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Board OKs Pike, Bromptons Plans

Residents support first Form Based Code project, but again clash with board over Cherrydale redevelopment.

Revitalizing Columbia Pike will take decades. But when board members approved the code to guide redevelopment, they promised changes would begin soon.

That promise became a reality Saturday, May 17, when board members approved the first development project designed using the form-based code central to the Columbia Pike Revitalization Initiative.

National Capital Land & Development Company, Inc. submitted plans Feb. 14 for construction of 22 townhouses at 4013 and 4029 Columbia Pike. Even though that location lies just outside the Columbia Pike Special Revitalization District, developers used the form-based code to guide their plans.

Adherence to the code not only helped the developer get county approval in about 90 days, it also resulted in a development project that Pike residents could support, said Tim Lynch, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. ?They?ve created a project in which they can all have pride.?

Form-based code focuses on architectural details and building design rather than on how the building will be used, as do building codes. Lynch said architects for the developer paid ?exquisite attention to architectural detail.?

But the value of the project goes farther than that. ?The public good is more than sticks and bricks and asphalt and glass,? Lynch said. The developer used the code to engage residents so they had a hand in designing their community. ?They were able to have productive meetings on a regular basis,? said Lynch.

Pike residents at the meeting echoed Lynch?s sentiments. ?We?ve had a very constructive dialogue between our community and the developer,? said Linda Dye, president of the Douglas Park Civic Association.

?I am very pleased with this development,? said Robert Dawson, president-elect of the Alcova Heights Civic Association.

BOARD MEMBERS again heard complaints from Cherrydale residents about the controversial Bromptons at Cherrydale development project. The project, larger than the developer can build without seeking county permission, originally was approved despite objections from residents and Planning Commissioners.

Representatives of the developer were back before the board Saturday, asking for amendments to the initial site plan in order to change elements of the building and site design.

Nancy Iacomini, vice president of the Cherrydale Citizens Association, said there were some problems with the proposed amendments. But most objections pertained to the project as a whole. ?We still think it?s too dense, we still think there?s not enough parking,? said Iacomini.

Board chair Paul Ferguson urged speakers to focus on new elements of the plan rather than conditions that were already approved.

But Iacomini said current board decisions seemed like a continuing process of ignoring Cherrydale residents. ?I know you can never get the whole loaf,? she said. ?But we feel as though we got a quarter slice of a piece of toast.?

Board member Walter Tejada voted against the amendments. He would have voted against the entire project, he said, if he?d been on the board for the original vote. ?I felt that the county has not handled that in the best way possible,? he said.

The Bromptons issue is further complicated by efforts to relocate the Cherrydale fire station. Many residents prefer the Bromptons site for the new fire station and have pushed Tejada to uphold a campaign promise to keep that option open.

?I think that we need to give them as many options as possible and I want to make sure we respect the hard work that the citizens have put in,? said Tejada on Saturday.

Other Cherrydale residents opposed the amendments because board members have not forced the developer to make definite plans for sidewalk construction. Instead, the developer contributed $75,000 for the county to build sidewalks. County officials haven?t made construction plans yet.

That creates a serious safety hazard, said some residents. ?My boys have to walk in the street to get to school every day,? said Knell Bumbalo, who lives a block away from the Bromptons site.

?We?ve got to see how far the money goes,? said board chair Paul Ferguson. But he promised action soon. ?We?re going to do our best to take care of it,? he said.

ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL item will come to the board after August recess. Board members decided to wait until September to act on a plan to change zoning rights for C-2 commercial zones.

Currently, developers can build apartment buildings by-right in C-2 areas, but county officials have proposed eliminating that right. The issue is expected to bring objection from some developers who stand to lose lucrative building options.

?There are people who want to be free to do whatever they want to do,? said board member Chris Zimmerman.

The board might allow the matter to drag on indefinitely, he said, if they postponed the discussion until September. ?We can?t forever defer discussion of this matter,? said Zimmerman.

But County Manager Ron Carlee stuck to his recommendation. ?This is one of our core zoning categories, and changing it is a significant matter,? said Carlee.

Despite Zimmerman?s concern, the board voted unanimously to defer the item until their September 2 meeting.