The basic high quality residential character of the neighborhood was established in the Woodside Development Corporation's marketing efforts and indeed covenants which required relatively expensive homes, established deep setbacks, and prohibited commercial uses. Little action was required to enforce the covenants. In fact, as discussed in an earlier chapter, the only such action ever taken was to prevent the construction of inexpensive houses on small lots. In early February 1937 the Association along with the Woodside Development Corporation and a neighborhood resident filed a bill of complaint in the Circuit Court to compel Louis B. Schneider, a builder-owner, to improve three small bungalows he was constructing or planned to construct on the southwest corner of Woodland Drive and Grace Church Road. The plaintiffs claimed the houses being constructed were "unsightly, unattractive, [and] cheap in appearance and construction." The plaintiffs also contended that the houses would cost approximately $4,600 (1997 equivalent: $50,800), which was less than the $6,000 (1997 equivalent: $66,200) required by the covenants, and that the subdivided lots did not meet the 50 foot per house by the full depth of the original lot requirement. The plaintiffs also noted that not counting the three houses in question, nineteen houses were under construction in Woodside Park at the time, that they were valued between $9,500 and $30,000 (1997 equivalents: $105,000 and $331,300) , and that they all were in keeping with the surrounding properties. In late February 1937 an injunction was issued prohibiting continued construction, use, or sale of the houses costing less than $6,000, but the judge refused to find that the subdivision of the original corner lot into lots some of which did not have the full depth of the original lot was actionable since other corner lots on the same block had been similarly subdivided. A decree issued in August 1937 made the injunction permanent. Mr. Schneider then agreed to improve the two houses under construction at 9106 and 9108 Woodland Drive to meet the $6,000 requirement. He completed and sold these two upgraded houses. He also re-subdivided his land to increase lot sizes by eliminating one of the five lots he had previously platted. The third of the planned bungalows, which would have been at the corner of Woodland Drive and Grace Church Road, was not built. Instead houses were built on this lot, 1600 Grace Church Road, and the lot at 1608 Grace Church Road after World War II.
Another small house on Highland Drive was improved on request to the builder, without a court action being necessary.
The issue of lot size arose again in the mid-1980s when Carter, Inc. proposed to build new houses
at the rear of 1000 Mansion Drive. The lots originally purchased from the owner of 1000 Mansion
Drive did not meet size requirements and the Civic Association objected to construction of new
homes on substandard lots. The matter was resolved when Carter, Inc. purchased more land and
increased the size of the proposed lots. As a result new houses were constructed at 1008 North
Mansion Drive and 1009 South Mansion Drive.
Post-War Highway Construction and Woodside Park
The post-war period was not only a time of growth for Woodside Park; it was a time of threats to the neighborhood as well. As it became more certain that World War II would be won, the State Roads Commission and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission turned their attention to post-war traffic needs. The State Roads Commission proposed making Colesville Road and Columbia Pike a "dual major highway" to Baltimore. The Park and Planning Commission started laying out a connection from White Oak to the western part of the county and a "Northern Parkway" which would come from both downtown Washington along Oregon Avenue and from MacArthur Boulevard in Northwest Washington to and beyond Sixteenth Street through Silver Spring and on north to meet the proposed road to Baltimore and then continue to "Westminster and points north." At this time Sixteenth Street ended at East-West Highway, so the immediate problem for Woodside Park was the route proposed from the end of Sixteenth Street north to Sligo Creek.
The Park and Planning Commission announced its proposed route at a special meeting at the Silver Spring Armory on December 18, 1944. The proposal was to extend Sixteenth Street as an "express highway" north to where it now intersects with Spring Street west of the CSX Railroad tracks. Then a depressed roadway was to be built along Anson Street (now Spring Street), with an underpass at Second Avenue and a major interchange at Georgia Avenue. The expressway was then proposed to be built along Alton Parkway through Woodside Park to Sligo Creek Park where one branch was to go north up the west edge of the park and the other was to go northeast through the Argyle Country Club to meet the proposed road from White Oak. Within Woodside Park, Alton Parkway's 100 foot right-of-way was not wide enough for the highway. A service road was proposed to serve existing houses on the west side of Alton Parkway, but the relatively few homes then on the east side were directly in the path of the highway. Preliminary plans called for the removal of the houses at 1112 and 1115 Noyes Drive, 9005 Alton Parkway, and 1118 Dale Drive. Woodside Parkway would cross over the proposed highway "to provide interior circulation for the community," but Noyes Drive and Highland Drive would have been cut by the highway. A "modified interchange" was to be built at Dale Drive.
The proposed expressway through Woodside Park set off a fire storm of protest. On January 11, 1945, about seventy residents attended a Woodside Park Civic Association meeting and unanimously adopted a resolution protesting any route through Woodside Park. A petition drive was started.
On January 18, 1945, the Park and Planning Commission announced an alternate route for the Northern Parkway. Instead of coming north from Sixteenth Street, the alternate route would have come north from the proposed expressways from MacArthur Boulevard and downtown Washington at about the northern point of the District of Columbia and would have crossed the B&O Railroad near Hanover Street. It would have followed the railroad to just beyond Brookville Road (off Seminary Road west of Georgia Avenue). At this point it would have turned almost straight north to beyond Forest Glen Road, where it would have turned east to Sligo Creek and the original route farther north. A spur would have then connected it to the road to Baltimore. This route would have required taking about 40 houses, considerably more than the route through Woodside Park.
By 1953 the approved route was to construct the road from a new interchange to be built at where an extension of Western Avenue along the District Line would meet East-West Highway. The road would go more or less straight north through Old Woodside to a new interchange to be built at Georgia Avenue and Luzerne Avenue. The road would have followed Luzerne to another new interchange at Dale Drive. It then would have gone on to intersect the then-proposed Beltway at an interchange to be built near Sligo Creek Parkway before following Sligo Creek on north. Dale Drive from Colesville Road to Georgia Avenue was also to be widened and realigned as a part of this plan. Sixteenth Street was to be extended from East-West Highway to intersect with the new road just west of the B&O tracks. The 1955 Revised Master Plan of Highways also showed this route.
