County Reviewers Finding NDC’s Takoma Junction Proposal Deeply Flawed
The City has passed the Takoma Junction plan on and up to the County, but after initial review, County experts from multiple agencies are already finding multiple serious flaws in the proposal. Many of these flaws are those the community identified from the outset. But the feedback from County experts is buried in dozens of dense technical documents. So here, Community Vision analyzes the County’s critique on six key aspects of the proposed plan. (Links to some of the documents are here and here).
1. Proposed Garage Driveway Unsafe for Pedestrians and Cars
The County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) “Sight Distance Evaluation” finds the sight distance from the proposed underground garage driveway deficient. The measured sight distance from the proposed driveway looking to the left, around the bend towards the Fire House, is only 188-feet. The required line of sight is 325-feet. In other words, the proposed plan rests on an unsafe blind curve.
2. ‘Layby Lane’ Unacceptable
The County’s Department of Transportation opposes the layby as planned and comments that it “should be removed” because:
a. the loading area extends beyond the eastbound traffic light on Carroll Ave.
b. it conflicts with the bikeshare station.
c. it conflicts with the bus stop.
It also conflicts with the County’s Master Plan for a bike lane in the Junction.
County Park and Planning officials joined transportation officials to voice concerns about the layby lane’s safety and practicality.
A third County agency, Historic Preservation, also expressed significant concern over the layby.
State Highway Administration (SHA), not County DOT, has independent authority to reject the layby; but SHA is withholding comment pending completion of the SHA Planning Department’s Vision Study, now underway.
3. The Reduced Building Size May Still Be Too Large
After NDC already over-shot allowable density limits and had to reduce the proposed building from 52,000 to 40,000 sq ft due to their mistake on zoning requirements, it now appears that the building MAY STILL BE TOO LARGE due to another calculation error. Why? NDC’s design is based on the City claiming ownership to the center line of Carroll Ave; that added square footage increases the square footage that can be built. However, County reviewers say that this ownership proof is absent, which means the building would have to be reduced yet another 5,000 sq ft.
4. Historic Preservation Staff Gives Devastating Critique of Plan on Multiple Grounds
In comments to the DRC, which may presage the HPC’s independent view of the project when NDC seeks a historic area work permit, HPC staff pans the project as basically incompatible with the area in terms of “overall size, scale, massing, height, and architectural expression.” “The building is too tall.” “Glass tower is inappropriate.” It faults inadequate pedestrian space. It faults large-scale tree removal. And, critically, it notes that the proposed realignment of the Takoma Junction roadways is “incompatible with and detrimental to the historic district,” and would require “review and concurrence by Maryland Historic Trust as it is occurring in/on/to a State Road.”
5. Roadway Reconfiguration On Hold
NDC’s plan will require traffic mitigation because it would add more cars to a failing intersection. NDC’s plans are premised on a proposed major reconfiguration of the roadways to achieve that mitigation. But this proposed intersection redesign is just one proposed idea: all intersection improvement plans are on hold, pending completion of the State Highway Administration’s Vision Study. It remains unclear whether a reconfiguration would have a long-term positive effect. And neither design nor funds have been secured for any reconfiguration.
6. The Proposed Plan is Incompatible with Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Public Transit
MC DOT, Area Transportation, and Historic Preservation all note incompatibility of the NDC proposal with pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit requirements.
To date, even as reduced from 52,000 to 40,000 sq ft, NDC still proposes a building that may be larger than allowed, and does not fit the historic character of the Junction. As shown in the comments provided by numerous County agencies, the proposed building is incompatible with car and pedestrian safety, and the use of roads, sidewalks, bicycles, and public transit. The proposal rests on the removal of the Grant Ave crosswalk, removal of the all-red signal that allows safe pedestrian crossing of the intersection, a problematic layby, and a driveway exit on a blind curve. The proposed project would require a major (and expensive) reconfiguration of the roadways, and multiple waivers for parking space reductions, for being too close to adjacent buildings, and for cutting down many trees.
Does our community deserve a better plan?
Weigh in with your City officials.
Ask them to take back control of this project, and determine how we can safely use this public land for the public good.