Author Archive: Mary and Max van Balgooy

Who Decides the Future of Rockville?

2007 Rockville Election Trends by Age

2007 Rockville Election Trends by Age

If you want to influence the government of Rockville, you need to recognize who makes the decisions.  Usually it’s the Mayor and Council, and you need to persuade just three of the five.  In an election, it’s voters.  Although there are 60,000 residents in Rockville, only about half are registered to vote.  As much as we talk about “democracy” and “the power of the people,” ultimately, people who can’t vote, can’t decide.

So if you want to make a difference in your community, state, or nation, Rule #1 is register to vote.  Two centuries ago, only white men who owned real estate had the right to vote.  Since then, the rules have changed thanks to the battles fought by our predecessors.  Today, the only citizens who are ineligible to vote in Maryland are imprisoned felons, the mentally disabled, and those under 18.

Now here’s the rub:  Continue reading →

Planning Commission approves Senior Housing Complex

The controversial Victory Court, a senior housing complex, achieved a major victory at the August 12 Planning Commission meeting.  The property is bounded by Maryland, Fleet, and Monroe streets on the western edge of downtown in a Mixed Use Transitional (MXT) Zone, which permits such uses as a single family home, live/work unit, child care center, hospital, church, bar, pet grooming, clothing store, restaurant, and a medical office.   “Housing for senior adults” is allowed only as a special exception.  With sixteen conditions, the Planning Commission agreed that this land could be used for senior housing.  Although the applicant crossed an important threshold, they have other hurdles to face, including approval from agencies outside of Rockville.  Last month the project was reviewed by the Historic District Commission (it is adjacent to an Historic District on Fleet Street) and now moves to the Board of Appeals.

The room was packed with supporters on both sides of the issue and when I arrived, the parking lot was full and I Continue reading →

Gathering Signatures

Many people don’t know that in order to run for office in Rockville, you need to submit a petition signed by 100 registered voters who live in Rockville.  Persons running for state senator or delegate don’t have the same requirement, so at first I was a bit puzzled and wondered why we had to jump through this hoop.  Now that I’m in the process, it does make sense.  If you’re running for public office, you need to be serious and have sufficient support from the community to place your name in the hat.  It does require time, but much more time will be needed if you’re elected.  Finally, it gets you out in the community–few people know one hundred people that meet the qualifications–and meet your fellow citizens.  That’s what I’ve enjoyed most about the process.

My signature collection process has been very strategic.  First, I privately asked people who knew me best and could offer friendly advice about the process and suggest how I could clarify my message.  I then went public with a booth at the Memorial Day festivities downtown to meet a broad range of people (most of whom weren’t from Rockville, but it gave me insights into who visits and shops).  Now I’m going door-to-door to various neighborhoods to meet registered voters, starting with my own neighborhood of Twinbrook.  Here’s what I learned so far: Continue reading →

Chestnut Lodge Nearly All Gone

Today the demolition crew continued its work and removed nearly all the brick walls of the historic Chestnut Lodge.  So many people are interested in this place (my blog logged nearly 600 views today and lots of comments–thanks to everyone for sharing) that I’ll share some photos from today’s demolition as well as the press conference.  Mary, my wife and Executive Director at Peerless Rockville, was busy the entire day fielding calls from the press and responding to questions.

Chestnut Lodge fire adds to Rockville losses

This morning at about 3 am, Chestnut Lodge caught fire and nearly burned to the ground.  All that currently survives are the brick walls and they are in extremely fragile condition.  Arson is suspected and after the investigation is completed in the next few days, I believe the entire building will be demolished to protect public safety.  The City of Rockville just lost one of its most significant historic landmarks.

Chestnut Lodge began its life as the Woodlawn Hotel, a resort that attracted residents from Washington DC, and ended as Chestnut Lodge, the internationally renowned sanitarium that included such pre-eminient psychologists as Dr. Frieda Fromm Reichman.  The four-story French Second Empire building in its park-like setting provided a visual anchor for the West End neighborhood.  Its abandonment in 2001 caused wide concern in the city but eventually Chestnut Lodge Properties purchased it with plans to rehabilitate it into eight luxury condominiums.  At this time, its future is unclear– Continue reading →

Gazette announces initial candidates

Today, the Gazette provided the first public report of my run for office in a news feature announcing the availability of campaign packets and noting the first three candidates to pick up packets:

Historic District Commission chairman Max van Balgooy, East Rockville resident Craig Trapper Martin and West End resident Frank Anastasi retrieved the packets since Friday, Deputy City Clerk Brenda Bean said. Van Balgooy said he is “seriously exploring” a run for a council seat. “I’m talking with lots of leaders in the community and people that I meet, as well as gathering signatures for the petition to get on the ballot,” van Balgooy said Tuesday, adding that he still needs to review the election materials. “It’s a big decision and it’s a lot of work.”

If you’ve never run for office before, getting elected is as hard as being elected.  I don’t want to divulge my campaign strategy here, but I’ll be working on the campaign nearly every evening and weekend from now until Election Day.  If you’d like to help, especially in the fall as the campaigning becomes more intense, send me an email at