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Community supports White Oak redevelopment

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

The transformation of the White Oak area of Silver Spring into a "science gateway" is one step closer to reality after residents told the Planning Board they overwhelmingly supported the community's proposed master plan.

Almost 40 people have submitted testimony supporting the redevelopment, which would turn the aging suburb into a scientific research and medical hub. Residents have until June 6 to submit written testimony that will be included in the plan.

The redevelopment would center around the new Food and Drug Administration headquarters on New Hampshire Avenue and would redevelop the area between Route 29 and the Prince George's County border, south to the Capital Beltway.

The project centers around the LifeSci Village, a private-public effort to turn a 115-acre site off Route 29 and the Industrial Parkway into a mixed-use development.

The project has received the support of local hospitals, the FDA and County Executive Ike Leggett.

Greg Ossont, deputy director of the county's Department of General Services, said Leggett believes the project is key to the transformation of the eastern county. He also said Leggett has been pitching the LifeSci Village around the world to attract international business.

While community organizations and businesses in the area support the project, they're worried the new development could cause more congestion in the area, particularly on frequently gridlocked Route 29.

Eileen Finnegan, president of the Hillandale Citizens Association, said the project would bring vibrancy and life back into the suburb, and members of the association are in favor. However, she said, without a good transit solution, the project might be a dud.

"Transportation is obviously the key to realizing this vision," she said. "This plan has the ability to bring the vision to reality ... or it can be the latest in a series of planning hopes that have gone awry."

Others argued that one portion of the plan, which would reopen a bridge on Old Columbia Pike over the Paint Branch River, would hurt the surrounding communities. The bridge was closed in the 1980s.

Planners proposed reopening the road to reduce traffic congestion caused by the development.

"The constant noise and pollution of the traffic will be unbearable," said Clara Perlingiero, a resident who lives in a condominium off Old Columbia Pike. "[It's] certainly not what we bargained for when we purchased our homes years ago."

The Planning Board is expected to vote on the plan this summer.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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