Straddling Two Lots at Takoma Junction

The Takoma Junction developer (NDC) chosen by the City plans to buy the auto repair business adjacent to the City lot. In the current site plan, the developer shows a footprint straddling the two lots, with the entrance to the garage on the lot owned by the developer. Here, lawyer and Takoma Park resident Jessica Landman writes to City officials to ask about the risks to a development that sits partly on City land, and partly on land owned by the developer.

Mon, Jun 11, 2018

Dear Mayor Stewart and Takoma Park City Council Members,

I am writing today to renew, more urgently, a request made to you during the public comment period at the City Council meeting on May 2nd.

In May I noted that the proposed Takoma Junction development plan anticipates construction of a building that straddles two parcels of land. It would bind the city to a 99-year lease, even though the city does not own or control one parcel that is vital to accessing the entire structure.

At the time I asked the City to investigate and inform the community whether this highly unusual arrangement poses a fiscal risk. As a lawyer and taxpayer, these questions concerned me greatly.

So far, there has been no response. The City’s silence left me wondering whether action was being taken or not.

Before the City adopts a Resolution committing to this project, it is vital that you determine whether there is a significant legal obstacle that could cause the City to have legal problems or incur unforeseen costs that the community would have to shoulder.

While I am not a real estate lawyer, I did undertake a preliminary review of the relevant rules in Montgomery County. From what I can discern, a building permit for a structure that straddles two parcels owned by two different parties will not be issued.

I urge the City to have its lawyers follow up, to determine whether they agree with the following analysis:

1.  Under Montgomery County’s building code, a building permit may only be issued for a building located on ‘a lot or parcel shown on a plat recorded in the County Land Records or on a parcel exempt from recording requirements under Section 50-3.3’. [1]

2.  The County’s subdivision rules define a ‘lot’ as a ‘discrete area of land that is described by a plat recorded in the land records for which the Department of Permitting Services may issue a building permit.’ [2]  The County Zoning Code uses nearly identical language to define a lot: ‘A lot is a contiguous area of land that is described by a plat recoded in the land records for which a building permit can be issued.’

Obviously, the two adjacent parcels at the Junction, while contiguous, are not on one ‘lot’ that is recorded in the land records. (Nor are they on a parcel exempted under the specific terms of the code.)

3.  At the Junction site there are two lots, which will not even be owned by the same entity. As such, the site does not meet the definition of a lot for which a building permit can be issued. The County’s rule is very clear; with the exception of a few exemptions irrelevant in this instance,

‘Construction of a new principal building may only occur on a lot or parcel shown on a plat recorded in the County Land Records.’[3]

My question for the City and the City’s lawyers is: Have you investigated how these constraints affect the Junction project?

If so, please share what you have learned.

If not, please undertake the appropriate due diligence to find out whether the project as currently contemplated would be unable to obtain a building permit.

Frankly, apart from the possibility that no permit would be issued for the proposed straddling two-lot project, the irregularity of the proposed arrangement strikes me, as a taxpayer, as risky. Could NDC – or a successor owner – who controls a portion of the parcel use that control to extract further, future fees or concessions from the City? What would happen in the event NDC defaults? Once can imagine many unhappy scenarios. Those may be the very reasons why the County rules forbid a construction permit for a structure that is not on a single ‘lot’. And even if a construction permit can somehow be obtained, the irregularity also suggests that investors will find the project risky, either steering clear or charging higher lending rates, which would in turn trigger higher rents.

Thank you for responding promptly to this letter; it is vital that you resolve these questions before you make a determination whether to approve the proposed project. It would be negligent for our City officials to fail to address these concerns.

Sincerely,

Jessica Landman

Ward 1

Another Resident Weighs In

In which resident David Paris provides a historical perspective on the Takoma Junction development, and some parallels with other local development projects:

Neighbors —

 

It is in the interest of all city residents, including even those who only shop elsewhere, for the city’s Takoma Junction lot to be sold or groundleased to the Takoma Park Silver Spring food Co-op at a market rate price in order to avoid further undermining the cooperative’s competitive position, shrinking the city’s commercial tax base, and tying up funds that are needed for important civic purposes. The development should serve the interests of the Co-op and existing residents rather than those of an unreliable outside developer trying to get away with the same sort of bait and switch tactics practiced by developers and by the Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH). 
 
