Thursday, February 02, 2012

"The Community" Suffers Flesh Wound, Will No Doubt Continue Fighting Townhouses Indefinitely

The Leave the Zone Alone movement suffered a bit of a setback last week, as the Planning Board unanimously approved a revised plan for EYA's Chelsea Court townhouses which includes a concession from the developer reducing the number of planned homes from 76 to 64. This outcome is, of course, completely unsatisfactory to many members of SOECA, who claim that the mere existence of these townhouses will "ruin the community spirit"of the neighborhood. They can take solace in the fact that there remains two additional stages of approval at which they can protest the plan, including an ultimate review by the county council. There's always a councilperson who can be persuaded by the threat of a few lost votes to hold up any development project indefinitely. A handful of "outraged" voters will always trump progress and economic development in MoCo.

I have never quite understood where there's such opposition to these townhomes. It's not like the state is condemning their houses to build a train line or anything. Perhaps if I lived directly across the street from the project, I might consider placing a Leave the Zone Alone Sign in my yard (ok, no I wouldn't), but even that situation doesn't seem like it would be all that terrible. Visually, a collection of well designed-homes seems infinitely preferable to an school (abandoned or not) surrounded by a chain link fence. In addition, I think it's kind of dark and scary over by the library at night, so if anything adding greater residential density might make that stretch of Ellsworth feel safer. And as I've mentioned before, there's an existing high rise apartment building on one side of the parcel and a retirement community on the other. The low-density ship sailed a long time ago.

And is there really a legitimate threat of increased traffic? Let's say an average of one car from each of the sixty-four proposed homes is exiting or entering the neighborhood once over the entire course of a rush hour period. Is that volume going to result in a noticeable increase in neighborhood traffic congestion? Besides, I would venture that many of the potential homebuyers who would pay the premium attached to housing in a Metro-accessible location such as this would be doing so because they take public transportation to work. I'm also unsure where the concern about cut-through traffic comes from, as there are already "DO NOT ENTER" signs installed at all entrances to the neighborhood from the downtown area.

BONUS: Here's an ad for the Evanswood neighborhood from when it was first developed many years ago. I wonder if back then neighborhood farmers banded together against the Evanswood development, complaining that the area shouldn't be re-zoned for single-family houses.

19320521 Evanswood Ad.jpg


Isayaah Parker said...

MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY! Especially about the abandoned school surrounded by chain link fence! COME ON! Absolutely ridiculous that they are STILL protesting townhomes and new residents to "DOWNTOWN" There are so many more important things to protest in this day in age and townhomes aint it. I am so sick of everything being slowed down by these type of idiots. You can't live so close to the DC border in a designated downtown area of an edge city and expect the area to be your backyard. You have to allow other people to move into the area and deal with GROWTH. Otherwise, Move to Cumberland!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't "spirit of community" mean "I don't want no stinkin' change, I like things the way they are"?

Anonymous said...

We're praying for something like this development when the police station moves to White Oak. Although I'm sure ESSCA will fight it tooth and nail.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, the Sligo police station is an awful building/sea of parking. I'd love for it to be redeveloped into a set of EYA townhomes. Makes a ton of sense and since there are already quite a few townhomes in the area I'm not as pessimistic that "the community" would fight it.

Easley Does It said...

Hear Hear! Or should it be Here Here! I've never known which it is. In any case, I agree.

Anonymous said...

this is another example of stupid liberal yuppies who would rather keep an ant hill preserved than offer quality housing. these are the same people who want more "community development" but at the same time scream bloddy murder whenever someone actually tries to promote the community. i say we raze these people's houses and build the purple line over there land. problem solved. stupid granola yuppies

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:49

you do know what yuppie stands for right? I seriously doubt the people against the town homes are either young or urban - in fact, yuppies are the most likely folks to buy them. The rest of your post was super insightful though.

Anonymous said...

Actually they are anything but yuppies--young urban professionals. The opposition group is a very vocal but relatively small percentage of SOECA residents and are mostly in their late 40's to late 50's. The equally small (proportionally) group of supporters of the project are also mostly the same age group. The vast majority of the 900+ households in SOECA have expressed neither support nor opposition, which the county understands to be tacit support. EYA has satisfied all the recommendations of the hearing examiner so the odds are in their favor to get the project approved. And all those SOECA zealots in the opposition? They will lose the fight for insistng that only single family (giant) homes are appropriate on this peripheral lot adjacent to the CBD. And just like the feared gridlock from the Fillmore thaht never materialized, neither will this development cause the destruction of anyone's lifestyle or bring any noticeable impact to the traffic through the neighborhood. I can't wait of the the first SOECA meeting when the new townhome owners attend and start to voice their opinions!

Clancy said...

Folks, don't let something as trivial as reality get in the way of a good anti-yuppie rant.

Anonymous said...

sorry didnt mean yuppie. meant more like yuffie as in young urban failure. as in half the people in this area...well actually more like most

Anonymous said...

btw, i was also being generic in the fact of stating yuppie that most of these are the liberal elitests who think they know whats best and are the definition of hypocracy.

Anonymous said...

Don't bother feeding the NoVa troll. He'll leave soon enough.

Look forward to the latest EYA development. No doubt it'll be excellent work.

Anonymous said...

We have many of the same kind of "we want to preserve the [insert something that no longer applies] character of our community" fearful people over here in Takoma Park. Mention density and they start putting up the excuses of traffic and more kids in the schools, and they can't see that seniors are moving away because there's no place to downsize and families with kids are moving in, or that people who live in townhouses near transportation and amenities don't drive as much as they do. These are some of the same kind of presevation people who want to freeze time and keep a "Canada Dry" building facade (and what's up with that sign?) or a ratty shell of a gas station (Takoma Junction), and who want to keep the [insert something that no longer applies] character by not installing sidewalks (because their kids were fine there 40 years ago when dad had the only car), but wonder why no one wants to put a nice restaurant or decent business near their neighborhood (hint--the customer density, parking facilities (which they also oppose), and safe walking routes are not there). Not a one is a yuppie--it's more the we've lived here forever and rusted in place. I'm in the same age group (the ones that use to say "never trust anyone over the age of 30," but sometimes I wish they wouldn't let anyone over the age of 30 vote on local issues.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. As a liberal yuppie who loves development, this will continue to enhance DTSS. My guess is EYA figured out what their profit threashold was and tacked on another 14 or so units. Presented that and then stepped back to a "reasonable compromise". That's all you have to do to go around these anti-develpoment people.

Anonymous said...

" A handful of "outraged" voters will always trump progress and economic development in MoCo."

Ain't that the truth.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Do you mean "Suffers Flesh Wound"? Or "Would"?

Anonymous said...

Lol@the anon who thinks everyone is the NOVA troll that doesn't share his same opinions.

Get a life.

Danielle Meitiv said...

I still think the higher number should have been approved but I'm glad something passed (this stage at least).

And BTW what the hell is it with those Do Not Enter Signs. How do those folks get home? Sounds like a Steven Wright joke: "I was born on a one-way dead-end road - I don't know how we got there."

I don't see any exceptions on the signs (i.e. "local traffic only") so they must violate the law everyday.

Danielle Meitiv said...

Did anyone hear about the proposal/idea of putting apartments on the old Eagle Bank spot at Fenton and Sligo. I can see that spot from my bedroom and would welcome an EYA development with open arms!

But hey, what do I know? I'm from Queens and grew up thinking mixed density/use/race/religion/class living was, I don't know, normal. Even (gasp!) desirable.

Sligo said...

Re: Great post! Do you mean "Suffers Flesh Wound"? Or "Would"?

Duh, fixed!

Group Think said...

Of course, no mention in this piece or in any of the bilious self-righteous comments that the Chelsea property is zoned R-60 and that if EYA had simply planned for 25 townhouses, there would have been NO NEED for a zoning exemption. Almost nobody seems to know about this particular fact much less mention it. This piece would have been more balanced and less inflammatory if there had been a discussion of master plans and to what extent the county should hew to them. But instead we get another "anti-yuppie" tirade when a more nuanced dialogue could have helped inform the issue. More light, less heat would be helpful. But wait - here comes more bile.

Anonymous said...

Who on earth cares what it's zoned for? It's a freaking school, currently. Of course it's not zoned properly. Wake up and enjoy the 21st century, or move. Either way, we're all cool with it. So sorry that million dollar townhomes will be built near you. Boo hoo.

Bicker Bicker said...

Those with weak arguments resort to name calling and ad hominem attacks. "Stupid liberal yuppies" ... "liberal elitists" ... "these type of idiots" ... "stupid granola yuppies" ... "SOECA zealots" ... "NoVa troll" ... "Move to Cumberland! - just quoting the brilliant arguments being put forth here in the comments section. Such childishness.

Anonymous said...

@groupthink: no mention in your comment that the master plan was developed long before the revitalization of silver spring and that master plan is a guide, not set in stone, and has always been intended to be revisited and edited as times change. The planning board and the hearing examiner have agreed that the current zoning for the property is long out of date considering its location at the every edge of SOECA, immediately adjacent to the CBD and mostly abutting much higher density existing developments (yes, that's where it is and SOECA effectively lost the argument that it is IN the neighborhood). Argue all you want about the invisible dotted line on the ground that separates the CBD from SOECA, but the reality is that the facts on the ground indicate the site should be appropriately developed at higher density than 25 homes. SOECA got a partial victory by getting the size of the project reduced, now they should let it go and use the tens of thousands of dollars they plan to spend in legal fees on something more useful to society. Call this comment bile all you want, but you know it to be true.

