GRANOLAPARK: Borderline development

Takoma Park's Holden Lane, before and after. From 2012 Montgomery County Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

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.

Crossroads

The county’s vision of what the Takoma Langley Crossroads might look like.

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.

From the city’s New Hampshire Avenue Sector Plan.

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.

From the city’s New Hampshire Avenue Sector Plan.

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.

plans

Proposed houses, corner of Jackson and Ethan Allen Avenues.

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.

– Gilbert

 

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

3 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Borderline development"

  1. Our line is Purple. People can donate at purplelinenow.com to try to combat the NIMBYism coming out Chevy Chase.

  2. “That kind of development is coming to Long Branch at the corner of PIney Branch Road and Flower.” – Can you elaborate on what you mean by this? Despite the county’s Long Branch Sector Master Plan, which updates some zoning and provides a few recommendations on future development, what concrete steps have property managers, landlords, or commercial tenants taken to move toward the development at this intersection that you see in downtown Silver Spring? Thanks!

  3. Cosme, concrete (heh) steps will be taken once the landlords, property managers, etc. are assured the Purple Line will be built.

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