CHEVY CHASE — The Town of Chevy Chase Council voted 4-1 to deny a grant proposal from The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail (FCCT) and two Chevy Chase residents to help fund their legal effort to thwart further construction of the Purple Line.
The FCCT, John Fitzgerald, and Christine Real de Azua requested that the town to donate $50,000 to help defray growing legal costs from their ongoing federal lawsuits to try to stop the light-rail project, according to a proposal sent to the council last month.
“The entire town will benefit from a lawsuit that can get the truth out there,” said Jim Roy, Vice President of the FCCT. “We have tried other measures like letters, but nothing has been as successful as the lawsuit.”
Chevy Chase Mayor Mary Flynn opened the meeting by explaining that the five-member Town Council previously voted 3-2 on Oct. 2 against having a public hearing for the grant request. However, the Council later decided to hold a public hearing on the matter after receiving an opinion from the town attorney.
The town had openly opposed the construction of the Purple Line since early 2014, in part by enlisting the help of a lobbying group, according to Council member Scott Foster.
The town changed its opposition position in 2015 and adopted a strategy to promote mitigation with efforts to lessen the line’s impact on residents’ lives and homes, according to Mayor Flynn.
“Lawsuits are the best leverage for mitigation,” said Fitzgerald during his presentation to the Council. “The concessioner the state has contracted, Purple Line Partners (PLP), is an LLC that will dissolve after the project is completed. They have no incentive to comply with their mitigation agreements unless they are taken to court.”
Several of the town’s residents are not against the Purple Line being built, per se. Rather their objections are with how PLP, LLC is going about its business.
“In the month of September, the Town Council was trying to address the shocking news of Purple Line Partners trying to take down trees, but got nowhere,” said Beth Barnett, who lives near the imminent rail construction. “The litigation got a solid result of 20 days’ relief from cutting down trees – that’s called clout.”
Collaboration between the town and the parties involved with the lawsuit is the best way to effectively address this issue, said Barnett, who was for approving the grant request.
Other town residents were against the grant, stating that the original purpose of the land in question was to build public transit.
“When I bought my house in 1994, I went to the Montgomery County Planning Commission to look at the master plans,” said Jack Goodman, who did not support the grant. “I specifically remember that it said that this part of the trail was to become rail transit, and that was 23 years ago.”
The sole Town Council member to vote for the grant was Joel Rubin, who was elected to his seat in May.
“I didn’t feel this way about the Purple Line five years ago, I supported it,” said Rubin. “But, I’ve formed this opinion by the way I have seen Purple Line Partners treat my neighbors, the neighborhood, and my constituents.”
“There is a tremendous amount of public funds tied up in this project, and I understand the issue is complex,” said Rubin. However, he sees the needs of the community being ignored because of politics.
“I am a progressive Democrat, and I respect the Democratic officials who have supported this project along the way,” added Rubin. “They have been as responsive and helpful as they can as we have run into these issues with the concessioner. However, I cannot help believing that our Republican governor is using this situation to settle some scores, rather than protect the rights of the residents of his state.”
Town Council members who voted to deny the grant were Mayor Mary Flynn, Vice Mayor Barney Rush, Secretary Cecily Baskir and Treasurer Scott Foster.