Unknown said...

I think the folks who are against this sort of development are more concerned that their property values may actually go up as a result of these sought after these "Metro-accessible" townhomes have been constructed. With increased home values, likewise goes the county property tax on said property.

Oh the shame and unfairness that one's home value should go up when one doesn't want to sell, but as so often it also doesn't go up when you do want to sell. Can't please them.

Patrick Thornton said...


We want to change the zoning codes. They're not the Bible. They can be changed and should evolve as time moves on.

The fact of the matter is the few that stand in the way of these townhouses stand in the way of the future of Silver Spring and the wishes of the majority of people here. We need more housing types, and we need housing types that appeal to Millennials. SFHs and low density isn't it.

Maybe a bunch of old boomers want SFHs without metro accessibility, but that's not the reality of today's generation. Montgomery County needs to be more competitive with other jurisdictions and projects like this will help make it so.

Not to mention that our county, and thus our community, will receive far greater tax revenue from these townhouses than if the zoning was kept the same and a bunch of SFHs were built on top of it. To stand in the way of new development like this is to put a few selfish desires or fears ahead of what benefits the most of us. And for what? What's really that difference between a SFH and a townhouse?

I own a two-bedroom Condo in DTSS, and if there isn't something that I'd like to move into (i.e. a townhouse) if I need a bigger place, I'll leave SS and perhaps the county. My wife and I are both well educated, have professional jobs and live in housing types that require fewer county services and contribute high amounts of taxes.

And because we walk everywhere, we don't tear up the roads and we frequent local Silver Spring shops and restaurants. I'm willing to bet that we frequent local businesses at a far higher rate than someone who drives everywhere.

The county loses money on SFH owners, and makes money off of people like myself and my wife. Does the county really want people like us to leave to placate the fears of the past?

And if all the young professionals (and one day middle age professionals) leave for other jurisdictions, who will pay for all the senior services that will be required as the Boomers retire?

This is the reality on the ground. The county should have never caved and taken away a dozen townhouses from this proposed project.

We need the density. We need the tax income. We need professionals who frequent local shops.

We don't need fear mongering.

Echo Chamber said...

Hey Patrick Thornton,

Group Think here - where's the fear mongering in my post? Answer: there is none - just a plea for honest debate where people consider other points of view. Not angry screeds and shrill personal attacks. Obviously my point about the role of master plans has struck a nerve given the angry retorts, so I must be onto something. But no, can't admit there might be ANY validity to my point - heaven forbid that folks acknowledge that each of us owns a piece of the truth. So you want to change the master plans? Yes, let's shout each other down and hurl personal invective. NO WAIT, better yet - run for the Planning Board. So glad that the newspaper industry is fighting for its life, since we can count on bloggers to pound the pavement and report what's going on at city hall with a minimum of hysteria and personal bias.

Anonymous said...

This article contains misinformation and a distortion of the actual record.

Despite the satirical headline, it was the townhouse opponents who scored a significant victory over EYA. After five hearings before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, the Hearing Examiner agreed with the opponents that the RT-15 zoning change requested by EYA was incompatible with the existing neighborhood. She recommended that the case be remanded to her, and on October 18, 2011, the Disrict Council agreed. They too found that the RT-15 zoning change was not compatible with the neighborhood.

Contrary to this article, EYA made no concessions whatsoever in its new plan. It was forced to reduce the number of townhouses it wants to build. It was forced to submit a new plan with less density and massing. It was forced to protect the historic property of the Riggs Thompson House. That was not a concession. That was the result of EYA's defeat.

On September 22, 2011, the Hearing Examiner issued a 184 page report that fully explored the issues of the case. This report is available online at the Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, along with transcripts of the five hearings. Look for zoning application G-892. These documents will give a complete and detailed picture of this case, unlike this article, which is superficial at best.

Many of the comments here are juvenile and obnoxious. Community associations exist to help neighborhoods fight against powerful economic interests that place profits ahead of the needs of the neighborhoods they wish to build in. EYA had plenty of money, a powerful law firm, and a public relations firm on their side, and they still lost, thanks to a community coming together to defend itself.

Anonymous said...

