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.
The Rockville Bike Hub (RBH) will host a bicycle drive on Saturday, June 11, between 3 and 6 p.m., during the Bikes, Brews and Barbecue event outside Revolution Cycles at 5750 Fishers Lane adjacent to the Twinbrook Metro. All bikes will be accepted but the critical need is for bicycles for children in first through fifth grade. Adult bikes will be used for education and volunteer training or donated to Bikes for the World.
In partnership with the City of Rockville, the non-profit, RBH recently gave away more than 30 bicycles to local elementary school children as a reward for performing a small service project. “In general, a bike gives a child a sense of independence and freedom and the ability to broaden the area that they can explore in their neighborhoods,” said Rockville Bike Hub Board President Steve Andruski. “Our hope is that, it turns into a lifelong activity and they become connected to the bicycling community.”
In addition to collecting bikes, the Rockville Bike Hub will be Continue reading →
The Rockville Solar Co-op has selected Sustainable Energy Systems (Frederick) and Standard Energy Solutions (Rockville) as the two firms who are eligible to bid on projects for the 128 members of the group. They’re now scheduling site visits for homeowners and preparing proposals. So far, 26 members have been contacted to set up a site visit; 16 members have had a site visit scheduled or completed; 9 members have received their proposal; and 1 member has signed a contract and is going solar!
Sign-ups continue to be open for the Rockville group through Labor Day. Know anyone who wants to go solar in Montgomery County? They can join the group at www.mdsun.org/rockville.
The City of Rockville has announced that Capital Bikeshare is coming to Rockville in early fall with 13 bike stations through a partnership with Montgomery County. Capital Bikeshare is a network of bicycle-sharing stations that provides access to bikes and offers an alternative to driving. Check out a bike for your trip to work, run errands, go shopping, explore a neighborhood, head to a park, or visit friends and family.
Through bikesharing, cyclists can rent a bike from a designated station and drop it off at any other station within the Capital Bikeshare network. The program currently has more than 1,800 bikes at over 200 stations in circulation across Washington, D.C. and Virginia. It’s been incredibly popular in Washington, DC with both residents and tourists, and I’m happy to see it come into Rockville.
The bike stations in Rockville will be some of the first locations for Capital Bikeshare in Maryland. Proposed locations in Rockville include:
- Campus Drive and Mannakee Street
- Piccard Drive and West Gude Drive
- Rockville Metro – East
- Rockville Metro – West
- Courthouse Square and East Montgomery Avenue
- Fallsgrove Drive and West Montgomery Avenue
- Fleet Street and Ritchie Parkway
- King Farm Boulevard and Piccard Drive
- King Farm Boulevard and Pleasant Drive
- Monroe Street and Monroe Place
- Spring Avenue and Lenmore Avenue
- Taft Street and East Gude Drive
- Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Drive
I’ve plotted these locations (plus Shady Grove Metro, which is outside of Rockville but will be part of the BikeShare network) on a bike-route-version of Google Maps to better understand the impact on and benefit to Rockville. Google Maps can identify bike routes, with a Continue reading →
One of the best things in Rockville are the parks. One of the best things near Rockville are the parks–and one of the best is Brookside, a county-owned horticultural garden just a few miles south of town near Glenmont. It features a variety of garden types, including Japanese, walled, rose, and naturalistic and while it’s fun to visit throughout the year, spring brings out a long display of flowers. Right now, the daffodils and cherry trees are at peak but will soon be followed by tulips and azaleas. If you visit on the weekends, I recommend arriving before 11 am (gates open at sunrise). Don’t forget that enjoying nature isn’t a luxury, it’s essential for mental fitness.
After five years of discussion, planning, and construction, the City of Rockville unveiled its new police station with a dedication and public open house on Saturday, October 20, providing a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse inside both buildings and all floors. It was a bit difficult to tell how many people showed up given the informal nature of the open house, but I’m guessing it was about 100-150 people. Most of it consists of (yawn) offices, but some of the more interesting spots were the armory and communications center. The best part, though, was meeting the staff and officers who gave tours or explained the work of their department–so much nicer than when you typically encounter them on the street when they’re handing a crime or a conflict.
The federal government abandoned the 1938 post office a few years ago and transferred it free to the City of Rockville so it could be used for a police station. The decision to undertake the $8.5 million rehabilitation and construction project was controversial at times but the new building provides much needed space for public safety and consolidates city offices that were rented and scattered throughout the city. The architects did an outstanding job of preserving the historic post office’s distinctive features, including the lobby and its mural, as well as adding a second building that’s modern but doesn’t compete. One feature that’s not obvious is the emphasis on saving energy, which can be seen in the extensive use of skylights, white roofs, and motion-detecting light switches. One element that does rattle my design sensibilities are the signs, which seem a bit cartoonish and dated, plus I don’t like the colors of green and silver. Chief Treschuk explained that green is a color that’s being increasingly adopted for places of safety (much like yellow for school busses) so I can live with that choice, but the otherwise, the signs really need to be rethought (okay, I’m partially to blame–I sat on the Historic District Commission when it reviewed the plans back in 2010).
