Potomac: Possible Loss of Tennis Club Upsets Members

Potomac: Possible Loss of Tennis Club Upsets Members

New assisted living facility is proposed.

Bonnie Kind, Julie Altar and Lisa Raker enjoy a morning of tennis.

Bonnie Kind, Julie Altar and Lisa Raker enjoy a morning of tennis. Photo by Susan Belford.


Teaching pro Elan Mizrahi

Potomac Tennis and Fitness Club (PTC) and Potomac Pilates members are fearful, angry and disheartened that their favorite recreational facility may be demolished within a year or two. The tennis and fitness facility is located in the heart of Potomac, adjacent to the Falls Road Golf Course and next to Manor Care and Normandy Farm Restaurant. Twelve Har-Tru courts and a Tudor-style clubhouse overlook the rolling hills of the golf course sprinkled with blooming trees in the spring and a myriad of colors in the fall.

Founded in 1977, PTC provides members with competition, friendships, active sports, lessons, junior clinics and more. Many of the current members have been playing tennis and working out there since it opened. As retired dentist Leo Altar said, “If PTC closes, I will have no place to quickly drive to for tennis, camaraderie and doubles partners.”

PTC currently has more than 200 families who are tennis and fitness members, and another 320 monthly who take classes at Potomac Pilates. Early bird tennis (from 6-9 a.m.), interclub tennis teams, tennis tournaments, tennis mixers and parties, Pilates classes and personal training are some of the reasons that members are so committed to the club.

Director of Tennis John McDaniel said, “Given how unique a facility the Potomac Tennis & Fitness Club is, it would be a pity to lose a place like this. No other pure tennis facility can offer what we do. With our location and the fact that everything else is a country club, we can provide those individuals who only play tennis players with a facility to meet their needs.”

Another issue is that the members are retiring and aging – and they require tennis courts that will accommodate their aging joints. “The country clubs in Potomac all have Har-Tru courts,” said member Lisa Raker. “However, they are not accessible to everyone in Potomac because of their high initiation fees. My friends and I feel fortunate to have this club available to us — there is nothing like it in our area. If PTC closed, we would have to drive 35-40 minutes to the Aspen Hill Club to play on Har-Tru.”

The club is currently owned by Helen Marshall, who has entered into a purchase/sales agreement with Brandywine Senior Living, a New Jersey company which provides health care services to seniors. They have proposed to build an assisted-living facility on the Potomac Tennis Club property.

PTC has operated under a “special exception” zoning ruling since opening in 1977. Brandywine would have to apply for a special exception, or request a change in zoning. The West Montgomery Citizen’s Association will be involved in the approval process. In its May 15, 2015 newsletter, its president, Susanne Lee, wrote, “The owner of the property on which the Potomac Tennis Club operates on Falls Road is proposing the construction of a new senior living residence on the site. The four-acre property is currently zoned RE-2 Residential (minimum lot size 2 acres). Although a formal application has not yet been filed, Brandywine Senior Living, an organization operating a large number of such facilities on the east coast, will propose what it terms a senior residence, including a unit for those with memory issues. It will include 110-120 suites and will be three stories in the front and two stories in the back. The building will be constructed to LEED green building standards and include substantial storm water management on site and extensive landscaping. Representatives of the owner of the property have indicated that the tennis club will probably be able to operate through at least one more indoor season, but the long-term plans are that the tennis club will no longer exist at this site.”

PTC and Potomac Pilates Members, as well as neighbors to the facility are upset with the plan. Member Ken Gross said, “The PTC members and neighbors plan on fighting this project tooth and nail. The club is a unique facility that has been part of the fabric of the community for decades. To turn it into a three-story 110-plus unit living facility on a four-acre lot would be a travesty. Consequently, the members have engaged the law firm of Knopf and Brown as counsel to oppose the project. The PTC is ready to speak out.”

Member Joy Marcus said, “Geographically this club takes care of a segment of the population who want to exercise and socialize. The members feel like this is home. It’s not an exclusive club and all are welcome to join here. We all have the same goals of staying fit while having fun with friends. Demolishing this club would separate many who meet here on a regular basis.”

Early-bird player George Varghese said, “PTC is a major part of our wellness and fitness regimen on a daily basis. The friendships and bonds among the members adds to the quality of our lives and we are dependent on PTC for our physical and mental well being. Many of us are in our 60s, 70s and 80s and have been members for a very long time. It would be very difficult for us to replicate what we have here.”

“The beauty of tennis is that it is a life-time sport,” said PTC teaching pro Elan Mizrahi. “We start children when they are very young, continue with them in our junior clinics — and many then go on to play on high school teams, earning college scholarships and playing throughout their lives. I enjoy seeing the constant improvement and level of activity of our members. We have people of all ages here — from 3 to 90 who love the game of tennis.”

Potomac Pilates is located on the second floor of the clubhouse. Its Pilates classes would be affected by the sale. Reina Offutt Pratt, owner and president of Potomac Pilates said, “Potomac Pilates would be disappointed if the Potomac Tennis Club were to sell. At our Potomac location, the first of our three locations, we see between 80-100 people daily and have about 320 unique clients per month. The proximity of The Potomac Tennis Club to our clients of over nine years, the parking and the community atmosphere make this location an ideal fit for Potomac Pilates' needs. I feel there is a lack of fitness businesses with a brick and mortar location in The Village. It would be a shame for the tennis club and fitness facility to close. Potomac Pilates would have to find a new site in the four corners of the Potomac Village, though we would prefer to stay within the Potomac Tennis Club.”

More than 70 members attended the WMCCA meeting on Nov. 13, 2013 to protest potential rezoning of the property. At that time, the owner was seeking rezoning in order to build townhouses on the property. Ginny Barnes, 2013 president and board member of WMCCA, wrote in her email of Nov. 28, 2013, “The WMCCA decided to oppose any rezoning of the PTC property and we have written the chair of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission stating our opposition. We would like to see the property continue as a tennis club and we believe it is a viable option given interest shown by two adjacent facilities and the 65-plus people who attended our meeting.”

Val Gordon, who was a charter member of PTC, sums up the feelings of the members: “When I moved to Potomac in 1977 one of the very first things I did was find a tennis club. And I have been here ever since. The possibility of a sale is heartbreaking as I have made so many good friends, played on so many teams and had so many good times here.”