Tuesday, June 25, 2013

City/council update -- July 1 welcome for new City Manager Brian Kenner

Neighbors, please join the city council in welcoming Takoma Park's new city manager, Brian Kenner, at a Monday, July 1 dessert reception at the community center, 6:45 pm - 7:25 pm.

The July 1 council meeting agenda includes "Discussion of Safe Roadways Committee/Residential Streetscape Task Force," which is to say, the possibility of repurposing Safe Roadways Committee to include broader streets responsibilities. That's a worksession discussion, involving council and staff only, scheduled to begin at 9:40 pm.

The council will also discuss state legislative advocacy for the 2014 legislative season, which runs January-April next year, preceding which, scheduled for 8:55 pm, we have an update from the Committee on the Environment.

Finally, my next Ward 1 councilmember drop-in office time is Wednesday, June 26, 8 am - 9 am at 7006 Carroll Avenue #202. Just come by, or contact me to make an appointment if you want to be sure of private discussion time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Letter to WMATA on Takoma Metro Station Development

Washington DC ANC 4B Commissioners Sara Green and Faith Wheeler and I have written to WMATA concerning development at the Takoma Metro Station.

(ANC = Advisory Neighborhood Commission. ANCs are local-level elected bodies. Decoding abbreviations in the letter: EYA is the developer, and PUD stands for Planned Unit Development, a Washington DC development-review process.)

Mayor Williams has scheduled a WMATA presentation on development plans for the July 22 city-council meeting. Time is of the essence, however; WMATA staff's schedule calls for plans to be presented on July 11, for approval, to the WMATA board's Planning, Program Development, and Real Estate (PPDRE) committee, and on July 25 to the full WMATA board for approval of modification of the earlier WMATA-EYA joint-development agreement.

This is our letter -- and please do forward this message to anyone you think might be interested in seeing it --


June 19, 2013

Mr. Stan Wall, Director
Real Estate and Station Planning
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
600 5th Street, NW
Washington DC 20001

Dear Mr. Wall,

Thank you for meeting with us, elected officials in the Takoma DC and Takoma Park MD area that includes and surrounds the Takoma Metro station,to discuss plans for real estate development on the Takoma Metro site. This responsive and transparent approach to community outreach is a welcome change, and is very much appreciated.

We are eager to work with you to ensure that plans for the Takoma Metro site advance in a way that is prompt, open and collaborative, which will lead to the best result: a design that serves community transit needs and preserves the quality of life for surrounding residents and transit users. And we are interested in moving forward swiftly, without unnecessary delays.

At the same time, we cannot agree to a rushed, opaque process that puts the cart before the horse by granting approval before the proposed design is thoroughly vetted. Decision makers at WMATA should not be asked to vote to approve a contract, contract amendment, or design before having in hand a comprehensive traffic impact analysis. Nor should they act without consulting with the affected local governments and the community. Thus, we are firmly opposed to the WMATA Committee taking a vote before a traffic impact analysis is thoroughly reviewed by citizens and local officials. The very first step should be to make the proposed design public immediately. At our May 31 meeting, you said that a station-planning study was nearing completion. Please also release that study as soon as it is complete.

A comprehensive traffic impact analysis is essential. Since a study of the impact of the proposed design on traffic, safety and access to the station might affect the proposed design, it would cost less and save time to have the study in hand before reaching decisions about the final design instead of making adjustments after the study is completed. We are interested in discussing with you the details of such a study. Thank you in advance for making sure that this analysis is promptly undertaken.

Once the traffic impact analysis is complete, citizens and local officials need a reasonable amount of time to review and comment on the design and its traffic impacts. We would consider a 45 day public comment period to be the minimum acceptable. Then and only then will it be appropriate for the Board to consider the merits of the design and take action. The sooner the design is public and the study is commenced, the sooner the entire process can be concluded. In the meantime, no Committee or Board votes should be held. Nor should the PUD process begin until traffic and transit access issues are fully aired. Therefore, WMATA should include in any contract or amendments with the developers a requirement that no PUD filing be made until there has been a final WMATA Board vote on the project.

We intend to organize a community meeting as soon as possible to inform the public about the development and will invite WMATA and EYA to come to discuss the design and explain the process. We look forward to seeing you there and to working with you and the Federal Transit Administration to thoughtfully and carefully review the development and its impact on transit, commuters and the community.

Sincerely,

Sara Green, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 4B01, District of Columbia

Faith Wheeler, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 4B02, District of
Columbia

Seth Grimes, Councilmember, City of Takoma Park, Maryland

Friday, June 7, 2013

Takoma Metro site development plans

A joint DC-MD letter to the community --

Dear Takoma DC and Takoma Park, Maryland neighbors,

We are elected officials representing the area that includes and surrounds the Takoma Metro station. As officials, we reached out to WMATA (Metro) to understand the agency's intentions regarding development at the station. WMATA executives briefed us last Friday, May 31. We very much appreciate the executives' willingness to meet, and we feel community members also deserve to know about WMATA's plans.

Proposed New Building At Takoma Metro

WMATA is working with development partner EYA toward creating a 255-unit, five-story residential structure at the Takoma Metro site. The five stories include ground-level parking for transit users and a level of parking for residents with three stories of one- and two-bedroom apartments above the parking. There would be a step-back of the upper levels on the Eastern Avenue side to three stories.

The structure would replace the current paved parking area. The current set of bus bays would be preserved in place, with the addition of one bus bay and three bus layover spaces carved from the current park. WMATA would claim the right to place an additional bus loop or other transit functions in the park in the future. WMATA would also construct a bicycle-parking structure, for transit users, on the station grounds.

The revised design is at least a partial victory for community members, who had pointed out that EYA's previous design, over 80 townhouses with two-car garages and new surface streets to  support them, was the antithesis of transit-oriented design.

But 255 residences are more than twice the 65-95 units called for in the District of Columbia's Small Area Plan for the site. And this would be the largest project by far in the area around the station. The planned 255 units, supported by nearly 200 residential parking spaces, would have a significant Takoma-area impact that must be thoroughly analyzed.

Timing

The WMATA Board is set to hold its first vote on the project in late July. They would hold a public hearing in mid to late September. The public may comment throughout the WMATA process. The project also needs approval from DC's Zoning Commission as a Planned Unit Development.

We thank WMATA for a proposal that preserves for the immediate future much of the existing park, includes a bicycle facility, adds connections to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, includes a station-planning study, and makes future transit services possible at the site. However, a project of this size at a mass transit facility calls for a comprehensive traffic study which would thoroughly analyze this project's likely impacts on vehicular traffic and pedestrian safety. We ask that it be completed prior to the WMATA public hearing.

We think that the community needs more time to analyze the proposal and will ask to modify the timetable.

Next Steps

We are working to quickly gather information about this development and determine the best ways that the Takoma DC and Maryland communities can have their voices heard. For cross-neighborhood discussions, we invite you to join a new TakomaMetro email list. Join via the Web site or by sending a message to TakomaMetro-subscribe@yahoogroups.com . If you have ideas, please share them on the Takoma Metro list - or email us directly. We will be back in touch ASAP as we have more information and suggestions on how to move forward.

We will use the list and a Web site to keep you informed.

Sincerely,

Sara Green, ANC 4B01 Commissioner and ANC 4B Chair (ancsaragreen@yahoo.com)

Faith Wheeler, ANC 4B02 Commissioner and ANC 4B Vice Chair (fewdcc@gmail.com)

Seth Grimes, Takoma Park City Council, Ward 1 (SethG@takomaparkmd.gov)