A 600-foot road that Montgomery County says would relieve traffic congestion in a small Chevy Chase neighborhood shouldn’t get special treatment when it comes to removing trees, county planners say.
The new road would be built from Jones Bridge Road just west of Connecticut Avenue north through North Chevy Chase Local Park to Montrose Drive.
County transportation officials say the two-lane road would provide safer traffic patterns for residents of the Spring Valley neighborhood, who must deal with more traffic on Jones Bridge Road because of the expansion of Naval Support Activity Bethesda and Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
But staff from the Planning Department says the county has yet to prove the road is necessary enough to remove 14 specimen trees and impact another nine specimen trees in the road’s path. Planners also disapproved of the project as a whole, though the Planning Department has legal authority only over the tree variance and forest conservation plan.
In their recommendation to be considered by the Planning Board next week, planners say the removal of the trees doesn’t fit the area’s Master Plan and that the neighborhood is already well served by an interim traffic signal:
The Plan is inconsistent with the recommendations in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan (“BCC”); the Forest Conservation Law; Chapter 50-32 of the Montgomery County Code; and Montgomery County Environmental Guidelines. The plan does not comply with the intent of the laws, codes and guidelines for tree and forest protection. …
… The design of the proposed road has not “minimized” forest clearing, nor have there been ”reasonable effort” taken to minimize the cutting or clearing of trees and other woody plants. This reasoning is based on the first step of a proposed road which is justification of need and purpose. According to M-NCPPC Transportation Planning staff, the need for safe access to the Chevy Chase Valley neighborhood has been met by the installation of the ‘interim’ traffic signal which has resolved access and safety issues that generated the road proposal in the first place. Therefore the road seems unnecessary. If the “interim’ traffic signal stays in place, the parkland could be preserved. This is the first course of action to minimize the clearing and loss of specimen trees and its associated forest.
The loss of an parkland with the varying topography and mature forest can never be replaced in the suburban community of Chevy Chase.
Planners later go on to say, “The Applicant will be removing irreplaceable contiguous forest inside the Beltway.”
Platt Ridge Drive would require the clearing of about .71 acres of forests with slopes between 15-25 percent and another .23 acres of steeper slopes that would be removed.
MCDOT said a recent intersection study it conducted indicated that the neighborhood is affected by NSAB/Walter Reed traffic, especially during the evening rush hour when cars on eastbound Jones Bridge Road typically queue up, causing a major traffic chokepoint.
MCDOT argued that meant an “unwarranted hardship” for the Spring Valley neighborhood, which would merit a tree removal variance.
Image via Montgomery County Planning Department