City Council Authorizes Next Steps in Takoma Junction Approval Process

Screenshot of the proposed plan’s sketch view from Carroll Avenue from NDC/streetsense presentation

The Takoma Park City Council, by a 5-2 vote, passed a resolution in the early hours of the morning authorizing the Neighborhood Development Company to submit the Takoma Junction Development Project Combined Site Plan to the Montgomery County Planning Department.

“The resolution is the next piece in the process,” said Mayor Kate Stewart. “The next part of this project is that the site plan needs to go to Montgomery County Planning. It also needs to be submitted with the traffic studies to [the State Highway Administration] because it is along a state highway, and it also needs to be submitted to the Historic Preservation Commission.”

The plan, presented to residents earlier this year, encompasses an area at the confluence of Carroll (MD 195), Grant, Philadelphia (MD 410) and Ethan Allan avenues (next to the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op market), which primarily serves as a parking lot. 

The draft site plan in April included spaces for a ground floor restaurant and/or café, with street-facing retail spaces along Carroll Avenue and potential office or studio space in the rear of the building. The plan shows another 25,000 square feet of leasable space on the upper floor; the size of both spaces is subject to modifications requested by the council.

Outdoors, the site plan includes a pedestrian zone and public space with an art wall, in addition to outdoor restaurant seating. The development would be served by 72 underground parking spaces.

The resolution includes modifications the council would like to see in the site plan prior to submission. One example of those modifications is an additional elevator on the side closest to the co-op to serve those customers going to and from the underground parking.

“Councilmember Dyballa put in a number of requests to increase the environmental standards of the project that went through,” Stewart said. “One of the things I offered as an amendment, and it was accepted, was not having any formula businesses or chain businesses at the location, unless it came back to the City Council for approval.”

She explained that, according to the resolution, a formula business “is defined as a retail sales or service establishment that has 11 or more other retail establishments in operation in the region—Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, and Prince Georges County—or 20 or more nationwide establishments.

“There had been concerns raised by residents to make sure that this project and the businesses and nonprofits and others that we hope to attract here are really local,” Stewart added. “This just provides more assurances that that’s the type of tenants that we hope to attract to this location.”

(The full, redlined version of the resolution is available at the link above.)

In the meantime, NDC is in mediation with the co-op and Adrian Washington, NDC’s CEO and founder, wrote to the council yesterday to support the council’s efforts and report the mediation process has been “productive.”

“The Co-op’s chosen mediator has done a good job in getting all parties to enter into an honest exchange of their viewpoints – the first step in building understanding and trust. Reaching an agreement won’t be easy – as many observers have noted, it’s a very small site, and fitting everyone’s needs, wants and hopes onto it is no easy task,” he wrote. “And even when reach a general meeting of the minds there will be the considerable task of formulating these general principals into detailed agreements. It may take weeks, it may take months, but we believe we will get there and we are committed to the process.”

The public review process will continue with the Planning Board and other agencies, and the city will still have some sway over any changes sought by the board.

“As the city, we can also weigh in when it’s before the Planning Board, like we do any other project that goes before the Planning Board from the city,” Stewart said. “If we object to something that’s happening, we can pass a resolution and then the Planning Board needs to have a supermajority to overrule the city’s wishes.”

Councilmembers Peter Kovar (Ward 1) and Jarrett Smith (Ward 5) cast the dissenting votes on the resolution.

For more information about how the mayor approached her decision on the resolution, see her latest blog entry.

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