Two city government agencies told the city zoning commission recently that they do not object to Safeway's application to build a $1.5 million store and parking lot behind its present store at 1855 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Safeway is seeking to rezone an 89,000-square-foot parcel adjacent to the Dumbarton Oaks Park section of store. If the commission agrees to change the zoning from residential to commercial, the present Safeway would be demolished and the land used for parking.
The municipal planning office and the department of transportation told the commission that they believe the Safeway rebuilding would not cause insupportable traffic congestion on Wisconsin Avenue, provided the zoning commission requires Safeway to design its parking lot so that vehicles can moves quickly on and off Wisconsin Avenue.
The Citizens Association of Georgetown had asked the zoning commission to reject Safeway's application, arguing that doubling the size of the present store and parking lot would draw more traffic and detract from the historic atmosphere of the area.
The zoning commission asked the municipal planning office and the department of transportation in December to measure the impact of the Safeway plan on zoning and traffic Georgetown, particularly in the light of four other developments in the area.
These include a proposed French embassy on Reservoir Road facing Georgetown University Hospital expansion, a planned Russian embassy at Wisconsin Avenue and Davis Streets and a proposed Holiday Inn complex at Wisconsin Avenue and Whitehaven Parksway.
Municipal planning office director Ben W. Gilbert told the commission that rezoning the 89,000-square-foot parcel behind Safeway would be consistent with zoning in the area, which is 90 per cent commercial from Calvert Street to R Street NW.
Safeway promised the zoning commission in the form of a "protective covenant" that it will not build the planned Safeway higher than 20 feet. However, the zoning commission cannot once it grants the rezoning request.
Both the municipal planning office and the transportation department told the commission that they could not determine the exact effect the proposed developments in the Georgetown area would have on traffic patterns until the developers provided traffic analyses.
However, transportation department engineer James Clark told the commission that the department anticipates low traffic generation from the other developments and that the Safeway development would increase the 6 p.m. rush house traffic load by only 80 vehicles, based on a square foot area to trip generation ratio.
Clark's testimony countered that of transportation department director B. J. O'Donnell. He testified in December that rezoning applications already approved in the area, specifically the Holiday Inn complex one block north of Safeway, would raise traffic on Wisconsin Avenue and Whitehaven Parkway intersection from the present Level D to Level E on an A to F scale.
The transportdesignated the area of Wisconsin Avenue and Whitehaven Parkway as a Level D site during the 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. rush hour when 2,000 vehicles pass slowly northbound and soutbound through that intersection.
The transportation department based its traffic levels on levels specified by the Highway Capacity Manual, a standard used nationwide, according to Clerk.At traffic Level D, 1400 to 1596 vehicles going one direction pass through an intersection per hour. The count for traffic Level E is 1597 to 1680 vehicles per hour.
Clark told the commission that the Holiday Inn complex would generate 40 trips during the 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. rush hour, the Russian embassy two trip and Safeway 80, based on a per unit and per square foot ratio in the motel and grocery store cases, and that these additional 122 trips would make the northbound traffic count 1522 and would not raise the present traffic Level D to Level E.
Clark said the department changed its calculations because the Holiday Inn developer, Donohoe Real Estate, indicated that it may not build a 600-seat theater originally planned for the complex.
Clark said that anticipated low traffic generation from the surrounding developments also was a factor.
Clark recommended to the commission that Safeway be required to build a one-way, circular traffice lane in the parking lot, and that parking space be built near the entrance drive to encourage customers to move quickly onto the parking lot from Wisconsin Avenue.
In addition, Clark said the commission should require Safeway to build a five-to seven-car storage lane at the lot entrance.
Robert B. Keating, traffic consultant for the Georgetown citizens 'group, countered Safeway traffic consultant Robert L. Morris' traffic flow estimate at the Wisconsin Avenue and White-haven Parkway. The transportation department based its traffic Level D on Morris' court.
Keating said that Morris' one-day count on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 1976, does not accurately represent the average number of vehicles passing through the intersection during the week.
He said that experts in the traffic engineeringfield conduct traffic counts over a period of weeks or months, in over a period of weeks or months, in all kinds of weather and at different seasons, in order to reach the most accurate conclusions.
Keating said that the developments in the surrounding areas, contrary to the Morris and transportation department opinions, undoubtedly would affect the traffic flow at the intersection.
"You cannot build a large motel, with or without a 600-seat theater and retail stores, adjacent to a busy intersection and not expect traffic in and out of that facility appreciably to increase traffic problems," he said.
State of Virginia traffic engineer John Grier said that it is customary to base traffic projections on one-day counts. He said that counts are usually taken on moderate traffic flow days, rather than during peak days, to determine an average count.
Safeway spokesman Ernie Moore said that he had no comment regarding the anticipated zoning commission's decision on the rezoning application. Georgetown on the rezoning application. Georgetown citizens groups president Olcott Deming said he thinks that the transportation and planning departments "tend to favor developments which will have immediate revenue input into the city government."
"I think this tends to color the commission's decisions," he said