A Honda dealership in downtown Bethesda will be allowed to keep part of a newly expanded parking garage in a public easement in exchange for enhancing the adjacent Capital Crescent Trail, according to an agreement approved Tuesday by the Montgomery County Council.
Ourisman Honda, at 4800 Bethesda Ave., has agreed to improve the trail entrance just west of Woodmont Avenue, a heavily used part of the trail in the heart of the Bethesda Row shopping and restaurant district. The work, which is estimated to cost about $1.4 million, will include adding shoulders to better separate cyclists and walkers in the congested area, building a public plaza, installing landscaping and maintaining “decorative screening” on the garage.
In exchange, the county will permit five steel beams supporting the new garage to remain on the easement and lift a stop-work order issued on the construction project in November 2016.
The deal, first reported by Bethesda Beat, ends 16 months of discord between some trail users and Ourisman, which ultimately agreed it had built the five steel columns about a foot inside an easement on Ourisman’s property. Some trail users and nearby residents said the new structure was ugly and loomed over a rare swath of recreational green space in a rapidly urbanizing area.
The easement, which is on the car dealership’s property, is intended to allow county maintenance vehicles to reach the trail and a small park behind the dealership.
County officials later said a staffer who approved the building permit didn’t realize the trail and easements were there, because the dealership’s design plan didn’t show the trail right of way and wasn’t clear about the easements. An attorney for the dealership apologized but said there was no attempt to mislead the county.
County officials have said such an agreement would avoid a potentially costly legal battle and improve the trail for the public.