Fewer than a dozen residents came to a Thursday afternoon public hearing on expansion plans for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, prompting some to question why Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) chose to schedule the meeting at that time.
The first of two public hearings was part of Walter Reed’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) process.
NSAB must get resident feedback on issues with the proposed expansion, which are mostly related to traffic and parking, before getting federal approval to build a medical facility, research facility and 500-space underground parking garage on the campus.
A second public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday’s hearing, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., attracted more NSAB officials and contractors who worked on the study than residents.
“I’m aware you’re having another meeting at a different time another day, but that’s not enough,” said resident Andres Buonanno in recorded testimony.
Earlier, Buonanno said he didn’t think traffic estimates in the study that showed minimal effects from expansion were accurate.
“Why don’t you really make this a public meeting. The danger that you have is you lose credibility,” Buonannon said. “I do feel you have a lack of credibility.”
The four residents who testified all spoke about traffic issues, some loosely related to Walter Reed.
Joe Macri, spokesman for NSAB, said it’s typical in public hearing processes to have a daytime session to capture those who might be available during the day and an evening session for those who work during the day.
A few residents, including Buonannon, complained the public hearings weren’t promoted enough and that there were many more residents who were frustrated with ongoing traffic problems brought on by Walter Reed’s move to the base last year.
NSAB advertised the public hearings through the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center and NSAB Capt. Fritz Kass gave a citizens advisory board the EIS presentation at a meeting in September.