Category Archives: Housing

County Considering Higher Densities along Twinbrook and Viers Mills Road

Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan, Public Hearing Draft, April 2018.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has released the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan in preparation for public hearings. Veirs Mill Road cuts through Twinbrook in southern Rockville before connecting with the Rockville Pike in downtown. This plan only focuses on the areas of Veirs Mill Road south of Rockville’s borders, however, coordinating the commission’s and county’s plans with Rockville’s is crucial to ensure compatibility as well as reduce impacts and ensure benefits to residents and businesses (remember the struggles on the Rockville Pike?). Planning began in January 2017 and while the draft Master Plan was released in April 2018, the Commission has not established any public hearing dates (things move slowly in the county). The draft Master Plan and more details available at http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/communities/area-2/veirs-mill-corridor-plan/

The Master Plan examines land use, urban design, housing, transportation (including pedestrians and bicycles), parks and trails, environment, and community facilities, then provides findings and recommendations by four districts. The Plan identified the major challenges as Continue reading →

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Planning Commission discussing Development Plans for Downtown and Lincoln Park

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Proposed north elevation (street facade) for 50 Monroe Place, an 81-foot-high/7-story building with underground parking.

On Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., the Rockville Planning Commission will be considering three new development projects that could add two houses and 310 apartments to the city in downtown and Lincoln Park.  Here’s what’s on the agenda:

1. 304 Frederick Avenue in Lincoln Park:  JJ Realty of Bethesda proposes to create two residential lots from a 11,428-square foot lot, which will require a waiver to allow a minimum lot area below 6,000 square feet in a R-60 zone. Because this subdivision consists of fewer than 3 lots, it is exempt from the APFO.

2. 50 Monroe Place in Downtown Rockville (currently a vacant lot adjacent to the Americana Centre):  RST Development proposes the development of an 81-foot-high/7-story building with 1300-sf restaurant, 8000-sf office for non-profit organizations, 70 apartments, and an underground garage on a half-acre of land located on the south side of Monroe Place, with a request to reduce the parking requirement from 91 to 40 spaces because of its proximity to public transit. The property is zoned Mixed Use Transit District (MXTD).  A majority of the apartments will be Continue reading →

Mayor and Council focus Priorities around Development

PriorityThe Rockville Mayor and Council recently engaged the Novak Consulting Group (who aided in the search for the new city manager) to help refine their list of 23 priorities created in 2016—far too many to get things done.  As a result, the Mayor and Council identified the priorities among their priorities, coming up with a list of twelve which are overwhelmingly focused on city planning and development, and may just be wishful thinking: Continue reading →

MLK Day a Good Reminder of How Far Rockville Has Come

Today we’re remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work on overcoming the racial divide in America.  Although he never visited Rockville, his values were affecting some of the people who lived here.  In 1963, the first African American family moved into Hungerford, which prompted fear in the neighborhood that property values would fall.  In response, the city and county increased police patrols to quell any potential violence, the local newspaper didn’t report on the event, and the City Council held a special meeting to determine the city’s role, including “its moral responsibility for bringing about the peaceful transition of the neighborhood.”

While some neighbors were gathering to get these new neighbors to move out, others were making them feel welcome and distributed a fact sheet to counter the rumors and local churches and businesses came forward to discourage protests and attacks against the African American family.  It took a couple weeks before the tension dissipated, but in the 1960s, it could have become a violent confrontation.  I’ve attached an article from the National Civic Review that provides more details.

Today, Rockvillians would be shocked to hear of events like this occurring in our community.  Racial and ethnic differences are certainly still present and cause concern in some residents and neighborhoods, but they are far less prevalent that those around class differences.  The fights about affordable housing are typically surrogates about keeping people in the working class out of professional class neighborhoods (remember Beall’s Grant II?).  As with African American moving into a neighborhood for the first time back in the 1960s, the arguments are surprisingly the same:  lower property values and increased crime.  Rockville has come a long way from the racial strife of the 1960s but we still have a long way to go.

MoCo Beat Podcast Launched

podcastRockville residents Tom Moore and Dana Tofig recently launched MoCo Beat, a podcast about “the news, the politics, and the life of Montgomery County.” Moore is an attorney with the Federal Elections Commission and recently concluded four years of service on the Rockville City Council. Tofig works in the research arm of the US Department of Education was formerly the Public Information Officer with Montgomery County Public Schools.  Their first episode looks at the Rockville Pike Plan, the recently adopted Montgomery County budget, places to buy beer, and new restaurants in downtown Rockville.  The first podcast is just short of 40 minutes and looks like it might be a weekly production.

With the demise of the Gazette newspaper and spartan coverage by the Washington Post, it is difficult to locate news about Rockville but here are the ones I know: Continue reading →

Has the Revised APFS Launched a Thousand Houses?

constructionFor some voters, the Adequate Public Facilities Standards (APFS) serve as a litmus test for candidates for the upcoming Mayor and Council election on November 3.  This past year the Rockville City Council debated revisions to the APFS, including a change in school capacity from 110% to 120% to match the county’s standards.  Development must meet these Standards, unless they receive a waiver from the City, and went into effect on June 1, 2015 (among other changes to the APFS) with the support of Councilmembers Moore, Onley, and Palakovich Carr and over the objections of Mayor Newton and Councilmember Feinberg.  At the Rockville Chamber of Commerce Forum on October 7, several candidates stated their opinions on these new Standards, with Richard Gottfried and Patrick Schoof stating they would overturn them if elected; Brigitta Mullican stating that we need to get out of this discussion because the City has no control over schools; and Mark Pierzchala noting that the APFO failed to prevent school overcrowding and that the city needs a new approach focused at the county level.  Beryl Feinberg confirmed her opposition to the APFS changes and went into detail by stating:

As many of you are aware, I voted against the APFO and the weakening of those standards. I believe we have to have an adequate infrastructure. That infrastructure is not only for schools but it is also for transportation, public safety, fire, and water and sewer services. I voted against it because in my view we can have development but it was the developers who were really for the adequate public facilities changing. What we have seen since the change has been an influx of almost one thousand different units from different developers coming through the pipeline without really concerning adequate infrastructure, notably in transportation. One area has been along Wooton Parkway where 102 are proposed for the Rockshire community* as well as an EYA proposal off Preserve Parkway with about 350 units.** Both of those will be on Wooton Parkway.

