Mayor and Council to Consider Loosening Requirements for Accessory Apartments
At its Monday, June 5, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss a FY2024 Budget Debrief and an ordinance to allow accessory apartments (aka Attached Accessory Dwelling Units) in residential zones. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are construction contracts and grant authorization. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on Environmental Excellence Awards, Human Services Advisory Commission, and Monthly Rent Schedule for Moderately Priced Dwelling Units.
Twenty years ago, the Rockville City Council established Environmental Excellence Awards to recognize residents, organizations, and businesses for their extraordinary efforts to improve the community’s environmental and sustainability efforts. Congratulations to Rishi Iyer (a student at Wootton High School who developed an online carbon footprint tool at co2schools.com) and to Mark Wright (for leading efforts to install two pollinator gardens at Christ Church and Christ Episcopal School).
Moderately Priced Dwelling Units are the City’s methods for keeping housing affordable to families with household incomes of less than $64,000-$99,000 (depending on household size). The City regulates the maximum rent allowed and adjusts it annually according to schedules prepared by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For FY2024, the maximum rent is $1,330-$1,900 (depending on the number of bedrooms) for an increase of 12-13 percent compared to the current year.
Attached Accessory Dwelling Units (aka Accessory Apartments) are a second dwelling that is either attached or within the main single family detached house (not to be confused with accessory dwelling units (ADU), which are unattached or separate from the main house–I think). They are currently allowed as a Special Exception by the Board of Appeals and the City is now considering an ordinance that would allow attached accessory dwelling units as a conditional use to streamline the process and provide more housing opportunities. These types of accessory dwelling units are often used by a retired person who wants to downsize, a professional who’s moved to the area, or a college student (that’s how I lived during grad school). The City held public hearings in 2019 and 2021, the City Council discussed it in 2020, and the Planning Commission reviewed it in 2023. The Twinbrook Community Association, Lincoln Park Civic Association, East Rockville Civic Association, and West End Citizens Association support accessory apartments as a conditional use. Lots of interesting comments for and against accessory apartments, but you’ll want to read these carefully because they can refer to AirBnB, VRBO, and attached and unattached dwelling units interchangeably. For more details, including the draft ordinance, see page 232+.
Coming up: new brand for the City of Rockville, amending Chapter 8 “Elections” in the City Code, annexation of 1201 Seven Locks Road, community organization grant agreements, and repealing the requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees and contractors (page 273+).
More details in the 276-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_06052023-6928.
Mayor and Council to Review Policies for Managing Grants, Staff, and Sponsorships
At its Monday, May 22, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will receive reports on the city’s management of its grants, staff vacancies and hiring (p. 186), recreation and parks sponsorship policy (193), and proposed personnel policies and procedures (197). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are grant agreements for Rockville Senior Center, Twinbrook Community Recreation Center, F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, and the Rockcrest Ballet Center. The Mayor and Council will also issue five proclamations, including the recognition of Eritrean Independence Day on May 24 (do you know where Eritrea is located?).
Eleventh House Solutions is recommending that the City adopt a policy to bring consistency and control over grant activities. Currently, grant management is “decentralized throughout the City and are nonexistent in several departments that could benefit from grant funding. This has made grant information difficult to retrieve or track in some departments.” Furthermore, “except for Public Works, no grants or funding program had a system to track the grant’s requirements or conditions. Without these documents, departments risk not complying with grant conditions which could result in the rejection of reimbursement requests or loss of grant funding.” Kudos to the Public Works Department, who were also called out as a “perfect example of how a grants process, although informal, implemented from the top down can expand programming and, therefore, further the City’s mission and priorities.” For more details, see the consultant’s report of findings and recommendations starting on page 33 and departmental comments starting on page 43. One interesting finding is that the City Council’s approval process and August recess can delay agreements by two months (49)—is it time for them to meet year ’round?
According to the Staff Vacancy and Hiring Report (187), two positions are frozen (Human Resources Associate and Principal Network and Cyber Security Automation Engineer) and four on hold pending release (Senior Planner, Information Systems and Cyber Security Engineer, Secretary, Recreation Facilities Clerk, and Maintenance Worker III).
More details in the 395-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_05222023-6921.
Mayor and Council Tweaking FY2024 Budget
At its Monday, May 1, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the FY2024 Budget (that’s it!). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are four proclamations for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Historic Preservation Month, Older Americans Month, and National Public Service Recognition Week.
The City Council is continuing to adjust the budget. Reductions include the Movies in the Park series, residential street sweeping, composting, Latino Youth Development Program, Lincoln Park Community Center, Thomas Farm Community Center After School programs, Twinbrook rentals, and Peerless Rockville [just in time for Historic Preservation Month!] (page 18). Increases include fall protection at the Senior Center, mowing for cross country events at RedGate, Teens on the Go program, energy audits, badge system annual fees, and overtime pay for Rockville Police (page 18). Concerned? Community Forum happens at 7:10 pm (but you have to request to speak by noon of the day of the meeting at firstname.lastname@example.org; no more opportunities to just drop in!).
More details in the 92-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_05012023-6892.
Mayor and Council to Approve Isolated Neighborhood on Tower Oaks Blvd.
At its Monday, April 24, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss an amendment for a permit to construct 83 townhouses in Tower Oaks and a work session on the 2024 budget. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are the installation of solar canopies on two city parking lots, an agreement with the Rockville Baseball Association, contracts to repair pedestrian bridges in city parks, and installation of murals at the Senior Center (artist Katie Giganti) and on the City Hall generator screen (artist Shawn James), among others.
