Sunday, September 29, 2013

Takoma Metro Development: The October Agenda

Takoma Metro site development is back on the public agenda in October... not that was ever off the community's. I'll explain what's up, under the headings October and Community Action below, but first a couple of sections of background for those who need a refresher:

The Plan

WMATA (Metro) and developer EYA propose a building with 200+ residential apartments, to be constructed primarily on the what is now paved surface parking at the Takoma Metro site. At its highest point -- based on a "concept plan" released over the summer -- the building would rise 5 stories above ground-level transit parking and amenity space. Given a grade that rises as you move from Eastern Avenue NW -- where the building would have 4 levels total -- toward the railroad tracks, the building would total 7 levels.

Much in the plan could change, and based on community reactions I've heard, most of us in the DC and Maryland Takoma community -- those who know about the developer's plan -- hope that much will change. A mandated public process will afford us opportunity to be heard. We have to make the most of the process, and beyond the process, to motivate the changes we would like to see, more on which below.

The Process

WMATA staff and EYA presented their plans in July, 2013 meetings to the WMATA board's real-estate committee, to a community meeting, and to the Takoma Park City Council. You can find their presentations online at dc-mdneighborsfortakomatransit.org, under the subheading Presentations from the July 16, 2013 community meeting. You can find conceptual design documents under the subheading Provided July 5, 2013 by Stan Wall, Director, Office of Real Estate and Station Planning, or refer to a blog item I posted on July 5. EYA Senior Vice President Jack Lester told me, in a September 24 conversation, that his company has not further developed plans. They are waiting for a WMATA board vote that would revive the now-expired Joint Development Agreement (JDA) that led to last decade's failed development initiative, which would have placed townhouses at the Takoma Metro site.

October


What's past is prologue. The next WMATA-EYA move is the JDA revival that Mr. Lester and his EYA colleagues are counting on. In October, look for:

  • October 10 -- WMATA -- Presentation of Takoma action, for a vote, to WMATA's Planning, Program Development & Real Estate (PPDRE) Committee.
  • October 14 -- Takoma Park City Council -- Work session (council & staff) discussion of Takoma Metro development.
  • Mid-October -- WMATA -- Completion of a WMATA-chartered Takoma traffic study.
  • October 21 -- Takoma Park City Council -- Council vote, with public comment, on a resolution commenting on Takoma Metro development.
  • October 24 -- WMATA -- Board vote on the Takoma Action (assuming affirmative PPDRE vote on October 10.
  • Late October (assuming Board October 24 approval) -- WMATA -- Advertise Compact Public Hearing and distribute review materials to the public.
On these topics, two notes:
  • WMATA real-estate director Stan Wall provided the WMATA dates above in a September 3 e-mail message, responding to questions I had sent him on behalf of myself and Washington DC Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B Commissioners Sara Green and Faith Wheeler. Mr. Wall also provided a map annotated with the intersections to be included in the Takoma traffic study.
  • Intersections included in WMATA's Takoma traffic study.
  • I have asked Mayor Bruce Williams to schedule an October 14 public hearing to precede the council work session.
Community Action

A small group of community members and I started working in late winter to prepare for the revival of the Takoma Metro development project, which we saw as inevitable. Our timing was fortunate; we learned soon after about WMATA steps. We joined forces with ANC Commissioners Green and Wheeler, leading to the June 7 community notice the commissioners and I posted and to a June 19 letter to WMATAAfter the July 16 community meeting, we expanded our organizing group. The discussion now extends to 20-some DC and Maryland community members, including representatives of Historic Takoma Inc. We hold a range of views and have worked to create consensus. We arrived at 3 key points, as follows.

The group supports transit-friendly development, which in the Takoma Metro site context is development that:
  • preserves the current green space as a park
  • enhances transit access, and
  • is neighborhood-friendly via appropriate set-back and size of the Eastern Avenue NW frontage, buffer separation from the next-door apartment building, and managed traffic impact.
The community group asks all Takoma stakeholders to endorse these principles. You can express your support by signing on electronically via the form at dc-mdneighborsfortakomatransit.org.

Takoma Park Action

Regardless of your opinion, if you are a Takoma Park Ward 1 (Hodges Heights, North Takoma, Philadelphia-Eastern Neighborhood, Victory Tower) resident or business owner or employee, I would like to hear what you think, both your thoughts on the development proposal and what you think the City of Takoma Park should do.

Best is to contact me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov. I will be away October 2 - 9, but outside those dates, you can reach me at 301-873-8225. The overall process, however, will be long.

Beyond October

October events will set the stage for further milestones:
  • The required WMATA compact public hearing, likely to be held in early winter.
  • A Washington DC Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, required because the developer would be seeking approval of variances -- very significant ones -- from building design allowed by zoning. Maryland residents and entities would not have standing to participate.
  • Review by the Washington DC Historic Preservation Review Board.
I will do my best to keep community members informed of developments. For now, please sign on to join the community advocacy effort, if its principles reflect your view, and do share your thoughts with me.

Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment