Letters to the Editor

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Science City Plan, More City Than Campus

The Gaithersburg-North Potomac-Rockville Coalition, a group of more than 200 residents, has many concerns about the Science City that will be created by the Gaithersburg West master plan.

Although we are not opposed to the expansion of the biomedical industry, this project would attempt to accommodate 60,000 workers in 20 million square feet of commercial space and 5,000 housing units in the middle of our quiet, established, suburban residential community. The density would be that of an urban area such as Rosslyn, yet we are five miles from the nearest Metro.

The area south of the Life Sciences Center, around the University of Maryland and Human Genome Sciences, would have the lowest level of density in the Science City. The county has stated that "shallow bedrock and poor percolation rates severely limit development potential," but that area would have the density of the National Institutes of Health.

Another area in the Science City is Belward Farm, which is one of the most beautiful properties in Montgomery County and is our most beloved landmark. The farm was sold to Johns Hopkins for $5 million instead of its $40 million value with the understanding that Johns Hopkins would continue the legacy of the farm, which had been in the family of the former owner, Elizabeth Banks, for more than 100 years. Deed restrictions stipulate uses should be "agricultural, academic, research and development, delivery of health and medical care and services, or related purposes only." Ms. Banks loved her land and fought to save it from commercial developers.

Johns Hopkins Real Estate has ignored Ms. Banks's wishes and has proposed high-rise buildings, with crushing density, to accommodate:

-- 3,407,614 square feet of office and industrial space.

-- 300,000 square feet of residential space.

-- 88,518 square feet of retail space.

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