Author Archive: Max van Balgooy

Increased Property Taxes? Who’s to Blame?

For homeowners in Rockville, July brings the annual property tax bill. I’m guessing that most people simply look at the bottom line and grumble that it’s higher than last year, blaming it on the government. But we’re the government, so we can and should tell our elected officials when it’s okay to be taxed and how we want those funds spent. Which elected officials should we blame? That’s where it can get confusing and far too often I’ve seen the wrong people blamed for the actions of others. Indeed, the Rockville Mayor and Council too often is unfairly blamed for high taxes, when it’s usually the fault of the Montgomery County Council. Take a look at the breakdown for my property taxes, which will be roughly equivalent to all other homes in Rockville because we pay the same percentage of taxes according to the assessed value of the property. As you can see in the pie chart, Montgomery County collects nearly two-thirds of the property tax (blue), Rockville about a quarter (orange), and the State of Maryland about ten percent (green). Rockville collects another ten percent for trash and stormwater management (light orange) but Continue reading →

Thanks for the View!

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 8.57.01 PMI was saddened to learn that Rockville View, a regular blog fed by Cindy Cotte Griffiths, will cease this summer due to the increased cost of insurance for websites. She promises, however, to “keep you all informed and will continue in an email newsletter format.”

Keeping the community informed about local news from special events to crimes to Council meetings is a tough job, especially as a volunteer.  It takes more time than anyone can imagine, although it looks so easy to do.  A few paragraphs and a photo can quickly consume several hours (and I’m speaking from experience).  So a big thanks to Cindy and all of the other community bloggers who keep us informed (even if I don’t always agree with you) because you’re helping to fill a big hole left by the closing of the Gazette.  Bethesda Magazine and the Washington Post still haven’t managed to provide the coverage that Rockville deserves (geez, it’s one of the largest cities in the state and the county seat of the most influential counties in the U.S.).

Mayor and Council focus Priorities around Development

PriorityThe Rockville Mayor and Council recently engaged the Novak Consulting Group (who aided in the search for the new city manager) to help refine their list of 23 priorities created in 2016—far too many to get things done.  As a result, the Mayor and Council identified the priorities among their priorities, coming up with a list of twelve which are overwhelmingly focused on city planning and development, and may just be wishful thinking: Continue reading →

Twinbrook Swimming Pool festivities on Saturday, June 3

Twinbrook PoolThe Twinbrook Swimming Pool (TSP) opens for the summer season on Sunday, May 28 but the following Saturday, June 3 will have a day full of activities including a craft fair and yard sale from 8 am to 1 pm, and a community day from 12 noon to 6 pm for $6 per person.  I recently stopped by to find volunteers getting the place ready for opening (photos below). Along with 50-meter swimming lanes and diving pond, there’s a sand volleyball court, a deck for special events, picnic tables, dozens of lounge chairs, a “bar of snacks,” restrooms, and a playground for young kids.  For children who are serious about swimming, TSP hosts the Ducks, a competitive swim team for kids and teens that’s part of the Montgomery County Swim League.   To join, membership rates range from $345 (individual) to $605 (family) along with a special introductory rate of $128. For more details, visit TwinbrookPool.org.

You may have never noticed the pool because you can’t see it from the street— Continue reading →

Rockville Farmers Market Opens on Saturday

IMG_0243Rockville’s Farmers Market opens this Saturday, May 13 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and runs through Nov. 18 in the jury parking lot at East Jefferson (MD 28) and Monroe streets in downtown (that’s across from the Americana). This weekend will probably feature various salad greens, asparagus, and strawberries, as well plants and flowers, herbs, baked goods, local beer and wine, knife sharpening, meat, and coffee. For more information, including a list of participating vendors and approximate harvest dates for select fruits and vegetables, visit www.rockvillemd.gov/farmers or call 240-314-8620.

If you’re new to Rockville, in addition to this Saturday morning market, there’s a second but smaller market downtown in front of Continue reading →

Will Rockville Choose Diversity or Bureaucracy?

diversityWalletHub named Rockville as the one of America’s most diverse cities in 2016 based on social class, ethnicity, economics, and households. It ranked 14 out of 301, being bested by our neighbors in Gaithersburg (#1), Silver Spring (#4), Germantown (#5), and Frederick (#8), but ranked higher than places usually lauded for their diversity, such as San Francisco (#20), Alexandria, VA (#45), Denver (#67), San Antonio (#119), and Seattle (#149).

On Monday, March 6, the Rockville Mayor and Council will hold a public hearing on the role of the City Police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.  Will Rockville’s diversity be celebrated or feared? Will immigrants be threatened or welcomed? Will the answers be quickly forthcoming or will they become mired in bureaucracy?  It’s uncertain where the City of Rockville will land and I suspect it will be a tense and difficult conversation.

