Battery Lane Residents Turn Out Against Idea for Road Next to Park

Battery Lane Residents Turn Out Against Idea for Road Next to Park

Planners suggested extending Norfolk Avenue through area as part of expanded Bethesda park, connection to Battery Lane

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Park advocates have put up a sign at Battery Lane Park in Bethesda warning about a plan to put a road next to the park.

Aaron Kraut

The Bethesda residents who don’t want Norfolk Avenue to be extended alongside Battery Lane Urban Park may be in luck, at least for the foreseeable future.

Attorneys for the property owners who would have to be part of a park expansion to make the road happen indicated at Wednesday’s Planning Board hearings that they’d rather redevelop.

One of the attorneys said he doubts the county could afford to buy his client’s site, which could be worth as much as $12 million.

The road and the park were among the most talked-about issues at the public hearings on the planning staff draft of the Bethesda Downtown Plan.

Many residents on Battery Lane, home to some of downtown Bethesda’s most affordable apartment and condominium buildings, told the Planning Board they like the park as is.

They don’t want to see Norfolk Avenue extended alongside it to connect Battery Lane to Woodmont Triangle, even though county planners have said the extension would happen only if the park is expanded and that its design would focus heavily on the comfort of pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Battery Park as it is, is one of the reasons I moved my family to where we are,” Battery Lane resident Sara Hughes told the board Wednesday. “Cutting into the park with a road breaks that social contract.”

Residents collected more than 400 signatures on a petition that was delivered to the board this week as part of the public hearing testimony.

County planners have said a road cutting into the park isn’t what they envisioned. The Planning Board and County Council must approve the concept as part of the Bethesda Downtown Plan.

Robert Kronenberg, Bethesda area planning chief for the Planning Department, said last month the road would be recommended only as part of a park expansion and that it was included in the plan because many people asked for more connections to Battery Lane.

Drivers hoping to access Battery Lane from Norfolk Avenue must now use either Old Georgetown Road or Woodmont Avenue. The staff draft also includes the possibility of a pedestrian connection from Rugby Avenue to Battery Lane, a block east of the park.

A dotted line on a map of the park in the staff draft shows the connector road running along the west side of the park. Kronenberg said the dotted line was not meant to indicate precisely where the street would go.

That hasn’t stopped Battery Lane residents from worrying.

“We’re directly across from the dotted line,” Battery Lane resident Elizabeth Lebarron testified Wednesday. “I’m very concerned with the loss of a green, quiet oasis.”

The planning staff’s recommendations include expanding the park to the east, a property that now has a low-rise office building, and to the south, which is now home to the Sherwin-Williams paint store, if those properties are ever to be redeveloped or up for sale.

Robert Brewer, an attorney for the owner of the low-rise office building at 8101 Glenbrook Road, told the Planning Board the property could be worth between $8 million and $12 million.

“We question whether either the Parks [department] or the county have funds of that magnitude or would use them,” Brewer said.

Heather Dlhopolsky, an attorney representing the owner of the Sherwin-Williams property at 4809 Auburn Ave., said expanding the park to the store’s parking lot “in essence would put this business out of business.”

She asked the board to reverse the staff’s recommendations and allow for mixed-use commercial-residential zoning on part of the property.

Brewer said his client had nothing to do with the outpouring of letters from Battery Lane residents opposed to the Norfolk Avenue extension.

He suggested the county abandon a short section of Glenbrook Road and buy two homes that sit at the south end of the park for a roughly half-acre park expansion.

Battery Lane resident Paul Haynos told the board that changes to the park could mean losing mature trees and that the connector road wouldn’t help.

“Who benefits from this? Not the people that live around here,” Haynos told the board. “Not the folks who are living in Bethesda and using the park.”

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