Metro project opponents to focus on parking, open space at hearing

Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006

After several years of negotiations and changes to plans for a residential development at the Takoma Metro station, some Takoma Park and Takoma, D.C., residents remain dissatisfied about how the project would affect the neighborhood.

Some hope their testimonies at a hearing hosted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority tonight will be enough to allow for design changes and put to rest what they see as problems with the proposal by Arlington-based development firm EYA.

‘‘I understand that folks are passionate about this site ... but there are folks who want to see development there, and an active village green,” said Jack Lester, vice president of EYA. ‘‘It’s a public process.”

According to a joint development contract approved June 2005 between WMATA and the Takoma Metro Associates Limited Partnership, a venture working out of the offices of EYA, a portion of the 6.8 acres at the Takoma Metro station would be revamped to make room for 86 townhouses, an additional bus bay and modified green space. The contract, valued at just under $8 million, was signed based on the approved number of market-rate townhouses and is subject to change.

Lester said many of the revisions to the plan so far have been driven by Metro officials, including a second option to address the community’s parking concerns, or what he called ‘‘the crux issue” for WMATA board members to ponder. A two-level deck, rather than surface parking alone, would provide 128 spaces, a reduction of the 147 surface spots currently available. But Lester said the 33 street spaces left over after development in addition to the parking deck would bring that number up to 160 spots in the area, more than exist today.

Lester added that the firm would never ‘‘shut the door” to the community’s concerns about the property’s land use. The compact hearing is one step, he said, in allowing WMATA to decide what it deems appropriate for its facilities. The ultimate decision lies with the Federal Transit Administration.

But residents are not satisfied with the current plans, citing parking issues and a lack of green space. ‘‘We want to go through a real process ... look at alternatives for this site, and the realm of potential,” said Washington, D.C.,-based architectural designer Lex Ulibarri, who drew up an alternative plan for the Friends of Takoma Transit.

Ulibarri’s conceptual plan aims to preserve more green space near the station by allowing only the minimum number of townhouses, around 65, on the site.

The hearing, at which members of the Takoma Park City Council, the District’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Friends of Takoma Transit are expected to testify, will be held 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. today at Trinity Episcopal Church, 7005 Piney Branch Road NW, Washington, D.C.

Takoma Park officials are worried about the lack of space for future development on the site.

‘‘Even if later everyone says, ‘Well yes, we really made a mess of that,’ there won’t be the finances to put back into the transit facilities,” Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter said at the city council meeting Oct. 3. At that meeting, council members unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the development as planned, citing a reduction in parking, bike storage and not enough space to accommodate future work on the site.

Metro project Hearing
A hearing on proposed development near the Takoma Metro will be held 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. today at Trinity Episcopal Church, 7005 Piney Branch Road NW, Washington, D.C. Residents can submit letters or e-mails to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority until 5 p.m. Oct. 25. Written statements should be submitted to Debra Johnson at WMATA, 600 Fifth St. NW, Washington D.C. E-mails may be sent to
Sara Green, an ANC commissioner in Takoma, D.C., said plans to provide two-car garages for future residents of the development hurt the goals of transit-oriented development.

Faith Wheeler, another ANC commissioner in Takoma, D.C., said walking would be more hazardous at the site with buses, cars and pedestrians sharing space in and outside of the station. And elevator access for handicapped commuters would be limited as well.

Not all residents oppose the plans. For Alice Giancola, who has lived up the street from the station on Cedar Avenue since 1981, the situation has been blown out of proportion. Most of her neighbors, she said, approve of the development. Bringing more people into the neighborhood will only improve it, she added, and although she is concerned about the parking plans, she doesn’t have a problem with the rest of the project design.

‘‘It’s like the world is going to come to an end if we don’t stop this,” Giancola said. ‘‘When I talk to [residents], they want to see some activity, stores that they can patronize. But they’re all very tired of all this discussion.”