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Laytonsville’s two dozen historic homes, located primarily along its major thoroughfares, give the town a distinctive character. The town’s government has sought to preserve and celebrate this heritage. In 1990 it created a historic district and a commission, which I have led since 2019, to make sure that the town’s historic resources are not demolished or marred by tasteless alterations. In 2000, the town purchased a classic home built in the 1880s to serve as a town hall, and it annually hosts a parade down its historic main street. The town’s historic homes and businesses, together with the efforts of their owners, make Laytonsville a special place.

Ghosts haunt an 1891 home in Laytonsville’s historic district, Fall 2022

I believe that the town must continue to sustain the vibrancy of its historic core. Already this year the Historic District Commission approved the fire department’s plan to install some amazingly quick-opening roll-up garage doors to replace the current doors that sometimes malfunction. And both that commission and the Town Council approved plans for a new house to be built on the vacant lot roughly across Laytonsville Road from St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. This house will, when constructed, complete the development of Laytonsville Preserve.

Artist’s conception of the new house recently approved for 21620 Laytonsville Road

The owners of the Citgo station at the traffic light installed new underground pipes and valves in 2022 to assure environmentally safe receipt and storage of the fuel sold there. Six parcels on the west side of Laytonsville Road in the town’s historic core are currently zoned for commercial use. These are occupied by Erdle’s Garage, All Stage and Sound, Frye Insurance, and Boyland Electric. But the Citgo station, Atco Tire, and two undeveloped lots across Howard Avenue from Atco Tire were rezoned from commercial to residential use in 1990. The gas station and Atco have been operating legally since 1990 on the basis of their use prior to the 1990 zoning changes. Their continued work is made less secure, however, by a provision of the zoning ordinance that would prevent their reconstruction in the event they are damaged by fire or otherwise to an extent greater than 25 percent of their value. I believe that the town should repeal the provision preventing the reconstruction of the buildings of these legal, though non-conforming, businesses in the event of their suffering some catastrophic casualty. They are useful establishments that contribute to Laytonsville’s small-town character.

The undeveloped lot on Laytonsville Road just north of Howard Street was also rezoned from commercial to residential in 1990. It is apparently now used as a commercial parking lot without authorization. I believe the Mayor and the Town Council should decide either to ban that use as contrary to the zoning ordinance or to amend the ordinance to permit such use. My preference would be to amend the ordinance as I think the parcel’s current use fits with the mixed commercial and residential character of our town’s main street.

Homeowners in the historic district are entitled to receive property tax credits for qualified expenditures for the maintenance and restoration of historic residences and outbuildings. The town should make sure that these homeowners are apprised of the historic restoration tax credit programs offered by Montgomery County and the State of Maryland and should assist them in the application process. The preservation of historic structures not only enhances our town but also has won the support of our county and state governments.

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