Ultimately none of these routes were constructed, but the idea of a "Northern Parkway" and then a "North Central Freeway" did not go away, particularly as freeways were planned around Washington and linking Washington and Baltimore with Frederick and points west. A route was needed to link downtown Washington to the road to Frederick. In 1958 the North Central Freeway was included in the "Basic Freeway Plan of the Mass Transportation Survey for the National Capital Region" as approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and other authorities. It was to be a major highway from downtown east of Rock Creek Park to connect with the route of the Circumferential Highway (Beltway) and then with the proposed expressway to Frederick. In 1962 the "National Capital Transportation Agency" recommended to the President and Congress that the North Central Freeway be constructed. The Park and Planning Commission continued to push for a Palisades route along the Potomac. Meanwhile from 1960 to 1965 Congress froze all highway construction relating to any of the routes through Washington. In 1964 the Park and Planning Commission changed its mind and adopted the North Central Freeway/Northern Parkway plan in its "Wedges and Corridors" plan for the county. The Park and Planning Commission placed the route on the Master Plan of Highways in April 1967. The County Commission endorsed it in November 1967 and the county's Congressman, Gilbert Gude, testified in favor of it in December 1967. Other support fell into line in 1968; the Northern Parkway route was extended all the way to I-70N at Westminster.
Meanwhile engineering work for the freeway had begun. Reports were released in 1964 and 1966 detailing routes from downtown Washington through Silver Spring to the Beltway. The consulting engineers' recommended route of October 1966 followed the B&O Railroad to just above Sixteenth Street and then turned east taking a block wide path through Woodside and crossed under Georgia Avenue just above Grace Church. An exit ramp from the north-bound lanes would have intersected Georgia Avenue opposite Grace Church Road in Woodside Park. The road would then have taken a block wide path northeastward to and under Dale Drive. Virtually everything between the north side of the Grace Church property and Corwin Drive would have been taken for the highway or ramps leading to or from Georgia Avenue. At a minimum 9228 Woodland Drive, 1526 and 1529 Dale Drive and all the houses in the 1600 block of Dale Drive would have been taken. The route continued through Woodside Forest and intersected the Beltway in a major interchange to be built just east of Holy Cross Hospital. Other proposals had the North Central Freeway continuing along the B&O tracks to the Beltway, but under these proposals the Northern Parkway would still follow the right-of-way described above through Woodside Park.
The recommended Freeway route and the option to continue along the B&O tracks were not the only ones to affect Woodside Park. Another alternate route, which had also been proposed in 1964, would have taken even more of the neighborhood. This proposal would have built a depressed highway that crossed into Woodside Park from south of Colesville Road near Woodside Parkway. Everything facing Colesville Road from Mansion Drive to Highland Drive would have been destroyed. The freeway would have continued in a broad path through Woodside Park until it crossed Dale Drive, taking everything from Watson Road to about 200 feet south of Clement Road. Woodside Parkway east of Fairview Road would have been rerouted as a service road to connect with Mansion Drive. Highland Drive would have ended in a cul-de-sac just east of Alton Parkway. Both Colesville Road and Dale Drive would have crossed over the depressed freeway.
The consultant engineers did not recommend the route through this portion of Woodside Park. The report said: "In Woodside Park, which is divided by this route, the homes are among the finest in the County. The Freeway would destroy the integrity of this area and would most certainly result in its depreciation as a desirable place in which to live."
Another proposed route would have just missed Woodside Park. This proposed alignment called for the highway to cross Colesville Road just north of Dale Drive and then parallel Dale for a distance before heading north to the Beltway.
The proposed routes through and near Woodside Park elicited extreme opposition in the neighborhood. About 200 people attended the Association's meeting in November 1964 to overwhelmingly adopt a resolution opposing routes near Woodside Park. The Executive Committee shortly thereafter sent out a special letter to all residents headed "CITIZENS OF WOODSIDE PARK UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT THAT FREEWAY!" The letter urged them to attend a public hearing to be held by the State Roads Commission and the Park and Planning Commission at the Silver Spring Armory on December 15th. Residents who felt strongly were also urged to visit the Park and Planning Commission building to talk to an agent of the Griner Company, the contractor studying routes for the highway. The Griner representative was at the Park and Planning Commission building in the afternoons and evenings for three weeks prior to the hearing. "Go to him, but be sure you know what you are talking about, as he has a whole basket full of answers." The hearing on December 15th was quite contentious. State Roads Commission Chairman John P. Funk attempted to defend the freeway. He was faced with signs reading "Funk's Folly" and "Fee-Fie-Foe Funk. I Smell the Gas of a Freeway Skunk!" When Woodside Park resident Thomas Stathes complained of "monster freeways defacing our quiet parks," Mr. Funk challenged him "do you want to be able to get your two cars out of your driveway or do you just want to leave them parked."
The route finally approved in November 1966 had the freeway routed along the east side of the B&O Railroad in Old Woodside. It would have connected with the Beltway near the railroad bridge. A spur was to be built to Georgia Avenue along Sixteenth Street, where it would have connected to the still proposed "Northern Parkway."
A new version of the Northern Parkway had been in the plans of the State Roads Commission since about 1960. It was originally planned to be a four-lane automobiles-only parkway running from the intersection of Sixteenth Street and Georgia Avenue to Sligo Creek Park, and then along the creek through the middle of Wheaton Regional Park and on to the proposed Outer Beltway. The ultimate destination was Westminster, where the road would have connected with I-70N (now I-70). By 1968 the State had transformed the proposed road into a full fledged six-lane expressway open to all traffic, and by January 1970 the state had already spent about $800,000 (1997 equivalent: $3,291,000) to acquire right-of-way for the road. The state wanted to begin construction on the first 4.9 miles from Sixteenth Street north in 1973. Land purchased included the area north of Grace Church on Georgia Avenue where the Cedar View Court cul-de-sac has now been built.
