At its Monday, April 18, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss an ordinance to establish an education commission, the management agreement with Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) for Rockville Town Square, and once again, the FY 2023 budget and what to do with the remaining ARPA funds. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are contracts for tree care ($900,000 annually) and landscape maintenance ($193,000 annually); $250,000 grant agreement for Lincoln Park Community Center improvements; and six proclamations. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Human Rights Commission.
The Human Rights Commission is an 11-member group of volunteers that minimizes the effects of conflict and promotes an appreciation for diversity within the city. Its 2021 report includes a long list of activities and events that they’ve sponsored, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Rockville Pride, Human Rights Day, Voter Registration, Disability Rights, and the Wellbeing Survey. Although this commission is doing a lot, it’s unclear if they are having any impact. Noticeably missing are attendance figures or any measures of impact. Has conflict been reduced? Has appreciation for diversity increased? Has voter participation increased among Asian Pacific American residents? Do residents have a better understanding of Rockville’s racial history? If they (or any commission) want to make significant progress next year, I suggest developing SMART goals this year. If you want to help, there is currently one vacancy on the Human Rights Commission (and 12 vacancies on other commissions, including THREE on the Planning Commission; the planning commission has had the most controversial appointments).
The history and management of Rockville Town Square is complex. Town Square was an ambitious urban renewal project that demolished blocks of downtown to assemble a more attractive and sustainable area based on a mix of residential, commercial, and civic uses. But it also was incredibly expensive and put in place some of the highest property tax rates in the state. Until 2011, the City of Rockville managed and maintained Town Square Plaza, which is a city-owned property. In 2011, Federal Realty Investment Trust (operating as Street Retail) became the manager of the Town Square (except for the interactive fountain); tax rates were set to zero for the Town Square Management District; and the five condominium associations began to pay 10% of the maintenance costs (90% paid by the FRIT because it owns the retail units). The current negotiations are working to continue the existing agreement, but with more specificity of standards and practices, as well as explore tax rates for commercial properties in Town Square. If you want to get a sense of the complexity of Town Square, check out the ownership chart below.
More details in the 203-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_04182022-6570.