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Long Branch residents worry about redevelopment plan

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Photo - 21mdLIBRARY

Christopher Amaya, 11 reads a comic book while neighborhood friends Juan Andino 17, right,  and Alfredo Diez, 12, left,  all of Silver Spring, hang out in front of the Long Branch Library in Silver Spring on Thursday, September 20, 2007. Andino, who was aware of increased law enforcement at the library said that he fells safe, and that even though incidents happen, that they are on rare occasion.  He characterized the incidents as fighting and cliques between kids about 15 years old. He was heading to the library to play chess.   Greg Whitesell/Examiner
21mdLIBRARY Christopher Amaya, 11 reads a comic book while neighborhood friends Juan Andino 17, right, and Alfredo Diez, 12, left, all of Silver Spring, hang out in front of the Long Branch Library in Silver Spring on Thursday, September 20, 2007. Andino, who was aware of increased law enforcement at the library said that he fells safe, and that even though incidents happen, that they are on rare occasion. He characterized the incidents as fighting and cliques between kids about 15 years old. He was heading to the library to play chess. Greg Whitesell/Examiner
Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

A proposed redevelopment project for a Silver Spring neighborhood has residents worried about how it might reshape the community -- including replacing parts of the area's low-income housing.

The Long Branch Sector Plan -- a major development project for the neighborhood in east Silver Spring -- would create a mix of business and residential development, as well as redevelop roadways and construct new pedestrian pathways.

Planners have presented the basic plan to the Montgomery County Planning Board, saying they want to reinvent the neighborhood while keeping some of its "character." Melissa Williams, the project's lead planner, told the board that the plan would maximize the investment of the proposed Purple Line -- which would run through the neighborhood -- as well as maintain affordable housing.

"We looked at the existing single-family neighborhoods and [want to] make sure those remain stable," she said.

Historically, the Long Branch neighborhood has been home to lower- to middle-class families, with a portion of the population being ethnically diverse.

Elizabeth McMeekin, senior network manager for community group Impact Silver Spring, said although the sector plan has promising aspects, she worries about how it will affect the community. She is concerned that residents aren't being listened to, specifically about the area's affordable housing.

"They do get voices of residents, but those are not the folks that are going to feel the crunch of affordable housing being redefined and taken down," she said.

Williams told the planning board they were taking issues of affordable housing seriously and said planners knew it was at the top of their list.

"We want to try and preserve the existing affordability," she said.

Historic storefronts also could be redeveloped in the plan. Clare Kelly, historic preservation planner with the county, said the Flower Theatre and Shopping Center "contributes to the community identity" and should be preserved -- including the theater itself and surrounding stores.

Board members debated whether retaining the space as historic might hurt the development as a whole, but Planning Board Chairman Francoise Carrier said the plan was still in its early stages and subject to change.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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