SOECA victory? Seriously? EYA will likely be approved to build sixty-something townhomes on this site. How can you say SOECA claims victory when they repeatedly asserted/testified the ONLY acceptable zoning was the existing R-60 (25 single family homes)? When it became apparent that neither the planning board nor the hearing examiner were buying that, SOECA agreed to accept RT-12. Both the planning board and zoning examiner said townhomes were perfectly compatible with the neighborhood given the site's location. The hearing examiner required some reasonable changes to accomodate SOECA's concerns, but to say EYA "lost" is simply not true. And while many of the comments on this posting are indeed juvenile, so are the ridiculous claims that building sixty-something townhomes on this site will have dire consequenses on the existing residents' lifestyles.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 2:36

EYA will likely be approved to build sixty-something townhomes on this site.

That remains to be seen. The last time they won before the Planning Board, they lost at the Hearing Examiner and Planning Board levels.

When it became apparent that neither the planning board nor the hearing examiner were buying that, SOECA agreed to accept RT-12.

That is patently false. SOECA has not agreed to accept RT-12.5 (I assume that is what you meant, because there is no RT-12).

The hearing examiner required some reasonable changes to accomodate SOECA's concerns

The Hearing Examiner told EYA to fix certain problems. It's new plan does not do that.

And while many of the comments on this posting are indeed juvenile, so are the ridiculous claims that building sixty-something townhomes on this site will have dire consequenses on the existing residents' lifestyles.

During the first round of this saga, EYA's supporters called SOECA's claims ridiculous, but the Hearing Examiner and Planning Board found otherwise. Would you like to tell the Hearing Examiner that her opinion was ridiculous? How about Valerie Ervin?

Anonymous said...

"That remains to be seen. The last time they won before the Planning Board, they lost at the Hearing Examiner and Planning Board levels."

Correction: Hearing Examiner and District Council levels.

Anonymous said...

Based on the comments to this post and to those on other blogs, particularly Just Up The Pike, Thayer Ave and Greater Greater Washington, I'd say there are tens of thousands of people who would have any problem telling the hearing examiner or Valerie Ervin that their opinions are ridiculous. Times are changing, Silver Spring has urbanized and higher density is going to happen. Get used to it, because the people will buy the EYA toenhomes and existing houses in SOECA don't want the insular lifestyle that you are trying to preserve (or as you say, protect).

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to watch those "tens of thousands" of people pit their legal reasoning against that of the Hearing Examiner and District Council.

The rest of your rant is just that: a rant.

Anonymous said...

SOECA's DO NOT ENTER mantra is ridiculous. Fenton Village used to be single family, until it changed. This is the nature of cities and SOECA or ESSCA can fight it all they want, thankfully there are more people moving in that want a vibrant community, not an exclusive country club atmosphere that wants the status quo. The AFI, Downtown, and Fillmore are all mine!!!

Easley Does It said...

I've heard many descriptions for downtown Silver Spring, but "exclusive country club atmosphere" is definitely a first. Take that, Avenel!

Anonymous said...

"...SOECA or ESSCA can fight it all they want, thankfully there are more people moving in that want a vibrant community, not an exclusive country club atmosphere that wants the status quo."

So, the hoi polloi want to move into Silver Spring?

Release the hounds.

Anonymous said...

Babe's is getting a makeover from someone who actually knows wtf they're doing! Hopefully it goes from mediocre in every way to awesome in every way!

Sligo said...

I'm not sure the bar in question is Babe's. The caption for the photo in that article (which is of Babe's) specifically says that is not the bar getting made over.

Anonymous said...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Craaaaaaaaaaaap. Why the heck would Patch do that - you can't see the caption without clicking to enlarge the photo (at least in my browser). Ugh. Fail, Patch, fail. Wonder which bar will be made over then....

Anonymous said...

Fire Station 1, I hope. They suck.

Anonymous said...

I also dislike FS1, but that's primarily due to the absurdly high prices they charge for mediocre product. The service issues seem to be mostly resolved. Interior looks dumb, but not horrific. Obviously, the exterior would be unchanged. Hmm...sure would be nice if Patch just told us the damn answer. Watch it be some SSINO bar no one has heard of.

Anonymous said...

Most of the bars around here need help. And Babe's sucks.

Anonymous said...

Fire Station One service still sucks. Went in with a friend during halt-time of a playoff game. Sat at the bar, place was not overly crowded. But, damn, shift change! We tried for the entire half time to get the attention of somebody behind the luck. Not even a glass of water. GIven my complexion, I wondered...but whatever the was just ridiculous. We headed to Austin Grille for the second half. I had high hopes for Fire Station One, but it is a miserable failure in so many ways. It deserves to go under.

Anonymous said...

Firehouse one is almost as wretched as Babe's except that the decor is not as unpleasant and it doens't seem to feature the same lowlife that Babe's does.

Anonymous said...

100 Montaditos would be great in DTSS.

Anonymous said...

I just went to 100 Montaditos web site (and read some yelp reviews). That place sounds freaking incredible! PLEASE open one in Silver Spring.

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