Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B
Government of the District of Columbia
6856 Eastern Avenue, NW - Suite 314
Washington, DC 20012
Recommendations Regarding the
Takoma Metro Station Redevelopment
Adopted November 25, 2013
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B is concerned about the current proposal to build approximately 200+ apartments on the surface parking lot and on the landscaped buffer separating the parking lot from the adjacent three-story apartment building.
We direct this resolution to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board and its Committee on Planning, Program Development and Real Estate (PPDRE). We ask that the WMATA Board, including WMATA Board Chair Tom Downs, PPDRE Chair Muriel Bowser, and DC Board Members Tom Bulger and Terry Bellamy consider this resolution prior to any vote and respond in writing.
We thank WMATA’s Director of Real Estate and Station Planning Stan Wall for providing a traffic impact study, received on November 22, 2013 and look forward to reviewing it.
However, the study’s conclusions that the project would “slightly impact the traffic generation on Eastern Avenue” is not credible. Also, its conclusion that some curbside parking may need to be eliminated is a problem. Eastern Avenue residents object to these changes and are also concerned about how a bike route to the station may affect them.
We have heard from residents, property owners and businesses. While there is support for developing a portion of the Takoma Metro Station property, and support for this proposal in whole or in part, there is also considerable concern about some important elements, and we find that concern persuasive.
ANC 4B cites the following issues and concerns:
* The WMATA Board may vote to amend its existing Joint Development Agreement with EYA in December 2013. That vote is a key decision on an Agreement that will be difficult to modify or reject due to, among other reasons, financial terms which make design changes expensive.
The developer currently proposes a building that is mostly 6 to 7 stories tall and translates to 72 feet high. This proposal well exceeds the 50 foot maximum height permitted on much of that site by right in the current DC zoning regulations. Forty feet is the height limit on part of it.
* The proposal is out of scale and overwhelms the three-story apartment and cooperative buildings on Eastern Avenue that are its neighbors. It is even more out of scale with the one and two-story homes across the street on Eastern Avenue.
Furthermore, the four buildings already built or approved that sit next to the tracks are 50 feet tall -- in conformity with DC zoning regulations.
* It appears that the developer, EYA, may wish to negotiate -- through the PUD process -- a height greater than the legal limit. We question whether the WMATA Board should be voting on a project with dimensions that are not permitted by DC zoning regulations.
* EYA has not provided drawings or models that show either their proposal or the legal limit in context with the existing neighboring homes, apartments and cooperative buildings, making it difficult for the community to understand the proposal. We question whether the WMATA Board should be voting on any proposal without seeing its impact on neighboring properties, a key principle of urban design.
* Designating a permanent public park on the existing green space at the corner of Carroll and Cedar is a major and necessary provision, and ANC 4B thanks PPDRE Chair Bowser and WMATA staff for including it. However, the community needs more information and more discussion prior to any vote.
* The approximately 70-foot treed buffer between the existing parking lot and the three-story apartment building at 7036 Eastern Avenue, NW would be eliminated under this proposal, eliminating a great number of mature trees. It would be replaced with the driveways for cars and trucks that will serve the entire building, subjecting neighbors to fumes and noise. We encourage the developer to incorporate innovative green, air and water infrastructure fixes that utilize grasses and trees currently on the project site.
* The proposed project conflicts with key elements of the Takoma Central District Plan, the current planning document for the area adopted by the DC Council in 2002.
For example, one of the Plan’s goals is to “preserve and enhance Takoma’s small town/village character” by limiting new residential and commercial buildings to “no more than 2-4 stories in height to match existing neighborhood scale.” (Page 8) The Central District Plan also calls for a 50-foot landscaped buffer between the station’s transit functions and residences, “such as the multi-family structures to the north along Eastern Avenue.” (Page 52)
* The proposed building is poorly designed. For example, trash trucks will need to back over a sidewalk that is a heavily used walking route to the Metro Station. Persons with disabilities who park in the public garage need to cross drive lanes in order to enter the Station.
* Community outreach and consultation have been inadequate. WMATA and EYA representatives have attended only one public meeting with DC residents, held on July 13, 2013. EYA and WMATA said they were unable to answer specific questions about height, scale, setbacks, parking, and the park, among other issues, because the plans were preliminary.
The Commission thanks WMATA staff and EYA Senior Vice President Jack Lester for meeting with ANC 4B01 and 4B02 Commissioners Sara Green and Faith Wheeler. However, we are concerned that WMATA and EYA representatives declined an invitation to attend a November 23, 2013 community meeting hosted by Commissioners Green and Wheeler. They did hold an invitation-only meeting with residents at a Maryland restaurant and one meeting a Takoma, DC restaurant for a small number of residents who were asked to RSVP in advance.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the design is not ready for a WMATA Board vote.
We call on the WMATA Board to direct its staff, working with the developer, to work closely and collaboratively with the community, particularly with those who live in the adjacent buildings, to improve the design so that it conforms to DC zoning regulations and is compatible with the character and scale in Takoma, DC. We also call on the WMATA Board to fix the proposal’s poorly designed and unsafe features.
In addition, we ask that the WMATA Board consider the adverse impact this project will bring to the community.
These steps need to be taken before any WMATA Committee or full Board vote.
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that WMATA staff and EYA consider a design that puts housing on top of a platform with two levels of parking underneath. Such a design will replace the taller structure currently proposed to house parking, and will solve other design flaws, including the poor location of elevators.
We ask WMATA and EYA to come back before ANC 4B so that we can vote on the final approval of the project.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the WMATA Board consider soliciting other bids for the property in order to ensure that the best design is built at the Takoma Metro Station.
We look forward to reviewing a proposal that will enhance the community.
ADOPTED by show-of-hands vote at a regular public meeting (notice of which was properly given, and at which a quorum of eight of nine members was present) on November 25, 2013, by a vote of 7 yes, 1 no.