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Montgomery County Officials Debate Traffic And Development At Chevy Chase Lake

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Developers want to remodel Chevy Chase Lake, but some Montgomery County officials worry that it would only make already bad traffic much worse.
WAMU/Matt Bush
Developers want to remodel Chevy Chase Lake, but some Montgomery County officials worry that it would only make already bad traffic much worse.

In Maryland, legislators in Montgomery County are starting to decide on a series of zoning and planning changes that could have a huge impact on commuters.

Not many people live in Chevy Chase Lake, but thousands drive through it everyday. It's located along Connecticut Avenue inside the Beltway, making it one of the most traveled stretches of road in Montgomery County. Its business district consists of two small strip malls and gas stations—some open, some not.

Developers now want to remodel the area, but residents worry the proposed changes would make the horribly congested area even worse.

"Most of that traffic is just passing through. It's a big issue for community character, and that's why there is a lot of resistance to the plan's recommendations," said Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, who chairs the committee which is working on the development changes.

Floreen's committee started offering its own recommendations yesterday. The most controversial would relax the congestion standards tied to development. Councilman Marc Elrich was not on-board with that though, noting one day there will be a Purple Line stop in Chevy Chase Lake.

"We're telling people not only are we going to spend billions of dollars on transit—Purple Line included—but we're going to make traffic worse too. So for our multi-billion dollar investment, we actually plan on deteriorating the quality of life for the communities around it," he said.

But councilman George Leventhal joined with Floreen in supporting the new congestion level, saying that rigid standards would prevent areas that are heavily gridlocked from seeing any redevelopment.

"If you're saying we can't do anything at all, because traffic on Connecticut Avenue, or Wisconsin Avenue, or Georgia Avenue, or New Hampshire Avenue, or Route 29 is so bad now, then all those areas will be pretty undesirable a decade from now. Nothing will happen, nothing will get better," he said.

Other recommendations from the committee call for some of the new buildings in Chevy Chase Lake to be lower than first proposed, leading one resident to say after the hearing that they got "at least a little of what they wanted."

The full council votes on the plan later this year.

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