Amazingly, our Co-op has prospered despite the competitive advantages of nearby Shoppers Food Warehouse and Whole Foods locations, which both benefit from significantly larger stores coupled with seas of free parking spaces. Last year’s announcement that Amazon would be purchasing Whole Foods, accelerating existing  uncertainty regarding the future of the food industry, just adds to the long list of reasons why our city government should be working with our food Co-op rather than further undercutting its competitive position.

 

NDC has exhibited short-sighted insensitivity to the core grocery services that have made Takoma Junction an important community destination. Supposedly, NDC was chosen, despite its low bid, because it promised to build a loading dock. Instead, NDC quickly abandoned the loading dock, substituting a large and unsightly driveway in front of the store, despite a series of safety concerns expressed by the Takoma Park Fire Department. Moreover, promised plans to maintain access for grocery consumers during construction have not materialized, and promised community space is to be shoehorned into the front loading area.
The abandonment of the loading dock that the Co-op requires to survive, which was promised in all of its original plans, was rationalized in a 2016 NDC letter by a blithe reference to the existence of frontal loading at a single unidentified Trader Joe’s store. This turned out to be Trader Joe’s in Adams Morgan, which is located 6 miles from Takoma, located in a renovated building that, unlike the proposed new building, could not be retrofitted with a loading dock.
All of the Co-op’s nearby grocery competitors have substantial loading docks and parking lots, including Shoppers Food Warehouse (1 mile), Whole Foods (2 miles), and Safeway (2 miles). Moreover, all other Trader Joe’s DC locations have loading docks, including the West End facility, which nonetheless appears to have some problems with trucks blocking the sidewalk. A liquor license application for the Capital Hill Trader Joe’s includes a signed agreement with DC Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, promising to “receive deliveries at the loading dock provided by the landlord of the subject premises for use by retail tenants.”
It is a tribute to its economic strength that the Co-op has been prospering despite the burdensome redevelopment process imposed by the city government. In 2014, the current wasteful Takoma Junction development process was initiated by the city in response to the Co-op’s forthright expression of interest in purchasing the city lot. In 2012, the Co-op’s working budget called for paying as much as $1 million dollars for the lot, which is ten times more than the value that NDC placed on the lot during the selection process. The land was purchased by the city in 1995 for $500,000 and appraised for $1.475 million, several years ago. In 2014, the Co-op planned for modest/buffered development, a wider choice of moderately priced merchandise, indoor/outdoor public facilities, and, of course, a loading dock.
If the lot had been sold or groundleased to the Co-op during 2014, the community already would be enjoying the benefits of an expanded facility. Instead of engaging the Co-op, the city instituted a seemingly rigged Request for Development (RFD) bidding process that irresponsibly ended up selecting NDC, which valued the property at $100,000, one tenth of the amount introduced by the Co-op and considerably less than the $500-600,000 valuations used by the other developers. Over its first five years, the NDC lease calls for the city to receive far less rent from NDC than the Co-op has been paying to park cars on a small portion of the city lot. Further, the rent breaks continue throughout the 99-year life of the lease.

 

