GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
New city planner Daniel Sonenklar presented an overview of development projects on city borders at the March 8 city council meeting. It was good to be reminded of the potentially huge transformation ahead for Takoma Park’s northeastern borderlands.
You know how Silver Spring went from forgotten to discovered? Thirty years ago it was compared to bombed-out Beirut, Now it is full of new or under-construction high-rise apartment buildings, stores and restaurants.
That kind of development is coming to Long Branch at the corner of PIney Branch Road and Flower. It will roll north up Piney Branch Road to University Boulevard, folwing the Purple Line light rail – assuming it gets funded and built.
The Purple Line and the development will go all the way down the boulevard, which is the city’s boundary, to what used to be known as Langley Park, but is now called Takoma Langley Crossroads, at the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue. If the Langley Park Punks were dead, they’d be spinning in their graves.
The Purple Line will end there, but future development won’t. Plans call for it to take a right hand turn onto New Hampshire Avenue and go south all the way to the Washington, DC border at Eastern Avenue.
From Long Branch to Eastern Avenue is over three miles, two and a half of them along the city’s border or close to it. That’s about half the entire six-mile border. It forms a rough crescent shape embracing half the city on the east. This is the “New Avenue” or New Hampshire Avenue Corridor Concept Plan.
Imagine University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue looking more like Silver Spring’s Ellsworth Avenue – if Ellsworth Avenue were six lanes wide. Add trees, bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly crossings. And rush-hour commuter traffic. Nothing was mentioned about that.
Will property values rise within walking distance of the new development? Will the sun rise in the east?
Will this change the development area demographics? Likely. Will the city see a population boom as new folks move into the development’s mixed-use buildings? Uh-huh. Will this change the area’s demographics? Of course! Will this add tax revenue to the city’s vaults? Yep! Will it cost the city in additional services? Not so much, It is more likely to cost the county which provides more social services.
Will the developers pay the county for the additional burden on the schools. Nope.
That’s because this is a RE-development. A developer building on previously undeveloped land – farms or woodlands – does have to pay for those additional burdens. But, when that law was passed re-development wasn’t included.
Some questions that weren’t asked: will this take focus and business away from Takoma Old Town and Takoma Junction? In ten years will the Co-op wish it had relocated out to New Hampshire Avenue instead of locking itself into its Junction storefront? Will the development-focused residents in the new housing and the nearby neighborhoods even know they are in Takoma Park?
Out of line
In a work session discussion, the Takoma Park City Council heard from the developer and neighbors about a couple of houses proposed for the corner of Ethan Allen and Jackson Avenues.
The problem is that one of the houses doesn’t line up with the rest of the houses down the Ethan Allen block. So, the next-door neighbor would have a view of the rear of the house from his front yard. And a view of his property values plummeting. There is such a thing as alignment, and rules about houses lining up with their neighbors. In this case, the neighbors think the county didn’t realize the proposed house was out of line. The designer team said, no, they met all the county regulations.
The developer is not crazy about going back to the drawing board. Especially since the reason the proposed house was located at the front of the lot was to meet a city requirement to save a “specimen tree” in the back.
The council explored the issue to see whether they needed to get involved. It appeared they did. They might decide to waive the requirement to save the tree. City staff will also check with county about county permits issued to the developer.
The developer was not happy with the prospect of going back to the drawing board. If forced to drastically redesign the project, he said, he’d build one huge house and one tiny one that the city and neighborhood would be unhappy with.
The council was actually interested in that idea. They thought it might fit in with their affordable housing goals.
Like us on Facebook: