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On the Agenda: What’s Next for Vacant Aspen Hill Site Desired by Walmart?

If the Montgomery County Planning Board gives its approval Thursday, staff can begin the lengthy process of reviewing zoning rules for the former BAE Systems/Vitro site.

Walmart would like to build a store at the current site of the vacant BAE Systems/Vitro building near Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road. FILE | Rockville Patch
Walmart would like to build a store at the current site of the vacant BAE Systems/Vitro building near Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road. FILE | Rockville Patch

Montgomery County planners are expected on Thursday to discuss how they’ll re-evaluate land use rules for a vacant Aspen Hill site, where Walmart wants to move in but can’t because of county zoning restrictions.

During its regular meeting, the Montgomery County Planning Board is scheduled to hear how staff plans to address what’s known as a minor master plan amendment for the former BAE Systems/Vitro site, at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road.

The BAE Systems site has been vacant since 2010. Business owners and local elected leaders agree that the empty building is an eyesore. But what should happen to the site has been a source of conflict, since the site was zoned for office use and not retail.

If the planning board gives its approval Thursday, staff can begin the lengthy process of reviewing zoning rules that apply for the site. The board isn’t expected to make a formal recommendation to the Montgomery County Council until 2015.

Aspen Hill’s master plan, considered an outline for its future, wasn’t due to reach the Montgomery County Council until 2017, but the council voted 5-4 to expedite the review minor changes—in this case, rezoning the BAE site for retail.

Business owners have said bringing a retailer like Walmart to Aspen Hill would have a positive impact on their businesses, and they point positive changes they saw after Kohl’s arrived at Northgate Plaza.

Back in 2012, the property’s owners, Lee Development, asked the planning board to consider rezoning the site because there was interest in building a Walmart there, county records show.

In May, Bruce Lee, owner of Lee Development, told The Gazette that the building could sit empty for another 15 years if Lee were to wait on a full master plan review.  

Montgomery County Council members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal opposed expediting the zoning review and said that doing so failed to take into account the impact on the broader commercial area, Patch has reported.

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