Development guidelines that seemed appropriate when there was a blank piece of property seem not so good to those who live there now.
Residents of Old Town Greens came out in force to oppose the proposed Special Use Permit for the Potomac Greens and Potomac Plaza developments. “The plan is not in accord with the guidelines,” said Bill Parnell. “The guidelines call for lot coverage of between 45 and 80 percent with medium being at 60 percent. This plan calls for 86 percent lot coverage which is well over the maximum guideline.”
The Potomac Greens proposal calls for the construction of 227 townhouses with 18.5 acres of open space. The planning commission recommended reducing the number of townhouses by five units to provide more buffer between the new development and the Old Town Greens community. The developer proposed an alternative. They proposed eliminating some visitor parking and shifting the development to accomplish the same goal. Council agreed to the developer’s proposal.
The issue of access to the development was not so easily solved. Poul Hertel has been involved in this issue for many years.
“The original concept that was approved called for 2.4 million square feet of office space to be built,” he said. “That is the reason that the one-way loop road was built so that there would be a continuous flow of traffic with easy access from Old Town Greens to Slater’s Lane and to the Monroe Avenue bridge. For a variety of reasons, the 2.4 million square feet of office space was not built and the Northeast Citizen’s Association felt that the loop was excessive. We suggested closing one end of the loop and making that into open space and creating a pedestrian walkway to the Braddock Road Metro station.”
RESIDENTS OF Old Town Greens want both ends of the loop to remain open and to extend Potomac Greens Drive to Portner Road. This will allow access directly to Portner and onto the Parkway and Route 1 but will sacrifice some 24,000 square feet of open space.
“This open space would provide a gateway of green space to the city,” said Eileen Fogarty, director of zoning and planning.
The other issue is that it will also require three at-grade railroad crossings – one on Slater’s Lane, one on the island onto Portner because of the road extension and one at the southern end of the loop. “You will basically have three crossings within a quarter mile of each other,” Hertel said.
Federal rail policy discourages at-grade crossings in urban areas because of safety concerns. “I think that we should give CSX the opportunity to say 'yes' to us rather than just assuming that they will say 'no',” said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson, who has traveled Slater’s Lane onto the Parkway for several years. “The traffic is terrible and I just do not agree with the staff analysis. My experience says that it is not correct.”
Brian Detter, the president of Old Town Greens Homeowners Association, agreed. “Councilwoman Woodson is correct,” he said. “How can they add 227 townhouses and say that it is not going to adversely affect traffic?”
TRAFFIC STUDIES at morning rush hour show 213 cars exiting the development at Old Town Greens, Potomac Greens and Potomac Plaza.
Like Hertel, Bill Hendrickson has been involved in the planning of Potomac Yard for some time. “I want to make it clear that I support both of these projects,” he said. “Potomac Greens has more open space than most developments in the city. It is superior to Cameron Station, Ford’s Landing and even Old Town Greens. This plan represents the work of many people and has the support of all of the surrounding neighborhoods,” he said.
Access to Rail Park was another issue. Residents of Old Town Greens do not believe that the city’s right-of-way allows for surface pedestrian access to the park. The alternative is a pedestrian bridge. One plan called for a landing of this bridge to be in Old Town Greens. The developer proposed an alternative landing at Potomac Greens, which was accepted if the surface alternative is not allowed.
In the end, Council approved both developments with some changes. Staff and the developer will contact CSX to ask for an additional at-grade railroad crossing. The number of visitor parking spaces will be reduced and the Potomac Greens development moved slightly to provide for more open space and a better buffer between Potomac Greens and Old Town Greens.
If CSX does not permit an additional crossing, the loop road will be closed at one end and the gateway of open space will be retained.