Takoma Metro apartment plan draws opposition from residents -- Gazette.Net


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With some holding signs, dozens of Takoma Park and Washington, D.C., residents registered their continued disapproval of a development project proposed at the Takoma Metro Station during a public hearing on Wednesday.

Parking and traffic issues have not been fully analyzed, said Sara Hayden, a Takoma Park resident speaking before the hearing called by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“We are a vibrant community,” she said. “We don’t need to be promised a vibrant community.”

WMATA and private firm EYA have sought to build around the station, which is on Cedar Street in Washington, D.C., just over the Takoma Park border, for more than a decade. The latest changes, unveiled last year, call for about 200 apartment units, shelving an earlier proposal for townhomes.

Some Takoma residents have joined with neighbors in Washington, D.C., to call for more limited development, saying the plan could put in place an apartment complex as high as six or seven stories. EYA plans call for the building to only be as high as four stories.

But part of the building could reach 72 feet high, which would not conform with zoning regulations, opponents say.

Not all of the speakers opposed EYA’s proposal. Elise Ambrose, a Takoma Park resident, said the taller portion feared by many residents will be set back far enough from the street that it won’t be an issue. She said afterward that she knew many neighbors who thought the present proposal was fine, but they didn’t want to voice such thoughts in public.

“For 16 years, EYA has been involved with this,” Ambrose said. “That’s absurd.”

Several speakers brandished signs reading, “Right-sized, Not Super-sized Development.” One woman displayed a hand-painted sign reading, “WMATA Liars.”

Joseph Radzievich, a member of a group of Takoma Park and Washington, D.C., residents who joined together to lobby for “right-sized” development, said the current proposal had a “flawed” traffic study and did not take into account the historical district and “character of the neighborhood.” He and others called for a citizens panel to be formed to make recommendations.

Takoma Park Mayor Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilman Seth Grimes were among officials who voiced concerns over the proposal and asked for the city to be a partner in the design process.

Montgomery County Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park, state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington also registered concerns over the current proposal.

The project plans to reconfigure the drop-off lot to reduce metered parking spaces from 141 to 85, add some new spaces for taxis, handicapped drivers and others, and build new walking and biking pathways.

A WMATA traffic analysis concluded that the proposed development will add 44 vehicles in the morning peak period and 54 vehicles in the evening peak time.

The analysis suggested adding a 100-foot-long right-turn pocket on westbound Carroll Street before Cedar Street and eliminating curbside parking on northbound Piney Branch Road between Dahlia Street and Eastern Avenue.

But that traffic study ignores other area construction and downplays current traffic problems and the effect of adding parking for the new apartment residents while cutting public parking, opponents say.

The Metro board has approved executing an agreement with EYA but still has to vote on the final report and amended plan. The issue could also go before other bodies, such as the Washington, D.C., Historic Preservation Review Board.

kshay@gazette.net