Real Estate & Hospitality

Montgomery County Planning Dept Recommends Disapproval for Takoma Junction Project

MBS Staff

Image: Neighborhood Development Company (NDC)

It’s been discussed for more than a decade but on January 27 a major Takoma Park project will be presented before the Montgomery County Planning Board for final approval. Unfortunately for the parties involved, the development is in serious jeopardy with both the City of Takoma Park Council and Montgomery Planning Department recommending disapproval of the project.

After years of discussion, the City of Takoma Park finally issued a request for proposals to developers in January 2014 to revitalize the blighted lot. Washington, D.C.-based Neighborhood Development Company (NDC) was selected as the developer of choice for the public-private joint venture in April 2015. The project would be called Takoma Junction with plans that include office and retail space totaling 40,762 square feet.

But at a June 23rd meeting, the City Council of Takoma Park voted to disapprove of the one and a quarter acre project that expanded to include the Takoma Auto Clinic property. The major issue at hand is the loading layby design of the building that fronts the State-owned Carroll Avenue. The design was denied by the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). SHA was not convinced that pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles traveling along Carroll Avenue could safely navigate around the proposed layby design or access the development.

In the June 23rd meeting of the Takoma Park Council, member Jarrett Smith hoped the community could move forward but didn’t see a way past the layby issue “I support this resolution and I think it is really important that Council articulates to the community what is going to be the next step because people are going to be anxious and want to know what’s going to happen at the Junction. In addition to the layby, which I don’t see how that is going to ever be resolved... The development partner tried two different iterations and they were shot down. So, I don’t know how you can come up with a third iteration for a layby.” Smith also expressed concern about the planned public space. “I couldn’t understand that presentation, that didn’t make any sense to me.”

Due to the zoning laws the development is restricted to two stories or a maximum of 42’ feet. It is possible additional stories would have resolved the layby issue allowing for greater flexibility in the design and loading space.

The Montgomery Planning Department is also against the developer's request for a parking waiver removing 15 off-street parking spaces as they are tied to the layby issue. The proposal includes a total of 78 below grade parking spaces, less than the 101 required by zoning laws.

In addition to the layby and parking waiver, Takoma Park Council also took issue with the quality of the public-use space, the rear façade design and the stormwater treatment falling below requirements.

The Takoma Junction presentation before the Planning Board was rescheduled several times before settling on January 27.