Vehement citizen opposition to both the Northern Parkway and the North Central Freeway proposals continued. About 225 people protested the road at a joint work session of the State Roads Commission, the county's legislative delegation, and the County Council on January 7, 1970. Police were called to maintain order; Sammie Abbott, who later became the mayor of Takoma Park, was escorted from the room by police after he interrupted the meeting to denounce the State Roads Commission and the Montgomery County legislative delegation as "criminals and racists." Four days later over 300 people turned out at the Silver Spring Boys Club basketball court for a rally against the road. The Allied Civic Group, representing 43 civic associations, weighed in against the road, as did the Board of Education, a number of PTAs, and the League of Women Voters. On January 18, 1970 about 1,500 people turned out to protest and walk along the proposed route in Sligo Creek Park just north of the Beltway. Not everyone opposed the road, however; the Silver Spring and Wheaton-Kensington Chambers of Commerce supported it. Local politicians began questioning whether the road should be built. One state legislator proposed removing the median strip on Georgia Avenue to add a reversible lane as a temporary solution while the road was further studied. Another called for the state to stop buying right-of-way and suggested the proposed Metro line up Georgia Avenue would be an alternative to the road. The Washington Post said that "county and state officials had been stunned . . . by the mounting public outcry against the plan . . . ."
A second meeting was held on January 19, 1970 between State Roads Commission officials, the legislative delegation, and the County Council. This time the Planning Board attended too. The meeting was held in the Park and Planning Commission's auditorium. About 500 people turned out for this meeting; a majority of them had to stand outside in 20 weather and listen to the proceedings on loudspeakers. Their applause, boos and jeers could be plainly heard inside. Planners and Roads Commission members strongly defended the road and said the alternatives were to make Georgia Avenue ten lanes wide, destroying everything built along it, or to move the road from park land to residential areas and take 500 to 700 homes.
As might be expected, the Civic Association actively opposed the construction of the freeway. The Association sent many letters to public officials and in early January 1970 even spent $80.56 (1997 equivalent: $330) to send telegrams to 19 County and State officials.
On January 31, 1970, the County Council voted to recommend a five-year delay in any further right-of-way acquisition. Two days later the County legislative delegation met in Annapolis with about 70 opponents of the road also crowded into their hearing room. The delegation voted overwhelmingly to require the State Roads Commission to restudy the need for the road and deleted it from the five-year road program and the twenty-year needs study. The $1,200,000 (1997 equivalent: $4,936,000) in State funds budgeted for the project was reallocated to other projects in Montgomery County. That action killed the Northern Parkway.
Although the legislature had killed the Northern Parkway, the State Roads Commission continued to plan for what it now called the "Woodside Spur." This spur was to connect the North Central Freeway from its exit at Georgia Avenue through the corner of Woodside Park and through Woodside Forest to the Beltway east of Holy Cross Hospital. The Commission, however, had no funds for continued right-of-way acquisition. The Montgomery County Planning Board recommended that the spur be deleted from all plans. The spur was eventually dropped from all approved highway plans. The ultimate end came when the North Central Freeway was killed in the District of Columbia. There was no need for the road in Maryland if there was to be no freeway in the District of Columbia.
In a sense one small portion of the original 1944 Northern Parkway plan was constructed. The intersection of Spring Street and Georgia Avenue was relocated in 1958 from south of the current Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission building to just north of that building to intersect with what was then Anson Street on the west side of Georgia Avenue. The wide right-of-way of Alton Parkway established in the various subdivisions of the Wilson Farm (which continued Alton Parkway's 100 foot right-of-way in the original Woodside Park subdivision) was used as the right-of way for most of the relocated Spring Street and the street was built as a divided parkway with a wide median.
The various versions of the North Central Freeway and Northern Parkway were not the only attempts to route significant amounts of traffic through Woodside Park. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's 1969 Preliminary Master Plan for the Silver Spring area not only supported these two highways, it also proposed to extend Cameron Street to connect with Colesville Road at Noyes Drive on the north and at Second Street on the south. The extended Cameron Street was proposed to carry all southbound Colesville Road traffic while Colesville Road itself in this plan would carry only northbound traffic. Four houses on the west side of Noyes Drive near Colesville Road would have been demolished to build the new route. The Silver Spring Seventh-day Adventist Church and houses on the east side of Noyes Drive would have been degraded by the new major artery. The Civic Association suggested making Ellsworth Drive on the south side of Colesville Road one way rather than Cameron Street, if the one-way project was needed at all. In that way residential areas would be less impacted. In the end, neither street was made one way.
The 1969 Preliminary Master Plan also posed another threat to the neighborhood. Woodside Parkway was proposed to be designated a primary street, traffic signals were to be installed at its intersections with both Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue, and other "improvements" were to be made. The Civic Association protested that this would "amount to the destruction of a residential street" and would divide the neighborhood by turning Woodside Parkway into a heavily used short-cut for non-residents. The end result was that the street retained its secondary status.
The neighborhood has also been threatened with various plans for Georgia Avenue and Colesville
Road. In the 1980s and early 1990s there were proposals to reconfigure the Sixteenth Street and
Georgia Avenue intersection and to build a busway along Colesville Road. The median along
Georgia Avenue has also been a target for planners considering ways to increase traffic flow. To
date, none of these proposals have been adopted.
Traffic and Parking Concerns
In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s traffic and commuter parking in Woodside Park became increasing concerns. Parking along Fairview Road, Noyes Drive, North Noyes Drive, and Mansion Drive was restricted six days a week in the early 1960s. These restrictions proved inadequate and the Association worked with the County Department of Public Works to install parking restrictions on most blocks from Woodside Parkway south in 1969 and 1970. In early 1970 parking was restricted Monday through Friday to two hours or no parking at all. The County refused to continue restricting parking on Saturdays on Noyes Drive, North Noyes Drive and Mansion Drive near the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Colesville Road. Woodland Drive was made one-way south in the block between Dale Drive and Grace Church Road and part of the 8900 block of Fairview Road was made one-way south at this time. Street lighting was also upgraded to mercury vapor lights.
With the opening of the Silver Spring Metro station as the temporary end of the Red Line on February 6, 1978, parking problems gradually increased. The residents of additional blocks, such as Crosby Road between Woodside Parkway and Highland Drive, petitioned for and received two hour parking restrictions. In response to complaints from Woodside Park residents and residents of other neighborhoods impacted by Metro stations, the County government developed a program of neighborhood parking districts in which residents could purchase permits which allowed them and their guests to park in zones marked for neighborhood parking only. After a public hearing in October 1988, Woodside Park was approved for permit parking and residents of several blocks petitioned for conversion of their two hour parking restriction to no parking except by Woodside Park permit holders. Installation of permit parking restriction signs began in March 1989.
