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Nearly every new development project that’s taller than most of the surrounding neighborhood raises a few hackles among locals. Less common is one that arouses opposition across state lanes.
Tomorrow, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board will vote on plans for an apartment building at the Takoma Metro station. The plans are the latest in an effort to redevelop the area around the station that has spanned two decades. They’ve changed form a few times, from townhouses with two-car garages that neighbors found insufficiently transit-oriented, to a building with five residential stories that neighbors found too tall, to the current scheme, which is one story shorter and contains about 210 apartments. The latest proposal has won plaudits from the Coalition for Smarter Growth as a compromise between suitability to a Metro-adjacent site and compatibility with a medium-density area.
But neighbors still aren’t pleased with the plans, on either side of the D.C.-Maryland border. Both the Takoma Park City Council and local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B have passed resolutions objecting to elements of the proposal.
“The biggest problem is, the building is too big,” says Takoma Park City Council Member Seth Grimes. (The project, by developer EYA, is on the D.C. side of the border, but Takoma Park is just across the street.) Grimes says the “vast majority” of neighbors are opposed to the design, largely because of its scale, which exceeds the standard zoning for the area by about 20 feet. He also personally believes there should be fewer parking spaces to encourage more Metro ridership.
Sara Green, an ANC commissioner on the D.C. side of the border, is frustrated that the neighbors are being portrayed as naysayers for opposing the current plans after getting some of the revisions they wanted from the earlier proposals. “WMATA said, ‘OK, we want to do what you suggested,'” she says. “And we said, ‘Fabulous!’ And then they came to us with something that was so much bigger than the existing zoning! We’re being painted as people who don’t want anything. What we’re rejecting is greed.”
Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, whose ward includes Takoma and who sits on Metro’s board of directors, argues that the changes to the plans have addressed neighbors’ concerns. “A few issues popped out at everyone, especially involving the green space and how we could maintain it,” she says. “That’s gonna happen. We wanted to make sure that the height was fitting with the community.”
Bowser says she’ll vote for the proposal tomorrow, as, most likely, will the majority of her colleagues on the WMATA board. “We do expect it to be favorably voted by the WMATA board on March 27,” says Grimes, resignedly.
Concept plan from EYA