The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association this week withdrew its controversial request to rezone land surrounding its Bethesda headquarters, and instead is seeking to make a land swap with the county.

The association withdrew its request to have the land rezoned for commercial use, which would have allowed the group to build an office park at Rockville Pike and Strathmore Avenue, following a recommendation by Montgomery County Hearing Examiner Philip J. Tierney that the County Council, the ultimate zoning authority, deny the proposal.

The association said it now is proposing to give the county 11 acres of its 18-acre site adjoining the Strathmore Hall Foundation, a nearby county-owned arts center, in exchange for a parcel of comparable value in the upcounty area north of Rockville that could accommodate office development.

Frederick Spahr, the association's executive director, said that no fair-market value has been determined for the 11 acres. He said that the group first will have to determine if the county is willing to negotiate such a deal.

Last fall, the 20,000-member association proposed construction of four office buildings totaling 350,000 square feet of space so that it could lease the space to other groups to generate income for its programs. The association represents practitioners who work with individuals whose speech, hearing or use of language is impaired.

However, in a 32-page opinion, Tierney concurred with an earlier recommendation by the county planning board, and said that office development would be incompatible with the surrounding residential area, which mostly contains detached houses.

Numerous area homeowners and officials in the Town of Garrett Park, which is to the east of the site, said they feared that the rezoning would set a precedent that could change the area's residential flavor.

Tierney also noted, as did the planning board, that the rezoning would violate the county master plan, as well as endanger one of the last large tracts of open land along the heavily developed Rockville Pike corridor.

A number of opponents of the proposed rezoning expressed enthusiasm about a land exchange, saying that it would help preserve the parklike character of much of the association's property.

"That sounds like a reasonable way to go," said George L. Payne, president of the Garrett Park Citizens Association and a Town Council member. "The main idea is to protect the site, which is a nice-looking site, and not have any tall office buildings there."

Eliot Pfanstiehl, director of the Strathmore Hall Foundation -- which stood to gain $570,000 from the association and a Boston development firm in exchange for its support for the office project -- said the foundation would welcome a land exchange if it could use part of the 11-acre property. He noted that the foundation could convert some of the property into parkland, or build a small arts facility on it.

Although the area is zoned for residential use, the association's headquarters is next to three other institutions: Georgetown Preparatory School, the Academy of the Holy Cross and Strathmore Hall.

The association built its 40,000-square-foot headquarters in 1976, without citizen opposition, under a special exception to county zoning laws that permits nonprofit, philanthropic organizations in residential areas. Association Won't Build In Bethesda Now Seeking Swap For Upcounty Land By Carlos Moncada Special to The Washington Post

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association this week withdrew its controversial request to rezone land surrounding its Bethesda headquarters, and instead is seeking to make a land swap with the county.

The association withdrew its request to have the land rezoned for commercial use, which would have allowed the group to build an office park at Rockville Pike and Strathmore Avenue, following a recommendation by Montgomery County Hearing Examiner Philip J. Tierney that the County Council, the ultimate zoning authority, deny the proposal.

The association said it now is proposing to give the county 11 acres of its 18-acre site adjoining the Strathmore Hall Foundation, a nearby county-owned arts center, in exchange for a parcel of comparable value in the upcounty area north of Rockville that could accommodate office development.

Frederick Spahr, the association's executive director, said that no fair-market value has been determined for the 11 acres. He said that the group first will have to determine if the county is willing to negotiate such a deal.

Last fall, the 20,000-member association proposed construction of four office buildings totaling 350,000 square feet of space so that it could lease the space to other groups to generate income for its programs. The association represents practitioners who work with individuals whose speech, hearing or use of language is impaired.

However, in a 32-page opinion, Tierney concurred with an earlier recommendation by the county planning board, and said that office development would be incompatible with the surrounding residential area, which mostly contains detached houses.

Numerous area homeowners and officials in the Town of Garrett Park, which is to the east of the site, said they feared that the rezoning would set a precedent that could change the area's residential flavor.

Tierney also noted, as did the planning board, that the rezoning would violate the county master plan, as well as endanger one of the last large tracts of open land along the heavily developed Rockville Pike corridor.

A number of opponents of the proposed rezoning expressed enthusiasm about a land exchange, saying that it would help preserve the parklike character of much of the association's property.

"That sounds like a reasonable way to go," said George L. Payne, president of the Garrett Park Citizens Association and a Town Council member. "The main idea is to protect the site, which is a nice-looking site, and not have any tall office buildings there."

Eliot Pfanstiehl, director of the Strathmore Hall Foundation -- which stood to gain $570,000 from the association and a Boston development firm in exchange for its support for the office project -- said the foundation would welcome a land exchange if it could use part of the 11-acre property. He noted that the foundation could convert some of the property into parkland, or build a small arts facility on it.

Although the area is zoned for residential use, the association's headquarters is next to three other institutions: Georgetown Preparatory School, the Academy of the Holy Cross and Strathmore Hall.

The association built its 40,000-square-foot headquarters in 1976, without citizen opposition, under a special exception to county zoning laws that permits nonprofit, philanthropic organizations in residential areas.