you could classify it this way two decades ago, but I would argue against that. I never lived in Sandy Spring itself, but went to SHS graduating back at the turn of the millennium.

The old firehouse is a nice French bakery, the old hair cut place is a sit down gourmet barbeque place, and there are cookie cutter new homes right behind the h.s. Even Sol D'Italia is gone. The whole thing is 3 minutes from the ICC, too. Not exurban. Exurban would be maybe Sunshine down the road, but even that has changed a lot.

by Terp Fan on Apr 15, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

Also, the drawings are confusing, but it appears they want to put a bump in and narrow the Brookville exit onto 108 or put a speed circle there. That's absolutely madness - that would slow down the Fire Department that's RIGHT THERE on Brooke.
It's not surprising the area is now targeted, what had been a historic black community is now overtaken by some really ugly McMansions, developers there even tried to prevent people from using their historic streets on their property - blocking them off and claiming they owned them all. That was only solved through a lawsuit.
They need to widen the road/open up the visibility of the turn from Brook to 108 for the fire trucks, and everyone - not narrow it. I'm surprised they're able to plan these changes, since most of the area there are Historic Buildings. Interesting.

by asffa on Apr 15, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

McMansion owners drive most everywhere anyway, but you have to walk in the street on Brook, and I'm not sure the bus runs up/down Brooke. It's really unlikely any are giving up their cars anytime soon.
Not in the pictures, but if someone wants to promote transit friendliness in this cute little community, the artwork and proposals needs there needs to be a *bus shelter* on both sides of the street. Put it right in front of what's currently the (closed) Sandy Spring Store, and another one across the street from that intersection. That way those standing at the Store waiting for the bus who aren't white won't get called on for "loitering".

by asffa on Apr 15, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport


There is just that in a shelter already existing across from the store, in the Silver Spring bound direction which nearly everyone on the Z2 would be riding.,-77.02703,3a,90y,140.12h,77.1t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sRdU4hxM7HrHZeP2K6hfFMA!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89b7d09671f64cd5:0xe933a6c2bc76f34b!6m1!1e1

by A.P. on Apr 15, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

A.P. Yes, that's nice. But people waiting towards Georgia Ave and 108 been hassled. There it just a sign, not a shelter. See how there's signs there about "loitering"?

by asffa on Apr 15, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

I said maybe exurban because it is arguably beyond all the traditional suburbs but I didn't mean it as a sleight.

by BTA on Apr 15, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

Except for the town square, this is just another suburb with culs de sac and no connectivity. It would be much better with a street grid and the potential to connect with potential future developments on its periphery.

by Steve on Apr 18, 2014 9:14 am • linkreport

Steve - It's a little late to street grid old Sandy Spring, or turn back time on the McMansion building, but they may not be even putting in a paved back route walkway from "the Orchards" McMansions being built (upper left corner of photo). They probably don't want to encourage walking/biking traffic through their neighbourhood. It'd be easy to connect the two- people are less likely going to want to walk all the way over to Brook Road, on down by where there probably won't be sidewalk, to get to said "walkable" center.

by asffa on Apr 18, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

BTA I prefer "semiurban" for my "DC suburb" that's actually really built up.
exurban sounds unhappy.

by asffa on Apr 18, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

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