The short-sighted willingness of NDC to abandon the critical loading dock, which is tantamount to killing the goose that laid the golden egg, is reminiscent of the eagerness of WMATA and EYA to compromise future Takoma Station bus spaces and to consume parkland to accommodate townhouses with two-car garages under the guise of transit oriented development. In contrast, the community proposed a small apartment buildingon the station parking lot. In 2008, lenders would have been interested in financing the apartment, in light of rental unit demand resulting from a the freeze on residential construction. In 2010, NDC partnered to develop a DC school site with EYA, which has maintained a stranglehold over Takoma Station development for well over a decade.
Misleading and irresponsible comments about the Co-op from Takoma Park officials and the prejudicial planning process seem to have been calculated to rationalize shackling the Co-op with a developer, subverting local control of the grocery’s expansion. For example, during the October 6, 2014, council work session, City Manager Brian Kenner and a council member irresponsibly speculated that the Co-op might not remain at Takoma Junction and that it might fail within two years of expansion, due to the uncertainties facing groceries.
The discriminatory RFP process downgraded the Co-op submission because it lacked development experience and outright failed to credit the Co-op for the expertise of its advisors, including Edward S. West, a successful real estate attorney, who has negotiated leases involving a long list of businesses including, McDonalds, Food Lion, Giant Food of PA, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Patagonia, Thrift Drug, Au Bon Pain, Safeway, and Pepco. Other Co-op advisors included an architect and a nationally recognized development team that has been associated with 200 successful food coop expansions, according to Co-op testimony.
There is nothing sacrosanct about RFPs, as exemplified by the misrepresentations, deflated expectations, and scandal surrounding the RFP process for the White Oak LifeSci mega-development. In fact, the project was renamed “Viva” after few initial bio-enterprises, other than WAH, were attracted. In 2016, the county dropped longstanding plans to participate in hundreds of millions of dollars in anticipated profits as a partner in the mega development because county employees somehow failed to identify restrictive covenants. The public documents should have been turned up by even the most perfunctory of title searches, let alone a protracted RFP process. In 2017, County officials appropriately chose Valentines Day to approve the sweetheart sale of the $42 million property to the developer for ostensibly $10 million.
Our city government further revealed its true colors when it appropriated $80,000 to pay the pro-developer law firm of Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday (BBS&G) to negotiate the groundlease, which is overly generous to NDC by providing ongoing rental breaks. Similarly, in 2016, Montgomery County hired BBS&G to provide legal advice regarding the White Oak development debacle. The retention of the firm was controversial. Critics argued convincingly that retaining the BBS&G was tantamount to hiring the fox to guard the hen house, since White Oak Master Plan was the “signature project” of Francoise Carrier, one of its attorneys, during her term as chair of the Montgomery Planning Board (MPB).
In 2013, BBS&G authored a highly controversial report, supposedly exonerating the MPB from charges of racism regarding the closure of the only roadway providing access to the historic Sandy Spring, Maryland residential community. Both the county and city legal teams include Carrier, who turned heads when she quickly joined BBS&G after presiding over adoption of the problematic White Oak master plan, in July 2014. The previous December, Carrier issued a press release proclaiming that the $120,000 Bregman report was “through and conclusive.” One month later, she announced that she would not be seeking a second term as planning board chair.
The BBS&G report “fails to address,” allegations by the county inspector general that state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler “quashed an investigation of the Farm Road matter,”after receiving campaign contributions from members of the Bregman firm. “The community got exactly what it predicted from Mr. Bregman – half truths and distortions,” complained Judy Penny, a relative of an elderly resident. The landlocking of the Farm Road community, established by African Americans following the Civil War, was the subject of a Maryland Black Legislative Caucus Hearing and a series of WUSA exposes. The access road is just as critical to the beleaguered Farm Road residents as the Co-op loading dock is to the success of the grocery store.

 

The outcome of the current Takoma Junction process will establish the basis for future community and developer expectations regarding a flood of upcoming development projects involving New Hampshire Avenue, the Takoma Station, the soon-to-be-vacated hospital campus, and the sites of two former schools. The linkage between Junction development and other projects, which has been recognized by city staff and officials, is exactly why the city needs to get Junction development right. The failure of the city government to defend actively the threat to local emergency services created by the county’s recruitment of WAH to anchor the White Oak Science Park has already established Takoma Park as a soft target.
It is obvious that Takoma Junction development process has diverted city resources from more important matters, including keeping emergency services local and securing a sustainable WAH medical campus. With the hospital move a year away, next year’s county budget contains no funds for additional ambulances, and no study has been commissioned of the impact of moving the WAH ER. Moreover, amazingly there has been no effort to regulate hospital-run urgent care centers, like the facility WAH plans to leave behind, although such regulation is being pursued in many other states. Meanwhile, our officials are touting the addition of a Takoma paramedic, which was extremely low-hanging fruit, since our station is the last unit in the county to be assigned a paramedic.
The TPSS Co-op has been a reliable member of our community since 1995, when it renovated and moved into the vacant Turner Building, creating a thriving ongoing community enterprise that is now threatened by governmental intermeddling and developer misrepresentations. The Co-op steadfastly went ahead with the move, despite the failure of the Maryland Assembly to appropriate $1 million in economic development funds for the Junction. The funds were to have been available “if the city could demonstrate there also was significant new private money ready to be invested” in addition to the city’s planned expenditure of “$515,000 next month to acquire a vacant 1.4-acre lot in Takoma Junction.” 
 
