Category Archives: Zoning

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 →

Rockville Pike Traffic Solutions Appear Confusing, but 252′ Width Seems Right

Rockville Pike proposal for 252 feet.png

Rockville Planning Commission’s proposal for a 252′-wide ROW for the Rockville Pike.  It includes eight lanes for cars, two lanes for Bus Rapid Transit, four lanes for bikes, and two sidewalks for pedestrians along with landscaped medians and left-turn lanes.

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 →

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 →

Two Very Different Candidate Debates This Week

Rockville-Election-UpdateThe campaign season has moved into high gear with the community forums (aka candidate debates) underway.  This week two very different debates at two very different times will be held in Rockville:

Senior Citizens Commission Candidates’ Forum on Wednesday afternoon, October 14, 2015 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Rockville Senior Center, 1150 Carnation Drive. This debate will address specific issues affecting seniors, in addition to some questions of general interest, as time allows, with the final hour reserved for one-on-one conversations with those attending.

West End Citizens Association (WECA) on Thursday evening, October 15, 2015 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Rockville Presbyterian Church, 215 W. Montgomery Avenue. Most likely this forum will focus on issues that affect the West End, such as traffic, development, commercial/residential balance, historic preservation, and pedestrian safety, which may be similar to other residential neighborhoods.

Both forums are free and open to the public, and no reservations are needed.

IMG_4392Last week about seventy people gathered at the Thomas Farm Community Center to watch the first candidate forum (watch on YouTube).  Hosted by the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the questions focused on issues that were important to the business community, such as the impact of the new developments on the north (Crown) and south (Pike and Rose), the future of the APFO, building heights and street widths on the Rockville Pike, and if the non-residential tax base should grow to support city services.  This was the community’s first chance to see all the candidates together and assess how they handled a variety of questions in a very controlled environment. If anyone expected sparks to fly, the minute-long responses don’t lend themselves to much content that generates controversy.  Many fell to vague pat answers such as Continue reading →

Rockville Candidates Missing the Forest and Trees for the Rocks

Last week, I received the following email message from Joe Jordan, who is closely associated with Bridget Newton‘s election campaign:

Max, there have been at least two occasions where Clark Reed has been seen wearing a handmade name tag that reads “Rockville City Council – Clark Reed”. It was pointed out to him at the MPT showing on Friday, yet he wore it again at RTS on Saturday. Recalling two years ago, I recall how you were concerned about integrity and propriety and following election guidelines, and while nametags may not be covered under them, I am sure you can see how misleading his nametag can be.

Can I be confident in the fact you will bring this to his and Sima [Osdoby]’s attention, and ask that, at a minimum, he and all slate candidates use the wording “candidate for” if they are not incumbents.

Thanks for your attention to this important matter.

Name badgesMr. Jordan is correct that name badges are not specifically addressed in Rockville’s election code (although it addresses nearly everything else: “any pamphlet, circular, card, sample ballot, dodger, poster, advertisement or any printed, multigraphed, photographed, typewritten or written matter or statement or any matter or statement which may be copied by any device”) and that I value transparency, honesty, and accuracy in government (and in business and personal relationships).  I’ve passed his message onto the candidates of Team Rockville, but just to clarify, each candidate that is part of the Team is responsible for his or her own campaign (I don’t manage individual campaigns, just the Team’s; and this blog is mine, not the Team’s).

More important, though, I am growing increasingly concerned with the topics deemed important in this election.  Richard Gottfried sent out the first campaign mailer of the season and accused his opponents of associating with “fat cat developers” without providing any evidence.  On the Twinbrook Listserv a couple weeks ago, Brigitta Mullican complained about the inaccuracies in my blog post (I said Beryl Feinberg worked in the county’s office of management and budget) and that she wasn’t allowed to post comments, then recruited Beryl Feinberg to pile on:
Continue reading →

The Rockville Pike Plan Is Out of Control

Car tracks on road out of control.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?

Rockville-Pike-Planning-Process

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 →

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 →

Bridget Newton at RCC

Councilmember Bridget Newton at Rockville Community Coalition meeting.

On May 3, 2012, Councilmember Bridget Newton joined the the quarterly Rockville Community Coalition meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church to discuss various issues facing the City of Rockville, including:

Charter Review Commission:  she supports opening the commission membership to applications from citizens and at the last Council meeting it was decided that each Councilmember could appoint one person and that together they would appoint another five, plus the Mayor would appoint the Chair.  She doesn’t have any problems with the current charter, although she noted that a few years ago there were some discussions about whether to continue the Manager-Council form of government, but she had no issues with that.  She also had no preconceived outcomes, such as a 7-member council, and wants the commission to be an independent group who would do their own research.  She’s committed to holding a referendum on any changes to the Charter before Council makes a decision.

Council conflicts:  she stated that her goal is to work together and there would no major/minority divisions.  It’s not productive to have a divided Council and she looks forward to more 5-0 votes.  Newton mentioned that when she first moved to Rockville, it seemed that despite the diverse perspectives and opinions, people got along but now discussions seem to be mean-spirited.  She would like things to Continue reading →

Chamber of Commerce discussion at Rockville Community Coalition meeting

Andrea Jolly, executive director of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce (center) at the Rockville Community Coalition meeting.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. she was unaware that the City didn’t collect Continue reading →