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Kentlands, Lakelands, a mews, and traffic safety

Heavy traffic in a small place is cause for concern

“Back in the day,” when what we now think of as Lakelands belonged to National Geographic, the land that we now think of as Lake Street did as well. That changed when the Kentlands and Lakelands developers traded small parcels of land as Lakelands came into being.

Adding Lake Street to Kentlands was not as simple as the developers hoped. There was no easy way to connect it to the Kentlands street network because Kent Oaks Way was complete as were all the houses along its East side. Lake Street was landlocked. Great Seneca Development solved this problem by using a short section of Kent Oaks Mews to provide the necessary connection.

As time passed, Lakelands was built out, families moved in, and Lakelands Middle School was built. It came to pass that the younger Lakelands children generally attend Rachel Carson Elementary and the slightly older group in Kentlands go to Lakelands Middle.

That neighborhood evolution caused the 100-foot-long section of Kent Oaks Mews that had been drafted into service as a minor connection to become an important short cut going both ways. It now handles far more traffic than was probably expected and certainly more than appropriate for its design. Importantly, a significant amount of that traffic appears to involve people who are in a hurry, drive a bit more rapidly than may be desirable, leave the pavement as necessary to allow two-way traffic in the 12-foot wide mews, and pay only slight honor to the stop sign that the City of Gaithersburg installed where the mews empties into Kent Oaks Way.

Many of the people who live nearby have become concerned about safety in that heavily traveled mews. They are especially concerned for the safety of the children who walk in and across the mews on their way to and from school and the children who play in the mews when school is not in session. Those folks are taking action to improve things.

Addressing those concerns is not as simple as might be hoped because, while the mews belongs to the Kentlands Citizens Assembly, its function as the connection between Lake Street and the rest of Kentlands is part of the official plan that was approved by the City of Gaithersburg. Its dual status, private property that supports public travel, adds even more complexity to an already tricky situation.

With the Board’s agreement, 12 volunteers led by Steve Smith have formed the Kent Oaks Mews Working Group (KOMWG). The KOMWG has developed preliminary ideas to improve the safety of the area. Those ideas, which are in the process of being presented to the Kentlands Historical Trust, the KCA Board of Trustees, and the City of Gaithersburg call for a mirror to improve driver vision in the area, added curb and sidewalk on the North side of the mews to provide a safe walking area for the children, and barriers — either bollards and chain or small boulders — on the South side to keep drivers on the pavement and slow traffic a bit.

Those interested in the Kent Oaks Mews issue are welcome to submit their comments by email at president@kentlandstowncrier.com or to attend the May Board of Trustees meeting (May 24th at 7:30 PM at the Clubhouse) at which the various proposals are likely to be discussed.

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