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Chevy Chase residents mobilizing against potential fire station redevelopment

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 6/23/2014, 3:25pm  ET

Bethesda Fire Department Station #6 at Wisconsin Avenue and Bradley LaneThough redevelopment hasn’t been formally proposed, some Chevy Chase residents are mobilizing for a fight against mixed-use commercial development at Bethesda Fire Station #6.

Officials from the nonprofit that owns the station property at the corner of Bradley Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue have said they are exploring a mixed-use project to help pay for a modern fire station facility.

Coupled with the property’s inclusion in an early recommendation from county planners working on the Bethesda Downtown Plan, it’s enough to make some residents of the abutting Chevy Chase West neighborhood wary.

Fire Station #6 backs up to Nottingham Drive and a block of single family homes outside of the Bethesda Central Business District.

“The CCW Neighborhood Association Board decided at its last meeting to oppose any change in zoning for the property that would allow commercial uses (it is currently zoned for relatively low density multi-family residential). Because any change would occur within the planning process, there are many opportunities for us to weigh in, and now, as the Planning Board will be briefed on staff’s concept and framework, is a good time to speak up,” reads a message from Naomi Spinrad, zoning coordinator for the Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association.

Spinrad encouraged residents to send a letter to the Planning Board discouraging the Board from rezoning the property to allow for any commercial uses.

The message, shared in the neighborhood’s monthly newsletter, also claims that the Bethesda Fire Department that owns the station “has tried many times in the past and failed to get zoning that would have allowed commercial uses and multiple residences on the property, and there have been many reports that they are trying again in the context of the updating of the sector plan.”

According to Spinrad, a previous proposal included a 169-unit apartment-hotel with a barber shop, beauty parlor, pharmacy, other retail and 279 parking spots.

In April, Bethesda Fire Department Board member Nat Finkelstein said there weren’t yet any specific proposals for redevelopment.

Still, Chevy Chase West residents aren’t going to wait to raise concerns about density and height so close to the neighborhood.

“This sort of development would be a disaster for our residents on Nottingham, and would set a terrible precedent for properties along Wisconsin,” Spinrad wrote. The full PDF version of the message is below.

Elza Hisel-McCoy, the county planner managing the downtown Bethesda master plan rewrite, said the fire station property was included in areas that might see redevelopment because it’s in a gateway area that planners feel should be better activated, potentially by ground-floor retail.

PDF: Chevy Chase West Letter To Planning Board