Mayor and Council to Choose New City Logo and Change Election Campaigning
At its Monday, June 11, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss election campaign materials, referendums on voting eligibility, and repealing Covid vaccination requirements. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are construction contracts, grant authorizations, a zoning ordinance rewrite ($294,530), and planting trees and shrubs ($393,570), among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the state legislation session wrap-up for District 17 and the City’s Branding Initiative.
Fourteen nonprofit organizations will be receiving grants to support programs and services that enhance the quality of life for Rockville residents, including:
- Peerless Rockville Historic Preservation, $120,000
- Rockville Science Center, $60,000
- Rockville Housing Enterprises, $52,820
- Metropolitan Center for the Visual Arts, $48,830
- Rockville Little Theatre, $18,000
- Rockville Musical Theatre, $18,000
- Victorian Lyric Opera Company, $17,200
- Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, $10,000
- F. Scott Fitzgerald LIterary Conference, $6,700
- Main Street Connect, $6,000
- Bender JCC of Greater Washington, $6,000
- Women Who Care Ministries, $5,000
The City Council is considering an Eleventh Amendment to the Interim Management Agreement for Rockville Town Square, the a 12.5-acre mixed-use development located in the heart of Rockville City Center, and is encompassed within the area bounded by Beall Avenue, Hungerford Drive, Middle Lane , and North Washington Street. On September 26, 2022, Morguard acquired from Street Retail, the fee simple interest in all of the commercial retail properties in the Rockville Townsquare (RTS) Mixed-Use Development. Although a long-term Management Agreement is desired by both the City and Morguard, both parties need additional time to engage further. As such, staff recommends that the Mayor and Council authorize and direct the City Manager to execute the Eleventh Amendment to the Interim Management Agreement, thus extending the term of the Interim Management Agreement to June 30, 2024. This would continue the agreement that the City will not assess a property tax in exchange for management and maintenance of the Plaza and sidewalks by Morguard. More details starting on page 636.
The City Council is considering a long list of changes to city elections, including:
- Amending definition of campaign materials to include campaign websites, emails, text messages, and other electronic communications.
- Establishing a second vote center at Thomas Farm Community Center and ballot drop boxes at City Hall, Montrose Community Center, Rockville Senior Center, and Twinbrook Community Center.
- Prohibiting electioneering within 50 feet of an outdoor ballot drop box.
- Independent communications and advertisements must include a notice stating that they have not been authorized by a candidate or candidate’s committee.
- Aggregate campaign contributions are no longer limited to $2,000.
- Requiring electronic filing of all Campaign Finance Reports, but permitting the Board of Supervisors of Elections to waive that requirement, on request, for good cause.
- Requiring clear and conspicuous disclaimers on campaign materials stating whether the material has been paid for or authorized by a candidate or political committee, and if not, identifying the person who did pay for the campaign materials, but also including an exception for materials on which disclaimers cannot be conveniently displayed.
- Requiring all campaign materials to state that they are paid political advertisements and to identify the person who paid for the advertisement.
The Council is also considering a series of advisory questions to submit to voters in November about lowering the voting age to 16 years, allowing residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote, introducing a limit of three consecutive terms (12 years) for Mayor and Councilmembers, ranked choice voting, and establishing council districts.
The Mayor and Council are conducting hybrid meetings. If you wish to submit comments in writing for Community Forum or Public Hearings, please email the comments to MayorAndCouncil@RockvilleMD.gov by no later than 10:00 a.m. on the date of the meeting.
More details in the 704-page/127 Mb agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_06122023-6935.
Mayor and Council to Consider Loosening Requirements for Accessory Apartments
At its Monday, June 5, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss a FY2024 Budget Debrief and an ordinance to allow accessory apartments (aka Attached Accessory Dwelling Units) in residential zones. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are construction contracts and grant authorization. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on Environmental Excellence Awards, Human Services Advisory Commission, and Monthly Rent Schedule for Moderately Priced Dwelling Units.
Twenty years ago, the Rockville City Council established Environmental Excellence Awards to recognize residents, organizations, and businesses for their extraordinary efforts to improve the community’s environmental and sustainability efforts. Congratulations to Rishi Iyer (a student at Wootton High School who developed an online carbon footprint tool at co2schools.com) and to Mark Wright (for leading efforts to install two pollinator gardens at Christ Church and Christ Episcopal School).
