Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Board asks for greater coordination on Friendship Heights issues

The Following is a November 26, 2014 letter from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board to the County Executive and County Council regarding the need for cross-jurisdictional dialogue on priorities in the Friendship Heights central business district and Western Avenue corridor.

Dear County Executive Leggett and Council President Rice:

On October 20, 2014, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) hosted a community roundtable with residents; representatives from DC Ward 3 Area Neighborhood Commissions; and officials from the Village of Friendship Heights, Town of Somerset, and Chevy Chase Village.  Universally, community leaders and residents expressed a desire for more cross-jurisdictional communication and coordination.  As a result of this successful meeting, WMCCAB members believe there is a need to revive the long-dormant Friendship Heights Task Force, or similar cross-jurisdictional dialogue, to make productive cross-border coordination a reality.  

The Friendship Heights Task Force was established in 1998 to allow representatives from Montgomery County and the District of Columbia to coordinate planning, transportation priorities, public safety, and community projects in Friendship Heights.  It was active until 2001 but has been dormant since then.  The need for a renewed emphasis on coordination between Montgomery County and the District concerning Friendship Heights was very apparent from the roundtable discussion.  Participants, including commissioners from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (3D, 3E, and 3G) raised issues pertaining to pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle safety; bus routes, public safety, and environmental concerns.  Some specific areas of concern were:

  • Building bicycle infrastructure in Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, and Bethesda that connects to the DC bicycle network.  Examples offered included safe bicycle routes from NW DC to Westbard, Bethesda and Chevy Chase Lake and safe bicycle circulation in those areas. Connectivity to the District’s Oregon Avenue bicycle boulevard was also discussed;
  • Adding direct bus connections to connect NW DC activity centers and neighborhoods with activity centers in Montgomery County including future Purple Line stations;
  • Coordinating Montgomery County; Maryland State Highway Administration; and District pedestrian safety infrastructure and outreach in Friendship Heights. 
  • Resolving traffic concerns including improvements to safety at the intersection of Friendship Boulevard/Western Avenue/Jennifer Street
  • Improving dialogue on pedestrian, bike and vehicle safety at Chevy Chase Circle; 
  • Improving Little Falls Stream and Rock Creek watersheds in Montgomery County by adopting programs similar to the District’s “RiverSmart” program.

Participants also requested that the County and the District explore the establishment of a Business Improvement District (“BID”) including both the County and District portions of Friendship Heights.  Businesses on the District side of the border are already exploring the possibility of the formation of a BID.  The WMCCAB is aware that the Office of Legislative Oversight is currently investigating and researching different types of BIDs to help County communities seeking to create something other than an Urban District.  We suggest that the Office of Legislative Oversight’s report also address the feasibility of cross-jurisdictional BIDs, such as the one suggested at the roundtable discussion.    

Given the scope of cross-border issues in Friendship Heights, we urge the County Council and County Executive to re-establish a mechanism for the two jurisdictions to once again coordinate planning and transportation policies for the area.  The WMCCAB is happy to help in any way and is exploring regular annual meetings with neighboring Area Neighborhood Commissions and local municipalities. 

James A. “Jad” Donohoe, IV, Chair