“Rockville officials are considering a new use for the closed RedGate Golf Course — a second state veterans home,” reports Bethesda Beat. Furthermore, “The veterans home is one of the most popular suggestions, endorsed by County Executive Marc Elrich and supported by many city officials. [Rockville Councilmember] Pierzchala said he told advocates that the home was a ‘done deal’ — just as soon as the city worked out the specifics of the project.”
So far, the discussion of the veterans home (a euphemism for a skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility) has yet to be officially discussed at a Mayor and Council meeting, and it should certainly require a public hearing if it donates 25 acres of the former golf course site. While it sounds like a good patriotic gesture by elected officials, we should put the idea in context.
In Maryland, there are 427,068 veterans and nearly 40 percent are 65 years or older. But the cohorts that follow them are significantly smaller, in other words, the number of veterans that would be eligible to live in a veterans home would be smaller with each passing decade. Will there be sufficient demand for this facility in 10-20 years? Fifteen miles away, the Armed Services Retirement Home in Washington, DC (one of two in the nation) has shuttered or demolished several residential buildings in recent years due to declining demand and to reduce costs.
Secondly, what are the available alternatives for disabled or elderly veterans? Maryland has many skilled nursing facilities available, including five in Rockville. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, these “facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid for individuals requiring nursing care and assistance with daily life activities”–which would include veterans. Is there sufficient demand for this facility?
Finally, should Rockville support another assisted living facility? What are the trade-offs? At a value of $250,000-$500,000 per acre, should it donate $6-$12 million to support it? For comparison, the 2020 city budget for police is $12 million and recreation and parks is $25 million. It will cost about $7 million to renovate the locker rooms at the swim and fitness center or install curbs, gutters, storm drains, sidewalks, and bike paths on Baltimore Road in Twinbrook.
A “done deal”? I hope not, and I really don’t encourage councilmembers to make statements like this when it hasn’t been fully analyzed and entails millions of tax dollars without a conversation with the community.
Addendum Feb. 1, 2020: The Rockville Mayor and Council is holding a work session on the scope of work for RedGate Master Planning on Monday, February 3 at about 7:00 p.m. at Rockville City Hall. City staff is recommending a master plan because “the size, complexity and opportunity presented by this site warrants 1) significant public engagement about the potential uses and 2) assistance by a team of professionals with expertise in a wide range of sectors to perform a comprehensive analysis and develop alternative concepts for consideration.” This is a work session, so no public comments will be accepted during the meeting, however, you can learn more in the staff report about RedGate (part of the work session agenda packet) and send comments in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org. An advocacy group has formed around RedGate and can be found at www.RedgatePark.org.