Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wohlfarth property to be cleared for park

Land one step closer to becoming green space in Chevy Chase Village

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Plans for a new urban park near the Friendship Heights Metro station came one step closer to completion at a Planning Board meeting Thursday.

The nearly two-acre site for which the park is proposed — known as the Wohlfarth property and located between Grove Street and Western Avenue — was acquired for $5 million in 2002 using Legacy Open Space funds and contributions from Chevy Chase Village.

Legacy Open Space funds are allotted to preserve land that is designated as historic or in need of protection. The program also includes an Urban Open Space category, which aims to designate open space in existing neighborhoods and along roads and highways.

Thursday, the Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the removal of a house and a garage located on the site, moving the project along on a path toward becoming an open, green space within the dense, commercial area.

The Wohlfarth property was identified in 2001 as meeting the criteria for the Legacy Open Space Program because it is a minimally developed, relatively large lot of land within one of the most densely developed areas in the county, according to the staff report.

The surrounding community has supported the decision to demolish the structures on the site.

‘‘The greater community is greatly looking forward to the time when the property can function as a true urban park for the benefit of the many residents and visitors to the area as well as the nearby neighbors,” wrote Phyllis Edelman, chairwoman of an umbrella group comprised of 17 civic associations near the park, in an April 24 letter to Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson.

‘‘To that end, we urge that the existing structure be demolished in order that a well designed park can be created,” she wrote.

Douglas Kamerow, chairman of the Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers, echoed the sentiment at the hearing, adding that removing the structures would eliminate the need for maintenance and the possibility of vandalism.

Chevy Chase Village has agreed to contribute $1.25 million — 25 percent of the acquisition costs for the space, over several years — and partner with the county and the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission in maintaining the site.

‘‘We have been and remain very much involved in this project,” Kamerow said.

A series of workshops are planned for the summer and fall to solicit community input on the project. The feedback will be used to develop an operation and use plan for the site – which will include the planning of trails, natural resources, signage, and parking – that must be approved by the Planning Board.

‘‘I think the Village is right,” Hanson said at the hearing. ‘‘Getting the structures down so people can visualize the park is useful.”