Category Archives: Recreation

Will Mayor and Council Move Forward with Accessory Dwelling Units?

From “Stimulating Accessory Apartment Development” by Jane Lyons for the Montgomery County Council, 2018.

At its Monday, January 23, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss if they will move forward with allowing accessory apartments and dwelling units for single family houses. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are elevator modernization for 50 Monroe Street (NTE $470,000); purchasing of Tasers (“electronic control devices”; $213,000), and agreements for two Maryland Bikeway Grants, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on concept designs for the renovation of the outdoor pool at the Swim Center (built 1968, last renovated 1991; 2023 estimated renovation cost $9 million).

The City of Rockville has been exploring accessory dwelling units (ADUs) since 2019 and is now considering whether to move to the next step: developing regulations. ADUs are typically a second small home with a kitchen and bathroom on the same lot as an existing single family home. It allows more flexibility in neighborhoods with single family houses (the zoning that dominates Rockville) to accommodate different living situations more comfortably. For example, a grandparent could move in with their children, yet maintain a separate space (or downsize to a smaller home, allowing their children to move into the main house). Or as teenagers move into adulthood, they could have more privacy and independence while reducing expenses. Or it can allow a separate home office (businesses without employees or customers on site are currently allowed in single family neighborhoods). Secondly, it increases housing in a region that has a housing shortage without creating huge apartment or condo complexes. The homeowner can earn extra revenue, while the renter can obtain a more affordable and usually more comfortable place to live. So far, accessory buildings have gained the support of the Twinbrook Community Association, Lincoln Park Civic Association, East Rockville Civic Association, and West End Citizens Association and Montgomery County currently allows accessory dwelling units.

More details in the 182-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_01232023-6787.

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.

Continue reading →

Twinbrook Swimming Pool festivities on Saturday, June 3

Twinbrook PoolThe Twinbrook Swimming Pool (TSP) opens for the summer season on Sunday, May 28 but the following Saturday, June 3 will have a day full of activities including a craft fair and yard sale from 8 am to 1 pm, and a community day from 12 noon to 6 pm for $6 per person.  I recently stopped by to find volunteers getting the place ready for opening (photos below). Along with 50-meter swimming lanes and diving pond, there’s a sand volleyball court, a deck for special events, picnic tables, dozens of lounge chairs, a “bar of snacks,” restrooms, and a playground for young kids.  For children who are serious about swimming, TSP hosts the Ducks, a competitive swim team for kids and teens that’s part of the Montgomery County Swim League.   To join, membership rates range from $345 (individual) to $605 (family) along with a special introductory rate of $128. For more details, visit TwinbrookPool.org.

You may have never noticed the pool because you can’t see it from the street— Continue reading →

REI Moving from Rockville to White Flint in April

REI store in Rockville.

REI store in Rockville.

REI, the outdoor sports store at the southern edge of Rockville at 1701 Rockville Pike, has announced it’s moving south about 1500 feet to become part of the new Pike & Rose mega-shopping center/experience in White Flint. With the loss of Sports Authority and Hudson Trail Outfitters in recent years, this neighborhood’s remaining sports stores are smaller specialists: Revolution Cycles, Performance Bicycle, and Road Runner Sports.  REI has announced the following schedule:

  • March 18, 2017: Garage Sale
  • April 15: Last day accepting shop work
  • April 23: Last day in Rockville
  • April 25: Opening at Pike & Rose in White Flint
  • April 28-30: Grand opening events

Competition for tenants along the Rockville Pike continues to intensify as the internet becomes a more popular place to shop and customers seek more interesting and engaging experiences.  The simple stripmalls that line Rockville Pike will be with us for a while but the richer social environments of Pike & Rose and Rockville Town Square will be more attractive gathering places.  JBG‘s efforts around the Twinbrook Metro Station is expected to follow this new model, however, it seems that development has stalled for the last year and doesn’t have sufficient gravity to attract a sustainable customer base (Terano and Galvan, the last major projects, opened in 2015).

Twinbrook hosts Bicycle Drive on Sat., June 11

wall-sport-green-bikeThe 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 →

Hometown Holidays on Memorial Day Weekend Features 30 groups across 6 Blocks

More than 30 groups will take to four stages across six city blocks in Rockville Town Center for the city’s Hometown Holidays Music Fest on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29, 2016. The weekend will once again feature favorite food from local restaurants at the Taste of Rockville, kids amusements and the 72nd Annual Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade on Monday, May 30.

