Town of Chevy Chase Votes Against Providing Money to Group Behind Purple Line Lawsuits

Town council opposes proposal 4-1


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Bethesda Beat file photo

The Town of Chevy Chase will not provide $50,000 to Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, the trail group that’s a plaintiff in two lawsuits against the Purple Line light-rail project.

The Town Council voted 4-1 against providing a grant to the group, which was requesting the money to defray legal costs in the ongoing lawsuits.

Mayor Mary Flynn and council members Barney Rush, Scott Fosler and Cecily Baskir voted against providing the grant. Joel Rubin voted for it.

Flynn said Friday that the 14 speakers at Thursday evening’s public hearing were evenly divided on whether to provide the grant.

Flynn said she voted against providing the grant because the town had not set aside funds for charitable grants this year and would have had to make a special appropriation. She believes other potentially worthy causes should be able to compete for the town’s funds rather than give the trail group money through an exclusive process.

She also said approving the money would have “called into question” the town’s policy to ease the impact of the Purple Line project on the town and could put the town back into a position of opposition. The town switched to the mitigation policy in 2015 when it stopped formally opposing the 16.2-mile light-rail project.

Rubin said Friday that he voted to provide the money because he believes the companies contracted by the state to build the project, Purple Line Transit Partners, are not following commitments to ease the impact on the town.

He said it has been “shocking” to watch the deforestation of the Georgetown Branch Trail by Purple Line crews, which began tree-cutting for the project last month.

He added that he believes the lawsuits could help the town get leverage on the mitigation issues.

“I supported private action to make sure there’s some ability to move mitigation forward more concretely and correctly,” Rubin said.

Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail is one of three plaintiffs in the two lawsuits challenging the project. The other two plaintiffs are town residents John Fitzgerald and Christine Real de Azua.

The long-running initial lawsuit that centers on whether Metro’s ridership and safety decline would affect Purple Line ridership is scheduled for oral arguments Nov. 1 in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The appellate court already has granted a stay in the case that reversed an earlier judge’s ruling and allowed construction to begin on the Purple Line.

The other case in U.S. District Court in D.C. questions whether the federal government appropriately vetted the project before awarding a $900 million full funding grant agreement for it in August.

The judge in that case, Richard Leon, who was the lower court judge in the initial case now before the appellate court, declined to grant an injunction last month to prevent trees from being cut down along the Georgetown Branch Trail.

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