After five years of work by the City of Rockville and Federal Realty Investment Trust, Dawson’s Market held its grand opening tonight in Rockville’s Town Square. A grocery store had been slated as an anchor for the Town Square since its inception, but an initial tenant’s bankruptcy and threatened lawsuits by a competing liquor store caused delays, as well as finding a grocery willing to move into space smaller than is typical today. Fortunately, Rick Hood, president of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond, was looking to expand and found an ideal location in Rockville. The Richmond store is named for the two streets that intersect at that store’s location; the Rockville store is named for longtime residents of Rockville (e.g., Beall-Dawson House, Dawson Farm Park).
Dawson’s Market is now open and customers will find it emphasizes local and organic food, and discover such nice amenities as beer and wine departments, juice bar, and a cafe. Many people have compared it to Roots or a small version of Whole Foods. Parking in Town Square is available free for two hours with validation and you’ll find the store at the corner of Washington and Beall, near the modernist Suburban Trust Bank building.
I often hear Rockville residents grumble about property taxes and they often blame the city for taking an unfair share of their hard-earned income. Although property taxes in the City of Rockville have held steady for the last few years, they’ve risen in Montgomery County. From 2007 to 2012, the County Council has increased the tax rate each year–but hardly anyone in Rockville has noticed and put the blame in the right place. In 2007, the property tax rate was 62 cents for every $100 in assessed value, today it’s 72 cents–a 15 percent increase over five years. Businesses were similarly affected through personal property taxes (which is assessed on inventory, manufacturing equipment, etc.), rising from $1.57 to $1.81, a 16 percent increase over five years. No changes at the State of Maryland–it does not assess property taxes.
Why blame the City and not the County? I suspect it’s because residents assume that 100 percent of their property taxes goes to the city in which they live. Actually, each jurisdiction sets its own rates and you’ll see it split out in writing on your annual property tax bill. If you live in Rockville, for every $100 in the assessed value of your property, you pay 72 cents to the county and 29 cents to the city. Today, the median sales price for a house is Rockville is $416,000, so the total annual property tax bill would be $4,227–$3,012 for the county and $1,215 for the city. Montgomery County receives more than twice as much money from you as the City of Rockville–do you feel you get the same proportion of value in return?
It is has been proposed that a person’s recognition that they pay property taxes is directly related to their level of civic engagement (e.g., voting, writing city council, speaking up at public hearings). In other words, a homeowner knows they pay property taxes because they receive an annual bill, so they’re aware that they’re taxpayers and have a say about government. That’s not true about renters, condo owners, or resthome residents, whose property taxes are rolled into their monthly fees or dues, so they’re not as apt to think they’re tax payers and have a stake in government. What do you think?
Tax rates for the last ten years are available from the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
It’s been a month since the powerful thunderstorm–a derecho to be specific–knocked out power to most of Rockville and the Mid-Atlantic. But let’s call a spade a spade–it was a massive power outage, a blackout, during the hottest days of summer. Most lost power for days, some for a week. As we discovered, if you lose the internet, you’re back in 1979; if you lose electricity, you’re back in 1879. Anger boiled over in the days that followed, but now it seems nearly forgotten. Before our memories fade, what did we learn? Here’s my list, culled from talking with neighbors, reading the newspapers, and scanning the listservs:
1. Pepco doesn’t know your power is out unless you tell them. Don’t assume they have some fancy computer system that notifies them automatically that you’ve lost power, assume that your neighbor has called, assume it’ll fix itself, or assume that they’re busy and you don’t want to trouble them (poor dears!). Call them at 877-737-2662. Write this number down and put it on your fridge–another power outage will occur and you’ll want this handy. Many people said they called but Pepco thought their power had been restored, so call daily to ensure they have the correct information. David Greene noted that he used his mobile phone to, “monitor the Pepco outage map, and they marked our power as restored several times during the week when it was not actually restored. I called them many times to get us back on their map.”
2. Pepco prioritizes work based on the number of outages. That makes sense–first tackle the jobs that will benefit the most people–if they have the correct information. But if you and your neighbors don’t call Pepco, they will assume everything is okay (see #1 above). You might want to visit your neighbors and check to see if they’ve called.
3. If you have FIOS, your “landline” phone won’t work. How disappointing to have the latest technology and discover it’s useless in a power outage. My FIOS system came with a battery backup, but Continue reading →