Residents also complained of speeding on their streets. The Civic Association at various times formed a traffic committee to study the situation and work with the County government for a solution. In 1974, for example, the traffic committee found problems with cut-through traffic and unsafe driving. Noyes Drive, Woodside Parkway, and Highland Drive were all found to be affected by cut-through traffic, but the worst problem was the use of North Noyes Drive by traffic coming south on Colesville Road to reach Fairview Road and Spring Street during the morning rush hour. The committee proposed that Fairview Road be closed at Spring Street. This was not done, but finally no right turn prohibitions were instituted from Colesville Road onto Woodside Park streets to solve this problem. The committee proposed four-way stop signs at Noyes Drive intersections with Woodland Drive and Fairview Road, Woodside and Alton Parkways, and Highland Drive intersections with Woodland Drive, Crosby Road, and Fairview Road to discourage cut-through traffic and reduce unsafe driving. The committee also proposed installing blinking yellow lights on Dale Drive at Grace Church Road and east of Midwood Road. These latter proposals were not implemented and traffic problems continued into the 1980s.
Another traffic committee was appointed in 1987. The committee prepared a report and met with County traffic officials. The officials were eager to help and wanted to use Woodside Park as a demonstration site for the use of small traffic circles in intersections as a means of slowing traffic. This was an option that had not been considered by the committee. Circles were proposed for intersections at Highland Drive and Woodland Drive, Highland Drive and Crosby Road, Highland Drive and Alton Parkway, Woodside Parkway and Woodland Drive, Woodside Parkway and Alton Parkway (a modified split circle), Noyes Drive and Woodland Drive, Noyes Drive and Fairview Road, and Ballard Street and Woodland Drive. After consultation with the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Department and Montgomery County Schools transportation officials, circles were found to be practical at all these intersections except Noyes Drive and Woodland Drive, where a left turn by a school bus would have been made extremely difficult by the proposed circle. All this was reported back to the Association. At its November 1987 meeting, the Association voted to ask the county to install the circles on a trial basis. The County wasted no time in installing the circles; they were up within three days. The temporary circles were typically composed of twelve three foot long pieces of flexible yellow plastic pipe, some of which had "keep right" signs attached. They were installed in the center of the seven approved intersections. Two yellow stripes similar to center stripes on a highway surrounded the pipes. If the neighborhood approved of the experiment, permanent curb circles with soil for planting were to replace the temporary circles. The circles proved to be quite controversial. A few people routinely drove through them, damaging the plastic pipes. Grass at the corner of yards near the circles was damaged by drivers, especially truck drivers, trying to go around the circles. The only intersection in which the circle did not seem to cause any problems was at Ballard Street and Woodland Drive, which is paved wider than the other intersections involved in the experiment.
A vote on whether to have the temporary circles removed or have them replaced with permanent curb circles was scheduled for the Association's March 1988 meeting. After considerable heated debate and in a somewhat disputed vote, 34 votes were counted to remove the circles and replace them with all-way stop signs while 33 votes were counted to install permanent circles.
When the circles were installed, county traffic officials had agreed to remove them if the neighborhood requested their removal, but they were less than enthusiastic about doing so when the request was actually made. They proposed to continue the experiment by replacing one of the pipe circles with a curb circle to see if a more aesthetically pleasing circle would overcome neighborhood objections. Civic Association officers pressed for removal of the circles and replacement by stop signs in keeping with the vote. The county eventually did remove the circles and put up the requested stop signs as well as additional stop signs at Noyes Drive and Woodland Drive and Noyes Drive and Alton Parkway as a part of their "Neighborhood Protection Policy" for residential areas near the Silver Spring Central Business District.
"Traffic calming" again became an issue in the 1990s. In 1993 the Civic Association sent a letter
to the County Department of Transportation (DOT) inquiring about methods to slow traffic in the
neighborhood. No reply was received until 1995 when the Association again raised the issue.
DOT then responded that it would install "speed humps" in the neighborhood if a traffic study
found adequate traffic volumes and excessive speeds and if the Association and 2/3 of the
residents on affected streets approved. The normal standard in the county was 80% approval, but
DOT proposed to apply the 2/3 standard used in 1993 because it considered the Association's
1993 letter to be a request for speed humps. The issue proved to be quite controversial. Both
proponents of the humps and opponents organized as the "Woodside Park No Bumps
Committee" circulated flyers. The "no bumps" flyers were called "over the top" in Steve
Twomey's Washington Post column. The matter was considered at a very well attended
Association meeting in April 1996. The DOT representative at the meeting first claimed not to be
able to find the results of their traffic study among his papers, but eventually conceded that none
of the streets met traffic volume and speed standards. Speeds on all streets were found to be
lower than the speed limit and most streets did not have even half the required traffic volumes.
Nonetheless, he said the County would install speed humps if residents wanted them. After a
tumultuous session, a resolution supporting speed humps passed. Proponents of the humps then
began petition drives on Noyes Drive, Woodside Parkway, Highland Drive, Grace Church Road,
and Woodland Drive. Deadlines for petitions were repeatedly extended by the County while some
residents opposed to humps complained that they were harassed by proponents trying to get them
to sign petitions for the humps. Eventually sufficient signatures were gained on Woodland Drive,
Grace Church Road, and North Noyes Drive. DOT agreed to consider North Noyes Drive
separately from Noyes Drive after adequate signatures could not be obtained on Noyes Drive. In
the case of Woodland Drive, DOT decided not to include the 8800 block in the required petition
area because proponents said that block was different from the rest of the street. Woodland Drive
opponents then began efforts to have persons who had signed the petition in favor of humps to
rescind their approval. In May 1997 the County government reversed itself and said it would not
install humps because the speed and traffic volume standards were not met.
