- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Some Montgomery County, Md. residents have filed a lawsuit to stop Maryland's Montgomery College from proceeding with part of a $90 million expansion for its Takoma Park campus.
The plan calls for building a cultural arts center with a 500-seat auditorium on a portion of Jessup Blair Park in south Silver Spring. The expansion, supported by a majority of state and local lawmakers, is seen as critical to the county's revitalization effort in Silver Spring. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.
But in a lawsuit filed this month in Montgomery County Circuit Court, residents argue that the plan violates a state law and would destroy towering white oak trees that have shaded the park for more than 100 years.
The land was willed to the state by Violet Blair Janin. In 1933, the state enacted a law accepting the land and establishing it as a public park. The law also mandates that trees be preserved except those whose removal is "absolutely necessary" to lay out the park.
"Why would anyone donate land to the state of Maryland for a park if, after they die, it can be used for something else?" asked Robin Ficker, a plaintiff who also is acting as the residents' attorney.
Mr. Ficker is joined in the lawsuit by eight other residents and Montgomery Preservation Inc.
"As a lover of nature, I have a deep reverence for trees, particularly white oaks," plaintiff John Mills Parrish wrote in an affidavit. "Building an enormous building in the most remote and peaceful part of the park … would deprive me of my place, my sanctuary."
But college spokesman Steve Simon said school officials have tried to work with concerned residents by locating most of the building on an adjacent parcel. He said plans call for the removal of one historic white oak.
"We backed up as far out of the park as we could," Mr. Simon said. "We think that this will help revitalize the park, and it does have widespread community support."

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