Permitting and Construction Related Updates

Permitting and Construction-Related Updates as of March 13, 2024

Overall Background

October 8, 2021, Nepal Education and Cultural Center (NECC) purchased the Germantown Property located at 22022 Ridge Road, Germantown, MD 20876 (new address 11650 Snowden Farm Parkway, Germantown, MD 20876). After the purchase, the NECC team primarily focused on renovating the existing buildings so that the temple could be moved to this location from the previous temple location at Beallsville, MD.

NECC’s overall strategy for the last two and a half years has been to first obtain permits for Shiva and Buddha statue installations and worship services at the property and then apply for preliminary plan approval permits after the statues were installed. NECC’s volunteers have been meeting with the county officials from the Department of Permitting Services, Park and Planning, and Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). Based on the input received from county officials during these meetings, NECC’s strategy has shifted toward obtaining the county’s approval of our preliminary plan (which also includes the site plan) first. Once that site plan approval is completed, we can proceed to obtain the permits for the statue installation.

During these meetings, NECC has developed a very good working relationship with the HPC. HPC staff and commissioners have shared several potential grant opportunities for the renovation of existing buildings. In addition, HPC approved the demolition of three smaller outbuildings and one silo.

The new NECC team is now working to finalize a site plan. That plan will be used in the preliminary plan application to the county. The team is currently discussing options to either hire a consulting firm or involve volunteer engineers for the application.

Preliminary Understanding before the Property Purchase

The site is considered as a historical site and known as The Howes Farm, also formerly referred to as the Elizabeth Waters Farm. The farmstead has several notable outbuildings: a machine shed, handyman room, pump house, hen house, 2 silos and feed room, and water tank house.

A feasibility study was conducted prior to purchase of the Germantown property to determine the use of the property for the temple and associated improvements. As per community survey response and internal discussion among NECC EC and BOT, NECC is proposing to construct a community center/multipurpose hall, two statue podiums, gardens, parking areas and associated improvements. A preliminary master plan has been prepared to communicate/discuss with the County. We met with Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) with different departments and Historical Planning Commission (HPC) at multiple occasions (May 27, 2021, July 22, 2021, and July 28, 2021) and also communicated via emails to confirm the property could be developed as per the preliminary master plan.

  1. 1. Property: The entire site area is 16.75 acre parcel. The site is under special protection area (SPA) and located on Clarksburg Master Plan Overlay Area. A stream passes from the east to southwest of the property to the south of the access driveway. An existing floodplain and septic area easement has been shown on plat.
  2. 2. Zoning: The subject site is zoned R-200 (Residential). Per county code, temple/church development is permitted by right on zoning R-200. There is no restriction for the temple construction. However the allowable impervious area within the property is limited to 20% of the site area.
  3. 3. Road: The current access to this property is through Snowden Parkway, which is county public right-of-way. The site road frontage is fully improved with sidewalk, street tree and lighting and a two lane drive open section with a median. No further road dedication and improvements may not be required.
  4. 4. Water and sewer: The subject property is in water and sewer community system W-3 and S-3 and have an existing 8” sewer and 12” water connection available at the Snowden Farm Parkway. A public water and sewer main should be extended to the site for the public water and sewer service. The site is currently served by a private septic system located at the northern boundary of the property and private well.
  5. 5. Streams and Floodplain: The site is encumbered with streams and floodplain. A 100-year floodplain easement already exists at site. A stream passes from the east to southwest of the property to the south of the access driveway. A 125 feet stream buffer is required. Similarly, a new floodplain study may be required to determine a 100 year floodplain elevation based on ultimate condition.
  6. 6. Existing Buildings and Improvements: As per discussion with HPC, the historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved (this includes the historic main building, the barn,and a silo). Some of the outbuildings and one silo may be allowed to raze and demolish. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided. An existing driveway access road need to be reconfigured and improved to the county standard for the fire truck access and vehicles traveling to premises.


Based on the input received from the county and our internal research, the volunteer engineering team concludes that the property can be developed for the community hall/Temple worship place (multipurpose building, two statues, peace garden, sufficient parking lots) and the proposed development can comply with the requirements of the Montgomery County Zoning ordinance, and with all other County, State, and Federal agencies regulations.

Existing Building Renovation Status

The current renovation status is as follows:

  • • Main building:
    • Major renovation of the interior of the main building is complete.
    • Roof replacement planning is underway, and quotes received from contractors. As this is a historical building, the plan is to use grants from the county and state historic authorities. Two separate grant applications for the roof replacement have been submitted in January 2024 and March 2024.
  • • Stone hut:
    • The stone hut has been renovated and currently has two toilets and a meeting room for the NECC team and community members to use.
  • • Silo room:
    • The silo room has been renovated internally. However, there is a leak on the roof in one place and the plan is to repair this by the end of the year 2024.
  • • Barn:
    • The State of Maryland has awarded a grant of $150,000 for the renovation of the Barn under the Legislative Bond Initiative (LBI). We have also submitted a matching grant application (Capital Cost Sharing Grant Program) to the Montgomery County’s Office of Grant Management. We approached three contractors with expertise in the restoration of historic properties and received ROM (rough order of magnitude) quotes. The quotes came in high and NECC plans to renovate the barn in several phases.


