The 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 →
A dozen residents attended an information session on the replacement of water mains in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville last night to learn more about the extent and impact of construction during the next two years. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, one of the largest the water and sewer utilities in the nation, serves portions of Rockville and will be replacing the nearly 8 miles of water mains and installing 0.18 miles of new sewer lines in the area roughly bounded by McAullife, Linthicum, Marcia, and Meadow Hall with sections out Tweed Street and Twinbrook Parkway to Viers Mill Road (that’s 332 homes; see map below for details). The post-war neighborhood of Twinbrook is now passing the 50-year threshold, which means that the lifespan of the water system is coming to an end, a situation that’s Continue reading →
Plans for a BRT (bus rapid transit) system in Montgomery County will affect Rockville in two ways: Rockville Pike (Clarksburg to Bethesda) and Veirs Mill Road (Rockville to Wheaton). On Wednesday, September 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, the Maryland State Highway Administration will hold a public meeting in the cafeteria of the Montgomery County Executive Office Building (EOB), 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. Parking available in the garage underneath the EOB. The meeting will provide information and gather public comments on the alternatives for BRT service between Rockville and Wheaton. The proposed MD 586/Veirs Mill Road BRT Corridor Study extends approximately 6.7 miles from the Rockville Metrorail Station to the Wheaton Metrorail Station in Montgomery County, Maryland. This study also includes the extension of enhanced bus service from the Rockville Metrorail Station, north in mixed traffic along MD 355, an additional 1.5 miles to Montgomery College. There will not be a formal presentation, so you can drop by anytime to learn about the alternatives, operations, environmental impacts, and cost estimates from representatives from both the county and state departments of transportation. A draft of the recently completed Continue reading →
Rockville 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 →
On Monday, May 9, the Rockville Mayor and Council will continue its worksession on “Rockville’s Pike Neighborhood Plan.” Along with building heights and pedestrian crossings, traffic congestion is a major controversy and the conversation has become terribly confusing: widening or narrowing the road, keeping or eliminating the access roads, extending adjacent roads, increasing Metro service, and incorporating bus rapid transit (BRT). Some of these solutions are beyond the control of the City (such as Metro service), some benefit one group versus another (such as businesses or nearby residents), and others are so expensive or far in the future that their feasibility is unclear (such as the BRT). What’s become incredibly confusing are Continue reading →
The effort to stop the creation of a school bus depot at the Carver Center in Rockville continues to grow with community meetings, presentations at City Council meetings, collecting more than 1,700 signatures on petitions, and hiring an attorney. Montgomery County Public Schools wants to consolidate several bus depots around the county that provide parking, equipment storage, and maintenance for school busses to one central location in Rockville. It doesn’t make sense considering the size of the county—should 100+ busses come and go from Rockville to transport students in Poolesville and Silver Spring?
If you’d like to learn more:
- Visit the Carver Coalition web site at CarverCoalition.org
- Attend the Community Meeting on the plans for the depot hosted by Montgomery County Public Schools on Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 pm at College Gardens Elementary School
- Attend the Carver Coalition meeting on Tuesday, May 17 at 7:00 pm at the Rockville Unitarian Universalist Church at 100 Welsh Park Drive.
- Read the latest flyer from the Carver Coalition.
There’s a bigger issue that continues to gnaw at me, however. MCPS is one of the largest school districts in the country with a billion-dollar budget. It’s considered one of the best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, but does that mean it’s also well governed? The school board seems to be continually tone-deaf when it comes to local issues, such as the bus depot, and the County Council seems to be unable to have any influence, despite being the major funder. Is it time to split the school district into manageable parts and have more local control?
For 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 →
When the Rockville Mayor and Council set out to update the 1989 Rockville Pike Plan in 2007, Apple released the first iPhone and the New Horizons space probe was passing Saturn. In 2015, Apple is working on the iPhone 6s and New Horizons just passed Pluto–but the Rockville Pike Plan is still incomplete. It’s a complex area but something is definitely wrong with the planning process in the City of Rockville if it takes eight years to revise a plan for an area of 410 acres. What happens when Rockville tackles the Comprehensive Plan for the 14 square miles of the City of Rockville? Will it meet the state deadline to update that plan every ten years?
