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Town Of Chevy Chase Not Happy With Apex Building Plan

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 11/1/2013, 2:30pm  ET

Elm Street Park, where a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel could be builtBesides the potential loss of a movie theater, there hasn’t been much controversy over the plan for a reimagined Bethesda Purple Line station.

But the Town of Chevy Chase, a longtime opponent of the Purple Line, has a number of concerns. In the Town’s testimony for a Planning Board public hearing set for Thursday, Mayor Pat Burda said the desire for a redesigned Bethesda station is another example of skyrocketing costs the Maryland Transit Administration should have anticipated.

The Town is also concerned with how the so-called Bethesda Purple Line Station Minor Master Plan Amendment would affect the open space in front of the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema and how a new Capital Crescent Trail tunnel would impact Elm Street Park:

Only a few years ago, the Planning Board responded to a public outcry and required the developer of what was then called Woodmont East to create a plaza with a substantial amount of open space in front of the Landmark Theaters – the only remaining open space in the downtown Bethesda area. The proposed minor master plan amendment would likely result in the redesign of this site and the elimination of this open space. It envisions that the new Apex building developer will transfer development density to adjacent areas including the Woodmont East site with the likely outcome that the amount of open space on this site will be reduced from what was required in earlier project approvals. The minor master plan amendment should specify that adequate open space in front of the Landmark theaters should remain a priority

The Town says the Trail tunnel for bikers (planners have proposed two options) should be mandatory regardless of the Apex Building owner’s decision on whether to sell, redevelop or keep the existing building.

But the Town does not like either of the two options planners came up with:

The first option suffers from an unacceptable 8 percent grade as it exits onto Elm Street. The second option avoids this problem, but appears to take additional land from Elm Street Park because it has separate spurs for the tunnel portal and the surface route. We would prefer an option that maintains grade changes to 5 percent, but which also minimizes the amount of land taken from Elm Street Park.

The Planning Board public hearing is set for 6 p.m. on Thursday at Planning Department headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave.).