Moderately Priced Dwelling Units are the City’s methods for keeping housing affordable to families with household incomes of less than $64,000-$99,000 (depending on household size). The City regulates the maximum rent allowed and adjusts it annually according to schedules prepared by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For FY2024, the maximum rent is $1,330-$1,900 (depending on the number of bedrooms) for an increase of 12-13 percent compared to the current year.
Attached Accessory Dwelling Units (aka Accessory Apartments) are a second dwelling that is either attached or within the main single family detached house (not to be confused with accessory dwelling units (ADU), which are unattached or separate from the main house–I think). They are currently allowed as a Special Exception by the Board of Appeals and the City is now considering an ordinance that would allow attached accessory dwelling units as a conditional use to streamline the process and provide more housing opportunities. These types of accessory dwelling units are often used by a retired person who wants to downsize, a professional who’s moved to the area, or a college student (that’s how I lived during grad school). The City held public hearings in 2019 and 2021, the City Council discussed it in 2020, and the Planning Commission reviewed it in 2023. The Twinbrook Community Association, Lincoln Park Civic Association, East Rockville Civic Association, and West End Citizens Association support accessory apartments as a conditional use. Lots of interesting comments for and against accessory apartments, but you’ll want to read these carefully because they can refer to AirBnB, VRBO, and attached and unattached dwelling units interchangeably. For more details, including the draft ordinance, see page 232+.
Coming up: new brand for the City of Rockville, amending Chapter 8 “Elections” in the City Code, annexation of 1201 Seven Locks Road, community organization grant agreements, and repealing the requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees and contractors (page 273+).
More details in the 276-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_06052023-6928.
Mayor and Council to Approve Isolated Neighborhood on Tower Oaks Blvd.
At its Monday, April 24, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss an amendment for a permit to construct 83 townhouses in Tower Oaks and a work session on the 2024 budget. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are the installation of solar canopies on two city parking lots, an agreement with the Rockville Baseball Association, contracts to repair pedestrian bridges in city parks, and installation of murals at the Senior Center (artist Katie Giganti) and on the City Hall generator screen (artist Shawn James), among others.
Another isolated neighborhood is under consideration, ironically at the same meeting the Mayor and Council will approve a mural that represents the “City’s commitment to celebrating community connections.” Michael Harris Properties, LLC. has filed a Project Plan Amendment to construct 83 townhome units with a small community green space at 2200 Tower Oaks Boulevard, and to request a parking waiver for the existing office building located at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard. It was originally approved as a hotel and a health and recreation facility at 2200 Tower Oaks Boulevard and an office building at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard. An isolated forest stand (forest conservation easement), roughly 10,000 sf, is proposed for removal. The replacement forest conservation will be provided through the long-term preservation of additional forested area (~7,600 sf) contiguous to the primary forest conservation easement off the back property boundary, in addition to individual trees planted on the subject property for forest conservation credit (~2,400 sf). The proposed Project Plan will require a finding of adequate public facilities for the change in use to residential townhouse development. For the office building, Michael Harris Properties is requesting a reduction of 115 vehicle parking spaces or an approximately 18% parking reduction from the required 650 vehicle parking spaces. A couple residents have already voiced concerns about several aspects of the project (a very thoughtful letter starts on page 213) and I’ll include my concerns about the continuing fragmentation of Rockville into isolated neighborhoods, in this instance physically separated from any other neighborhood. Seems like the Mayor and Council needs to examine the larger context to see that this is NOT a good location for residential use—there are no connections between this neighborhood and others in the city. How did this get through Planning Commission with hardly any discussion? Looks like they were asleep at the wheel.
More details in the 279-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_04242023-6882.
Mayor and Council to Regulate Short-Term Rentals & Vape Shops
At its Monday, March 27, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the annexation of 1201 Seven Locks Road; replace the Traffic and Transportation Commission with a Transportation and Mobility Commission; approve several regulations for residential rental facilities, room rentals, and accessory dwelling units; and consider a nine-month moratorium on businesses that primarily sell electronic cigarettes (vape stores) near schools. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are maintenance of the water features in Town Center, Courthouse Square, and Maryvale Park; authorizing the Maryland Highway Administration to enter city property near Winding Rose Drive to make emergency repairs to an I-2710 storm drain; renewing contracts for the purchase of fuel for city vehicles, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the climate action plan and staff hiring and vacancies (nearly 60 staff vacancies, including 7 in recreation and parks, 11 in police, and 25 in public works).
