Housing Complex

Takoma Metro Development Set for Approval, Despite Cross-Border Opposition

Developer EYA's concept plan for the Takoma site.

Developer EYA's concept plan for the Takoma site

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

  • http://westnorth.com Payton Chung

    How far back in time should the NIMBY veto power go? At one point in time, the houses you live in were out of scale. Why didn't the Adventists, the Calvert family, the Powhatans stop them? Why should today's immediate neighbors have veto authority over everything that affects their backyards -- and silence (even intimidate and slander) the voices of not only their fellow citizens today (who are entitled to an equal voice in a democracy), but also tomorrow's citizens, and yesterday's? That's rather presumptuous.

    As for "armchair pontificators," I submit that I am perhaps somewhat professionally qualified at understanding the impact that developments can have upon communities and the earth. I sure hope you don't think so poorly of all other professions.

    Not only do I live surrounded by 10-story buildings, but at least 2,000 units (10 of these monster buildings!) are proposed/under construction within two blocks of my residence. My neighborhood is willing to house some of the many thousands of new Washingtonians, and it's about time that other parts of the city share in that burden. For us not to do so is to deny others the chance that we had to live in DC. Yes, even though traffic on any one block might increase, the overall net result of having more people living closer to the region's core is less traffic and pollution for the entire region.

  • RFH_MD

    @payton - is your tale of happily living in a concrete jungle supposed to be inspiring? Because most of the people who live in DC willingly won't be so easily convinced.

    But if you're going to pursue your campaign for bigger! Taller! Better! - start with Bethesda and leave TKPK alone. We're on par with Arlington for population density, and Bethesda trails by 50%

  • Bob See

    The NIMBYs want the area around TP metro to revert back to when it was surrounded by shoddy auto garages.

  • TK_Cat

    @Payton Chung & Bob See - do you think all of EYA's leaders and WMATA's board members are walking the walk by living in small footprint homes in dense neighborhoods?

  • http://westnorth.com Payton Chung

    Why would their individual decisions matter, as long as their decisions make it possible for hundreds (thousands, or in WMATA's case, millions) of other people who want to live "in small footprint homes in dense neighborhoods" to do so? Why worry so much about a few individuals, when our planet is literally cooking?

  • http://westnorth.com Payton Chung

    Population density measures are notoriously easy to game through boundaries -- e.g., Arlington includes large areas with no residents, like the cemetery and DCA. Bethesda and Arlington also have much higher job density than Takoma.

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