Board of Education To Ask County to Delay Moving Shady Grove Bus Depot

Decision came as Rockville residents continued to oppose moving some of the buses to school system parking lot

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Montgomery County Board of Education (file photo)

Aaron Kraut

The county Board of Education unanimously agreed Tuesday to ask Montgomery County to delay the relocation of a school bus depot in Shady Grove due to community opposition to moving some of those buses to a school system-owned parking lot in Rockville.

Board President Michael Durso will write a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett and the County Council asking them to delay the process of vacating the Shady Grove site, where 410 buses are parked and maintained.

The county has set a deadline of January 2017 for vacating the site and other county government properties in the vicinity to make way for two developers to begin building a new neighborhood, park and school site near the Shady Grove Metro station.

But the suggestion to move 100 of the buses to the school system’s Carver Educational Services Center parking lot on Hungerford Drive (Route 355) on an interim basis has inspired opposition from nearby residents and Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton.

“We are very concerned about the traffic congestion, the neighborhood infiltration with the buses and the noise and the pollution,” Newton said during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday at the county school system’s Carver Center headquarters. “I could go on and on.”

Earlier this year, the board approved $1.7 million for the interim bus depot on the Carver Center lot.

But board members Phil Kauffman and Rebecca Smondrowski let colleagues know last week they would be asking them at Tuesday’s meeting to request the county delay the move until a new permanent bus depot is identified.

Tuesday’s discussion included James Song, director of facilities management for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), who summarized the challenges the school system faces in finding space for Shady Grove’s more than 400 buses, parking spaces for the bus drivers’ personal vehicles, maintenance bays and bus driver training sessions.

“I think it was important that we take action today,” board member Patricia O’Neill said. “The clock is ticking to January of 2017 and short of board members chaining themselves to the Shady Grove depot and saying, ‘Blank no, we won’t go,’ it is a legitimate concern.”

Song told the board “there are discussions around [the] possibility of extending that January 2017” deadline for vacating the Shady Grove Depot, “but that date has not been confirmed either.”

In the county’s deal with developers LCOR and NVR, the developers agreed to identify potential new parking sites for the buses. But the developers weren’t required to find the county and school system land for new bus depots.

Over the past 10 years, MCPS had been analyzing various options, including parking some buses overnight at high schools. Song and board members said each option includes downsides. A school system proposal to park some of the buses at the Blair Ewing Center elsewhere in Rockville met with stiff community resistance.

The proposal to move the 100 buses to the Carver Center lot has met with similar community concern, even though Montgomery College already uses the lot for student parking.

An interim school bus parking depot is proposed for the parking lot to the right of the image. The Carver Center is on the left side of the image, via Google Maps.

In addition to the concerns about bus traffic, noise and pollution, some residents have testified in front of the board and the City of Rockville council in recent weeks that the interim depot would ruin views to the Carver Center, a historic building that once was home to the county’s only modern high school for African-American students.

It’s now home to the Board of Education and administrative offices of MCPS.

MCPS Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman told the board that staff will move forward with planning for the Carver Center bus depot and hold a May 11 community meeting in case the county doesn’t agree to delay the Shady Grove process.

“I think we have to be prepared either way,” Zuckerman said. “It’s prudent for us to continue planning at this point.”

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