Over the years, the Co-op has paid its own way. It may even have been overcharged by the city for use of the city lot for parking, judging from the reduced rental rate that the city is considering charging NDC. A recent state capital improvements grant, which must be matched, is the first occasion of the Co-op receiving or requesting substantial government economic assistance. Over recent years, the Co-op has been forced to spend hundreds of thousands for legal and architectural fees participating in the wasteful and unproductive process imposed by the city. Instead, the funds could have been applied to paying a fair price for the city lot, allowing the city to focus on more important matters.
The Co-op deserves the freedom to develop its own property independently, with the city government’s cooperation and supervision, rather than its domination. The city should sell the Takoma Junction lot to the Co-op for a significant portion of its appraised value. Although history has shown that the Co-op, unlike WAH, keeps its word, it is reasonable to expect the Co-op to sign an undertaking detailing how it will carry out its longstanding promises regarding density, community facilities, and a broader selection of products selling at lower prices.

Thank you for your attention.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dave Paris, Larch

“Set a Brave and Bold Example”

Community Vision for Takoma Junction (CVTJ) is not the only group organizing for a more inclusive and public use for the lot at Takoma Junction. Here, we print a letter from Badia AlBanna, Dara Orenstein, Michele Bollinger, Ron Resetarits, Kerry Danner-McDonald, Jennifer Satlin-Fernandez, Adriana Kuehnel, and Dave Zirin, who have been organizing meetings on Takoma Junction. To join them, email michele.bollinger@gmail.com.

An open letter to Takoma Park residents and elected officials:

We call upon you to live up to the values that Takoma Park symbolizes and to reject the current plan for Takoma Junction. Our goals are twofold: to promote racial equity and to provide a higher quality of life for all residents, especially those who are the least-resourced and most marginalized.

  • The City has pledged that it is committed to analyzing racial equity in each of its decisions—yet its attempt at a “racial equity statement” about the Junction has been woefully inadequate.
  • Only a plan that designs a space to be accessed and used by all will be truly equitable. The space at the Junction is the last piece of open public land in Takoma Park. To lease it to a private, commercial developer violates the spirit of democracy. Even if that developer recruits small businesses, and even if all parties are minority-owned, still, private individuals are profiting off of public resources. A few individuals are exploiting the City’s land, location, and cultural capital to enrich themselves, and in return the 17,000 citizens of the City are receiving, what exactly, a modest stream of property taxes that the omnipotent City Manager will allow to trickle down to the masses? The City should not be subsidizing an individual’s path to greater wealth. It should devote public resources to the common good. No trickle-down economics.
  • There are many ways to create opportunities for minority-owned businesses in Takoma Park, beyond the public land at the Junction. Let’s set standards and guidelines for economic development that center on racial equity—and let’s not allow the elite of Takoma Park to co-opt the language of racial equity as a hedge against those who want to preserve public resources for the public good.
  • Moreover, let’s set standards and guidelines for economic development that contemplate what it means to work in Takoma Park, not merely what it means to profit (as a business owner) or to shop. The Junction should model this principle. Low-wage, low-skill service jobs with minimal or zero benefits or workplace rights are not the answer for the Junction.
  • Speaking of shopping, our community is facing an affordability crisis. Property values have skyrocketed. A single cookie can sell for $3.00. Most businesses that have opened lately cater to the affluent customer. The current plan for development will bring in upper-end retail accessible primarily to upper-middle class households and will contribute to rising rents and prices. It is disingenuous to call such a scenario a “Junction for All.” It is selfish to prioritize enhanced consumer options for upper-middle class people—not to mention that it is the opposite of “racial equity.”
  • A better solution is to create a space that everyone can enjoy, free of charge. The Junction lies at the heart of Takoma Park: it should unite residents across all six wards. Only a commons-style plan can support this role. A youth center, a technology center, a basketball court, a community theater, a community kitchen—these are just some of the ideas in the air. Never would we challenge the current plan were it for a homeless shelter, a refugee shelter, a daycare center. We are not NIMBYers—we are YIMBYers! Yes to the People’s Junction!
  • Focus on our youth, especially our teens. There are many parks for our very youngest residents to frequent. But, at the Takoma Park Community Center, older kids are confined to a game room and a basketball court. As one veteran of Takoma Park civic life put it to us, “The Community Center is mainly for white adults.” Takoma Park does not support young adults by providing numerous facilities where they can mingle and play—and as a result we fear some children are getting the message (yard signs aside) that their lives do not matter. They deserve better.

