GRANOLAPARK: Beyond torches and pitchforks

Recent public hearing on the Takoma Junction redevelopment proposals.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

It’s getting beyond torches and pitchforks. It’s starting to look like a necktie party.

The Takoma Junction redevelopment process was supposed to be one of presentation, feedback, revision; repeated until everyone was happy.

Instead a sizable group of people is saying “down with the process!”

Does that group represent the public? It’s hard to tell.

Does that group represent the TPSS Co-op? Why, yes it does.

The cause of the fuss is the redevelopment of the city-owned Takoma Junction lot. Currently it is a parking lot and a steep, wooded slope. The city made a public request for proposals and chose four they considered the best. They are in the process of thinning four development groups down to one, using a series of public meetings to develop a dialog between citizens and developers – and see which developer best responds.

No clue?

The majority turning out for public meetings proclaim themselves Co-op supporters (or employees or board-members). The TPSS Co-op grocery store is the Junctions anchor store, eager to expand. Either the public majority is on the Co-op’s side, or the Co-op is very good at turning out supporters. Let’s just say our Gilbert suspects most residents have no clue there’s a development process in the works.

The next sizable bunch is Sycamore Avenue residents.  A block of Sycamore borders one side of the Co-op. They fear negative impacts on nearby homes and traffic if the Takoma Junction development is too big.

The council is listening to these folks, especially the Co-op supporters. So are the developers. They all get it. The Co-op wants space for a loading dock and it wants to keep operating through the construction. The developers are talking to the Co-op. Everybody is on board.

That’s not good enough for some. They want to knock the process off the rails. The process has been criticized and challenged at every public meeting. There’s group meeting this evening with an agenda item expressing concern about the process.

Is the Co-op taking advantage of public meetings and an apathetic citizenry by turning out legions of supporters to overturn the process and make the city start over – with the Co-op’s plan? Are they really just throwing a tantrum?

Your Gilbert couldn’t possibly comment.

Junction2

The city-owned lot.

We do know those folks are meeting tonight to discuss “an alternative community vision for development of Takoma Junction” according to an email announcement.

It says the city’s request for proposals causes concern. It says the Co-op’s needs are not being met. It says the city isn’t taking development’s effect on traffic into account.

AND it says the city is not following the Takoma Junction Task Force recommendations, a charge made by many at public hearings.

Council screw up?

Did the city council screw up when it failed to follow the Takoma Junction Task Force recommendations? Yes and no.

The report is not the road map some people make it out to be. It offers a range of 6 options, but doesn’t recommend any of them over the others.

The only recommendations are a set of guidelines which apply to all of the options. You can read the report yourself, or you can click below for Your Gilbert’s summary of the recommendations. With comments, of course.

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Guide to the Takoma Junction Rambunction

Summary of the Takoma Junction Task Force Report recommendations

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The council was under no obligation to follow the recommendations. They did not vote on any part of the task force report. It was only advice.

As it turned out, the council did follow many of the recommendations. Some they started off with. Others were since prompted by public feedback. It would have saved time if the council had started by following all the recommendations, especially the one that said the city should give instructions and information based on the task force report to any developers.

If they had, they could have avoided some controversy. The original plans wouldn’t have shown three-story buildings (report says not to exceed two) or buildings on the wooded side.

Public feedback pushed the developers into reading the report. References to it can be seen in their revisions and in the answers to questions put to them.

Tonight’s (Nov. 13) citizen meeting is 7:30 PM at Historic Takoma, 7328 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park,

The next public meeting is an Open House on the Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals, Tues., Nov 18, 6:30 – 9:30 PM. Takoma Park Community Center, Azalea Room,7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park, MD. Meet the four finalist teams to learn more about their proposals and revisions in response to community feedback.

Bring your own necktie.

A recent Voice article about the Takoma Junction Task Force report by Naomi Eide.

– Gilbert

 PS. Dear Readers – are you trying to post comments, but they don’t show up? Email us at editor@tpssvoice.com.

 

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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.

