Guest Commentary: Redeveloping Old Silver Spring Library Is Smart Land Use
By Will Jawando
Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series. More than 20 candidates are running for four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council in 2018 – and the number could grow. In an attempt to sort through the confusion and enlighten voters, Maryland Matters has asked the candidates to submit an op-ed piece introducing themselves and making their case. Subsequent articles will appear over the next several weeks.
Many Montgomery County families are feeling squeezed – pinched between caring for young children and caring for aging parents. I know that pinch well. I’m the father of three young girls, and my wife and I were caregivers for my ailing father in our home during his last years of life.
Each year, more Montgomery County families are feeling this same pressure. In a few years, one of every five county residents will be 65 or older. And early child care (which can cost up to $2,000 per child, per month) has been identified as the county’s top priority by both the county’s Department of Health and Human Services and Montgomery Moving Forward.
That is why I am urging Montgomery County to embrace opportunities such as the new proposals to transform the former Silver Spring public library site into a child care and early education center, coupled with affordable senior housing.
While the details of the two proposals differ, the goals are the same: redevelop an aging county-owned building into new use, specifically to meet demand for both child care and senior housing. And the key to both is that they will be affordable and accessible. It also will be important, in my view, that the county continues to own the property and lease it to prospective developers to ensure continued use for public good in the future as needs and priorities change.
We need more projects like this one – established by public policy, to encourage smarter land-use, development and community growth. This is how Montgomery County can help keep its unique promise to all of its citizens – a promise that is central to the core values of my campaign for an at-large seat on the county council.
If either of these projects moves forward, they can help Montgomery County “keep the promise” in three distinct ways:
- Investing in affordable, accessible early child care and education. Every working family should be able to find early child care services they can afford. And every child deserves the step up that early childhood education provides.
- Giving back to our aging residents. Our aging residents deserve the dignity and respect to age in the communities they helped build. We need county programs to help seniors stay in their homes, or find other affordable senior housing right here in Montgomery County.
- Redeveloping the old library site is smart growth. We can renovate and expand existing buildings – in this case, redeveloping the old Silver Spring library – while preserving amenities, like open parkland and green space, that make Montgomery County a great place to live.
The old Silver Spring library served generations of Montgomery County residents — including me. Redeveloping the site with the goal of serving children and seniors is an example of how we can relieve the pinch on Montgomery County families with a plan that could build a lasting and durable bridge between generations.
Will Jawando of Silver Spring, a Democrat, is running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council. He can be reached at willjawando.com.