We will not give up on our fight to do what is right for Takoma Park. We are eager to help the City launch a transformative planning process, starting, maybe, with a community advisory board. Our elected leaders are in a position to set a brave and bold example of how to shore up against the tidal wave of gentrification that has wrecked urban communities, if they abandon the current plan. We understand that to do so would mean to give up on years of effort (for now, at least). It may take us a long time to reach a healthy decision for the Junction, but, then, as the saying goes, there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.

Signed on June 5, 2018

Badia AlBanna, Dara Orenstein, Michele Bollinger, Ron Resetarits, Kerry Danner-McDonald, Jennifer Satlin-Fernandez, Adriana Kuehnel, Dave Zirin

 

The Junction of Grief and Hope

There are now almost 500 electronic signatures on the Community Vision petition asking the City Council to vote “No” on the current Junction site plan, and 187 comments. We recommend reading all of them. But many individuals have also taken the time to write to City officials at length, recording the history of our community at this moment. Read Dennis Huffman’s email to the City here. And to reach the whole Council, send your comments, while you still can, to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov.

May 31, 2019

I am among the significant number of Takoma Park residents who are struggling to come to terms with what feels like the slow-motion death of a loved one.  While the patient’s demise has not been certified, the City Council will be voting on it very soon.

No. I am not taking about a piece of asphalt between the fire house and the Co-op – that’s just a symptom.  The imminent death I am talking about is Sam Abbott’s vision for a city committed to building racial and economic equity.

Perhaps it would be helpful to view this through the lens of the five stages of grief.  Many of us have been in a long period of denial (the first stage).  The council seems still to be denying its role in the problem, acting as though it is duty bound simply to cut the City’s losses and ratify the inevitable.  In the community, a common refrain (and I’ve said it myself) is that we are just now realizing how perilous things are.  Many of us were asleep, wanting to believe that our leaders were wise and progressive people who would always act in our best interest.

Which brings me to anger.  There has been a lot of anger expressed in a lot of meetings over the past few months.  Anger at the breach of trust.  Anger at the privatization of public land.  Anger at the Council’s blind faith in the developers.  And anger at Council’s stone-faced deafness in hearing after hearing.  Council appears to be angry that we’re angry. 

Bargaining, the third stage in the grieving process, is generally done with God, but in this case, it’s being done with the developers, who seem to be held up as somehow god-like by the council and City staff.  Rather than having big conversations, early on, about the beliefs and values of the people of Takoma Park, and how they might be reflected in the use of public land, the developer was left to negotiate with the Co-op about things like the loading dock.  And it turns out this “god” doesn’t heed the prayers of nonbelievers – the future of the Co-op is clearly threatened by this project.  But even those who may be unmoved by the plight of the Co-op are expressing alarm at the council’s unwillingness to stand up for its own criteria.  The city seems not to realize that it holds the upper hand in any negotiations with the developers.

Back to Sam Abbott’s vision.  Some may question how one development project can harm “equity,” but the problem with that question is that it presumes somehow that equity exists.  Equity does not exist.  It is equity itself that must be developed – built, if you will.  And the proposed project is utterly indifferent to equity.

This is all, of course, quite depressing (stage 4). The City needs the development to make money to hire staff to plan more development to make more money to hire more staff.  It’s the inevitable way of the world.  Some are already sighing deeply and slipping into acceptance (stage 5).  “Traffic will just get worse and worse,” they say.  “That’s how it is.”  But what if Sam Abbott had said that about I-95?  Takoma Park is a living breathing example of how we don’t always have to accept things as the rest of the world presents them to us. 

The Takoma Junction project sits at the intersection of grief and hope.  You are rolling rapidly into that junction, and you will either have to stop to reconsider or close your eyes and pray that things somehow turn out okay.  I, and many hundreds of others, are asking you to stop.  It is not too late to keep Mayor Abbot’s vision of an inclusive and equitable city alive.

Thank you.

 Dennis Huffman, Ward 3

 

A Letter to the City

Merrill Leffler is a nationally-recognized poet and publisher. Like hundreds of others he has signed the petition asking the City Council to vote NO on the proposed Takoma Junction site plan. In an email sent today he explains, “This NDC redevelopment plan cannot be fixed by mere compromise or mediation — it is fundamentally flawed.”

