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.