April 29, 2011
Montgomery County Gazette
Chevy Chase Residents Laugh at Vision for Development Near Proposed Purple Line Station
By Sarah Gantz

Chevy Chase residents laughed at the sketches of tall buildings with a rail line 20 feet above ground and spherical shrubs scattered throughout the scene, making clear the dominant opinion in the community of Chevy Chase Land Company’s vision for development around a proposed light rail station in Chevy Chase.

The land company’s vision for the Chevy Chase Lake area includes 1.1 million square feet of retail and office space, 3,000 residences and a 150-room hotel in buildings that range from five to 19 stories tall. The community would be centered around a station for the proposed Purple Line light rail.

The company presented its concept design to more than 100 people at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase on Wednesday night. The meeting, organized by the land company, was marred by critical questions from residents and illustrated a contentious relationship between the land company and the community.

“Who would have thought this was going to happen?” said Marjorie Cashion, who bought a townhouse in Chevy Chase Muse that would be sandwiched between two new buildings under the land company’s design.

She relocated from Rockville 10 years ago to get away from high-density development, Cashion said.

The land company’s development plans are in response to a proposed station for the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail that would connect Bethesda and New Carrollton, and is intended to be built in congress with the transit project, which is unfunded. The company would pursue alternative development plans if the Purple Line station does not happen, said Bob Dalrymple, the land company’s attorney.

The design presented Wednesday is preliminary and has not come before the county planning department. In plans presented in a slide show, the land company would add 200,000 square feet of retail space, 900,000 square feet of office space, 3,000 residences and a 150-room hotel. The new space could accommodate about 3,000 employees and 6,000 residents. The project would be characterized by a new street grid with a main street, wide sidewalks, patio dining and a grassy park strip, just under 2 acres, in the middle of the development.

In response to resident concerns that a new transit station, office space and residences would only add to the area’s traffic problems, rather than, alleviate them, Dalrymple said that increased traffic in inevitable and that the land company’s project would allow residents to work, shop and entertain themselves without traversing packed roads.

“Growth is going to come to this area,” Dalrymple said. “We can put growth where transit is available, or where it is not. If you put it where [transit] is not available, you’re going to have a lot more traffic.”

In a question-answer period that followed the company’s presentation, two people defended the project.

“Philosophically, people are opposed to changing the status quo,” said Morris Antonelli, who has lived in the Rock Creek Hills neighborhood since 1969. “Historically in Montgomery County and America, we’ve had suburban sprawl since World War II – this is an answer of transit-oriented growth.”

More prevalent, were concerns similar to those of Susan Heller, who fears the development will alter the community’s character, limit sunlight and block access to her townhouse community, Hamlet Place, at the end of Chevy Chase Lake Drive and just below the southeast end of the land company’s project.

“We will be trapped,” said Heller.

The land company’s plans are part of a sector plan revision for the entire Chevy Chase Lake area, a total of 380 acres of primarily residential and commercial property along Connecticut Avenue, south of Jones Bridge Road.

Montgomery County planners are expected to release development plan recommendations for Chevy Chase Lake this spring.