Montgomery County Executive James Gleason has recommended that the County Council not extend water and sewer services to the Rockwood Girl Scout National Center in Potomac. The extension has been requested by the Girl Scouts of America and a developer who proposes to build 180 homes on the land, which is now used as a camp.
According to David Sobers, director of the Office of Environmental Planning. Gleason is recommending that the "sewer services track not be charged and that the land remain in its present state."
Under the Montgomery County ten-year water and sewer plan which governs all country water and sewer hookups, Rockwood, located in western Montgomery County, is not due to receive services for at least seven years.
However, Berger-Berman Builders, Inc., which has contracted to buy the property from the Girl Scouts, wants to speed up development of the 93-acre tract. On what is one of the few remaining wooded parcels of land in the Potomac area, the developer plans to build up to 180 $100,000 homes.
If the sewer service is not granted, according to Joseph Blocher, an attorney who represents both the Girl Scouts and Berger-Berman, the developer will develop the property using septic systems.
According to Montgomery County Council member William Colman, a decision will not be made on the sewer request until July 18.
Lee Cunningham, Planning coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is however, recommending that the land be served by a sewer.
Opposed to the development of the Girl Scout Center, is the Rescue Rockwood Committee, a citizens group whose membership is said to be in the hundreds. They also have the support of former Girl Scouts and Scout leaders from elsewhere, according to Anna Lopez, a member of the group's steering committee.
At a council hearing last week approximately 40 to 45 supporters of the Rescue Rockwood Committee attended. Those testifying before the council told of the need to preserve the tract because of its "natural streams, 150-year-old trees and natural open space."
Stephen M. Nassau, lawyer for the Rescue Rockwood Committee, said that the Girl Scouts' attempt to sell the Rockwood camp to developers is a "violation of the specific request in the will of Carolyn Caughey."
The land was willed to the Girl Scouts by Caughey in 1936 for use as a camp "where Girl Scouts all over the world could walk the trails and be educated in plants and animals and taught to respect all things rustic and natural," said Gerry James, a member of the Rescue Rockwood Committee.
Nassau added that the land was to be used for "character building and not to be broken in to half-acre lots."
The center was to be turned over to the Esther Chapter of the Eastern Star according to Richard Knox, director of public relations for the Girl Scouts of America, if it was not used as the donor requested. He said, however, that the Esther Chapter waived its rights to the property after an out of court settlement.
Knox said Rockwood is being sold because the Girls Scouts of America cannot afford to equip, staff and winterize the facility. The camp is one of four national centers in the United States.
According to Sally Kanchuger, president of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, the Girl Scouts annual report submitted this year to Congress shows that $213,740 was spent on all four of the national centers out of an operating budget of $12,024,000.
"They have neglected the camp for so long until rebuilding it would be financial ruin," said Kanchuger.
According to Lopez, repeated attempts have been made by the Rescue Rockwood Committee, former Girl Scouts and troop leaders to talk with board members of the Girl Scouts. She said however that "they will not talk to them."
Girl Scouts have been told that as of Sept. 30 the center will be officially closed, Kanchuger said.