Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Metro Board of Directors Approve Takoma Plan

On Thursday, November 8, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors gave final approval to amend a purchase, sale and development agreement with EYA for Takoma Park Metro Station. The joint development will provide the community with an upgraded Metro station, new access roads and sidewalks, and an undetermined amount of residential structures - although according to third-party appraisal team Lippman, Frizzell & Mitchell LLC (LFM), the current sale agreement would amount to a total purchase price of $10.32 million for EYA, allowing for "an expected development of 86 market rate townhouse units."

The initial sale agreement, from June 2005, was highly debated between both community and board members. To clear the air, Board Member Gladys Mack held a public hearing last year, where more than 150 attendees came to voice their concerns. As a result, a few minor changes were applied to the Takoma Station General Plan, the most notable being the financing. Under the original sale, EYA would have purchased a portion of the Takoma Station at $105,000 per market rate lot, with a minimum purchase price of $7.35 million - well below LFM's market valuation of the site. According to a WMATA Board Information Summary, "Some community members said that the return from the project would be inadequate."

The newly amended agreement includes a provision for a minimum return of $2.5 million net payment to WMATA. Additionally, if EYA decides to incorporate a parking garage, WMATA will require another payment of $715,000 and proceeds from public use of the garage. Ms. Mack's open-forum did little to clear the air; members of the community have continued to contest the process saying WMATA has reneged on a "no build" promise from the '70s.

Prior to the approval of the '74 site plan, the community and WMATA were at odds over the "open space" referred to in the initial draft of the plan. Community members petitioned WMATA to provide an urban park on the land, but despite community opposition the Transit Authority approved the plan in its original form, merely designating the space as "open." Some in the community interpreted that as a promise to build a park for the public and are looking to enforce that provision.

WMATA countered in their staff review that their function in developing real estate is to "acquire and own property necessary or useful in rendering transit service or in activities incidental thereto," and that "The argument that WMATA once promised to perpetually operate and maintain a park also assumes, incorrectly, that WMATA has legal authority to operate and maintain parks." As a result of staff analysis, the Board was advised to disregard any allegations of a "no build promise."

The next step for EYA and WMATA is to get approval from the DC Planning and Zoning Commissions and the Federal Transit Authority. This Monday, during the Zoning Commission's monthly meeting, commissioners will decide whether to "set-down" the project: decide whether the project warrants a full hearing, or whether changes need to be made before it can receive proper zoning review. If zoning approves the Takoma Park Metro project for set-down, a full hearing involving public participation will ensue.


Rich said...

As a neighbor of the Takoma Metro station I have followed this process for years. Can anyone expand on what is coming up this evening (11/19) at the Zoning Commission? I don't see it on the agenda.

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