July 16, 2012
Planning Board considers Purple Line-inspired master plan at Chevy Chase Lake

Testifying at the Montgomery County Planning Board’s public hearing in Silver Spring today, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail president Ajay Bhatt questioned why the board’s review of proposed zoning changes of the Purple Line-inspired development had failed to establish traffic congestion, safety and environmental baselines and goals.

“We look forward to seeing a more detailed plan one with specific criteria for measuring whether the plan is successful,” said Bhatt. “This detailed plan should clearly show baseline data, metrics for current conditions and put forth calculations and predictions for each criterion so that the Planning Board and the residents can decide on whether this will be a successful change to the Master Plan.”

The board plans additional work sessions and hearings this fall.

Bhatt’s full testimony follows:

Comments on the Draft Staff Recommendations to the Montgomery County Planning Board
Ajay Bhatt, President, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail

As this is a draft plan on the recommendations to amend the 1990 Master Plan, I’d like to recommend that the Planning Board ask their staff very specifically what are the goals of making this amendment? And like with any plan we need metrics to measure and determine the plan’s success in achieving those goals.

“Planners are laying the groundwork for a Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan that will focus on improving the form and function of some of the commercial areas, among other goals, to coincide with the coming of the Purple Line light rail line.”

I’d like to know how the planning board is going to measure form and function as there are no stated criteria for measurement mentioned in the plan. I have a number of suggestions for the planning board when considering their final amendment.

    Background

In the background section of the draft plan I believe the staff is missing some key baseline data.

What is the current population of the sector?

What numbers and type of growth has this neighborhood seen?

How much residential growth has there been since the 1990 Master Plan?

How much commercial growth has there been?

How many residences are there broken down by single family vs. apartment?

And, specifically how many households with school-age children?

What are the goals of amending this Master plan based on the baseline criteria?

What should the sector and county expect to see in growth based on this amendment?

Friends of the Capital Crescent Trial is most concerned about the environmental effects of this amendment.

What is baseline ratio of population to acreage of green space and park?

The background fails to state the prevalence of the 3 mile long – 20 acres of green space that was once the B&O railroad corridor now the Capital Crescent Trail.

During the time the train ran until 1985 and since then, there has been green space in this three-mile 20-plus acre corridor.
By green space I mean an area with mature tree canopy, home to birds and wildlife, an area that absorbs rainfall and provides shade. The abundance of trees is significant. Over 4,000 trees have been identified and tagged with metal labels.

The plan mentions a half-acre park as a central square, but we expect that the planning board will insist on more greenspace to make up for the 20 acres lost.

The plan also doesn’t describe the existing proximity to parkland for residents in the sector. A baseline measurement of how many residences are within .5 mile or 1 mile of this greenspace will help you determine how to move forward with the amendment.
Where not only regional and through-users use this park, residents use this park regularly. This draft does not offer options with the same proximity.

Where is the baseline showing the use of this greenspace by recreational users? How many bikers, walkers, runners and children currently use the trail?

How many children use it as a Safe Route to School?

And how many are projected to use it after the trees are gone?

Is the removal of these 20 acres of tree canopy consistent with the county’s recreation and environmental goals?
This Capital Crescent Trail’s existence as greenspace and park is a significant recreational feature for those affected by this draft sector plan amendment. The plan does not show enough park and greenspace to make up for the destruction of these 20 acres of forest.

In the Access Section on Page 11 it talks about vehicular and bike access. Again there is no baseline data for traffic.

How many cars currently travel on Connecticut Avenue, East-West Highway, and Jones Bridge daily?

How much daily commercial traffic exists? What is it expected to be?

What is the average wait time at a light or stop sign?

What is the average travel time on each roadway within the sector?

What is the calculation on how these measures will improve or deteriorate?

Additionally, where is the study that shows effect on traffic congestion based on putting the Purple Line on the trail?
The draft plan put forth is an interesting conceptual plan.

We look forward to seeing a more detailed plan one with specific criteria for measuring whether the plan is successful. This detailed plan should clearly show baseline data, metrics for current conditions and put forth calculations and predictions for each criterion so that the Planning Board and the residents can decide on whether this will be a successful change to the Master Plan.