Gaithersburg's parks and recreation programs have brought the city a touch of star quality.

City Council members announced last week the city has won the Sports Foundation's Golden Grand Award and has received a plaque and $1,000 prize. The award recognizes superior parks and recreation programs operated by municipalities.

"Perseverance pays off," said the city's jubilant parks and recreation director, Richard L. Blohm, who traveled to Louisville for the final judging. It was the city's fourth time as a finalist for the national award from the Chicago-based firm.

"We were up against three park districts in Illinois. I thought for sure one of them would get it," Blohm said. "It's fun to be a winner for a change."

Gaithersburg spends $1 million -- 20 percent of its annual operating budget -- on parks and recreation. The city has 300 acres of municipal park land for its 27,000 residents.

Blohm said the competition's judges were impressed most by the recently completed Robinson Park-Public Service Facility. The park includes practice fields and lighted athletic fields for softball, baseball and soccer; across Rabbit Road, a $2.5 million energy-efficient structure houses city offices and maintenance facilities.

In more routine business, the council last week approved fees for two new special zoning categories. Applicants who wish to be classified as a commercial recreation restaurant will pay $500, and applicants for classification as a group residential facility will pay $250.

The council also approved the sale of a 10-acre site along North Frederick Avenue and Game Preserve Road and of $2.3 million in municipal bonds. The $3.5 million raised through the two sales will be used to buy the Summit Hall Turf farm, which city officials had feared would be developed for town houses. The city will use the 62-acre tract, just south of the city, for park land.