Change. Development. Congestion. Preservation. That's what was on the minds of residents who participated in the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan Community Design Workshop at the Chevy Chase Library Saturday.
A key concern for Chevy Chase residents as well as neighboring towns: transparency, according to Montgomery County Planning Board project manager Elza Hisel-McCoy.
“We’re working to make sure folks are plugged in — working with the community as we get more specific on the plan,” he added.
Saturday’s design workshop gave residents an opportunity to pre-register and attend one of six one-hour sessions to share their concerns and hopes about the future of Chevy Chase Lake.
Each participant was given a questionnaire to provide feedback on an array of image boards on display, as well as to pen their thoughts about Chevy Chase Lake. The image boards showed photographs of five commercial areas in the D.C. metropolitan area with each depicting a mixed-use scenario, including retail stores, homes and offices, and a different scale of development.
It was an opportunity, Hisel-McCoy said, for a “community with diverse opinions” to weigh in prior to making initial recommendations to the planning board in mid-April.
Chevy Chase native Stephanie Macuch said she remembered the hardware store that preceded Starbucks. Born and raised in Chevy Chase, she and her family live in the home where she grew up. And while she admitted her excitement about seeing something new, Macuch voiced her concern that change isn’t necessarily better.
“Change is good and change is positive — can’t lose sight of what it was. There’s a happy medium between development and preservation,” she said.
Richard Zorn of Chevy Chase said that he’s concerned about large development that could bring 10- to 20-story buildings in Chevy Chase Lake. He, like several other residents, spoke about the potential impact on an already-congested Connecticut Avenue.
“Connecticut Avenue is now only busy at rush hour. [It] could quickly become the next Rockville Pike unless we get them to think carefully about this,” Zorn said.
Some residents expressed unease that Chevy Chase Lake would mirror downtown Bethesda or Rockville Town Center.
Lynda Williams moved to Chevy Chase from Brussels more than two years ago. She said she’s very concerned about development, citing downtown Bethesda as “horrible planning.”
“I would not want Chevy Chase Lake to turn into that.” Williams said, adding that she believes the Chevy Chase Land Company is driving development.
“They’ve been sitting there waiting for the Purple Line to come through. We’re just really afraid that they’re going to overdevelop what is a small-scale, charming community."
Anxiety over the Purple Line was expressed by other residents as well. The sector plan’s potential changes will “focus on improving the form and function of some of the commercial areas, among other goals, to coincide with the coming of the Purple Line light rail line," according to the planning department’s website.
“I’m worried about the Purple Line. A connector is good — an elevated Purple Line is definitely not a good idea,” Suzie Moss of Chevy Chase said. “Why not let Chevy Chase become a green community?”
And then she spoke of the need to maintain authenticity and to protect what already exists.
“Don’t try to imitate another area. Preserve what’s here,” she said.
Small-scale, charming were the words that echoed throughout the late afternoon session by participants who talked among themselves, asked Hisel-McCoy questions and quietly filled out their questionnaires.
North Chevy Chase resident Cynthia Grissom said she moved to Chevy Chase from Old Town Alexandria in 1998. She added that she appreciates the little shops, small-town feel and easy access to Rock Creek Park. When she mentioned the ease of parking, a couple of women at her table piped in with enthusiasm.
"I love being able to park easily; everything I need to do is free," Grissom said.
“I don’t want it to turn into a Rockville Town Center. Progress is fine — keep the small-town feel.”