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Country club cuts deal with Purple Line, other businesses face demolition

Friday - 9/27/2013, 6:23am  ET

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The Spring Center shopping center on 16th Street in Silver Spring would be demolished under the current alignment plan for the Purple Line. It's home to more than 30 businesses. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

SILVER SPRING, Md. - A strong opponent of the planned Purple Line connecting Montgomery and Prince George's counties is switching sides now that planners have agreed to change the route a little bit.

Columbia Country Club along Connecticut Avenue between Jones Bridge Road and East West Highway in Chevy Chase is more than a century old, and was host to the U.S. Open in 1921.

It's one of hundreds of properties that would be affected by the Purple Line plan.

The Washington Post reports the club has agreed to drop its opposition to the light rail line in exchange for a change in the Purple Line's path that will spare four holes on the club's golf course.

The deal, reportedly reached in June, would move the rail line just 12 feet to the north for a stretch of 1,700 feet.

Harvey Maisel is not happy to hear of the country club's deal.

"The ability of negotiating or talking to the government, this should be available for everyone affected," he told WTOP.

Maisel is with the company that owns Spring Center on 16th Street in Silver Spring.

The shopping center, which houses more than 30 businesses, is slated for demolition under the current Purple Line plan.

Maisel said he's been told it will become a staging area for the construction equipment that will be used to build the line.

"The worst part is the human toll. There are probably 300 people, full and part time, that are working here. Many of them are minorities. I feel that the government has not really paid attention to the cause and the issues that are being faced here. It's been painful for many of the people involved here."

But as current tenants grapple with the news that they'll likely have to move within a few years, a new tenant, Patient First, is scheduled to open in Spring Center next week, on Oct. 2.

"We've been told by the government, by the Purple Line people, that everybody should run their business as usual, and we continue to do that," Maisel says.

In addition, he said there is land that is already available very close by.

"There is currently, and has been for years, a complete easement on the other side of the railroad tracks. This would be on the east side of the CSX tracks."

Accountant Ken Watter's company has a prime location on Montgomery Avenue in Bethesda, but he too has been told he'll likely have to move in two to five years to make way for the rail line.

Watter doesn't have a problem with the country club's deal.

"If anybody along the line has opposition and ... they manage to cut a deal than good for them," he told WTOP.

"The fact that I don't have the clout to do it, I guess it would be nice if I did, but what am I going to do," he added.

Watter said he's been offered what he calls a generous package to move to a new location, but he worries that in order to stay in Bethesda, he'll have to pay significantly higher rent than he's paying now.

"I think the Purple Line's necessary. I think it's a good idea. I'm not happy that I'm the one that has to be dislocated, but somebody has to."

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