Residents, developers clash in Tenleytown

AU students part of concerns

Builders and residents are clashing over a development in the Tenleytown area, and AU students are in the midst of the controversy.

One of the reasons some local residents are against a proposed 191-unit apartment building is because they fear too many AU students will begin to call it home.

"We've had problems in the past with AU students, and have concerns about who might move in," said Bruce Lowrey, a local resident and founder of a grass roots organization called the Coalition to Stop Tenleytown Over-development. "The building has the potential for a lot of AU students to move in and the floor plan facilitates student living."

Lowrey said that he fears the apartment building could become similar to Park Bethesda, in which students share bedrooms. In the past neighbors have complained about student occupied houses in Tenleytown because of noise and "parties at all hours of the night."

"Privately, we are all concerned about AU [students] moving in," said Carolyn Sherman, another local resident and CSTO member. "We want to be neighbors with AU students but they don't have as vested an interest in the community as people who are permanent residents."

Regardless of who moves into the proposed building, which would replace the Martens Volvo-Volkswagen dealership at 4800 Wisconsin Ave., the CTSO has other concerns aside from who lives there. Most of the dissidence surrounding the development stems from the fact the developer, Donohoe Cos., is seeking a zoning exception, which will allow the building to be higher than normally allowed.

Under normal zoning ordinances the building would only be allowed to be between five and six stories tall, but if the exception is approved the building will be nine stories, said Amy Hoang, of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E, serving Tenleytown and areas to the north.

But to the CTSO, the zoning exception and the extra stories that come along with it make a big difference. Their number one concern is that if the exception is approved, it could start a trend that could lead to other high-density buildings. Already, another construction company has plans to build where Babe's Billiards Caf? stands and file for the same zoning exception.

"We don't believe this neighborhood was conceived for this kind of development...the original plan for Tenleytown was for low density," said Lowery. Some of the CTSO's major concerns regard the increase in traffic and parking problems that the added density will cause.

"It's the end of quite family streets...it's like a little haven and the building is going to destroy all that," said Sherman, whose home is located two and a half blocks away from the proposed building.

Sherman fears that parking along the neighborhood streets will become even more difficult because parking at the apartment building will not be free. Another one of her concerns is that traffic is going to be diverted into neighborhood streets because the apartment building will change existing traffic patterns.

Bob Donohoe, one of the developers, said that he has been trying to work with the community and has been meeting with them in an effort to get their input and ideas. The developers plan to provide economic and community benefits as part of the zoning exemption.

Donohoe said these will include efforts to improve pedestrian safety, traffic calming devices, "superior architecture and urban design," as well as donations to various organization including the Tenleytown library, among others. Donohoe said he feels that many of the people who are against the building are "people that don't want to see a change."

Though the advisory neighborhood commission has not yet decided whether to recommend the change in zoning ordinance to the Board of Zoning, the CTSO has wasted no time in canvassing the neighborhood with fliers, and petitioning from door to door and in front of a local grocery store.

"We're going to let them know that this is a neighborhood that cares about our future and were going to make a lot of noise," said Sherman. So far the CTSO petition has collected about 1000 signatures, she said.

As the controversy continues, one has to keep in mind that the building has not yet been approved, and that could take years, according to Hoang.

Which leaves the more immediate matter of relations between AU students living in Tenleytown and their neighbors. Both Lowrey and Sherman said that they know AU students aren't all bad and that it is only a minority of students that are being disruptive neighbors.

"Sometimes students like to have a lot of fun and that's just part of the game," said Lowrey. "We've all been students before."

hood was conceived for this kind of development...the original plan for Tenleytown was for low density," said Lowery. Some of the CTSO's major concerns regard the increase in traffic and parking problems that the added density will cause.

"It's the end of quite family streets...it's like a little haven and the building is going to destroy all that," said Sherman, whose home is located two and a half blocks away from the proposed building.

Sherman fears that parking along the neighborhood streets will become even more difficult because parking at the apartment building will not be free. Another one of her concerns is that traffic is going to be diverted into neighborhood streets because the apartment building will change existing traffic patterns.

Bob Donohoe, one of the developers, said that he has been trying to work with the community and has been meeting with them in an effort to get their input and ideas. The developers plan to provide economic and community benefits as part of the zoning exemption.

Donohoe said these will include efforts to improve pedestrian safety, traffic calming devices, "superior architecture and urban design," as well as donations to various organization including the Tenleytown library, among others. Donohoe said he feels that many of the people who are against the building are "people that don't want to see a change."

Though the advisory neighborhood commission has not yet decided whether to recommend the change in zoning ordinance to the Board of Zoning, the CTSO has wasted no time in canvassing the neighborhood with fliers, and petitioning from door to door and in front of a local grocery store.

"We're going to let them know that this is a neighborhood that cares about our future and were going to make a lot of noise," said Sherman. So far the CTSO petition has collected about 1000 signatures, she said.

As the controversy continues, one has to keep in mind that the building has not yet been approved, and that could take years, according to Hoang.

Which leaves the more immediate matter of relations between AU students living in Tenleytown and their neighbors. Both Lowrey and Sherman said that they know AU students aren't all bad and that it is only a minority of students that are being disruptive neighbors.

"Sometimes students like to have a lot of fun and that's just part of the game," said Lowrey. "We've all been students before"

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle