Unresolved Issues at Takoma Junction

Byrne Kelly and Roger Schlegel contribute this piece, documenting how the changes to the Takoma Junction plan requested last fall by our City Council still have not been resolved. These requested changes are documented in the Council’s October 25 2017 Resolution. (Previous analyses of how the current plan does not respond to City requests are found in previous posts here and here and here and here).

RESOLUTION ITEM (1) A large amount of vibrant, comfortable, and easily accessible street-level public space that functions as a community gathering spot, does not require the purchase of food or beverage to use, and is accessible for year-round use.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO MEET #1: A space that hugs the street edge, as the NDC design does, would not be “vibrant” or “comfortable.” If such a space were “vibrant” and “comfortable,” we would see people flocking to the picnic table near the Co-op entrance. The proposed (public) space is too close to the traffic and would be dangerous with cars entering and exiting the parking garage. The space would be in near-perpetual shadow for ninth months of the year.

RESOLUTION ITEM (2) Accommodation of delivery, trash and recycling vehicles in a manner that does not cause traffic problems, optimizes public enjoyment of the site, addresses the needs of on-site tenants, and provides reasonable accommodation to the TPSS Co-op.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO MEET #2: The lay-by:
  1. would add 200-400 feet to the delivery path for the people off-loading goods or loading trash and recycling – for both the Co-op and for tenants in the proposed development.
  2. would be in the State Highway right of way, up against the crosswalk and the “public” space, and likely to be blocked at times with drivers who are standing (legally) to pick up/discharge passengers.
  3. would be likely to cause additional trucks to double-park illegally and block traffic. (What else would waiting trucks do? Drive around the block, circle up Carroll, Flower, Piney Branch, Philadelphia, Grant, Lee, Maple, Sycamore, Columbia, Pine, Ethan Allen, Woodland, Beech, etc.)
  4. would be an ugly thing for people in the proposed “cafe” and other shops to look out at.
  5. would impede and endanger cyclists by encouraging them to clog up the sidewalk and thereby conflict with pedestrians.
  6. would create a hazard for children crossing, who are hard to see from the cab of a truck (as stated by a semi-truck driver at an State Highway Administration listening session in April).
  7. would create bottlenecks as it wouldn’t be possible to coordinate the timing of deliveries to the multiple businesses who would need to use the lay-by.

RESOLUTION ITEM (3) Placement of the elevator or elevators in a location that serves patrons and tenants conveniently, including patrons of the TPSS Co-op.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO MEET #3: NDC’s current site plan placed the sole elevator at the opposite end of the development, so that Co-op shoppers would have to traverse the length of the development block to get to the garage. NDC has not released any revised plans showing a relocated or added elevator.

RESOLUTION ITEM (4) A street-facing façade design that consists of large storefront windows on the retail level and includes exciting or iconic features that evoke the spirit of Takoma Park.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO MEET #4: The facade may look nice, but numerous architects and other residents, including members of Historic Takoma and the Facade Advisory Board, have pointed out that the perspective renderings are inaccurate and misleading in terms of perceived height, point of view level, shadows, utility poles and lines, and context with the surroundings.

RESOLUTION ITEM (5) Massing that fits with the area and is comfortable for those using and passing by the site on Carroll, Sycamore, and Columbia Avenues.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO MEET #5: The massing doesn’t fit with the area because the building would range in height from 38-45 feet above the sidewalk. That would cast a big shadow over the sidewalk and street. The typical two-story building in the Historic District is well below 30 feet in height, so it is out of context. In the rear, it would loom approximately 55 feet above Columbia Avenue.
  • The Council requested to see a building no larger than 34,000 square feet. The proposed building would be 50,000 square feet, including approximately 42,500 square feet on City-owned property.

RESOLUTION ITEM (6) Appropriate landscaping and building façade design of the Columbia Avenue side of the property that improves the appearance of the green space and would help address environmental sustainability and other goals for the project.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO RESPOND TO #6: To date, NDC has failed to provide sufficient details regarding the rear and side facades, and the construction impacts on the wooded area. Their plan does not address rear emergency egress doors and paths.

RESOLUTION ITEM (7) Design features that will preserve and improve alternatives to automotive transportation.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO MEET #7: The NDC/StreetSense site plan does the opposite. The Capital Bikeshare rack would be eliminated. There would be minimal space for locking privately owned bikes or for dropping rental bikes. The bus stop would be eliminated, with no clear plan for relocation. There could be greater danger to pedestrians at the relocated driveway.  The recently established crosswalk at Grant Avenue would be directly in front of the lay-by, which could create a safety hazard for small children.

RESOLUTION ITEM (8) Details regarding parking options for off-site businesses located in the Takoma Junction.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO RESPOND TO #8: NDC has not provided details beyond saying that there will be 72 spaces in total, and that some “may” be set aside for Co-op patrons. The Co-op and NDC are addressing parking in a mediation process, but the Council has not indicated that it will wait for this process to conclude before voting on the NDC site plan. Other questions about parking costs, arrangements, and impacts on other businesses and neighborhood streets are not resolved.

RESOLUTION ITEM (9) Design and construction features which satisfy the requirements for LEED Gold or higher certification from the U.S. Green Building Council or an equivalent certification.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO PROVIDE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO RESPOND TO #9: Although NDC says that they will be claiming LEED points for many design features as “Innovation” and “Alternative Energy Generation,” their plan doesn’t provide details. They have also claimed that the higher heating and cooling costs associated with high ceilings and larger volumes will be offset by lower lighting costs.
  • While this project has been promoted as an opportunity for improve stormwater management, NDC has given no evidence of this in their plan. There is no geotechnical information on the infiltration and percolation rates for hosting a bioretention facility on the site. Their current plan would be in conflict with regulations regarding placement of such facilities on steep slopes. There is no evidence of a Natural Resource Inventory and a Forest Stand Delineation as required by M-NCPPC.

RESOLUTION ITEM (10) Details necessary to provide reasonable accommodation to the TPSS Co-op for access for loading of deliveries, customer parking, and continued operations during construction.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN FAILS TO RESPOND TO #10: Unresolved issues include the width of the delivery alley, the accommodation during construction, the accommodation of multiple delivery vehicles, pedestrian safety, shopper convenience vis-a-vis parking and cart handling, employee parking, and construction vehicle access. There is also no information on where the staging of materials and equipment would occur during the sequence of construction.

RESOLUTION ITEM (11) Identifies any resolution or agreement reached between NDC and the TPSS Co-op regarding shared façade design or other improvements that would enhance the aesthetic appeal of the whole commercial strip between Sycamore Avenue and the fire station.

  • DRAFT SITE PLAN DOES NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT #11: NDC has aligned an “awning” with the 20-foot height of the Co-op building. No other design features or agreements are described or represented visually in the site plan presentation.

Author: Susan Katz Miller

http://onbeingboth.wordpress.com/