The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail is asking the Montgomery County Board of Appeals to refuse to allow a garage expansion at Ourisman Honda in Bethesda to remain in the trail’s right of way near Bethesda Row.
“We are alarmed at the new Ourisman facility, currently under construction, which clearly encroaches on the trail right of way at the busiest and oldest part of the paved trail,” said a letter signed by coalition Chairman Ronald Tripp that was sent Friday to the board.
The letter also notes the advocacy group passed a resolution at its March meeting urging the removal of the part of the garage that encroaches on the right of way. The coalition represents more than 2,000 trail users and has protected the trail right of way for more than 30 years
Ourisman was forced to stop the construction of the garage expansion in November after the Department of Permitting Services determined part of the large structure encroached on the county-owned Georgetown Branch easement where the trail is located. The garage expansion is being built next to the highly visible trail entrance at Bethesda Row and towers above the paved trail.
The auto dealership appealed the stop work order and is disputing the county’s findings in a case before the Board of Appeals. An attorney for the dealership said in January it would cost the company hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to tear down the garage expansion, which is about four stories high and framed with steel beams and concrete floors.
In February, the car dealership began tearing down a fire wall next to the trail after the county determined it was no longer needed. At the time, county officials said negotiations were ongoing with Ourisman about what to do with the larger garage structure.
County and Ourisman officials are scheduled to meet at a March 29 prehearing in front of the Board of Appeals in Rockville . A full hearing is scheduled May 10.
The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail requested to speak in opposition to Ourisman’s appeal at the May 10 hearing. Members of the public can also request to be heard, but must request the right to do so from the board.
On Facebook last month, County Council member Marc Elrich weighed in on the dispute in a post that said the only right way to deal with the issue is to take down the offending structure.
“The idea that you can actually appropriate public property and then negotiate how you get to keep it is ludicrous,” Elrich wrote.