A long-standing controversy over plans to widen a road in northern Bethesda eased a bit last week when a developer withdrew plans for an office building that would have required the widening immediately.
Neighbors in the Wickford community along Edson Lane have been grumbling for years about plans to turn Edson into a major thoroughfare to the White Flint Metro station and Montgomery County officials have spent those years delaying the project to avoid a confrontation.
"When that road opens up, then the neighborhood is gone," said resident James G. Fegan of Wickford, a 30-year-old community of larger single-family homes a little more than a mile from the new White Flint station. "We will definitely fight it again and again."
The county master plan calls for widening Edson Lane into a major cut-through from Old Georgetown Road to Rockville Pike, said county planner Tom Robertson. The controversial section of the road, less than a mile long, is currently two lanes and barricaded so it can't be used as a through street.
"Edson Lane is in the CIP capital improvement projects list but we have been able to get by without widening it so far," he said. "We know how the neighbors feel."
Edson Lane is typical, said Robertson, of how competing desires can affect a county road. The neighbors want the road to serve their community only. The county envisions it as serving the dense commercial and residential development that will spring up around the newly opened Metro station. And a developer wanted it to serve his proposed office building, which would have been beyond the dense White Flint development, but still close enough to benefit from Metro.
Developer Gary P. Grimm's proposal to build an office building on the corner of Edson Lane and Woodglen Drive was opposed by both neighbors and the county planning staff. He withdrew it from a planning board agenda last week.
Robertson said the planning staff feared the office building would generate more traffic on Edson Lane, which they want as a major avenue to White Flint.
"This is part of a bigger picture," said Robertson. "Whenever a Metro station goes in, you will have developers who want to use the roads leading to the station."
The controversy is somewhat like that of communities down river who complain that those up river are taking all the water.
"Offices beyond the immediate sector of Metro development clog the roads," said Robertson. "We have to preserve roads needed for Metro."
The residents of Wickford, however, are more interested in perserving their single-family neighborhood which is surrounded by new construction -- White Flint on one side and a dense subdivision of multifamily housing on the other.
"We've been successful so far," Fegan said. "A neighborhood like ours can only take so much. First we are surrounded by development in areas that used to be open land and now they want to turn one of our residential roads into a four-lane highway.
"We will fight it," he said. "But I think in the back of most of our minds is the thought that we can't go on forever."
"Edson Lane is a real battleground," said Robertson. "I think it is inevitable, in the end, that the road will be widened."