Montgomery County Council member Elizabeth L. Scull says she expects a proposal to build moderately priced housing on the Falls Road Junior High School site in affluent Potomac to be defeated when it comes up for a vote Jan. 7.
Scull, a strong proponent of measures to increase the county's stock of affordable homes, said that even she may vote against the proposal after hearing the outpouring of sentiment agaginst it at a packed public hearing last week.
"It wouldn't be a vote against housing, it would be a vote for the soccer fields," Scull said.
For more than two years, county planners have proposed the construction of three soccer fields on the 20-acre tract of land at Falls Road and Falls Chapel Way, originally purchased by the county for a junior high school that was never built.
The soccer fields were scuttled by the recent adoption of a county policy, proposed by Scull, that requires the council to consider building inexpensive homes on any surplus school site.
With the County's Potomac master plan under revision, such homes were proposed for the Falls Road site and fpr another junior high site called Bradley, on Logan Drive, north of River Road near Potomac Village.
Planners suggested building 60 townhouses on half of the Falls Road site, leaving enough land for only one soccer field.
Charging that the county government was reneging on a two-year-old commitment, more than 400 area residents crowded into the Montgomery County Council hearing room last week, filling the aisles and spilling out into adjoining conference rooms.
"This is no time for the council to turn its back on the parents or the children of the Potomac community," said resident Martha Verme.
"You cannot continually keep changing the rules and expect to maintain the support of the people," said Joseph Orens of the Copenhaver Citizens Association.
Other speakers objected to noise, traffic and flooding that the new development might bring.
Gail Ewing, a Potomac resident and coordinator of the Falls Road School Site Committee, said six county studies attest to the need for soccer fields. It is difficult to find playing fields for the nearly 7,000 children who belong to Montgomery County Soccer, Inc., said Sylvia McPherson, executive director of that organization.
Residents also opposed a similar development on the Bradley site. Speakig for the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, Marcia Airis said construction of moderately priced homes would create an island of high density development, surrounded by large homes on two-arce lots.
The future of the Bradley proposal appeared uncertain after the hearing. Royce Hanson, chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board, agreed that "the density there poses a problem that we do have to look at."
Scull said she hopes the council will vote in favor of moderately priced housing on the Bradely site. Stressing that the proposal would not mean "public assistance" housing, Scull said the price of homes built on the vacant tract would be held down because buyers would not pay for the land owned by the county.
Morgage payments would be kept to a mimimum by low interest loans, guaranteed by the county, she said.
"I'm talking about housing for all generations," she said. "Costs have gone up so much in recent years, young families and the elderly . . . can't find anything they can afford to move into."
The school site proposals are only part of a package of proposed changes in the Potomac master plan, which are intended to increase the number of affordable homes and permit the construction of two neighborhood shopping centers.
Each of the proposals drew fire from some Potomac residents, particularly one calling for construction of a five-acre shopping center that would include a Safeway supermarket and smaller shops, and 35 acres of housing, part of it moderately priced, on the west side of Falls Road, north of Tuckerman Lane.
All of the proposed master plan changes will be considered by the County Council and the planning board at a Jan. 7 work session, as the two bodies complete deliberations on a new development blueprint for the Potomac area.