Chevy Chase Lake neighbors fight redevelopment

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County,Metro and Traffic

Residents who live near a proposed development in Chevy Chase Lake said they're not happy with the plan and are flooding the Montgomery County Council with arguments against it.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. about the proposal, which would erect an urban town center on Connecticut Avenue between Jones Bridge Road and East-West Highway. The development includes residential and retail space, with buildings reaching up to eight stories tall.

It also would be a proposed stop on the $2.15 billion, 16-mile Purple Line, though Planning Department spokeswoman Valerie Berton said the proposed development is set up to work with or without the currently unfunded light rail.

Council members Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, and Nancy Floreen, D-at large, took a tour of the proposed development site with Planning Board staff on Friday. Berliner, whose constituency includes the Chevy Chase Lake area, said he has been hearing frequently from residents about the proposal and expects a range of testimony on Tuesday night.

Residents are expected to come out in droves to keep the neighborhood, which is mostly populated by single-family homes and some small retail centers, from dramatically changing.

Julie Buchanan, co-president of the Chevy Chase Hills Civic Association, on the west side of Connecticut Avenue, said at least 30 people have signed up to speak at the public hearing, and many have already submitted written testimony against the development.

Residents have rallied against the project, saying the density and height of the proposed buildings would overwhelm the area's roughly 10,600 residents.

And activists worry the local schools and roads wouldn't be able to support the expected boom in population. With the uncertainty of the Purple Line, traffic along the already gridlocked Connecticut Avenue would get worse, they say.

In November, planner Elza Hisel-McCoy told the Planning Board that new traffic would flood the already congested traffic area.

Buchanan said that since the county's Planning Department staff started drawing up plans for the neighborhood, she and others have felt that their concerns have had little influence.

There has been some contention as to how high and dense the development should be. The Connecticut Avenue Corridor Coalition -- a community advocacy group -- lobbied for buildings no higher than 90 feet. The board approved up to 150 feet for the building at the corner of the proposed Purple Line and allowed up to 80 feet for the four other buildings, which board members considered a compromise.

"I think that there's been a sense that the community has been really railroaded here," she said. "I'm cautiously optimistic that we will be heard better by the council."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County reporter
The Washington Examiner