Chevy Chase Community Addresses Issues with Proposed Housing Project at Hearing

Although Larry Werner is not a member of the 5333 Connecticut Coalition, he has followed the controversy enough to feel compelled to speak up at the DC Council Performance Oversight Hearing for the Committee of Transportation and Environment on Monday, March 4. 

The District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation recently released a transportation study on the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Military Road, the proposed location for a 263-unit, glass enclosed housing project to be constructed by Calvin Cafritz Enterprises. 

The primary issues that many of the Chevy Chase community have with the structure, with is set to begin construction in August, are the increased traffic and parking problems it will create.  In addition, the lack of community input and increased safety issues were also raised since the primary entrance, exit, and loading dock would be shared by a narrow, ten-foot wide alleyway 

“There are some things that make a lot of sense when you hear them,” said Werner about the points the 5333 Connecticut Coalition have outlined in their petition. 

He decided to be a witness in the hearing to address the inconsistencies that weren’t addressed in the study, such as, “If it’s a ten-foot wide alley, how can you get a fire truck through?”    

The study, available on Ward 3 Councilmember and Department of Transportation Chair Mary Cheh’s website, failed to answer that question.  Nor did it adequately address for Werner the already exacerbated parking issues.   The study recommends “reserved spaces for car-sharing vehicles as well as other [Transportation Demand Management] measures including SmartTrips, Transit Kiosks, Capitol Bikeshares memberships” and other incentives to reduce single-occupancy vehicles in hopes that this will alleviate traffic issues. 

In addition to the project’s impact on the community, the 5333 Connecticut Coalition believes that there are a number of issues in the plans that don’t meet requirements. 

The developers were originally able to move forward with the project after 22 years because it was believed that the approval gained in 1990 was still valid.  However, coalition steering committee member George Gaines has resided in the neighborhood for over 40 years.  He recalls that the negotiations of the time. 

“We negotiated for several years and agreed on a PUD agreement,” said Gaines.  According to Gaines, the agreement allowed the developers to build with exceptions to zoning if the neighborhood agrees.  “But we agreed on a much smaller building.” 

No one at Calvin Enterprises was available to comment at the publication of this article. 

However, Gaines believes that everything that was negotiated and agreed upon 22 years ago has been modified, invalidating the agreement.  The coalition’s website also states that the agreement expired in 1998 when the project failed to be built.  The coalition would like to work with city officials and developers to create a housing project that is less harmful and better suits the community. 

Since the creation of the coalition, Councilmember Cheh arranged meetings between the community, the developers, and government agencies. 

After speaking at the hearing, however, neither Gaines nor Werner believes they accomplished much in convincing city officials to reconsider the housing project. 

But both noted the hearing allowed them to make and reinforced contacts within the community.  A pending meeting with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs was also confirmed at the hearing for this upcoming Friday. 

“We showed our flag,” said Gaines.  “We showed that we’re around and not going away.”