Commercial and Higher Density Residential Development
The Civic Association has taken an interest in commercial rezoning not only in Woodside Park but also in adjacent areas of Silver Spring. For example, from 1947 through 1951 the association opposed various rezoning efforts for commercial or apartment uses in 20 cases involving property along Colesville Road, Georgia Avenue, Ellsworth Drive, and Spring Street. The Association opposed rezoning from residential to commercial the tract on which the Hecht Company department store was built. The Association won many of these cases, but not all. Among the cases which were won was an application for commercial use of lots facing Ellsworth Drive across from the then-new county parking lot at Fenton Street. In that case the Association filed a petition for rehearing with the new County Council, which reversed the rezoning that had been granted by the outgoing County Commissioners. Another case the Association won was a proposal to rezone 21 acres between Dale Drive and Sligo Creek Park on the north side of Colesville Road for apartments. The Civic Association even took commercial rezoning of a parcel on the southwest corner of Colesville Road and Spring Street opposite Woodside Park to the Maryland Court of Appeals. Although the battles were often won the first time, later applications for zoning changes were often approved. The Association feared an expansion of the commercial area closer and closer to Woodside Park.
Later in the 1950s and the 1960s the battle came to an area directly within the jurisdiction of the Association, the east side of Spring Street in Griffith's Addition to Woodside Park. In 1957 the lots facing Spring Street from Colesville Road to Cameron Court (then known as High Street, which had an unbuilt right-of-way that extended through the block to intersect with Noyes Drive) was proposed for commercial office zoning. Spring Street from Colesville Road all the way to Fairview Road was lost to commercial development when much of it was rezoned by the County Council under the leadership of a Republican dominated County Council elected in 1962 and led by Kathryn E. Diggs. The Civic Association actively opposed the rezoning and related special exception requests which allowed parking on adjoining lots which were not rezoned. The rezoning could have been considerably worse, however. Before the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission purchased the land on the east side of Spring Street from Alton Parkway to Fairview Road for the Fairview Urban Park there were pressures to rezone this land for commercial and apartment uses. In 1961 there was a proposal to rezone the site from R-60 single family residential to R-10 so an apartment building of "unlimited height" could be built. This would have placed a high-rise apartment building adjacent to the back yard of homes on Fairview Road and Noyes Drive. The Association hired legal counsel and circulated petitions. The rezoning was defeated.
The Spring Street-Fairview Road area continued to pose problems. Two office building were built along the south side of Fairview Road at Spring Street (first 1111 Spring Street and then 8905 Fairview Road in 1979-80). The Association opposed construction of these buildings and even tried to halt ongoing construction of 8905 Fairview Road and limit the height of the building to three stories rather than the approved six stories on the technicality that its foundation had not been completed in time to comply with grandfathering requirements of a new zoning act.
Office building parking was also a problem. One of the original farm houses for Alton Farm, 8904 Fairview Road, which had been enlarged and sold by the Woodside Development Corporation, was demolished and its lot used for a parking lot under a special zoning exception granted in 1970 to Leonard Tempchin, the owner of the office building at 1109 Spring Street. The Association and the Silver Spring Women's Club appealed the special exception in the Circuit Court but lost. Once it was constructed, the parking lot continued to be a problem. In 1978 the Association worked with the county to have a large dumpster which Mr. Tempchin had placed on the public right-of-way removed to the interior of the parking lot where it was less of an eyesore.
Another problem area was across Colesville Road from Woodside Park just north of the Silver Spring Library. This area was zoned for single family houses, but was largely undeveloped. In 1957 its owners, Frank L. Hewitt and Lawrence V. Lutes, tried to sell the 3½ acres to the County for construction of a County office building and police station. The County obtained an option on the property, but the County Council ultimately rejected the proposal, in part because of opposition from the surrounding neighborhoods (except for the Evanswood Civic Association, which supported it) and fears expressed by the County Manager that putting the building there would lead to commercialization along Colesville Road north of Spring Street. The plot's owners claimed the office building would stop further commercial development along Colesville Road toward Dale Drive. In 1960 the owners attempted to get the zoning of the parcels changed to R-10 high density residential. This effort, too, failed. In 1963 and 1965 they attempted to have the property rezoned for high rise apartments. These efforts, too, were defeated. In 1970 the Civic Association and neighbors fought back efforts to turn the large house adjacent to the library into a boarding house. One of the most stalwart opponents of the various schemes was Irwin I. Kaplan of 1000 North Noyes Drive.
In 1964 the Zoning Plan was amended once again to increase density along Fairview Road. The site of the Woodside Park Townhouses and lots at 1201 Spring Street (the corner of Spring Street and Fairview Road now owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission) and 8904, 8908, and 8912 Fairview Road were proposed for townhouse zoning. Plans prepared by the Park and Planning Commission showed 24 townhouses on the lots on the west side of Fairview Road and six townhouses and an office building on the current Woodside Park Townhouses site. These plans also proposed construction of four new houses on the south side of Noyes Drive between 1008 and 1020 Noyes Drive. These houses would have been built on part of the large lot at 1020 Noyes Drive and part of the parking lot facing Cameron Court that extends to Noyes Drive in this area.
Extension of the commercial area along Spring Street reappeared in 1969 when the area from Cameron Court to Alton Parkway was proposed for office and commercial use in the Preliminary Silver Spring Master Plan. Once again, the idea was defeated at least so far as the Spring Street frontage from Fairview Road to Alton Parkway is concerned. This proposal was not the only commercial encroachment on the neighborhood in the preliminary plan. The entire area surrounded by Georgia Avenue from Sixteenth Street north to Columbia Boulevard, Dale Drive, and the proposed Northern Parkway (just north of Grace Church) was to be zoned for commercial use.
Woodside Park's location immediately north of the Silver Spring Central Business District has continued to cause concerns about commercial and apartment building inroads in other parts of the neighborhood as well. One problem area was the vacant block surrounded by Spring Street, Georgia Avenue, Ballard Street, and Woodland Drive and lots facing Georgia Avenue farther north. In 1957 Frank L. Hewitt proposed that the County could purchase the block for $2.00 (1997 equivalent: $11.38) a square foot and use it for a County office building and police station as an alternative to putting the building immediately north of the Library on Colesville Road. In 1968 the property's owners, Harold H. Conner and William Harold Packett, failed in an attempt to get the County Council to include the area as a part of the Silver Spring Central Business District. The 1969 Preliminary Master Plan for the Silver Spring Planning Area called for "low density multi-family" use of all the blocks between Georgia Avenue and Woodland Drive north of Spring Street in Woodside Park. The Civic Association called for developing the block bounded by Georgia Avenue, Ballard Street, Woodland Drive, and Spring Street as a park and retaining single family use of all remaining lots between Georgia Avenue and Woodland Drive except those facing Georgia Avenue. The Association felt that lots facing Georgia Avenue would be suitable for resident professional offices and perhaps for townhouses or garden apartments. R-60 zoning was maintained at this time.
