After eight years on the Gaithersburg Planning Commission, and 20 years working in D.C., northern Montgomery County and Dunn Loring, I find myself working in the middle of Silver Spring. So all of the discussion about saving Silver Spring has left me interested and amused.

I have recently had the opportunity to walk around the area at lunch time, take the Metro downtown for meetings and eat at McDonald's and the Tastee Diner. I also have noticed the sprouting of high-rise buildings on what seems to be every corner.

The experience leads me to several conclusions. First, and maybe most important, all of those high-rise buildings are there. Sure, there are more planned, and they are worth discussion on their merits, but count what has already happened. It seems to be quite important. Second, saving the "best of Silver Spring" is difficult, if not impossible, since the "best" was the first to go. Whatever Silver Spring was 10, 20 or 30 years ago cannot come back, and any plans for the future must be constrained and guided by what the county has already authorized.

The problem in Montgomery County is that citizens don't become directly involved in the process until events have progressed beyond the point of no return. We watched this happen in the Shady Grove area, and those in Olney probably would agree it is happening there.

I am waiting for the time when a citizens' group is formed to save Shady Grove. But the Washingtonian is gone, the old National Golf Course is about to be housing. And again, when people realize it should have been saved, it will be too late.

So to those who are lamenting the loss of Silver Spring, look around the county, and try to figure out where the planners are going next. Maybe you can save Barnesville or Clarksburg or Damascus. At least you should still have a chance. But start before they build the high-rises, and make the first proposal yourself. If the county makes it first, you will soon be compromising. JEFFREY L. RUBIN Darnestown