From: Merrill Leffler (Ward 3)

To: Kacy Kostiuk, Ward 3 Council Member

cc: Mayor Kate Stewart, Takoma Park City Council Members, Suzanne Ludlow

Dear Kacy,

After all the hours of public testimony and supporting documents critical of the NDC’s redevelopment plan at the Junction — including your “listening” sessions — I do not understand how nearly all the City Council members continue to support it. The plan neither benefits all residents of Takoma Park, nor reflects the community values of inclusivity our city prides itself on.

To begin with, the Council should have immediately rejected NDC’s outlandish conception of a lay-by for delivery trucks close to the confluence of two heavily-trafficked roads, Route 410 and Carroll Avenue, and its feeder streets. In addition to increasing traffic congestion, the lay-by creates hazards to pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles, and is at odds with a welcoming public space. Equally unworkable is the plan’s underground parking garage that would significantly disrupt the TPSS Co-op operations, increase traffic hazards below and above ground, and make parking expensive. But most at odds with genuine revitalization of our public property is the plan’s chockablock commercial building configuration that subordinates shared public space and homegrown businesses to the developer’s profit-making interest.

We all understand that developers are in business to make money. More shops mean more rentals mean more income, and understandably NDC wants to maximize the return on its investment. This is all well and good for NDC. It is not well and good for the whole Junction, for residents, for the small businesses along Carroll Avenue, or for the patrons of these businesses (individually owned, not corporate). It is certainly not well and good for the Co-op, a grocery that exemplifies the independent, progressive spirit of Takoma Park.

To be clear: Everyone I know enthusiastically supports major revitalization of the Junction — it has been 30 years in the making, and it is time. A revitalization, however, that promotes the uniqueness of Takoma Park, our walkable city of neighborhoods, parks and playgrounds, small businesses, local schools, ethnic and racial diversity, an independent library — one of only two in Maryland — city-sponsored cultural programs, among them, We Are Takoma, and more. It is this uniqueness and commitment to progressive values that have drawn so many of us to live in Takoma Park and to work towards making the city a welcoming home for all its residents.

Takoma Park is racially and ethnically heterogeneous, as it has always been and continues to be. If anything, the City Council should be promoting ways for our diverse residents to share the same public space — the Junction is the one remaining area in the city where we have such an opportunity. Meanwhile, the City Council insists on pushing ahead with NDCs plan, which is more developer-friendly than it is community-wide friendly.

Maybe City Council members are fatigued by this long process and just want to be done with it. This is understandable but the decisions you and your colleagues make will have lasting effect on the shape of the Junction and the city — this is reason enough to reexamine just what most of you seem determined to vote for. We must not take what the developer is giving us — we should be adamant about what we want for Takoma Park, a development that will serve the interests of all our residents, a revitalization of our public land that we can all be proud of.

Amanda Burden, Chair of the New York City Planning Commission, points out, “cities are fundamentally about people — where people go and where people meet are at the core of what makes a city work.” It is not wall-to-wall building. “Even more important than buildings in a city,” says Burden, “are the public spaces between them. And today, some of the most transformative changes in cities are happening in these public spaces.”

To further quote Burden, a key figure in innovative open space development in seemingly disastrous, run-down sections of New York, “commercial interests will always battle against public space . . . a developer sees just one thing: customers.” (See “How Public Spaces Make Cities Work: www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7fRIGphgtk)

We live in a world where developers of all kinds tell us what they want and what they want is what we are supposed to want, with a few compromises here and there. This NDC redevelopment plan cannot be fixed by mere compromise or mediation — it is fundamentally flawed. It is long past time for the Council to tell NDC what we the residents and taxpayers of Takoma Park want, and if they can’t deliver and make enough of a return on their investment, then it is time to dissolve the contractual agreement and forge ahead with a revitalization that serves all the residents of our city.

Here at the Junction, we have a chance to design a truly innovative, people-first development plan that will accommodate a large welcoming public space for adults and children, which people will want to share, whether to eat outdoors, meet or run into friends, or just relax and talk. I hope that in the City Council’s further deliberations, you will make this your number one priority.