Townhouses were also ultimately built over the opposition of the Civic Association on the site of the Bergmann mansion at 8911 Fairview Road. The mansion was purchased in 1963 for $85,000 (1997 equivalent: $442,900) by the Gudelsky Company, the developer of Wheaton Plaza and other shopping centers. The home was leased for residential use for several years but was allowed to deteriorate, illegal commercial parking was allowed on the property, and an illegal and apparently inhabited trailer was installed in the front yard. In 1971 the Gudelsky Company filed a zoning application to allow construction of townhouses, but all action on the application was frozen until after the adoption of the North Silver Spring Sector Plan. In 1976, the company proceeded with the application. The proposed townhouses were to serve as a transitional buffer to the neighborhood from the commercial uses along Spring Street even though the office buildings on Spring Street had themselves been approved in the 1960s with the justification that they would buffer the neighborhood from the commercial area across the street and even though the office building at 8905 Fairview Road had not yet been built. The Civic Association actively opposed the developers' attempts to secure R-T zoning for the site. Despite temporary successes, such as forcing the developers to remove illegally parked cars from the property, townhouse zoning was approved by the County in 1977. The Civic Association then turned to the courts after holding a neighborhood yard sale to raise funds for legal fees, even going so far as to attempt to have the case considered by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Ultimately, however, the R-T zoning was upheld, and the Woodside Park Townhouses were completed in 1982.
Not all townhouse cases were lost. In 1971 the Association prevailed in preventing rezoning of the original Woodside Park "acre plot" at 9014 Colesville Road and two adjoining Colesville Road lots between Highland Drive and Woodside Parkway for construction of 14 townhouses.
The 1975 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan included as within the Central Business District planning area the part of Woodside Park surrounded by Spring Street, Alton Parkway, Noyes Drive and Colesville Road. Within this area lots facing Alton Parkway, Noyes Drive, most of Fairview Road, and part of Colesville Road were actually residential in character. While the plan called for preserving R-60 zoning on most of these lots, the large lot on Fairview Road on which the Woodside Park Townhouses are now located was designated for residential townhouse development and two properties at the southwest corner of Noyes Drive and Colesville Road (1000 Noyes Drive and 8808 Colesville Road) were marked as being suitable for Commercial-Transitional (C-T) development. The mere fact that a part of Woodside Park was considered to be within the planning area for the Central Business District was seen by neighborhood residents as implying a bias for eventual conversion of the area to commercial use. In 1977 the plan underwent revision to attempt to redirect development around the Metro station. Despite the stated aim of the changes, the draft included even more of Woodside Park within the Central Business District planning area. Woodside Park residents protested, and ultimately the boundary for the Central Business District planning area was drawn at Spring Street, which was (and is) the boundary of the Central Business District itself.
The Association again objected in 1982 when townhouse zoning was once more proposed for the block surrounded by Georgia Avenue, Spring Street, Woodland Drive, and Ballard Street, where the Woodside Station townhouses were eventually constructed. Although townhouses were an improvement over other uses that had been proposed for the property, the Association believed that the R-60 zone should be maintained and single family houses built. The Association noted that the property could be resubdivided under R-60 Cluster zoning so that all the houses could face away from Georgia Avenue, if necessary. Finally the Association worked out an agreement with the developers which specified how the townhouses were to be built and their impact on neighboring properties minimized. Based on this agreement, the Association supported rezoning for the townhouse project.
While the Central Business District Plan was first being completed and then revised to reflect the coming of Metro to Silver Spring, Woodside Park residents joined with residents of eight other neighborhoods inside the Beltway to begin work with the staff of the Park and Planning Commission to develop a sector plan for the residential areas north of the Silver Spring Central Business District. The North Silver Spring Sector Plan was adopted in 1978 with the primary goal of preserving the residential character of the communities of North Silver Spring. For Woodside Park, the North Silver Spring Plan eliminated the designation of the properties at 8808 Colesville Road and 1000 Noyes Drive as suitable for Commercial-Transitional development and retained their R-60 zoning with a note that they might be suitable for nonresident professional offices as a special exception. Twelve properties in Woodside Park along Georgia Avenue were also designated as suitable for nonresident professional office use as a special exception to their R-60 zoning.
There were also problems on the west side of Georgia Avenue, particularly at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Spring Street, now the location of Woodside Urban Park. In the 1960s there was increasing pressures to change the residential zoning of this area to a commercial zone. In 1970, for example, the Speech and Hearing Association proposed to purchase the property and build a headquarters office building. This was ultimately defeated when the land was purchased for development of a park next to Woodside School. In 1971 the Park and Planning Commission "temporarily" leased the home on the property it had acquired to Regional Addiction Prevention, Inc. (RAP) for use as a half way house residential facility for drug addicts in its program. The Association filed suit to prevent this use on the grounds that it was illegal for more than five unrelated persons to occupy the home. The park was ultimately constructed.
Pressures for commercial use along Georgia Avenue continued. The Association proposed a change to the County Zoning Ordinance which would allow nonresident professional offices along Georgia Avenue under strictly controlled conditions. The ordinance was adopted by the County Council, but it had more impact in Bethesda than in Silver Spring, where the Georgia Avenue boundary of Woodside Park was for the most part stabilized by revitalized residential use. In addition to the Woodside Station townhouses, new houses were constructed adjoining Georgia Avenue at Woodside Parkway and between Highland Drive and Grace Church Road. Woodside Park's western boundary now seems relatively secure from nonresidential development pressures. None of the twelve properties along Georgia Avenue indicated in the North Silver Spring Plan as suitable for nonresident professional offices as a special exception has been granted such an exception; indeed the only application submitted for such a special exception was denied.