“Walkability” is an increasingly popular measure of a community’s quality of life. By enhancing the convenience and ease of walking, it reduces traffic, improves health, increases community involvement, and puts more eyes on the street for safety. So how does Rockville rate? Walk Score calculates walkability on a block-by-block basis, generating color-coded maps. In the map of Rockville, green indicates the areas that are most walkable (such as downtown) and red the least walkable (such as Horizon Hill west of 270). Around town, they’ve calculated how the following locations fared on a scale of 1-100:
- 85 Very walkable: Maryland Avenue and South Adams (West End)
- 75 Very walkable: Baltimore Road and Grandin (East Rockville)
- 66 Somewhat walkable: Twinbrook Parkway and Viers Mill (Twinbrook)
- 65 Somewhat walkable: Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Road (Fallsgrove)
- 65 Somewhat walkable: Redland Boulevard and Pleasant (King Farm)
- 63 Somewhat walkable: West Montgomery and Laird (West End)
- 48 Car dependent: College Parkway and Princeton (College Gardens)
- 35 Car dependent: Falls Road and Kersey (Horizon Hill)
I’m sure this will generate controversy and prompt comparisons between neighborhoods (what!? Twinbrook rated the same as Fallsgrove and King Farm? Not possible!) but I’d really like to encourage a discussion about making our community more bike and pedestrian (and sometimes car) friendlier.
What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score, the more of the following characteristics it has, the better:
- A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
- People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
- Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
- Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
- Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
- Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
- Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
The City of Rockville recently received federal funds to develop “complete streets” near the Twinbrook and Rockville Metro stations, so scores for those locations (and pedestrians using those locations) should improve as a result. Any suggestions to make your neighborhood more walkable? Should walkability be a goal for Rockville?
This morning’s Peerless Rockville tour of the Alaire not only provided an intimate behind-the-scenes tour with representative of JBG of this award-winning combination of residences and stores, but also discussed the plans and timing for several projects in the Twinbrook Metro area. About a dozen people joined the conversation to see the lobby, common rooms, and a one-bedroom apartment of the Alaire, then went out onto the street to discuss the current and upcoming development for the region. Among the items that caught my ears:
1. WMATA owns the land and has leased it to JBG for 99 years. That means that projects need to be approved both by the City of Rockville and WMATA.
2. WMATA wants to maintain the 1100 parking spaces currently available at the Twinbrook Metro station, so before any existing surface lots can be developed, sufficient parking has to be provided elsewhere. The parking structure currently under construction at Halpine and Chapman will allow development of the next phase of Twinbrook Commons.
3. The next phase of Twinbrook Station will occur on the west side of Fishers Lane, across from the Alaire. Called the Toronto, it will consist of a combination of residences, stores, and a parking structure and will be intentionally designed by another architectural firm to avoid a monotonous appearance for the development. Groundbreaking is expected to happen Continue reading →
This Saturday, April 21, from 10 am to 12 noon, join Peerless Rockville for a tour of The Alaire at Twinbrook Station, the beginning of a significant, New Urbanist community called Twinbrook Station being developed by the JBG Companies and WMATA. It’s the first Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) plan in the Washington metropolitan area, has been designated a Smart Growth project by the Washington Smart Growth Alliance, and received the International Charter Award for Excellence from the Congress for the New Urbanism. So if you want to know what all the fuss is about, staff from JBG will discuss their approach to development around a transit station, view an apartment, and find out more about their future plans and on-going projects, both at Twinbrook Station and on adjacent properties. Tour starts at 10 am at 1101 Higgins Place (the entrance to the Alaire apartments) and costs $7. Space is limited and reservations are recommended. Two-hour free parking in the Alaire garage (and the adjacent Metro lot is free on weekends). For more information, please visit PeerlessRockville.org or call 301-762-0096.
And just in case you didn’t catch my previous tweets, it appears that the nearby Walmart project at the Rockville Pike and Bou Avenue has been temporarily postponed: Bagel City recently signed a two-and-a-half year lease. A few doors down, the Office Depot is closing but it’s unrelated to future developments of the site (btw, everything is on sale at 10-30% off but is non-returnable).
In other related news, a couple of Rockville’s communities will enjoy national attention in May when I co-lead a tour of New Mark Commons and King Farm for the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects. We’ll be looking at cutting-edge planned communities in Montgomery County, starting with 1930s Greenbelt and ending with the 21st century King Farm. Lunch will be in Town Square, which has turned up as the poster child for the Congress for the New Urbanism. If you thought Rockville was just a little sleepy suburb, it’s time to change your mind.
At the April 5 meeting of the Rockville Community Coalition, Andrea Jolly shared that the Chamber of Commerce is becoming more active in local advocacy and that the Chamber cares as much about the community as it does business. She’s the executive director of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, an organization that now claims 185 members, a dramatic turnaround from its nearly lifeless condition just a few years ago. As examples of their reinvigorated stature, she noted the public stand they’ve taken on behalf of Pumphrey’s; the support for environmental causes that affect the community as a whole (such as the bag tax and storm water management fees); and the sponsorship of the Rockville Economic Summit. She expressed her concerns that the community seems to be artificially divided between businesses and residents and while the Council claims to be business-friendly, their actions have indicated otherwise. Most members of the Chamber are small businesses that are locally owned and operated and rely heavily on local residents as both customers and employees. She also voiced a desire that there be good relationships throughout the community rather than irreconcilable differences–we may disagree at times, but we should always be willing to work together to solve shared issues.
During the discussion:
- she clarified the relationship with the Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (they attract and retain businesses but cannot advocate; Chamber provides ongoing services to its members and the current business community, can advocate for a business-friendly atmosphere). She also mentioned that REDI may have a new executive director in place in May.
- she was unaware that the City didn’t collect Continue reading →