A Letter From Takoma Junction Businesses

This letter from a large majority of Junction businesses has been delivered to the City:

May 7, 2018

To: Mayor Kate Stewart, Council Members: Peter Kovar, Cindy Dyballa, Kacy Kostiuk, Terry Seamens, Jarrett Smith, and Talisha Searcy

From: Business Owners of Takoma Junction

Re: Proposed plan in the Junction

We stand in solidarity with The Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op grocery store, a vital resource and an anchor business located in Takoma Junction currently being threatened by the proposed development plan by NDC. The Co-op management and members have brought up a number of safety and operational concerns to the Council. We urge the Council not to take these concerns lightly. In addition, many of these issues may also affect our businesses located on Carroll Avenue.

We want to see the following issues addressed:

  1. Our Carroll Avenue strip has seen a particularly promising upswing in new, stable small businesses which may be threatened by increased traffic, difficulty parking, and the potentially higher rents in the Junction that may result from the large retail areas across the street putting additional strain on our businesses.
  1. The parking issue is especially concerning because it is likely that with increased volume of shoppers, some will look for free parking on the residential streets instead of using the metered parking garage. Parking on nearby streets by shoppers will likely require that Permit Parking be instituted; not something that all residents wish for but will need in order to maintain sufficient parking for themselves. Those who currently come to the Carroll Avenue shops might be deterred from patronizing our businesses due to increased traffic congestion and lack of free parking.
  1. If this project were to be completed, the large retail spaces are likely to be expensive to rent. As a result we are less likely to attract the small businesses that now characterize much of Old Takoma and Takoma Junction, namely, unique, individually-owned and operated shops and services. Higher rents in those spaces, if not designated for local businesses, may become occupied by chain stores and national businesses instead of locally-owned enterprises. We have a long-standing tradition in this City of encouraging locally-owned and operated small businesses that lend our community charm, character, and uniqueness in a large Metropolitan area filled with big chain stores.
  1. Keeping in mind the scale of what is already here should be a priority, and this NDC project is out-of-scale with the surroundings. It has been noted that the renderings are misleading and that the proposed building it actually much taller than shown.
  1. Finally, we are very concerned about the effect such an over-sized construction project including excavation for underground parking may have on our Historic buildings, nearly 100 years old now. Heavy trucks creating a lot of vibration are hard on our antique buildings.

Please do not turn a deaf ear on the business owners in Takoma Junction that already provide (and have for many years) tax revenue for the City.

Please do not minimize the importance of a well-conceived plan for deliveries and trash removal at the proposed site. Once it is built it will difficult, if not impossible, to correct the situation of large trucks sitting in front of the building—possibly double-parked—lined up and emitting fumes. This would be both unsightly and smelly for anyone sitting out and forget dining al fresco!

Lastly, this is such an oversized complex at a time when shopping is increasingly done online, and malls and strip shopping centers are often left with vacant spaces or are closing all together. Once this two-story building is up, what will happen if it is mostly vacant? This plan is on the wrong side of what we stand for in Takoma Park, on the wrong side of a population needing and longing for more community and relaxing green areas, and on the wrong side of quieting a busy intersection.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Takoma Junction Business proprietors:

Rick and Bernita Leonard
Heritage Building and Renovation, Inc.
Suds Laundromat
7334 Carroll Avenue

Eric Sepler
Kinetic Artistry
7216 Carroll Avenue

Katherine Rurka
Spring Mill Bread Company
7300 Carroll Avenue

Mark Schneider
Urban HiFi, LLC
t/a Linear Tube Audio
7316 Carroll Avenue

Paul Aytch
Mary Newsome Yancy
Salon 2000
7310 Carroll Avenue
With independent operators:
Andrea Wilson
Irene Jackson
Sandra Fisher

Jo Anne Carey, D.V.M.
Takoma Park Animal Clinic
7330 Carroll Avenue

Mark Howard
Takoma Framers
7312 Carroll Avenue

Haresh Laheri
Takoma Postal & Business Center
7304 Carroll Avenue

Kendra Blackett Dibigna
Bikram Yoga   Takoma Park
7324 Carroll Avenue

Steve Cho
Carriage House Cleaners
7308 Carroll Avenue

Bruce and Inan Philips
Healey Surgeons
7211 Carroll Avenue

Nazirahk Amen, ND, L.Ac.
Wisdom Path Healing Center
Purple Mountain Organics
7120 Carroll Avenue

D. Doley
RS Automotive, Inc.
7224 Carroll Avenue

Rachel Hardwick, President
Board of Representatives
Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op
201 Ethan Allen