Category Archives: Parks

Pandemic Resulted in High Subsidies for Recreation and Parks in 2021

At its Monday, November 21, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss financial management policies, annexing 1201 Seven Locks Road, and the new Comprehensive Plan. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are employment agreements for the Deputy City Manager and Assistant City Manager for Project Management, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on staff vacancies and hiring.

How much should the city subsidize Recreation and Parks programs, such as summer camps, skate park, or childcare, that are used by a small segment of residents? How should it manage donations it receives annually for the Holiday Drive and Senior Assistance Fund? At the upcoming meeting, the Council will discuss these and other financial management policies.

Excerpt of the Cost Recovery Summary for Parks and Recreation programs. Most Tier 2 programs required higher subsidies than expected due to the pandemic (red), but Facilities Maintenance and Arts fared much better (green). For more details, see agenda packet page 34.

The City of Rockville has an extensive set of financial management policies that affect eight major areas: achieving and maintaining a structurally balanced budget, fund balance and reserve policies, capital planning policies, investment policies for both retirement plans and City funds, revenue control and management policies, economic development policies, and debt compliance and data analysis policies. For Recreation and Parks programs, the City uses a “five-tier cost-recovery pyramid” ranging from Tier 1 for parks, trails, landscapes, playgrounds, and general-use facilities with a 0% cost recovery to a Tier 5 for private rentals and private lessons with a 100% or more cost recovery. Fees and charges are reviewed and adjusted annually, but the pandemic lowered cost recovery significantly. In Tier 2, for example, the Lincoln Park Community Center is expected to recover 20% of its costs in 2022 (a subsidy of 80%) but in 2021 it actually recovered 3% (a subsidy of 97%). There are a couple of bright spots: Facilities Maintenance and Arts recovered more than expected (in other words, required less of a subsidy), most likely as well due to the reduced use of facilities and arts programs during the pandemic. A summary is available on Packet Page 34.

The Financial Advisory Board recently recommended that the City create a formal donations policy. The City receives less than one percent of its revenues from donations each year, which are accepted by check, made through the City’s website, the recreation registration system, and through the round-up feature with online utility bill payments. During FY 2022, the City received approximately $130,000 in donations from over 1,800 donors, averaging $12 for the Recreation Fund and $300 for the Holiday Drive. It also received two donations over $5,000: one $25,000 donation for the Holiday Drive and one $20,000 donation for the Eat Fresh program. Strangely, when the City explored this topic further, it discovered that a donations policy is not a common practice in municipal governments in Maryland. Geez, this suggests an obvious opportunity for embezzlement in government and I’m glad to see the City is thinking ahead. It’s a common practice in nonprofit organizations.

The big kahuna for the meeting (if not the year), however, is the progress on the Rockville 2040 Comprehensive Plan—the city’s “to do” list for the next twenty years. At this meeting, the City Council will review the progress on tasks that are to be completed in the next 1-3 years. This is an enormous undertaking not only to complete, but also to manage. These tasks include a zoning ordinance rewrite, updating the Town Center Master Plan, adopting a Pedestrian Master Plan, assessing speed limits on Wootton Parkway, redeveloping King Farm Farmstead, installing back-up power generation for critical facilities, promoting backyard composting, preparing a Flood Resiliency Plan, and constructing senior housing. Since the Plan’s adoption in August 2021, 228 actions are currently in the near-term completion timeframe, but are not yet completed or in progress; 43 actions are currently in the “in progress” status; and 19 actions have been completed. If you want details on what’s happening in the City or your neighborhood, start on Packet Page 89. Getting everyone on board and focused is a continual challenge, and residents and businesses (and Council members) always have new ideas—but time and staff are limited so establishing priorities is essential.

It’s also enlightening to see which neighborhoods are most engaged in the community. In October, the City distributed surveys about community needs and interests. Among the highest response rates were College Gardens (156 responses) and Twinbrook (52 responses). Among the lowest were Tower Oaks (1 response) and Lincoln Park (0 responses). I wonder if this correlates with voter turnout?

More details in the 152-page agenda packet are available at https://rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11212022-6754.

Mayor and Council to Adopt Plan for Red Gate Park

At its Monday, October 17, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the FY2024 budget and adoption of a master plan for Red Gate Park. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are agreements with the Rockville Football League and the Road Runners Club, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Financial Advisory Board.

The Financial Advisory Board‘s report found no issues with City finances under its scope of work, however, it also revealed several significant differences between them and the City Council and staff. The Board believes that all recreation and parks programs should recover their full costs in fees, however, the Council wants some programs to be subsidized for specific residents to be affordable. Secondly, the Board disagrees with the staff on the handling of donations. It’s unclear what the staff position is, but the Board seems to be recommending that a written policy be adopted. Finally, there seems to be a disconnect between Council priorities and city department goals. No examples are provided, but the city has hired Raftelis to review performance management practices.

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Mayor and Council to Discuss Human Rights and Rockville Town Square

Among the potential improvements being discussed in the 2023 budget are park shelters/canopies/gazebos. Which neighborhoods are well served and which are neglected?

At its Monday, April 18, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss an ordinance to establish an education commission, the management agreement with Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) for Rockville Town Square, and once again, the FY 2023 budget and what to do with the remaining ARPA funds. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are contracts for tree care ($900,000 annually) and landscape maintenance ($193,000 annually); $250,000 grant agreement for Lincoln Park Community Center improvements; and six proclamations. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Human Rights Commission.

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Mayor and Council to Discuss Big and Dull Changes in Twinbrook

Proposed plan for Twinbrook Commons, a 440-unit, 120-foot-tall multi-family residential building wrapped around a parking structure and surrounded by a bus loop. North is to the left, not the top.

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??).

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Mayor and Council Creating Another Commission

At its Monday, January 24, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the creation of an Education Commission, establish vaccination requirements to enter city buildings, review the staff hiring freeze, and discuss parkland dedication for new developments.

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Mayor and Council Issues Its Top Ten Priorities to the State

Maryland’s District 17 primarily represents Rockville and Gaithersburg.

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.

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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 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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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.

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 →