County Council Approves Trail Improvement Deal with Ourisman Honda

Vote ends dispute lasting more than a year over a shared Capital Crescent Trail easement


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A rendering showing how the Ourisman Honda garage expansion could look next to the Capital Crescent Trail at Bethesda Row. VIa County Council agenda documents/ Ourisman

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday accepted a deal with Oursiman Honda in which the car dealership agreed to add a new public plaza and improve the part of Capital Crescent Trail that is next to its location in downtown Bethesda.

The move by the council to accept the deal ends a dispute lasting more than year between the county and the auto dealership after the county’s Department of Permitting Services determined in late 2016 that the business built part of a new garage expansion into a trail easement shared by the county and Ourisman.

The department ordered Ourisman to stop constructing the steel-framed structure in November 2016 after discovering it encroached on the easement. Since then, the two sides have been negotiating the deal approved Tuesday.

According to the deal, Ourisman agreed to construct and maintain a 1,300-square-foot public plaza near the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues as well as move its driveway farther away from the trail’s Bethesda Avenue entrance. The business also agreed to improve the trail by installing shoulders along its property and new landscaping, and to add decorative screening to its expanded garage.

A site plan showing the agreed-upon improvements. Via Council staff documents

The deal allows Ourisman to keep the structure that was built into the easement in exchange for the improvements valued at about $1.4 million, according to the council staff report.

All eight council members who were present approved the deal, which was included on the council’s consent calendar. Only council member Tom Hucker was not present.

The plaza and surrounding improvements proposed by Ourisman. Credit Council staff documents/ Ourisman

Council member Marc Elrich, who previously criticized the then-proposed agreement during a May public hearing in Bethesda, said he understood the deal to be the only solution the county believes “is feasible.”

He expressed his concern, however, that the Department of Permitting Services initially allowed Ourisman to receive permits to build the garage in part of the easement. He asked the department to tighten its document review process and potentially add new penalties for businesses that submit inaccurate documents.

“I think it’s important that we not get ourselves in that situation again,” Elrich said.

Robert Brewer, a land use attorney representing Ourisman, said the business is working with an attorney representing residents of the adjacent Sacks neighborhood to address the community’s concerns about lighting, noise and other issues associated with the dealership.

He said the business expects to reach an agreement with the neighborhood in the next month or so.

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