A lot has happened at the Junction this week. And now, the City must decide between the developer, and the Co-op.
On Thursday night April 15th, a lawyer for the Takoma Junction developer (NDC) sent a “cease and desist” letter to the Co-op, telling them to halt all Co-op deliveries on the City lot immediately. They gave the Co-op 30 days to vacate the lot completely. This would potentially shut down the Co-op. And it would put the parking for all the Junction businesses in peril.
The next day, Friday, residents began arriving at the Junction to make sure the Co-op could receive deliveries. On Saturday and Sunday, those who love the C0-op, support local businesses, and are through with this developer, held protests at the Junction. Some 150 protesters occupied all three Junction sidewalks (both sides of Carroll and BY Morrison Park in the middle). Cars honked support as they drove through.
Even some who had previously supported the development expressed shock at this bullying of the Co-op, a community-owned institution that fed many of us through the pandemic. A flood of comments supporting the Co-op and calling for the end to the deal with NDC came in through the City’s Junction feedback comment form (Please post your comment!). It has become clear that you can no longer say you support the Co-op, and also support this development. Small local businesses and non-profits that had remained quiet, began speaking out. The photos here are a record of some of the signs. The overall message was #DropNDCNow and #SupportLocalBusinesses
The protest was covered by NBC Channel 4 News at six o’clock on Saturday night. Eric Bond was there recording interviews for his WOWD Takoma Radio news show, Talk of Takoma. His audio montage of “person on the street” voices, with the sounds of the protest in the background, was broadcast on Sunday.
On Monday morning, the struggle at the Junction was featured on Joni Eisenberg’s WPFW show, To Heal DC. Eisenberg, an activist who has lived in Takoma Park since 1979, called it a “Shocking situation in Takoma Park.” She connected this struggle to the activism of Sammie Abbott. “This is not just about Takoma Park. It’s not just about a health-food store. It’s about gentrification, and how it’s impacting the entire country,” Eisenberg stated. “We’re going to need to mobilize, together, to fight this developer, and to make sure the City of Takoma Park stands up for what is right for all of us.”
Listen here, starting at 2:30:
At this point, lawyers (presumably for the developer, City, and Co-op) are negotiating, and we have no idea what is happening. The Mayor and Councilmembers stopped giving substantive answers to resident questions, citing the legal proceedings. A series of three closed City Council meetings, with no public comments, began Monday night. All we know is that “fixing” the situation has to mean more than just letting the Co-op back on the lot. We must part ways with this developer.
Background on What Just Happened (for dates and links, keep scrolling down):
- County reviewers find the layby unsafe.
- City staff post some suspiciously unsubstantiated claims about the current Co-op delivery system on the lot being unsafe (and other new and bizarre claims about the development plans).
- Co-op and residents challenge the City Manager to provide evidence.
- No evidence forthcoming of danger on the lot, used for deliveries for decades.
- State Highway Administration (SHA) says NDC’s proposed layby delivery system on Carroll Ave is not safe, cannot be approved.
- This is not surprising. Residents and Councilmembers had concerns about the layby going back to 2015, and County and State reviewers expressed concern about it at several previous points in the review.
- Without the layby, the developer cannot build something this big, or make as much money.
- Then, NDC breaks their agreement with the City and Co-op by sending the Co-op the cease-and-desist letter.
For all the recent correspondence and relevant documents in one place, here is a timeline with links:
2/2/21 County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) letter cites safety concerns with the layby
3/10/21 City posts “Fact Sheet” (later removed) on City web site alleging current unsafe delivery conditions on the lot
3/17/21 Co-op response to City Manager about City “Fact Sheet”
3/17/21 City Manager response to Co-op
3/31/21 Co-op response to City Manager asking City to correct the “Fact Sheet” and post Co-op’s responses
4/13/21 State Highway Administration determines layby is unsafe
4/15/21 NDC notice to Co-op to immediately cease deliveries and sublease termination in 30 days
4/16/21 Co-op response to NDC re their actions
4/16/21 Co-op letter to City Manager re NDC’s actions
4/16/21 Oddly, no Councilmembers are on the weekly NDC/City/Council call, and the call notes make no mention of NDC terminating sublease with Co-op.
4/16/21 Co-op e-newsletter to Co-Op members and community re NDC notice to cease deliveries and sublease termination
4/21/21 Co-op update to members states they now have until April 26th to end deliveries, and they have received no evidence about unsafe conditions on lot