Another isolated neighborhood is under consideration, ironically at the same meeting the Mayor and Council will approve a mural that represents the “City’s commitment to celebrating community connections.” Michael Harris Properties, LLC. has filed a Project Plan Amendment to construct 83 townhome units with a small community green space at 2200 Tower Oaks Boulevard, and to request a parking waiver for the existing office building located at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard. It was originally approved as a hotel and a health and recreation facility at 2200 Tower Oaks Boulevard and an office building at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard. An isolated forest stand (forest conservation easement), roughly 10,000 sf, is proposed for removal. The replacement forest conservation will be provided through the long-term preservation of additional forested area (~7,600 sf) contiguous to the primary forest conservation easement off the back property boundary, in addition to individual trees planted on the subject property for forest conservation credit (~2,400 sf). The proposed Project Plan will require a finding of adequate public facilities for the change in use to residential townhouse development. For the office building, Michael Harris Properties is requesting a reduction of 115 vehicle parking spaces or an approximately 18% parking reduction from the required 650 vehicle parking spaces. A couple residents have already voiced concerns about several aspects of the project (a very thoughtful letter starts on page 213) and I’ll include my concerns about the continuing fragmentation of Rockville into isolated neighborhoods, in this instance physically separated from any other neighborhood. Seems like the Mayor and Council needs to examine the larger context to see that this is NOT a good location for residential use—there are no connections between this neighborhood and others in the city. How did this get through Planning Commission with hardly any discussion? Looks like they were asleep at the wheel.
More details in the 279-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_04242023-6882.
Twinbrook Holding its First In-Person Community Meeting
On Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30 pm at the Twinbrook Community Recreation Center, the Twinbrook Community Association will be holding its regular community meeting—but it will be in person for the first time since 2020! The meeting will include information about Rockville’s Flood Mitigation Assistance Program (how homeowners and renters can reduce the cost of protecting their home from flooding), a discussion on the expansion of the Mayor and Council from five to seven members, and recognizing Melissa and Tony Downs as Twinbrookers of the Year for their extraordinary support of Twinbrook Elementary School PTA and the community.
Mayor and Council to Discuss Big and Dull Changes in Twinbrook
At its Monday, March 7, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss Twinbrook Commons, Tropical Storm Ida, and the proposed FY2023 budget. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are multiple construction contracts for stormwater maintenance and repair for a total not to exceed $9 million over four years. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports from Human Services Advisory Commission and on a 37-question survey (good heavens, that’s too long) conducted by the Human Rights Commission on the impact of the pandemic and the community’s perception of discrimination and inclusion following the murder of George Floyd (the results seem unreliable: 24% of the respondents were from Fallsmead and 14% from Twinbrook—why do cities insist on conducting surveys??).Continue reading →
County Shares Development Plans for Justice Center and Bus Depot with City Council
At its Monday, February 28, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss board appointments, FY 2023 operating and capital improvements budgets, a $20/year increase for refuse collection, a $6/year increase in stormwater management fees, maintaining the current property tax rate for 2023 (unchanged since 1995), and tree planting requirements for new townhouses and duplexes. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) is the provision of a mental health specialist for the police department for calls for service involving persons with mental illness. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report on the county’s plans for its properties along Seven Locks Road including a proposed bus depot. This is a short meeting and scheduled to end at 10:15 pm.Continue reading →
Mayor and Council Issues Its Top Ten Priorities to the State
At its Monday, December 20, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss state legislative priorities with District 17 elected officials; approval of 350 apartments in Fallsgrove; an agreement with Rockville Housing Enterprises on 29 homes; tree planting requirements for new residences; revising the ordinance relating to MPDUs, and parkland requirements in lieu of fees. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) is a letter to WMATA about safety. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the FY 2021 finances.
Correction: The Mayor and Council did NOT go into Closed Session on Wednesday, December 15 to conduct a performance evaluation of the City Clerk/Director of Council Operations. This meeting was postponed.Continue reading →
Mayor and Council to Discuss Affordable Housing, Environment, and a $plash Pad
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).Continue reading →
Planning Commission to Discuss Priorities for 2022-23
At its Wednesday, October 27, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Planning Commission will discuss implementation of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. During the September 22 meeting, the Commission and staff recognized that development of a
complete implementation framework covering the entire Plan, including Commission discussions, would
not be possible to complete this fall; and that the Commission could continue to work on this framework
over the next approximately six months. The city staff will present a list of about 30 recommendations for the next year to implement the Plan and, should the Commission choose to do so, make a recommendation to the
Mayor and Council in time for their development of the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget, which would mean
delivering its recommendation during the fall of 2021.
Among the short-term recommendations for implementation are:
- a comprehensive update to the Zoning Ordinance
- update the Town Center Master Plan
- enhancements to the pedestrian and bicycle safety and accessibility
- identify and acquire properties for parks
- complete the plan for Red Gate Park
- identify a solution for the King Farm Farmstead
- relocate the materials and distribution facility from North Stonestreet Avenue owned by MCPS and Montgomery County
- complete a climate action plan
- expand the number of charging stations for electric vehicles
- prepare a flood resiliency plan
- develop a marketing and branding plan to attract businesses and customers to Rockville
- complete a strategic plan for affordable housing
That’s the short list from nearly 30 items suggested. It is far longer than reasonable to get anything significant accomplished in the next year. To get anything done, the Planning Commission will need to choose no more than three—and more importantly, they need to be the right things that will have a lasting and significant impact on the community. Which three would you choose?
More details in the 11-page agenda packet available at https://rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10272021-6389.