Another problem area was the acre lot at Georgia Avenue and Grace Church Road, opposite the church. This lot had been sold by the Noyes heirs directly to Mrs. Archibald Small shortly before their sale of the rest of Alton Farm to the Woodside Development Corporation. Mrs. Small built a house on the lot. By 1974 the house was vacant and in disrepair. A Dr. Barkin proposed to purchase the property, demolish the house, and replace it with a 6,000 square foot medical clinic with parking for 30 cars. Eleven people would have worked in the clinic. This proposal caused considerable controversy within the neighborhood. Some saw it as a means of eliminating problems resulting from a vacant house; others feared the precedent of construction of a clinic building on Georgia Avenue. The Association voted to oppose the project in January 1975. In 1976 the property was sold and repaired for use as a residence. This did not end controversy concerning the property. The new owners, the Morales family, ignored zoning requirements and used the basement of the property as the "Central Recording Studio," a commercial sound recording studio. The Association finally was able to end this use in conjunction with efforts by the owners to subdivide the property and create three new lots in addition to a lot for the original house. The subdivision plan could not be approved while there was a zoning violation on the property. In 1990 approval was granted to create a lot for the original house and two new lots, one facing Georgia Avenue, with access from Grace Church Road, and one facing Grace Church Road. Large houses were built on the new lots.
The houses in the 8900 block of Georgia Avenue, which lost much of their front yards when Georgia Avenue was widened to 6 lanes have on occasion been proposed for nonresidential uses. One such proposal came in 1987 when Houshang Shadanbaz proposed to lease the home at 8903 Georgia Avenue and obtain a zoning special exception to convert the home into a boarding house. The Association opposed the special exception, which was denied.
Like Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road in Woodside Park has also been subject to development pressure. This started in the 1940s when St. Luke Lutheran Church purchased the property on the northeast corner of Highland Drive and Colesville Road to construct a church. Eventually additional property was purchased and one house, 909 Highland Drive, was destroyed and lots along Colesville Road south of Highland Drive were converted to a parking lot. The Silver Spring Seventh-day Adventist Church continued the trend when it purchased its site at the northeast corner of Noyes Drive and Colesville Road in 1945.
In the years immediately after World War II there was a perceived need for apartment housing in Montgomery County. Lots facing Colesville Road in Woodside Park were rezoned for apartment construction despite objections by the Civic Association. No apartments were ever built, however, and the zoning was later changed back to R-60 in conformance with the rest of the neighborhood. Except for the churches and the corner of Colesville Road and Spring Street, where the Cole Spring Plaza apartments were built under a later rezoning, use of lots along Colesville Road has remained mostly residential. In 1997 two of the homes were used for the offices of the physicians who lived there; one home previously holding a special exception for use as a nonresident physician's office (9000 Colesville Road) was not granted a new special exception when ownership changed; one other home (1000 Noyes Drive) was used for nonresident professional offices; and a special exception application for nonresident professional use of 8808 Colesville Road was pending. The Association has managed to defeat efforts to rezone property along Colesville Road, such as the proposed designation of 1000 Noyes Drive as Commercial-Transitional in the mid-1970s.
The Association's efforts to preserve the residential character of Colesville Road and Georgia
Avenue as buffers for the rest of the neighborhood have not always been popular, particularly
with property owners along these two arteries. For example, in 1977 Dr. Harold Conner, of 9000
Colesville Road, who was also part owner of the then-empty block at Georgia Avenue and Spring
Street, wrote to the County Council:
As a member of the Woodside Park Civic Association for 16 years I have been greatly aware of
their power practices and power plays in an attempt to regulate everybody's business in Silver
Spring. This has been very hurtful to the entire Silver Spring area and has just about ruined
business in Silver Spring. . . .
Such opinions of its power not withstanding, the Association has frequently sought the cooperation of other civic associations or cooperated with them when it was judged beneficial to do so. One example took place in 1967 and 1968 when the Association in cooperation with the Forest Glen Citizens' Association successfully opposed construction at 2400 Forest Glen Road of what would have been the world's tallest free-standing television broadcasting tower. The 1,219 foot tower (over twice as tall as the Washington Monument) was proposed jointly by stations WRC (channel 4), WTTG (channel 5), WMAL (channel 7), WTOP (channel 9), WOOK (channel 14), and WETA (channel 26). Its base would have been within 150 feet of the nearest homes.
Illegal signs were another issue that interested the Civic Association. The Association lobbied for years to have the large billboards on Georgia Avenue in Montgomery Hills and downtown Silver Spring removed. The billboards are illegal under County law, but the County has not effectively enforced the law. The Association also has taken action against a proliferation of illegal signs on church property along Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue. The worst offender was Memorial United Methodist Church at 9226 Colesville Road, which over the years from its establishment in 1958 increased the number of signs and enlarged the signs to well beyond legal limits. In late 1995 the Association complained to the county about the forest of signs at the church, and with the threat of enforcement action by the County, the church reduced the number of signs and their size to near the legal limits.
The County itself was an offender in the inappropriate placement of signs in the residential area. In 1992 the County placed large "Silver Spring Business District" signs accompanied with a sign showing pedestrians crossing the street followed by the "Silver Spring penguin" and the legend "Pedestrian Safety We Care." One of these signs was in the front yard of the home at 8904 Colesville Road, over a block north of the business district boundary at Spring Street. A similar sign was placed on Georgia Avenue near Ballard Street. The County also installed a banner across Georgia Avenue at Ballard Street to announce various events and civic causes. The Association objected to placing these signs in the residential area rather than the business district. The County eventually moved the signs to the business district boundary at Spring Street.
Assistance from the County Council finally helped resolve another unsuitable land use in the neighborhood. In 1963, the Park and Planning Commission acquired 1.4 acres immediately east of Spring Street south of Alton Parkway using State park land funds. The Park and Planning Commission did not develop the land as a park. Instead it created a "temporary" parking lot for its employees who worked at the M-NCPPC headquarters building at Georgia Avenue and Spring Street. In 1977 the Park and Planning Commission enlarged this "park" by purchasing the Silver Spring Women's Club property, which included a frame house, on the northeast corner of Spring Street and Fairview Road. The house, called "Fairview House" by the Park and Planning Commission, was used primarily for storage but also housed Ride Share program employees. The Association contended that there was adequate employee parking in lots and garages close to the M-NCPPC headquarters building and that property purchased with park funds should be used for park purposes. Finally in 1994 with pressure from the County Council, the Park and Planning Commission agreed to remove the employee parking lot and "Fairview House." They were removed in 1995 and work was begun with substantial input from Association members to design a park that would serve primarily families with small children and workers from the business district seeking a place to have a picnic lunch. The Association helps clean and monitor the park through the "Adopt a Park" program and has raised money for playground equipment in a major fund-raising effort which included a community yard sale and a home and garden tour in 1996 and a silent auction in 1997.
