Updated at 4:30 p.m. — Almost 30 people, mostly residents along Battery Lane in Bethesda, have signed an online petition urging county planners not to recommend an extension of Norfolk Avenue alongside a popular park.
“The Planning Board has proposed a road through Battery Park,” read the petition on Change.org. “A road would destroy this great community park.”
The petition, which appears to have been started by residents near the Battery Lane Urban Park, urges supporters to testify in front of a Montgomery County Planning Board hearing on the Bethesda Downtown Plan set for June 24.
It also appears to have missed some key recommendations that county planners made with the desire for a Norfolk Avenue connection to Battery Lane.
Robert Kronenburg, Bethesda area planning chief for the county's Planning Department, said the recommended road wouldn't mean any loss of park space. In fact, the recommendation includes expanding the park.
"We're stressing no net loss of park land and that is still something that we're going to continue," Kronenburg said. "The road as presented in the staff draft is more of a connection. It's not needed for any kind of vehicular capacity."
The 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.
Planners have proposed major changes for Norfolk Avenue from Woodmont Avenue to Battery Lane, and hope one day it can become a “shared street” with more space for bicyclists, pedestrians and sidewalk dining.
Those changes could extend to Battery Lane Urban Park and its popular playground, basketball court and tennis court. It also includes a walking path that connects Battery Lane residents to Woodmont Triangle.
Kronenburg said planners hope a new look and feel for the street and an expanded park would help draw people to it. He also said planners heard the Planning Board talk about its desire for a more pronounced pedestrian and bicyclist link from Woodmont Triangle to Battery Lane.
"If you were a pedestrian and bicyclist and you're coming from Norfolk Avenue or Woodmont Triangle to Battery Lane, it's hard to navigate a little bit unless you know where you're going," Kronenburg said. "We're trying to make it more prominent and more accessible."
While a diagram in the staff draft shows the road on the west side of the park, Kronenburg said planners haven't finalized the precise alignment.
“I’m signing because I live across the street from this park and appreciate the fact that it is a walking park only,” wrote Laura Painton on the petition. “I play bocce in a league in this park. The park is small, and adding a road would take over much of the space. I don’t think there’s even too much traffic in this area of Bethesda to just go ‘around’ when in a car. Plus, we are more of a pedestrian city, so don’t take this away from us!”
Drivers hoping to access Battery Lane from Norfolk Avenue must now use either Old Georgetown Road or Woodmont Avenue.