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Meeting to address Silver Spring growth and its impact on D.C. neighborhoods

By Luz Lazo,

An apartment boom is remaking downtown Silver Spring and its relationship with neighborhoods on the other side of the Montgomery County-D.C. line.

Finding a parking spot in front of his home is almost impossible these days, said Rick Toye, a real estate agent, whose Shepherd Park home sits across Eastern Avenue from Silver Spring.

“A lot of people think that they can just park on the D.C. side of the street, and that it is okay. Well, it is not,” Toye said.

New residential and commercial development in Silver Spring, particularly high-rise buildings, looms large in the adjacent D.C. neighborhoods, in which single-family homes are the norm, Toye said.

D.C. residents say the greater density is starting to create frustration and tension over parking, pets, recreational facilities and traffic. On Monday night, the concerns are to be aired at a community meeting organized by D.C. and Montgomery officials.

Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County), one of the organizers, said cooperation is vital as growth continues along the D.C.-Maryland border and plans move forward to redevelop the site of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Officials in the two jurisdictions have been in conversations for years about improving traffic patterns along 16th Street and enhancing the 16th Street Circle, where traffic accidents have been a problem.

Silver Spring has seen a significant expansion of its apartment market. Just down the street from Toye, on Eastern Avenue and 13th Street, about half of the 46 new condominium units at the Orion have sold, according to a recent report in Capital Business. Nearly 1,645 new apartment units are under construction in Silver Spring, according to the report.

The Silver Spring Metro station is at the heart of the construction boom, and new residents are attracted to the area for the access to public transit. But some D.C. residents say the reality is that many people still need cars to travel around the region. They want county officials to take that into account in their planning, said D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who is hosting the meeting Monday night at Shepherd Elementary School in the District.

Bowser said the type of development flourishing in Silver Spring can be positive for nearby D.C. neighborhoods, especially for Georgia Avenue businesses that have struggled since the closure of the Army medical center in 2011.

“We want to take advantage of what that density brings, but we also want to make appropriate plans for it in terms of traffic and parking and public safety and green and recreation type issues,” she said.

Tim Shuy, president of the Shepherd Park Citizens Association, said neighbors are happy to see the revitalization across the city-county line but worry that the tension, if left unaddressed, will lead to animosity.

“A lot of people are enjoying our streets and walking their dogs, and we have nothing against that except that some of my neighbors are complaining about their lawns getting damaged,” said Shuy, who lives in Shepherd Park and owns a pizzeria on Georgia Avenue.

“I think there is a very positive sign to see young couples choosing to live an urban lifestyle near Metro,” he said. “It is just that ours has always been a quiet neighborhood up in the northwest corner, and now we have lots of folks who are not paying our taxes in D.C. using a lot of our services.”

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