Podium Construction Updates

Podium constructions are currently undergoing the approval process. Gopal Mainali was hired as the architect to design and apply for permits. While design work has been completed, two permit applications are pending with the Department of Permitting Services (DPS). DPS’s zoning reviewers advised seeking approval or a waiver from Parks and Planning (MNCPPC) due to an existing Certified Site Plan for a 2500 sqft Country Inn Restaurant. MNCPPC staff suggested withdrawing the Certified Site Plan but noted the existence of a Preliminary Plan. Efforts to obtain construction quotes from general contractors are underway. However, the recorded Preliminary Plan designates the area as a legal parcel, necessitating either a new preliminary application or an amendment to the existing plan. Seeking assistance, NECC contacted Asian American liaison Shen Yi, who facilitated a meeting with Parks and Planning staff. Despite efforts to argue that the structures are primarily for landscaping purposes and do not require occupancy, Parks and Planning staff emphasized the religious nature of the structures and the restrictions outlined in the Preliminary Plan. They recommended pursuing an amendment, which involves a thorough process through the Planning Board. Consequently, construction on the podium is currently halted pending the resolution of these regulatory hurdles.

Plan for Barn Renovation

Volunteer Architect Prashant Gongal prepared the draft of the Project Charter, Statement of Work, and Owner Requirement document. These were reviewed by the Engineering team and the previous EC President and were approved. We reached out to design-build contractors with experience in the restoration of historic properties in Montgomery County. A contractor quoted a price exceeding $1.5 million to meet our specifications. Another suggested doubling the cost per square foot to $300, resulting in a ROM of $1 million.

We’ve encountered a delay in filing a request for funds release from the LBI Grant due to the lack of liability insurance. Efforts to reinstate the insurance are in the final stages with the underwriter. After we submit a grant application, approval may take up to six weeks for the grant office to release some funds. Given the recent developments in the podium construction regarding the Preliminary Plan, we are reconsidering our original plans for barn renovation. It seems we’ll need to wait until the Preliminary Plan is finalized. In the meantime, we’re contemplating using grant funds to make the barn structurally sound through an as-is renovation approach. The engineering team will meet and finalize the approach.

Plan for Preliminary-Plan (Site plan) Approval

In 1984, the previous owner approached the Montgomery County Planning Board (MPB) with a preliminary plan 1-84006 to develop the site into a 2,500 sq ft Country Inn restaurant. The plan was approved in 1987 and later amended in 1990 with approved plat 18056. The certified plat states that the site use and conditions are limited to the approved preliminary plan 1-84006. This does not allow NECC to build any other structure on this property unless it is an Inn. A modification to the preliminary plan or new preliminary plan needs to be submitted to MPB and approved to meet NECC’s vision and goal.

This limitation for development was mentioned during the permit discussion of the Siva and Buddha Podium with the Planning Division staff. The Planning staff recommended that the MPB will have to void the previous preliminary plan for development other than that listed in the plat. NECC is planning to submit a new preliminary plan to MPB which will be the amendment of the existing plan. This is a critical task that needs to be completed before we plan to do any development on the site.

The best route to get this task done is by bringing a planning consultant with experience in preliminary plan procedures at the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). NECC team will develop a scope of work and RFP for this purpose. The team will also plan for consultation with HPC, MNCPPC, and other County departments to ensure success in this process.

HPC Communication and Agreement Established

NECC has been in communication with HPC via email and via Historic Area Work Permit application. The following understanding/agreements have been made with HPC.

  1. 1. Conceptual agreement regarding the development of the property as per our preliminary site plan submitted during the Property Feasibility Study conducted before the property purchase in July 2021.
  2. 2.Demolition of the three small outbuildings and West Silo: NECC has obtained approval from HPC to demolish these structures; as for compensation NECC has to install two interpretive signs near the right of way.
  3. 3. Roof Replacement of the Main Building: NECC applied for a permit to replace the roof of the main building with asphalt shingles or standing seam material, however, this alteration was denied by HPC. Since the existing roofing materials are available in the market, NECC is obliged for in-kind roof replacement.
  4. 4. Swapping the door of the Main building; NECC requested HPC to allow swapping of the main door for insurance purposes, this application was approved from the staff level.
  5. 5. Podium construction: NECC presented its case for constructing two podiums at the property; the preliminary consultation meeting requested additional features (lighting and drawing of the podiums in relation to our site plan) to be added to the site plan. NECC will apply for a HAWP application with the required information.


NECC intends to submit a site plan and barn renovation plan (upon finalizing the contractor) for HPC approval in near future.

Miscellaneous Topics

  1. 1. Signpost near the front entrance of the property:
    • DPS has issued a citation for the NECC signpost near the right of way. A permit application has already been applied. DPS has requested information regarding building materials. After this is submitted, NECC expects this to be resolved.
  2. 2. Worship permit
    • The historic building (main building) is a residential building. The county will require this building to be converted to commercial usage for worship functions. NECC had consulted with DPC for a change of use permit, where the county presented additional criteria that would require an addition to the building and will require HPC approval. The amendment to the preliminary plan will help us convert the site to a commercial property.
    • In the meantime, the NECC is looking to perform a code review for ancillary use in a residential building for worship.
  3. 3. Neighbors relationship
    • A neighbor has requested some privacy between NECC and their property; NECC has already initiated a project to plant privacy trees on that side of the property.
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