Category Archives: City Council

Mayor and Council to Discuss Affordable Housing, Environment, and a $plash Pad

Fatal and serious injuries on the streets of Rockville, 2016-2020.

At its Monday, December 6, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss moderately priced housing (adding 30- to 99-year rent control periods); abandoning a “paper” street adjacent to 205 Mount Vernon Place in Hungerford; and allowing 350 apartments instead of offices in Fallsgrove. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are a $322,364 splash pad for Maryvale Park (requested by the East Rockville Civic Association); a CDBG grant application to Montgomery County ($263,000 for the maintenance and repair of low-income housing); and letters to SHA (regarding traffic and pedestrian safety; most dangerous is the Rockville Pike) and WMATA (reduced service, access, and safety—can we all agree that WMATA has among the worst planners and project managers of any agency in the region?). The Mayor and Council will also receive reports from the Environment Commission and on an Employee Compensation and Classification Study (current salaries are generally competitive).

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Mayor and Council to Review Draft Climate Action Plan

At its Monday, November 15, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss increasing water and sewage charges, American Rescue Plan Act funds, and historic designation or demolition of 460 Hungerford Drive (most recently Meixin Supermarket, formerly the Colony Shop, designed by John Henry Sullivan). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are the purchase of a concrete mixer for $116,363; a dump truck for $183,746; and a refuse truck for $524,886. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on an employee homeownership program and a climate action plan.

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Mayor and Council to Approve 370 Residences near King Farm with Unusual Conditions

Site plan for 300 new residential units at 16200 Frederick Road (King Buick) proposed by EYA.

At its Monday, November 8, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will approve 370 residences at 16200 Frederick Road (aka King Buick), amend the City Code for “moderately priced housing”, and increase water and sewer rates starting in the second half of 2022. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are a replacement shelter at Isreal Park, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Planning Commission.

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Mayor and Council to discuss 350 Multifamily Unit Development in Fallsgrove

Key West Center at Fallsgrove (Research Blvd and W. Gude Drive, Rockville).

At its Monday, November 1, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss board and commission appointments; water and sewer rates; and construction of 350 multifamily units in Fallsgrove. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are no items. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on cultural arts; bikeway and pedestrian master plans; and the 2022 state legislative priorities.

Key West Center Fallsgrove LLC is requesting permission to building up to 350 multifamily units on an undeveloped property at 1800 Research Boulevard. It is currently zoned for research-and-development offices, but they are requesting a change to residential use, exceed the number of apartments allowed in Fallsgrove, and exceed the building height restrictions. In addition, they are asking to retain the ability to construct an office, if market conditions change (“having their cake and icing, too”). The property is within the Richard Montgomery Cluster Area. According to a 2019 traffic study, the project will “not substantially alter or change the projected and approved vehicular traffic flow movements in and around the subject site.” The Planning Commission had twice approved projects for eight-story office buildings, but nothing was built.

More details in the 226-page agenda packet available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11012021-6394.

Rockville Mayor and Council to Discuss Taxes and Budget for Next Year

At its Monday, October 25, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss taxes for fiscal year 2022 and the budget calendar. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are fees for public works and planning and develop services, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the American Rescue Plan Acts funds, senior citizen commission update, and a proposed youth commission.

More details in the 184-page agenda packet available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10252021-6386.

Rockville Mayor and Council Considering New Housing Development Near King Farm

At its Monday, October 18, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the construction of 252 townhomes and 118 multi-family units by EYA Development at 16200 Frederick Road (King Buick). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are increasing fines for parking violations (mostly increased from $40 to $60), modifying requirements for project plans, and defining demolition (from 100 percent to 50 percent of the floor area of a building), among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on Rockville Economic Development Inc. and on RedGate Park.

EYA Development is proposing to build 252 townhomes and 118 multi-family units at 16200 Frederick Road.

More details in the 388-page agenda packet available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10182021-6381

Signs of COVID-19 in Rockville

With the increasing restrictions on restaurants and social gatherings, Rockville is slowly feels like a ghost town, or that we’re in the midst of a snowstorm without any snow. To document the effects of COVID-19 on the community, I randomly photographed shopping centers from downtown south on Rockville Pike. A few stores and restaurants were open (such as Fresh Market or Buy Buy Baby), but most were closed or had limited access or hours. Many had signs in the windows explaining they had temporarily closed or that they had switched to pick-up only, but a few just locked the doors and turned off the lights. On an otherwise busy Saturday afternoon, the parking lots were nearly empty. I have a terrible feeling that if this closing continues on for another week or two, it will have a devastating impact on many small businesses, which will have a cascading impact on the city.

