The saga of the Bergdoll tract on upper Wisconsin Avenue has reached a milepost of sorts. Some 25 years after the current developers submitted their first site plan, and more than 40 years after the first development proposals for the land, the issue has gone before the Montgomery County Planning Board for what seems to be the last time.

The board, after hearing the developers' plans for slight modifications in a high-rise condominium under construction, deferred the matter to the planning staff and ruled that the staff can handle any other slight modifications that may come up in the future, according to board spokesman John Hoover.

"So in all probability, that's it for the Bergdoll tract," he said.

The developers, Community Somerset Associates, bought the tract in 1959 and then entered decades of tangled lawsuits and disputes over their plans to develop the 18 1/2-acre site in Somerset for multifamily use. Last year, a Maryland appeals court ruling cleared the way for developers to build three high-rise condominiums, and construction started last fall.

The Bergdoll tract, named for a Philadelphia family that bought it in the 1880s, has a history almost as rich as England's Hundred Years' War. The family was unable to obtain commercial zoning for the property during the 1940s, and the Hecht Co., which purchased the land in the 1950s, was equally unsuccessful in its attempts to put a department store on the site.

Last spring, a Maryland appeals court ruling cleared the way for the current developers to begin construction on three high-rise condominium towers, the tallest of which will be 21 stories high. The community of Somerset had argued that the land should be used for a park.

The Montgomery County Park Department is considering moving part of its operations from a maintenance yard in Meadowbrook to somewhere else in the county after residents protested plans to renovate the existing facility.

The department had asked the county for $1.9 million to renovate the 15-acre storage and maintenance facility, built 38 years ago on the edge of Rock Creek Valley Park, long before the neighboring Meadowbrook area was developed with single-family homes, said Joseph P. Kondis, the department's chief of engineering.

However, most of the acreage is on a flood plain -- where construction is prohibited by a county law passed after the original facility was in place. That means the department can build only along the northernmost edge of the property, closest to the residents, Kondis said.

"It's not much room to work in and, unfortunately, it's right in front of the neighbors," he said.

Dozens of neighbors turned out at a county planning board meeting last week to protest the proposed construction, and the board suggested the park department investigate the possibility of moving part of its Meadowbrook operations to another county site, preferably one in an industrial park.

Without planning board approval, the department cannot receive its requested $1.9 million in funds from the County Council.

"We're doing the best we can," Kondis said. "We have to keep some of our people here -- the horticulturists, for example -- because they need to be in proximity to the park."

But Kondis said the park department understands the concerns of the neighbors. "I live next door to a park myself," he said. "There are benefits from a park you don't get from a maintenance yard."

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