More than 125 residents of the Falkland Apartments formed a tenants association Saturday to fight the sale of the 485-unit complex by the Falkland Company.
Under the Silver Spring master plan approved in 1975 by the Montgomery County Council, the 27-acre property could not be redeveloped until 1980. Bids are being accepted for sale of the complex, and residents fear they could find themselves without a place to live.
The master plan also rezoned for high density and commercial use two-thirds of the Falkland property on either side of East-West Highway at 16th Street, giving rise to speculation among residents that new owners might raze the garden apartments in favor of a high-rise.
"We should . . . consider petitioning the Montgomery County Council to rethink the zoning decision," said tenant Joe McGrath, who was moderator for the meeting.
Helping run the session was Arnold McNeill, who three weeks earlier distributed flyers door-to-door at Falklands, informing many residents for the first time that a sale proposal was pending.
At Saturday's meeting, Enrique Grittens, a community organizer for the Inter-Neighborhood Council, appealed to the tenants to band together.
"Mr. McGrath says that you have the option of forming a tennants' association," said Gittens. "I'm telling you that you have no options. You must form a tenants association. I've seen these situations before, and there's always a good attendance at the first meeting, but at the next meeting you may only have three people show up.
"You must form a tenants' association tonight, it's the only way to fight this."
The tenants then voted to form the Falkland Tenants' Association, elected four officers and agreed to request an extension of the Sept. 5 deadlilne for purchase bids to the B.F. Saul Management Company.
The tenants also decided to commission a feasibility study to determine if the apartments could be converted to condominiums that the tenants could purchase.
"But we've got to remember that there's no guarantee that the owners will accept our bid," McGrath observed. "If whoever buys the apartments decides to demolish them, the tenants' association cannot make a bid for condominium conversion."
The 42-year-old apartments are one of the few bastions of low-cost rental property left in the Silver Spring area. Rents range from $300 to $375 a month.