The Association has also tried to protect the neighborhood against violations of the setback requirements found in the deeds and plats of the original Alton Farm area of Woodside Park. These 40 foot setbacks are 15 feet deeper than required by current zoning regulations. Homeowners have on occasion wanted to expand their homes out toward the street in violation of the setback requirement. Usually these projects are stopped before they begin, but in one instance construction was begun in violation of the plat restriction because County building officials did not enforce the requirement that new construction cannot be closer to the street than the line formed by neighboring houses. Randall and Jean Caswell at 1437 Highland Drive began construction in front of and along the side of their house. The Zoning Committee asked the County to determine if the project complied with setback requirements. After some delay while construction progressed, the County investigated and concluded that the project was in violation of setback requirements in the current zoning law which do not permit additions closer to the street than nearby houses. The County said the building permit had been improperly issued and issued a stop work order. Great controversy ensued. Eventually the County concluded that since the construction was an open, albeit roofed, porch, it was legal under the County's 1928 zoning ordinance, which was judged to be applicable since the property was subdivided before 1928, the deed and plat restrictions not withstanding. The Association voted not to go to court to enforce the terms of the deed and plat restriction in light of the hardship this would create for the property owners, who had resumed construction once the County lifted the stop-work order. The Caswells completed the addition, which won an award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry as the best specialty remodeling project in the Washington area in 1995.
Subdivision of Woodside Park's original large lots into smaller lots has also on occasion caused controversy. One of the most contentious of these controversies involved the large "Stonecroft" property at Alton and Woodside Parkways, which went through all the way to Pinecrest Circle. The Stephen and Sharlene Weiss family proposed in 1980 and then again in 1988 to subdivide the large lot. The plan in 1988, for example, was to create five lots. Two were to face Pinecrest Circle, one was to face Woodside Parkway on the left side of "Stonecroft" and one was to face Alton Parkway on "Stonecroft's" right. Because of the shapes of the original lot and the proposed new lots -- one had seven sides -- houses would have had to be lower down the hill than "Stonecroft," and would have appeared to be in its front yard. When one of the subdivision plans was proposed in 1988, the Park and Planning Commission noted that it had received almost as much correspondence about the plan as it had for the highly controversial Silver Triangle mall in downtown Silver Spring. When it became clear that the Planning Board would disapprove the proposed subdivision plan, the Weiss family asked that it be deferred. Ultimately, they subdivided the lot into two -- one facing Pinecrest Circle and the lot facing Alton and Woodside Parkways which contains "Stonecroft," as the Civic Association had said was acceptable in 1980. A new home was built at 1212 Pinecrest Circle.
The proposed subdivision of the "Stonecroft" lot was not the first controversial subdivision. In July 1969, for example, the non-resident owner of the home at 1204 Dale Drive proposed dividing his lot to create a new lot on the southwest corner of Dale Drive and the unbuilt Alton Drive right-of-way. The new lot would have had only 45 feet of frontage on Dale Drive. In addition, its shape and topography would have been such that any new house would have had to be placed on the rear third of the lot. The Association opposed the subdivision, which was not approved by the Park and Planning Commission.
A somewhat similar controversy arose in 1993 when Pat Singer, the owner of the home at 1501 Highland Drive, the northwest corner of Highland Drive and Woodland Drive, proposed to demolish her garage and create a new lot facing Woodland Drive behind her home. The proposed lot was barely large enough to meet zoning requirements and was substantially smaller than most Woodside Park lots. This plan, too, was ultimately defeated and the property was sold intact.
Some residents have viewed designation of the neighborhood, or substantial parts of it, as an historic district as a means of "preserving the park." In 1988 the County's Historic Preservation Commission recommended designation of most of the neighborhood as historic. The Association voted 74 to 7 to support this effort. The next step in the process of designation was recommendation by the Montgomery County Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to the County Council. The Association supported historic designation, provided a bus tour of the neighborhood for the Board members, hired a consultant, and made a detailed presentation to the Commission. Board members, however, could not understand how a 20th Century neighborhood could be "historic" and also were concerned that the proposed district was large -- this was prior to the designation of a much larger area in Takoma Park as a historic district. They voted 3 to 1 not to recommend designation, and the staff of the Park and Planning Commission never forwarded the recommendation to the County Council.
The biggest controversies have come when the Association considered development in downtown Silver Spring rather than in or adjacent to Woodside Park. In 1987 Lloyd Moore made a presentation to the Civic Association concerning his Silver Triangle project at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road. The project, which was to be an enclosed shopping center with two department stores, was to replace the art deco Silver Spring Shopping Center. The neighborhood split on the issue, with some opposing the project on traffic and historic preservation grounds and others supporting it on the basis that downtown Silver Spring needed revitalization. The Association voted to contribute $1,000 (1997 equivalent: $1,400) toward a traffic study and later temporarily served as the treasury for the Silver Spring-Takoma Traffic Coalition until it could establish its own bank account. The neighborhood split on the issue and some members refused to pay further dues so their funds would not be used to oppose redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring. The Moore project ultimately collapsed because Mr. Moore could not produce commitments from two department stores to locate in the project. The County government then sought expressions of interest from other developers. The Triple Five "American Dream" mega-mall project was selected for further consideration, but this project, too, divided the neighborhood. At the January 1995 meeting, the Association voted 150 to 88 that the County should not continue to consider the project. The core of "Citizens for Sensible Development," which opposed the "American Dream" project, was composed of Woodside Park residents. Other residents, however, supported the project. County Executive Douglas Duncan killed the project in November 1996 after concluding that Triple Five had not obtained adequate private sector financing for the project.