A plan developed by residents of the Takoma neighborhood to ensure "protection of the... residential area while at the same time encouraging appropriate forms of development" will be discussed at D.C. Zoning Commission hearings next week.
At the hearings, members of Plan Takoma, the citizens' group that formulated the proposal, will ask the Zoning Commission to rezone several sections of their Northwest neighbor-hood.
The hearings will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday and Thursday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 7005 Piney Branch Rd.
The major concern among Takoma residents, which they hope the plan will address, is the effect the Takoma Metro station will have on the area. The station opened in February.
"With the coming of Metro to Takoma, there is going to be pressure for development," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Plan Takoma.
To make sure that any development works. "for the greater benefit of our Takoma community," the residents propose that much of the area near the Metro station be rezoned from its present industrial and heavy-commercial use to mixed-use zoning that would allow apartments, offices and shops. Among the proposed changes:
Areas adjacent to the Seventh Day Adventist office complex at Eastern Avenue and Carrol Street that are now zoned for single-family houses would be rezoned to permit garden apartments, townhouses and offices.
An area now zoned for commercial use along Aspen, Butternut and Cedar streets between 4th Street shopping center and a single-family residential area east of the shopping center would be rezoned for garden apartments and townhouses.
The Cady Lee House, a national historic landmark on Eastern Avenue now zoned for apartment use, would be rezoned for single-family use, as is the area immediately north of the house.
"The area around the Metro station could remain car lots and delapidated structures, but then the pressure for a Crystal City-type operation would be overwhelming," said Blackwelder recently during a walking tour he conducted of the neighborhood.
Takoma was built in the 1880s on the B&O railroad line as a resort suburb. An integrated community, it has a high percentage of homeowners, including young families attracted by the large old homes and tree-lined streets.
By rezoning the area from industrial to mixed-use, the community hopes to restrict development to a "smaller, more livable scale compatible with the historic properties and the diversity we have in the neighborhood," Black-welder said.
The area around the Metro station now contains a few warehouses and small factories, a used car lot, a catering firm, a bakery and some vacant land. Existing businesses would not be affected by zoning changes, but any new uses would have to conform to the changes.
Community leaders say they are most concerned about development on the vacant property. A developer's proposal to build a 90-foot-high apartment and office building on a lot behind the Takoma Theater recently was rejected by the Zoning Commission. Under the community-backed rezoning plan, the maximum building height would be 50 feet.
The 400 blocks of Aspen, Butternut and Cedar streets, now occupied by small apartment houses and bungalows, are zoned for commercial use. Community leaders propose changing the zoning to apartment and townhouse use only.
"These apartments make a nice transition between the single-family homes up the street and the 4th Street commercial area," said Loretta Neumann, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who is backing the rezoning proposal.
Rezoning the area from commercial to residential probably would save the Watkins Apartments, a turn-of-the century structure built by a local coal dealer as apartments for his six daughters, according to Neumann. The Watkins is now for sale, and community leaders fear that because it is zoned for commercial use, it might be torn down and replaced by an office building.
Neighborhood activists say they also hope to revitalize downtown Takoma by encouraging community-oriented development through rezoning and by using the Takoma Theater as a focal point. A neighborhood group leased the theater last year and showed films there several days a week until the owners closed the theater Dec. 30. Plans for a restaurant in the building fell through when the owner refused to renew the local group's lease.
Community activists see a recently opened beauty parlor and a new market on 4th Street as signs of the commerical revitalization they want to encourage. On the other side of the Metro underpass, on Carrol Street, a 7-11 store is under construction. The building is colonial-style architecture, a compromise between the owner and the neighborhood, according to Neumann.
George Friedrich, who has operated a dry cleaning establishment on Carrol Street for 32 years, said he did not believe the zoning proposal would contribute to commercial revitalization.
"I don't believe in what the so-called chosen few citizens believe in -- the downzoning of commercial property," said Friedrich, who lives across the District line in Takoma Park, Md. Friedrich said neighborhood efforts to limit building heights and curb traffic and parking would discourage businessmen. He said he did not, however, plan to oppose the rezoning at the upcoming hearings.
Few business people have attended meetings about the rezoning over the past five years, according to Plan Takoma leaders. During that period, five draft plans were prepared in a series of workshops with district officials. The plans were reviewed by Maryland planners, who approved a similar plan for Takoma Park, Md., in 1974.
The final proposal for the D.C. side of Takoma was adopted in accordance with questionnaires returned by 233 neighborhood residents.