Residents opposed to a plan that would put a new middle school on the site of a Kensington park will appeal a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge’s ruling in favor of Montgomery County Public Schools.
John Robinson, president of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association, announced on Sunday that the group will appeal the decision made in April by Judge Ronald Rubin, who issued a a declaratory judgment saying the transfer of the land from MCPS to the county Parks Department violated no federal law or statute.
The Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association wants Rock Creek Hills Local Park (3701 Saul Rd.) maintained as a park.
The group has challenged the MCPS decision to build there at virtually every step, prompting superintendent Joshua Starr to start a new site selection process, filing an unsuccessful appeal with the Maryland State Board of Education and last September filing the suit.
MCPS claims it can build on the park because the Board of Education owns it. It is the site of a former MCPS school, but the school system transferred the land to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).
When M-NCPPC developed the park in the early 90s, it accepted funds from Program Open Space (POS), which uses funds from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Park supporters have argued the use of POS funds was inconsistent with the reclamation terms of the transfer agreement under which M-NCPPC took title to the property. This was the case since use of these funds places restrictions on future public use of parks, in contradiction with the terms of the original transfer agreement.
Robinson said Judge Rubin was mistaken in his ruling, and that the group still thinks MCPS violated statutes by not having further review done by state agencies:
Dear Members,As you are aware, on April 11, 2013, Judge Rubin made on oral ruling against the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association and the individual plaintiffs on matters relating to the proposed conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park.
On April 23, 2013, Judge Rubin entered a 13 page written Declaratory Judgement stating his reasons. Counsel, the Association, and the individual plaintiffs have reviewed the April 23 order carefully and have again concluded that the Court’s erred in ruling that (1) the plaintiffs have no standing to challenge the proposed conversion, (2) the Board of Education has a valid reclaim right to the park, and (3) the government defendants did not violate any statutes in deciding to convert the park without further review by the state agencies having statutory jurisdiction over the proposed conversion. Therefore the Association and the individual plaintiffs are appealing the April 23 order. In addition, the Association’s park litigation fund has the resources to pay all its current obligations and has accumulated a modest reserve for the initial phase of the appeal.
John M. Robinson
9616 Old Spring Road
Kensington, MD 20895
Parents on MCPS’ school site selection committee have argued the group’s continued opposition is holding up the process for a much-needed school.
MCPS is planning for the new middle school to open in August 2017 to deal with over-enrollment at Westland Middle School and the reassignment of Grade 6 students from Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase Elementary Schools.
Westland received a six-classroom addition in the 2009-2010 school year, but as the only middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School cluster was 136 students over its 1,063 capacity this year. MCPS is projecting 1,600 middle school students in the cluster when the Grade 6 reassignments are made.
“This suit always struck me as incredibly frivolous,” said Rafe Petersen, a PTA Board member of Rosemary Hills Primary School with three kids in the school cluster. “A lot of us think it’s a little bit selfish of the people in that neighborhood. This after all is public land.”