Her claim of “an influx of almost one thousand different units” since June 1, 2015 caught my ears. By coincidence, the city staff completed a study for the Planning Commission on October 7 (same day as the forum) that summarized residential development activity since the modifications to the APFS on June 1, 2015. It turns out that Feinberg’s claims are   Continue reading →

Is Rockville one of America’s Snobbiest Cities?

Movoto Snobbiest Cities 2014According to the criteria used by Movoto Real Estate, Rockville, Maryland ranks among the top ten snobbiest small cities in America.  Palo Alto, California (in Silicon Valley) tops the list with our neighbor down the Pike, Bethesda, coming in second.  Is that good or bad company?  According to Movoto:

Tied with Encinitas [California], this Maryland locale had some seriously snooty stats keeping it in the ranking for best hometowns for the highbrow. For starters, locals can send their little ones to elite private schools, the fifth most per capita on our list. And once Junior has accrued all this handy knowledge,they can flex their artistically-inclined minds at one of the numerous art galleries or museums in the area.  More than that, people who live here are likely to continue on to academic greatness, with over 61 percent of the population gaining at least a college degree. With all of that education and study going on, is it any wonder that the elite locals make an average household income of almost $90,000?

California has the greatest number of snobbiest small cities (five, all of them along the Pacific coast)  and Maryland has the next most frequent number (two, both along the DC coast).  The ranking is based on median home price, median household income, percent of population with a college degree, number of private schools per capita, performing arts per capita, art galleries per capita, and fast food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better).  Of course, there’s nothing scientific here and these “top ten” rankings are just different ways to think about places.  Perhaps “snobbiest” isn’t the best term, indeed, Movoto clarifies the definition by describing them as places that are “just more comfortable for what society calls ‘snobby’ folks.”  If not “snobby,” based on our ranking on these criteria, what would you call it?

Is the new Children’s Resource Center right for Twinbrook?

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Montgomery County is proposing to add a new Children’s Resource Center (CRC) for the school district on the former Broome Middle School campus on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville.  There have been a series of public meetings about the project and the County held its fourth and last meeting on January 25, 2014.  They presented four conceptual designs for the front elevations for review and comment.  About a dozen residents attended along with City Councilmember Beryl Feinberg and the chief of staff of County Councilmember Andrews.

Basically, the building consists of two blocks of different sizes joined by a tower.  The designs show different “skins” of a varying mix of materials and colors.  It’s not supposed to complement the existing Broome School because that’s slated for demolition and the replacement school hasn’t been designed, so I’m assuming the design of the CRC will set the pace for the new middle school.  The Gazette reported that the county believed that, “the people at the meeting seemed to prefer Scheme 2” but having attended the meeting, that’s a gross overstatement.  My sense is that we were still gathering information and had lots of questions.  There didn’t seem to be a preference for what we liked but rather what we didn’t like.  No one was enthusiastic about Continue reading →

Community Meeting on New Development Downtown

Suburban Trust Co. bank building, 255 North Washington Street, Rockville.

Suburban Trust Co. bank building, 255 North Washington Street, Rockville.

Rockville Town Center, LLC, the owner of the property at 255 North Washington Street (at Beall Avenue) is holding a community Area Meeting at 6:30 pm on Thursday, December 5, 2013 in the Black-eyed Susan Room in City Hall to discuss their development plans and allow the community to ask questions and provide suggestions.  They propose to demolish the existing five-story bank/office building and replace it with a six-story residential/retail building that includes 280 multi-family dwelling units, 6200 square feet of ground floor commercial space, and a parking garage, as follows: Continue reading →

Twinbrook’s Beginnings Explored in Chairs and On Foot

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Nearly sixty people gathered this morning for an illustrated lecture on the history of Twinbrook by Dr. Richard Longstreth of George Washington University.  In the 1940s and 1950s, Joseph Geeraert developed Twinbrook on a 200-acre farm that spanned Viers Mill Road.  Geeraert’s Twinbrook was roughly south of Broadwood between Rockville Pike and Baltimore Road, although today Twinbrook is considered to be much larger and runs up to First Avenue (much to the consternation of those who live in the neighborhoods of Viers Mill Village and Silver Rock).

Geeraert was born in Belgium but came to America as a young man, getting started in construction in Takoma Park.  Although he had many projects around the Washington, DC region, Twinbrook was his largest, longest running, and most complex development.  He built as funding came available and eventually these small developments interconnected to become  the neighborhood of houses, schools, churches, library, post office, and shopping centers that we know today.   Most people who drive through Twinbrook assume the houses are all the same, but Geeraert modified and enlarged the designs over time to appeal to the changing tastes of buyers.

After the lecture, the audience discussed the names of streets, racial discrimination, and evolving construction practices.  Then about half of the group went on a short walk around the neighborhood to see various types of houses and take a stroll on a hidden walkway.   It was great to see so many current and former Twinbrookers (including some who lived here for 50 years!) and to hear their stories of living in the neighborhood.

This lecture is the first in a series on Rockville’s recent neighborhoods, so check Peerless Rockville’s website for the times and dates of upcoming events, as well as a two new interpretive maps of Twinbrook.