Two hometown area bands will headline the 28th annual festival on Sunday. Baltimore’s Kelly Bell Band will play at 6:30 p.m. and then join the original “Bad Boys of Bethesda,” The Nighthawks, at 8:30 p.m. in the headlining slot on the Bud Light Stage. Other artists on the Bud Light Stage include:

  • Alternative band Knox Hamilton at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Soul/rock band Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Flow Tribe, playing funk, rock and psychedelic at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
  • “BluesAmericanaRock” artist Ted Garber at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Additional acts include rock band Radio Birds, reggae favorite Jah Works, the roots rock of The Alternate Routes, and the U.S. Navy Band Country Current, playing country and bluegrass. Find a full schedule of performances at www.rockvillemd.gov/hometownholidays.

The festival is just a five-minute walk from the Rockville Metro station. Festival-goers who drive or bike will find parking in the City Hall lots, Montgomery County Council office building garage on Fleet Street and the Metro station lots.

Learn more at http://www.rockvillemd.gov/hometownholidays or at “City of Rockville Hometown Holidays” on Facebook.

What is Senator Kagan Doing in Annapolis?

Cheryl KaganThe Maryland General Assembly is about halfway through its 90-day annual grind through more than 2,500 pieces of legislation along with the State’s budgets.  State Senator Cheryl Kagan provides a regular email that lists her current activities, but it’s incomplete because so much is happening.  To see the entire picture, you have to visit the General Assembly website to discover that she’s shepherding 78 bills, 10 of which she is sponsoring and 67 she is co-sponsoring.  As a sponsor of a bill, she’s the one who introduced the legislation.  Sen. Kagan is the primary sponsor of the following bills but note that they are subject to numerous revisions in the legislative process (so what you read here may change):

SB0001: Health Insurance – In Vitro Fertilization – Use of Spouse’s Sperm – Exception. This bill alters the required conditions for health insurance coverage of in vitro fertilization (IVF) by creating an exception to the required use of the spouse’s sperm. For a patient whose spouse is of the opposite sex, the patient’s eggs must be fertilized with the spouse’s sperm, unless (1) the spouse is unable to produce and deliver sperm and (2) the inability does not
result from a vasectomy or other method of voluntary sterilization. According to the Department of Budget and Management, State plan expenditures increase by an estimated $216,310 in fiscal 2017, or approximately 0.025% of annual State plan spending. The State plan currently covers IVF. Expenditures reflect increased utilization of IVF and medical claims associated with the resulting pregnancies.

SB0028: State Government – Web Sites – Language Access. This bill requires specified State departments, agencies, and programs to take reasonable steps, beginning October 1, 2016, to operate and maintain, for Continue reading →

Enjoy Fall While It’s Here

Lake Frank, just east of Rockville, Maryland in October.

Lake Frank, just east of Rockville, Maryland in October.

It’s fall in Rockville and if you haven’t enjoyed it enough, head out to Lake Frank east of town. Created by Montgomery County to control flooding along Rock Creek in the 1970s, it’s an off-the-beaten path destination for those who love nature, walking, birdwatching, and dog walking. Today was especially nice because the trees are at their peak and their colors are reflected in the water–and we only ran into a half dozen people in the hour we were there.

Enter from Avery Road (near Southlawn) and you’ll find a small parking lot leading to a paved path that goes around about a third of the lake. If you’re walking or on a bike, you can also enter from the Rock Creek Trail just north of Norbeck Road.

Capital Bikeshare Launched in downtown Rockville

A crowd gathers in downtown Rockville for the launch of Capitol Bikeshare.

A crowd gathers in downtown Rockville for the launch of Capital Bikeshare.

Capital Bikeshare, the popular bike rental program in DC, has jumped the Beltway and into downtown Rockville. This morning a crowd gathered near the Red Brick Courthouse to witness the launch of this fun and healthy program in our hometown.  Although the program doesn’t provide the transportation connections I had hoped for (there’s nothing in the south end of Rockville for the Twinbrook Metro station), I’m still delighted that it’s here and we’re part of a larger regional network.

Capital Bikeshare puts over 1800+ bicycles at 200+ stations across Washington, D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, VA and Montgomery County, MD.   Check out a bike for your trip to work, Metro, run errands, go shopping, or visit friends and family and return it to any station near your destination.  Join Capital Bikeshare for a day, 3 days, a month, a year or try their new daily key option, and have access to their fleet of bikes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free. Each additional 30 minutes incurs an additional fee of $1.50 to 2.00, depending on your membership level.