Category Archives: Environment

Mayor and Council to Consider Increasing Lots of Fees; Can it Untangle 900 Rockville Pike?

At its Monday, May 8, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss amending master fees for community planning and development services. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are the pension plan for 2023. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the Vision Zero Action Plan, Bikeway and Pedestrian Master Plans, development of 900 Rockville Pike, and the historic preservation work plan.

Fees for building permits, inspections, and licenses are proposed to increase 2.5% to keep up with inflation; include a 10% fee to offset the cost of technology; adopt a fee structure based on square footage or estimated construction cost; and assess a separate application fee. For example, a building permit for new residential construction or to repair fire damage will be $0.25 per square foot, including the basement, garage, and roof; a license for short-term rentals is $450; and a building permit for a swimming pool or to demolish a building of any size is $553.

Interestingly, the staff report admits that the actual cost of providing services is unknown and it is uncertain whether the revenues from fees are sufficient to cover their expenses (170). Secondly, new construction accounts for 35-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions and “virtually every green rating program (LEED, USGBC, IgCC) recognizes the value of adaptive reuse” (173). Nevertheless, the City is comfortable granting inexpensive demolition permits (where does all that building material go? into the county dump!). Instead, it should encourage adaptive reuse by significantly increasing the demolition permit fees on a square-foot basis.

Proposed retail development at 900 Rockville Pike.

J. Danshes LLC has filed an application to build a 4,400 square foot one-story retail building at 900 Rockville Pike (southeast corner of Rockville Pike and Edmonston Drive, one of the narrowest lots on the east side of the Pike due to the railroad tracks). In 2006, the City adopted a Mixed-Use Corridor District zone for this small lot, which allowed up to 12,754 square feet of retail space. Despite this new proposal being a much smaller building, it is now subject to several new city regulations that have been adopted over the years plus it needs to accommodate the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route. As a result, this project has been in the pipeline since 2017 and is becoming an enigma wrapped in a puzzle—what would you do with this property when you’re faced with the following situation:

“To create the right-of-way land area dictated by the public agencies, the Applicant must dedicate 6,523 square feet of area (0.15 acres, 25.2% of existing lot area) to public use. Said dedication reduces the size of the site from 25,862 (0.59) acre to 19, 339 square feet (0.44 acre).” (257)

More details in the 329-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_05082023-6899.

Mayor and Council to Regulate Short-Term Rentals & Vape Shops

The Annual Climate Action Report notes progress in many areas, including recycling and reducing materials and waste, but ignores the second largest source of solid waste: building construction and demolition (Maryland Solid Waste Management and Diversion Report, 2021, Maryland Department of the Environment).

At its Monday, March 27, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the annexation of 1201 Seven Locks Road; replace the Traffic and Transportation Commission with a Transportation and Mobility Commission; approve several regulations for residential rental facilities, room rentals, and accessory dwelling units; and consider a nine-month moratorium on businesses that primarily sell electronic cigarettes (vape stores) near schools. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are maintenance of the water features in Town Center, Courthouse Square, and Maryvale Park; authorizing the Maryland Highway Administration to enter city property near Winding Rose Drive to make emergency repairs to an I-2710 storm drain; renewing contracts for the purchase of fuel for city vehicles, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the climate action plan and staff hiring and vacancies (nearly 60 staff vacancies, including 7 in recreation and parks, 11 in police, and 25 in public works).

In 2015, there were approximately 6,000 rental units in Rockville and there are now approximately 10,500 units, for an increase of 4,600 rental units. On February 22, 2021, the Mayor and Council discussed short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, and determined that the rental of rooms should also be regulated through Chapter 18 like other types of residential rentals. Chapter 18 regulates landlord and tenant relations and different types of licenses and leases, however, short-term rentals operate more like a hotel than rental property. Therefore, any existing short-term rental units in the city are operating without sanction or approval, because they are out of compliance with City requirements for renting a complete living facility or home. The City Council is considering new regulations that would only allow property owners to operate short-term rentals; require an annual license; notification of adjacent property owners; city inspection for zoning, building, and fire code violations; a limited of six adults at a time; no more than 120 days of rental per year; and two off-street parking spaces among other conditions and requirements. About 25 stakeholders have participated in two public hearings and a work session, and if approved by Council, the proposed Zoning Text Amendment will be reviewed by the Planning Commission.

More details in the 224-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_03272023-6849.

Mayor and Council to Discuss Priorities for Federal Actions and Funding

Among Rockville’s top three priorities for the US Congress are improving the American Legion Bridge.

At its Monday, October 3, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss priorities for federal funding; a $7.5 M renovation for 6 Taft Court (a new facility for Public Works and Recreation and Parks departments); a Town Center “Road Diet” project (narrowing lanes on Washington Street and Middle Lane); FY 2024 budget; and an amendment to the Twinbrook Commons development on Chapman Avenue (adding parking spaces for electric vehicles). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are approval of easements for King Buick and King Farm Farmstead Parking Lot; authorizing the City Manager to begin electricity supply agreements; awarding a $1.4 M contract for Storm Water Management (SWM) Facilities improvements; closing of an unnamed road adjacent to Twinbrook Quarter, and approving a charter for the zoning ordinance rewrite, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on performance measurement, make appointments to boards and commissions, and declare October 10 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize the “conquest, enslavement, displacement, and disease” which decimated the native people in the area.

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Mayor and Council to Explore Financial Assistance to City Employees and ALICE Residents

The average cost of a typical house in Rockville is $585,000, a 6% increase compared to last year. Source: Zillow.com.

At its Monday, March 21, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will hold a public hearing on the FY2023 Budget and discussion employer-assisted housing; a proposed Bank on Rockville program; and use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. A surprise for the upcoming budget discussion is a half-dozen requests at the last public hearing to increase city staff to support specific services. While there was one request for staff devoted to public safety (i.e., police), it was matched by requests for the arts, human services, bike and pedestrian safety, and environmental sustainability—significantly different results from the community survey, which had police and crime prevention as a top priority. These diverse opinions suggest the challenges that City Council members face when making decisions for the community. My advice: think long-term and focus on your purpose and vision.

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Mayor and Council to Design Rockville Metro, Spend $6 Million in Federal Funds, and Battle over the Budget on December 13

Conceptual plan 2 for the Rockville Metro Station (parking and a bus loop moves west of MD355).

At its Monday, December 13, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss three design concepts for Rockville Metro station, use of nearly $6 million in ARPA funds, and determine 2023 budget priorities. This is a worksession and will not offer public hearings or a community forum, but it will be streamed live if you are interested in these topics.

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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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