Here’s what’s happening at the Mayor and Council on this issue:

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Should Rockville Support Another Assisted Living Facility?

“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.

The number of veterans in Maryland grows smaller with each passing decade. Source: US Census.

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.  

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Feinberg Feigns Diversity & Inclusion in Campaign Mailer

Beryl Feinberg’s re-election campaign postcard.

Beryl Feinberg is holding a sign opposing the widening of I-270, in Asian costume, with students holding certificates, cleaning up a stream, and talking with a Latino man and an African American woman. What do these images mean? That voters need to re-elect her to Rockville City Council because she’ll “preserve Rockville’s character” and “embrace Rockville’s future.” But her campaign postcard is deceiving.

Michelle Whittaker in Beryl Feinberg’s campaign mailer (left) and as Virginia Onley for Mayor campaign manager (right).

Michelle Whittaker would know—she’s the African American woman shown in Feinberg’s mailer. She doesn’t support Feinberg’s candidacy for city council and ironically is the campaign manager for Virginia Onley for Mayor, one of her opponents. So why is she in the shown in Feinberg’s campaign literature?

Obviously, Feinberg used the photo to assure voters that she supports diversity and inclusion—gosh, look at all the people of color in her mailer! But we’re now aware it’s a dishonest portrayal. Indeed, it continues Feinberg’s insensitivity around diversity and inclusion. A year ago, the NAACP accused Feinberg of racism in her deliberations over the hiring of an African American woman for City Clerk.

Feinberg isn’t alone in her insensitivity around race and ethnicity. David Myles, a pediatrician, Navy veteran, and Yale graduate who is also running for City Council, has had Rockville residents call the police as he was walking door to door to meet voters. They probably couldn’t tell he was a pediatrician and Navy veteran, just that he was African American man in their white neighborhood. He was out of place, didn’t belong, a stranger. Yup, in 2019.

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Rockville Voters Grow Younger; Will It Matter?

Voters Under Age 40 have grown in Rockville, but will they vote in 2019? Vote-by-Mail could change traditional patterns.

An analysis of Rockville’s registered voters shows that they are dominated by Millennials, those born in the 1980s and 1990s and are now in their 20s and 30s. I suspect much of this is due to voter registration at the DMV, but the bigger question is if they will actually vote. In past city elections, reliable voters were over 50 years old but with the introduction with Vote-by-Mail, this will probably change. Without waiting for Election Day or spending time at the polls, there’s an expectation that younger voters will put their ballots in the mail in greater numbers.

The challenge for candidates is finding issues that will resonate with voters under 40. Their interests are different from older voters. Millennials value diversity and equal rights, are less affiliated with political parties (although they tend to lean liberal), support more government services (such as health care), support the legalization of marijuana, and believe immigrants strengthen the country (see Pew’s “The Generation Gap in American Politics“).

The debates on Rockville’s Mayor and Council reveal these generational differences as well, although they’re not always on generational lines. In June 2017, on a split vote, they adopted the Fostering Community Trust Act, which prohibits city staff (including police officers) from arresting or discriminating against any person on the basis of citizenship or requesting a person’s immigration status when providing city services. It was supported by Councilmembers Onley, Palakovich Carr, and Pierzchala, opposed by Mayor Newton and Councilmember Feinberg and . The differences are stark: one side aligns with the older generation, the other side thinks younger, and led by a mayor that’s unsure where to go. In the meeting, not only did Feinberg vote against the ordinance, she attempted to weaken the City’s position by making it a policy posted on the city website, rather than an ordinance published in the city code. Newton waffled and revealed her indecisiveness by abstaining from the vote on the amendments that clarified federal and city roles in law enforcement (how is it possible for someone to abstain on this topic?).

Excerpts from the June 19, 2017 meeting showing the last two votes on the Fostering Community Trust Act.

Had Newton and Feinberg prevailed, city officials, staff, and officers would be allowed to ask residents for proof of citizenship. If you called the police to report a crime, the officer could ask if you are a citizen. Before you register for a recreation class, the staff could ask for proof of citizenship. If you talked with a foreign accent at a Mayor and Council meeting, a councilmember could ask if you were a citizen.

How the generational gap will affect the election is unknown—most voters aren’t aware of what’s happening in City Hall and rely on their day-to-day experiences to decide whether to keep or change elected officials. We’ll find out in a month.

This blog post was updated on October 12, 2019 to correct information about the votes on June 19, 2017 and its consequences.