5 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Beyond torches and pitchforks"

  1. I also suspect that the great majority of Takoma Park residents know nothing about proposals to redevelop the Junction and do not care whether any development takes the Co-op into consideration. It does seem like the anti-development forces are being roused by the Co-op, Historic Takoma, and immediate neighbors of the Co-op. Very few of the rest of Takoma Park has appeared at public meetings. Many of us do not care about the Co-op because we do not shop there–either because of the products offered, prices, or it’s just not near us. And whatever happens, I hope the council and the city don’t do another web poll because those polls don’t bring out any significant portion of the population from many wards that would be affected by tax increases should the city decide to turn the lot investment into a Morris Dance platform and “public space” that needs constant maintenance and attention. If that happens, we need to lead a group to secede from Old Town.

  2. I find that Ms. Barden is making a great many assertions on the behalf of Takoma Park residents and I cannot help but wonder if she is anywhere near accurate. I am not a Takoma Park resident, but I shop and visit Takoma Park frequently. It is a breathe of fresh air compared to many of the other communities in Montgomery county. I love the small scale stores and restaurants as well as the village vibe. The famer’s market is one of the best around. And so is the Co-op?

    Why this distain for the co-op? It is a key characteristic of Takoma Park. There is nothing like it anywhere around.

    I simply cannot believe that Takoma Park doesn’t value it’s unique characteristics (and it’s co-op) as much as we non-resident apparently do.

    Whatever happens, I sincerely hope Takoma park doesn’t end up being “just another suburb” like most of the rest of Montgomery County. Takoma Park is a treasure and should be valued as such by its residents and government.

  3. I am independent, not affiliated with the Co-op, Historic Takoma, and immediate neighbors of the Co-op. I am against significant development of the junction (wouldn’t rule out something small, but that’s probably not economically viable). I’m not for Coop expansion. The Coop is great for what it is, but way overpriced many years after moving to this location and doing well. An expansion would put the Coop in debt and maintain high prices or push them higher. I choose to live in Takoma Park because, as MoniqueDC says, of it’s village vibe and unique characteristics. I just don’t see the case for development. I’m not against building a private residence on the wooded lot. Why are we even talking about development? It’s amazing to me that this isn’t the first thing we hear, with a case made loud and clear for development, taking into account the drawbacks.

  4. Patty Barden | November 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm |

    Actually, the assertions I make are based on the actual population of Takoma Park vs. the minuscule portion of that population that comes out to oppose the professional work of city management and staff on the RFP issued under the direction of the Council, and also on casual conversations I’ve had with friends and residents here who had no idea about any Junction development. I have no disdain for the Co-op. I just don’t shop there. For me, and for many others (again, the population of Takoma Park vs. the number of Co-op members and shoopers) the Co-op offers nothing that I can’t get at other stores at lower prices and much that I do not want. It is also not convenient for me. The issue I have, and I’ll repeat it, is that the city-owned empty lot under development consideration brings in no tax revenue and provides only minor parking benefits, food trucks that I can’t afford and am not interested in driving to, and a space for once or twice a year gathering. To develop it for a public space would also bring no tax revenue and would require city maintenance and money. To develop it for reasonably-sized commerce would potentially bring a sale of the lot and tax revenue. Whether the Co-op gets special consideration in that development is up to how much the city, the developer, and the Co-op cooperate with each other.

  5. Theo asks “Why are we even talking about development?”

    This is why. Many years ago, the lot was for sale by the the previous (private) owner. Rumors abounded that chain stores (CVS, McDonalds) were interested in it. This was not the development residents wanted. To prevent this, and with a long-range plan in mind of bringing in development that residents preferred, the city bought the lot.

    The city made it available as a parking lot, and various committees and groups discussed what to do with it and the Junction in general. Then last year the Co-op came forward with an offfer to use the lot for an expansion.

    The city would have been roundly and justly criticised if it had simply accepted the offer. The councll did the right thing – which was to invite other proposals, and set up a process to judge which offer was the best deal for the city and residents. This was the only responsible approach.

    – Gilbert

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