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Purple Line Planners Meet With Unhappy Homeowners

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 8/30/2013, 9:55am  ET

MTA planners go over how the Purple Line will affect homes along Edgevale Street, Edgevale Court and Kentbury Drive in Bethesda

There are 37 properties on Edgevale Street, Edgevale Court and Kentbury Drive that back up to the Georgetown Branch Trail and future Purple Line.

It’s one of the most constricted sections of the planned 16-mile, Bethesda to New Carrollton light rail system. Some homeowners will see their backyards cut in half. One will lose a shed the MTA says was illegally built in the county’s right-of-way for the Trail. Another will have no backyard at all. Her house backs up right to the property line.

The tiny neighborhood just off East-West Highway, sandwiched between Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Columbia Country Club is one of many areas that will be physically changed by the Purple Line. But it’s unique in that the state isn’t asking to buy private property or take it through eminent domain.

Since Montgomery County bought the right-of-way for the former B&O railroad in 1988 to build the Trail, the area has become an extension of the neighborhood and of people’s homes, even if it legally doesn’t belong to them.

On Thursday at B-CC, MTA officials held an at-times contentious meeting with the 37 homeowners in the area, many who are unhappy with how the Purple Line will affect their properties.

About 50 people from the neighborhood showed up to the meeting. They are worried about noise, Trail access and a tree canopy that will be destroyed to make way for the light rail.

But with the MTA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Purple Line set for public release next week and with a funding plan for the $2.2 billion system now in motion, it’s obvious there will be a Purple Line and it will be built on the Trail right-of-way.

“We were told we shouldn’t have built the house,” said John Anderson, who rents out a home on Edgevale Court that his wife Carol’s family bought in 1953.

Carol Anderson said the B&O Railroad  even had the family sign a lease in order to use 10 feet of space that became part of the property’s backyard. The right-of-way comes within 10 feet of the back of their house.

Cate Detwiler moved into her Edgevale Street house two years ago. She said the coming Purple Line wasn’t disclosed in her buyer’s agreement. (Interestingly enough, the Intercounty Connector highway project was.) She said the right-of-way comes right up to the back of her home.

MTA Purple Line project manager Michael Madden and staff offered views of what the Purple Line and new Trail would look like from each property that backs up to the right-of-way.

The MTA will build a four- to six-foot sound barrier, similar to what’s being built along the line in the Town of Chevy Chase.

It’s a measure that Madden told homeowners was not required by the noise standards of the Federal Transit Administration. As of February, the Town of Chevy Chase was the only location along the 16-mile route where the MTA planned to build the wall.

The plan also includes a vegetated swale along the tracks to capture all stormwater runoff, as required, Madden said.

Residents on Edgevale also want safety and lighting measures taken for the East-West Highway tunnel for the light rail and Trail.

Many raised concerns about the loss of the existing tree canopy and how those trees would be replaced.

They also wanted another meeting to discuss their mitigation requests, something Madden was reluctant to commit to this far along in the process.