When you look at the timeline for the project, it’s pretty clear that the Pike Plan is languishing with the Planning Commission. A closer looks shows they’ve held six public hearings, 32 work sessions, and formed two sub-committees and they’re still not done. In contrast, the Mayor and Council have held five public hearings and one work session. Looks like the Planning Commission is suffering from “paralysis by analysis.”
What is extremely puzzling is that the Planning Commission is taking as much time or more than Continue reading →
This just in from the JBG Companies: they’ve fully leased their retail space at 275 North Washington Street, a new mixed-use building in downtown Rockville anchored by Bank of America (where the Giant Grocery store once stood).
Reflecting the growing international flavor of the surrounding area, four Asian-owned businesses have signed for the remaining retail spaces adjacent to Rockville Town Square. They are French-Asian cafe Lavande Patisserie, Kung Fu Tea, Quickway Hibachi Grill and Amber Door Day Spa. In addition to 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, JBG’s 275 North Washington Street includes 12,000 square feet of available Class A office space on a second level.
“This area offers a unique multi-ethnic dining and shopping experience that adds flavor and choices. It’s a draw for Rockville residents and for those living outside the city,” said Anthony Greenberg, a JBG principal. “There are several Asian markets and authentic Chinese restaurants near 275 North Washington Street, and we are pleased to be a part of an organically emerging district.”
Lily Qi, director of special projects for the Montgomery County executive, said Rockville is known as the Chinatown of Montgomery County because of its high concentration of ethnic Chinese residents and Asian businesses. Rockville’s central location and accessibility makes it a magnet for amenities that cater to the everyday living needs of this population, as well as to the tastes of the broader community who enjoy a diversity of cuisines and retail choices.
Retailers are moving into their spaces this month and expect to open this spring. Bob Liang, founder of regional Quickway Japanese Hibachi, said he chose the location because of the area’s diverse demographics and proximity to Rockville Town Center. The restaurant, which features fast casual Japanese, will be the 10th to open in the D.C. region.
Lavande Patisserie, owned by mother and son Julie Yi and Andrew Liang of Gaithersburg, is a farm-to-table café and will serve breakfast, lunch and French pastries with an Asian twist, such as kumquat fruit tarts. Lavande will butcher its meat in-house, mill its own flour, make its own creams. “Everything is fresh and purchased within 50 miles, nothing is store bought or pre-processed,” said Liang. Kung Fu Tea is a national franchise from New York that serves specialty tea drinks. The Rockville location will be the first in the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia area. Amber Door Day Spa is locally owned and will offer spa packages that include massages, facials, body treatments, makeup and more.
As we’re contemplating a new Rockville Pike Plan, it’s always useful to step back in time to see how decisions were made in the past and created the community we live in today.
In 1988, the Rockville Mayor and Council dramatically lowered the height of buildings along the Rockville Pike, rejecting the advice of the planning commission for improving the “traffic-choked corridor.” After six years of study (sound familiar?), the Planning Commission recommended reducing the maximum building size from 200,000 square feet (sf) to 35,000 sf for a 100,000 sf parcel but would allow up to 300,000 sf (a bonus) if developers provided certain community amenities, such as pedestrian bridges, plaza areas, and day care centers. The City Council accepted the lower size but rejected the bonus, effectively decreasing the size to one-sixth of what was currently allowed. Mayor Doug Duncan believed it would, “keep the retail strength of the plan. . .large office buildings [are] not in the interest of the community.” Planning Commission Chair Richard Arkin countered that “without the bonus system, the plan would lead to more small, unattractive shopping strips and few of the kinds of amenities that could transform the pike into an attractive road that is accessible to pedestrians.” Now that 25 years have passed, what was the result of their decisions? Who was more prescient?
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, read the entire story, “Building Curbs Supported for Rockville Pike” from the April 28, 1998 issue of the Washington Post.