TAKOMA PARK — After nearly four years of debate, the Takoma Park City Council approved the Takoma Junction site plan in a 5-2 vote in the early hours of Thursday morning.
“The vote last Wednesday on the resolution allows the draft site to move forward to the county planning board as well as the [State Highway Administration] for review,” said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. “We’re looking forward to working on this project and [with] residents across the city to ensure that this project is one that reflects Takoma Park.”
In a meeting that adjourned at 1:20 a.m. after over three hours of public comments, Council members Jarrett Smith (Ward 5) and Peter Kovar (Ward 1) cast the only votes against the site plan, which now moves to the County for approval.
The site plan, drafted by Neighborhood Development Company (NDC), a Washington, D.C.-based architectural firm that received the RFP for the project in 2014, involves redeveloping a city-owned parking lot located at the intersections of Grant, Philadelphia, and Ethan Allen Avenues between the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op and Healey Surgeons into a two-story building for office and retail space with an underground garage.
During the meeting, the City Council voted down two amendments by Council members Jarrett Smith (Ward 5) and Peter Kovar (Ward 1).
Smith, who cast the sole vote for his own amendment in a 6-1 vote, called for the Council to delay the vote until a mediation process resolves delivery-accommodation issues between the co-op and NDC. Kovar’s amendment, which was defeated 5-2, with Smith being the other supporting vote, called for increased public space in the site plan.
Byrne Kelly, a Ward 3 resident who opposes the site plan, called the vote a “somewhat callous act of denial of majority rule” and a “travesty of democracy.”
“All we were asking for was to postpone the vote until after the mediation between the Co-op and [NDC] came through,” he added.
Kelly, who works as a licensed site planner and presented alternative plans of his own outside council chambers, said the vote provides more momentum to his effort to recall Mayor Kate Stewart and six of the Council members.
Carter Dougherty, a Ward 1 resident who supports the site plan, said he was “pretty happy that we … have this vote behind us.”
“…we can start doing the progressive things that city officials have built into this project: interesting tenants, smarter traffic flow, nicer facade, and, of course, getting rid of an ugly surface parking lot,” he added.