It’s a conversation that started shortly after the Presidential election. Mayor Newton read a statement at the start of the City Council meeting on November 14, 2016 to recognize that Rockville’s strengths are Continue reading →

Amazon.com Opens in College Park

Amazon @ College ParkRockvillians (and anyone else) can now have their orders shipped to Amazon@CollegePark, which is especially handy for students (and their parents) at the University of Maryland. It offers a safe and secure location where you can pick up your package on your time – no more attempted deliveries or missing packages, or delays in a mail room. They’ll hold your package for up to 15 days before returning it.  Plus, Prime and Student members receive Free Same-Day Pickup on millions of items when they place their order before noon and ship to Amazon@CollegePark, or Free One-Day Pickup on orders placed after noon.  They also accept returns of most items that were sold by Amazon.com.  The only thing you can’t do here is shop—there are no products available for purchase (that would be HUUUGE store, believe me).

You can learn more by visiting at Terrapin Row at 4200 Guilford Drive, Suite B1 in College Park just south of the University of Maryland campus.

La Limena Named One of the Region’s 100 Best Restaurants

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-4-26-25-pmThe February 2017 issue of Washingtonian named La Limena, a Peruvian/Cuban restaurant in Rockville, among the “100 very best” in the DC region.  This listing includes it among such Michelin-starred restaurants as Pineapple & Pearls, Minibar, Fiola, Rose’s Luxury, and the Inn at Little Washington, but it’s far less expensive. If you’ve already eaten there, you know it’s popular and packed nearly every hour. Thankfully, they’re opening a second restaurant later this year in the Talbott Shopping Center just north of the Woodmont Country Club on the Rockville Pike.

La Limena is located at 765 Rockville Pike (northwest corner at Wooton Parkway/First Street) but it can be hard to find because it’s deep in the corner of a strange two-part shopping center (how did the Planning Commission allow this?).  The shopping center contains a CVS, PNC Bank, and IHOP, and you’ll want to park close to the furthest back corner of the northern shopping center (you won’t be able to see the sign from the street).

Alas, no other restaurants in Rockville are included in this year’s “100 very best” but close by are:

Happy eating!

REI Moving from Rockville to White Flint in April

REI store in Rockville.

REI store in Rockville.

REI, the outdoor sports store at the southern edge of Rockville at 1701 Rockville Pike, has announced it’s moving south about 1500 feet to become part of the new Pike & Rose mega-shopping center/experience in White Flint. With the loss of Sports Authority and Hudson Trail Outfitters in recent years, this neighborhood’s remaining sports stores are smaller specialists: Revolution Cycles, Performance Bicycle, and Road Runner Sports.  REI has announced the following schedule:

  • March 18, 2017: Garage Sale
  • April 15: Last day accepting shop work
  • April 23: Last day in Rockville
  • April 25: Opening at Pike & Rose in White Flint
  • April 28-30: Grand opening events

Competition for tenants along the Rockville Pike continues to intensify as the internet becomes a more popular place to shop and customers seek more interesting and engaging experiences.  The simple stripmalls that line Rockville Pike will be with us for a while but the richer social environments of Pike & Rose and Rockville Town Square will be more attractive gathering places.  JBG‘s efforts around the Twinbrook Metro Station is expected to follow this new model, however, it seems that development has stalled for the last year and doesn’t have sufficient gravity to attract a sustainable customer base (Terano and Galvan, the last major projects, opened in 2015).

MLK Day a Good Reminder of How Far Rockville Has Come

Today we’re remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work on overcoming the racial divide in America.  Although he never visited Rockville, his values were affecting some of the people who lived here.  In 1963, the first African American family moved into Hungerford, which prompted fear in the neighborhood that property values would fall.  In response, the city and county increased police patrols to quell any potential violence, the local newspaper didn’t report on the event, and the City Council held a special meeting to determine the city’s role, including “its moral responsibility for bringing about the peaceful transition of the neighborhood.”

While some neighbors were gathering to get these new neighbors to move out, others were making them feel welcome and distributed a fact sheet to counter the rumors and local churches and businesses came forward to discourage protests and attacks against the African American family.  It took a couple weeks before the tension dissipated, but in the 1960s, it could have become a violent confrontation.  I’ve attached an article from the National Civic Review that provides more details.

Today, Rockvillians would be shocked to hear of events like this occurring in our community.  Racial and ethnic differences are certainly still present and cause concern in some residents and neighborhoods, but they are far less prevalent that those around class differences.  The fights about affordable housing are typically surrogates about keeping people in the working class out of professional class neighborhoods (remember Beall’s Grant II?).  As with African American moving into a neighborhood for the first time back in the 1960s, the arguments are surprisingly the same:  lower property values and increased crime.  Rockville has come a long way from the racial strife of the 1960s but we still have a long way to go.