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On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the National 4-H Council announced that it is selling its 12.25-acre property at 7100 Connecticut Avenue after more than 60 years. The next evening, more than 100 members of the public joined the Town Council for our first public briefing about 4-H’s plans for the property.
This transaction is clearly very significant for our Town, as well as for our neighbors. The 4-H property is located completely within the Town’s boundaries, and it may be the last significant open space in the greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase area.
At the briefing, 4-H and its representatives from CBRE, a national commercial real estate firm, described a condensed timeline for decisions about the sale. 4-H aims to receive bids by early May, select the winning bid by the end of June, and close the sale by year’s end. The property’s current assessed value is $20 million, and it is being sold as is, including its current R-60 zoning designation. 4-H is seeking bids from all sectors, including private developers, non-profit and educational institutions, elder care facilities, and others, and it has also engaged Montgomery County about the property.
The Town Council asked multiple questions at the March 17 briefing, seeking to learn from 4-H its views about the Town’s role in this process and about how best to safeguard the interests of the Town. We will need to define those interests clearly, but residents have already raised many: adhering to zoning requirements and respecting the need for compatible development, ensuring that the concerns of Town residents whose properties abut the 4-H property are addressed, and providing for open or recreational space. CBRE suggested that the Town’s involvement would arise after a winning bidder had been selected, but we will have to determine the best timing and means of participating to ensure that our requests are understood and rights respected.
As a result of the evening’s discussion, the Council decided to take two primary actions: (1) to create a small task force of Town residents to advise the Council about the Town’s options for engaging in the sale process, and (2) to seek legal and/or consulting services to ensure that sufficient external expertise is provided to the Town as the process unfolds.
Fortunately, the Council received a very strong response to our request for volunteers to serve on the task force. We thank the many residents who generously volunteered on short notice, and we encourage all who are interested in the future of the 4-H Center property to stay engaged with us on the issue. For now, Mayor Baskir has appointed five residents to the task force -- Chris Bruch, Nicole Mason, Joe Rubin, Ken Rubin, and Sarah Smith -- all of whom have confirmed that they have no potential financial interest in the sale or development of the property or other conflict of interest. This team brings together a complement of relevant skills and experience, and we appreciate their willingness to assist the Council on this matter.
At this moment, the Town Council is still in the information gathering stage. However, we want to ensure that your voices are heard and that our interests as a Town are protected. We therefore strongly encourage you to share your views on what the Town’s position should be regarding the sale, to get involved, and to stay in touch if you have any questions about next steps. Thank you.