In 2015, there were approximately 6,000 rental units in Rockville and there are now approximately 10,500 units, for an increase of 4,600 rental units. On February 22, 2021, the Mayor and Council discussed short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, and determined that the rental of rooms should also be regulated through Chapter 18 like other types of residential rentals. Chapter 18 regulates landlord and tenant relations and different types of licenses and leases, however, short-term rentals operate more like a hotel than rental property. Therefore, any existing short-term rental units in the city are operating without sanction or approval, because they are out of compliance with City requirements for renting a complete living facility or home. The City Council is considering new regulations that would only allow property owners to operate short-term rentals; require an annual license; notification of adjacent property owners; city inspection for zoning, building, and fire code violations; a limited of six adults at a time; no more than 120 days of rental per year; and two off-street parking spaces among other conditions and requirements. About 25 stakeholders have participated in two public hearings and a work session, and if approved by Council, the proposed Zoning Text Amendment will be reviewed by the Planning Commission.
More details in the 224-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_03272023-6849.
Will Mayor and Council Move Forward with Accessory Dwelling Units?
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.
Will Mayor and Council allow Self-Storage Warehouses near Schools and Adult Day Care Centers?
At its Monday, November 14, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss financial management policies, state legislative priorities, and a zoning change to allow self-storage warehouses in the MXE Zone.
The zoning change is prompted by U-Haul Inc., which owns a four-story office building at 1355 Piccard Drive, an industrial/office area between I-270 and King Farm, north of West Gude Drive. This is in a MXE Zone, which was created to generate more jobs by allowing retail, institutional, and residential uses that were not permitted in the former I-3 (Industrial) Zone. City staff calculated that, “with about 153,000 square feet of floor area, the applicant’s building could accommodate about 600 employees at 250 square feet per person. With only the retail and rental shop and self-storage, there would likely be only five or six employees on-site”—which fails to meet the intent of the MXE Zone. Secondly, Ann Mitchell, CEO of Montgomery Hospice, a tenant in the building, stated that the self-storage warehouse was not compatible with existing adjacent uses, including a private school (The Children in the Shoe) and a senior adult day care center.
At its September 6 meeting, the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to deny a zoning change to allow self-storage warehouses in the MXE Zone. Commissioner Sam Pearson, however, supported the change because self-storage warehouses “brought value to the community” and would not “generate traffic issues nor was it unsightly to the surrounding area.” This issue reminds me of the lawsuit by ezStorage that put Mayor Bridget Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg right in the middle of a legal storm. I wonder how they’ll respond to U-Haul when it comes before the City Council.
More details in the 224-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11142022-6746.
Mayor and Council to Discuss Priorities for Federal Actions and Funding
At its Monday, October 3, 2022 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss priorities for federal funding; a $7.5 M renovation for 6 Taft Court (a new facility for Public Works and Recreation and Parks departments); a Town Center “Road Diet” project (narrowing lanes on Washington Street and Middle Lane); FY 2024 budget; and an amendment to the Twinbrook Commons development on Chapman Avenue (adding parking spaces for electric vehicles). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are approval of easements for King Buick and King Farm Farmstead Parking Lot; authorizing the City Manager to begin electricity supply agreements; awarding a $1.4 M contract for Storm Water Management (SWM) Facilities improvements; closing of an unnamed road adjacent to Twinbrook Quarter, and approving a charter for the zoning ordinance rewrite, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on performance measurement, make appointments to boards and commissions, and declare October 10 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize the “conquest, enslavement, displacement, and disease” which decimated the native people in the area.Continue reading →
Mayor and Council Issues Its Top Ten Priorities to the State
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.Continue reading →
Mayor and Council to Discuss Affordable Housing, Environment, and a $plash Pad
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).Continue reading →
Mayor and Council to Approve 370 Residences near King Farm with Unusual Conditions
At its Monday, November 8, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will approve 370 residences at 16200 Frederick Road (aka King Buick), amend the City Code for “moderately priced housing”, and increase water and sewer rates starting in the second half of 2022. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are a replacement shelter at Isreal Park, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive a report from the Planning Commission.Continue reading →