Looking back on 2017

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by Mike Conroy
As 2017 comes to a close and we begin to think about New Year’s Resolutions and the promises of a new year, it’s a great time to look back at all we’ve accomplished this year, and carry that momentum forward.

Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) and the Village community saw a number of big changes this year. On the programming side of things, MVF offered a number of new classes, events and programs that seemed to be a hit. The Whetstone Afterschool Club got its start, offering elementary school kids a place to hang out afterschool. New additions such as Bingo Night, Flashlight Egg Hunt, BANG Power Dance and a Red Cross Babysitting course engaged residents of all ages. Sangria & Succulents—a new twist on our popular Wine & Paint nights—gave participants something new to show off, and the Amazing Race at MVF pools was a great follow up to the 50km Swim Challenge.

Of course, we can’t forget any of our community favorites—large events that folks look forward to every year. The Independence Day 5k, Parade and Celebration, annual Home Show and Touch a Truck all brought residents out to experience the community and share in good times with neighbors and friends. The Great Pumpkin Race and Fall Festival saw its first ever three-time champion (a great feat with stiff competition), and the annual Christmas Tree Lighting and holiday programs are always a great way to get into the spirit of the season and round out the year.

Engaging the community with interesting, informational programs—not just recreation—was also part of the plan in 2017. MVF coordinated several public safety meetings with the 6th District Police. Meetings were held to discuss crime statistics and trends, as well as resident concerns about specific, distressing events. New Community Service Officer Kim Jones was also introduced to the community.

Additionally, MVF hosted an Economic and Community Development Forum, with local expert David Petr. This event focused on national and local development issues and strategies in Montgomery County to foster growth and improved business relations.

Along the lines of development, owners of both the former golf course property and the Village Center made significant strides this year in their plans to help shape the future of the Village. Atlantic Realty Companies (ARC), owners of the Village Center, held several community meetings to discuss their plans before sending them to the county in hopes of getting a site plan hearing soon. One of the main upgrades to the ARC plan is the greenspace addition to the Village Center, creating a space for patrons and residents to sit, play and enjoy the outdoors while shopping.

Monument Realty, the owners of the former golf course property, recently had the Preliminary Plan and Site Plan approved by the county Planning Board. While this doesn’t mean construction is starting soon (expected to begin in 2019), it is a significant hurdle to keep the process moving forward. Information about both plans can be found online at www.montgomeryvillage.com, under the “Development & Projects” section.

On the MVF side of projects, several amenities received upgrades this year. At the Nature Center, the Montgomery Village Garden Club installed and maintained a community herb garden. Residents were invited and encouraged to take herb snips for cooking. The Watkins Mill, McKendree and Whetstone tot lots were all replaced, with plans for Stedwick and Apple Ridge discussed and/or approved for 2018. The Apple Ridge Playground will be the Village’s first inclusive playground, featuring equipment for children of all abilities. In addition, play equipment was installed at Lake Whetstone, along with benches approved from the 50th Anniversary last year. The new climbing features are a great way for kids to enjoy the park setting and the great lake view.

The MVF Board of Directors was able to accomplish all this, as well as pass a 2018 budget that requires no assessment increase in the MVF Fee—a commitment to providing the best service at the lowest possible price for residents. MVF was recognized as a Tree City for the 29th consecutive year as well.

Besides investing in MVF-owned assets, the MVF Board also made a commitment to increase involvement with Village schools. Earlier this year, they announced the creation of a Student Representative position to the Board. This is currently being marketed in Watkins Mill and Gaithersburg high schools, with the initial candidate to be chosen in early 2018. The Board also participated in school run events including Watkins Mill High School’s Rock the Block, helping foster a community spirit.

To help promote all that has happened this year, all that will happen in the future and celebrate our residents, a few marketing initiatives were kicked off this year. To replace the previous “Flourish” branding campaign, the new campaign “What’s Your Story?” was established. This campaign focuses on residents, their stories and making connections to others through social networks through video interviews. It puts a face on Village residents who represent the diversity of the community.

Additionally, the Winter Recreation Guide has been revamped to include a more colorful, thoughtful layout and organization by age for ease of use. The online version also features direct links to the classes for easy registration through the Active platform. This is just one step in the future of recreation offerings for Village residents.

Of course, none of this could be pulled off without dedicated personnel at the MVF Office. 2017 is bittersweet, because although we have added a few new faces, it meant saying goodbye to a few long-time employees and pioneers of many aspects of the community. This year Peggy Mark and Diane Stasiewicz retired from MVF with a combined total of 78 years of service. Peggy spent 41 years shaping recreation in the community, and thanks to her efforts, residents enjoy many of the facilities, amenities, parks, playgrounds and programs established today.

Diane is putting 37 years of Architectural Standards knowledge, reviews, meetings, approvals and modifications on the shelf. Her dedication to preserving the standards the Kettler Brothers put in place and desire to work with residents on changes to their homes will certainly be missed.

In 2018 we are looking forward to many new and exciting things. A new Director of Architectural Standards will start working at MVF. Her fresh take on process, criteria, commercial architecture and potential new ideas may help advance the Village for years to come.

A Recreation Strategic Plan will analyze current programming, demographics and other statistics to help usher in new programs and align priorities for the future. A new Communications strategy will look at the ways we communicate and help foster change in the digital capabilities of MVF. 

Planning will begin for the next of our pool renovations, North Creek Pool, with renovation scheduled to begin after the 2019 season. This should be another exciting venture in updating amenities, and a great exercise in resident involvement.

Whatever your plans are for 2018, the Montgomery Village Foundation staff wishes you a happy, healthy new year and much success. We look forward to continuing to make Montgomery Village a great place to live, work and play as we venture to tell our story.