Epic. Monumental. Marathon. What other adjectives can you use to describe a four and half hour community meeting that was filled to the rim with resolutions that members of the community have been waiting years to resolve?
Monday evening’s ANC 4B meeting bought several long-running community discussions to a close. There were way too many topics on the agenda to present a proper summary for them all here, so I will highlight the items with the greatest community concern. In their infinite wisdom, the commissioners chose to save the biggest topic for last, so I’ll begin there.
Metropolitan Branch Trail
As we’ve written before, the D.C. Department of Transportation has been planning for years to complete the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT), a dedicated biking/jogging path, that runs from Union Station to downtown Silver Spring. Although most people agreed with that goal, assigning the actual route proved to be an elusive goal.
But last night, those years and dozens of discussions finally bore fruit as the Commission voted to support the proposal to extend the MBT from McDonald Place/New Hampshire Ave north to Aspen Street along Blair Road NW. This configuration will require Blair Road to lose a good portion of the rightmost lane, from Rittenhouse up to Aspen. The protected bike/jogging trail will replace that lane of traffic, where cars currently accelerate to superhighway speeds to jockey for position.
The hearty MBT supporters who stuck around until 11:23 pm to hear that vote broke out into applause upon the resolution’s passing.
In another long-standing community concern, the Commission weighed in on a zoning request for the owners of the Takoma Theatre property. You can read more about the future plans for the building here.
The property’s developer came before the ANC to ask for support for a special exception to the current zoning rules which requires up to 5,000 sf of “retail” or other designated use in that space. Because the future tenant, Children’s Hospital, wants to use so much of the space, the Commission voted to support the reduction of the required “retail” use down to 1,822 sf. This retail use will be divided into two suites on either side of the front entrance of the theatre on 4th Street NW. In addition, the developer has committed to leasing the space to local businesses at a reduced rate for the first few years AND they will build out the space for tenant. The developer has also agreed to provide $12,500 in funds to assist with maintenance of the triangle park at 4th and Blair Road NW.
Takoma Baseball Field
Finally, the Commission considered a new proposal from the Washington Nationals Legacy Fields Foundation and the Department of Parks and Recreation to renovated the baseball field at Takoma Recreation center. The upgrade to this field would include installing and irrigation system and a new grass infield, fencings, covered dugouts and more.
Surprisingly, the Friends of the Takoma Recreation Center group was there in opposition to this proposal. Their concern is that making what is known as Field #2 a dedicated baseball diamond would take away from its traditional function as a multi-use field suitable for baseball, soccer and multitudes of other activities.
In the end, the generous offer from the Nationals’ foundation was too good to pass up. The Commission voted to support the resolution in favor of the field renovation, with an amendment to explore adding lighting to one of the other fields at the center so that baseball and soccer could see nighttime use.