Takoma Junction Development Blocked as Historic Commission Orders City to Restore Site to Original Garbage Dump

SILVER SPRING, MD — In a shocking decision, the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) blocked the Takoma Junction development project and ordered the City of Takoma Park to restore the city-owned parking lot back to its original, historic use: a massive garbage dump.

The decision by HPC was the latest twist in a 20-year debate over what to do with the site. Development advocates were cautiously optimistic heading into Wednesday’s HPC hearing, but soon found the proceedings overwhelmed by the complaints of a determined group of protesters who dominated public comments, as they are retired and without kids and therefore the only ones able to attend a late night hearing during the week.

After repeated testimonies begging and pleading the commission to consider the historic importance of the site while calling the proposed design “garbage” and needing to be “thrown away,” the HPC Chair motioned  to reject the project outright and force the developer, Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC), to return the site to a garbage dump for their entire 99 year lease period. All commissioners approved the motion.

“Historically, this site served Takoma Park as a garbage repository for commercial businesses before it was converted to a parking lot,” stated the HPC Chair. “We believe the best use of this site would be to restore the lot back to an operating dump, which will retain its traditional character by continuing to be a huge waste of land.”

Per the decision, the developer has 30 days to remove all non-contributing elements, such as asphalt paving and sidewalks. Furthermore, Takoma Park trash collection services will now be performed by Neighborhood Disposal Corporation, a privately operated trash company owned by NDC founder, Adrian Washington. By code, the trash heap must remain under 30 feet tall to avoid exceeding the historic district height limit, and NDC must provide a large public space in front of the trash dump for dancing, singing, outdoor dining or other group activities.

HPC’s decision to reject the proposed shops and restaurants on the site resolved one of the most contentious issues in the Junction debate: the fate of the “lay-by” lane, which was to be used for truck deliveries and garbage collection in front of the newly created businesses. The elimination of the lay-by ensures that patrons of the Junction won’t be subjected to an unpleasant trash smell on days when garbage collection takes place. Instead, the restoration of the dump will provide patrons of the new public space with a consistent unpleasant trash smell every day of the week. Development opponents agreed this is a far superior outcome.

Advocates for the new development feared the commission’s bold decision. “We are going to lose a ton of business and tax revenue in this city due to the stench,” stated Neil Dougherty. “If there is a bright side, this decision does guarantee affordable rental rates.”

While advocates shook their heads in disbelief, a jubilant celebration broke out for historic preservation advocates and the one-percent of the city’s population who has nothing better to do than complain about any proposed changes while calling themselves “progressive.”

“This proves that we were right from the beginning!” exclaimed Daniel Helton, one of the original opposition leaders, who once complained that turning a parking lot into a two-story building in an expensive, predominantly white neighborhood would gentrify the city. “A giant garbage dump accurately depicts our vision for the future of Takoma Park.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled on October 1st with the grand opening of the garbage dump, where the mayor and city council members plan to toss 5 years worth of paperwork related to the project into the pile.