Wednesday, March 27, 2013


A clause buried in the latest draft of the Rockville Pike plan could one day threaten homes on Lewis Avenue in Twinbrook, if not removed before the plan is voted on.

On Page 4-6 of the plan document, under the heading, "Incentives to Build Crossing over CSX," the following sentence appears:

While the current residential development along Lewis Avenue makes this difficult, future opportunities may allow such a...crossing.

If I am a homeowner on Lewis Avenue, I'd be wondering just what those "future opportunities" might be.

The language is clear that the points of crossing would be where current homes stand today. "Future opportunities," then, suggests a time will come when those homes will no longer block the way. A.k.a. demolition.

Some may dismiss the notion, but the facts suggest otherwise.

First of all, language like this - as I know from personal experience in the planning process at the county level - can be seized upon at a future date by a developer, and can be used to justify expansion across the CSX and Metro tracks into Twinbrook. If residents protest, they'll be overruled, as officials will find such expansion "consistent with the Master Plan."

Second, there's no such thing as a footbridge anymore. The law now requires even pedestrian bridges to be wide and strong enough to carry emergency vehicles.

Third, the process of decking over railroads and highways is standard practice. A seamless expansion of Pike properties across into Twinbrook would be easily achieved by that method. And, via this clause, such decking would ironically allow those developments to be even taller and denser.

Finally, to those who say it can't happen, I would refer you to the attempted purchase of the Sacks neighborhood adjacent to Bethesda Row. A developer offered single-family homeowners in that suburban-style subdivision millions apiece. The purchase ultimately failed when homeowners demanded even more, and then the real estate market crashed.

It could have happened in Bethesda, and, with this clause left in the Pike Plan, it could happen in Rockville.

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