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.
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 →
At its Monday, October 18, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the construction of 252 townhomes and 118 multi-family units by EYA Development at 16200 Frederick Road (King Buick). On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are increasing fines for parking violations (mostly increased from $40 to $60), modifying requirements for project plans, and defining demolition (from 100 percent to 50 percent of the floor area of a building), among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on Rockville Economic Development Inc. and on RedGate Park.
More details in the 388-page agenda packet available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10182021-6381
In a series of illustrated presentations and walking tours this spring, Peerless Rockville will explore several of Rockville’s modern neighborhoods, including Twinbrook, New Mark Commons, and King Farm.
Free and open to the public, the series will highlight five neighborhood communities from the early postwar housing boom to mid-century planned development to the “new town” movement popular at the end of the century. The series will culminate in an evening lecture and panel discussion at Rockville City Hall on the factors that influenced modern development, the significant elements of each time period, and the special features of each community that have contributed to its success and left lasting imprints.
The schedule for the upcoming series:
Building Houses, Creating Community: Joseph Geeraert and Twinbrook, featuring professor Dr. Richard Longstreth of George Washington University, Saturday, March 23, 10 am at the Twinbrook Community Center Annex.
Woodley Gardens: A Traditional Red Brick Neighborhood with a Modern Feel, featuring Continue reading →
“Walkability” is an increasingly popular measure of a community’s quality of life. By enhancing the convenience and ease of walking, it reduces traffic, improves health, increases community involvement, and puts more eyes on the street for safety. So how does Rockville rate? Walk Score calculates walkability on a block-by-block basis, generating color-coded maps. In the map of Rockville, green indicates the areas that are most walkable (such as downtown) and red the least walkable (such as Horizon Hill west of 270). Around town, they’ve calculated how the following locations fared on a scale of 1-100:
- 85 Very walkable: Maryland Avenue and South Adams (West End)
- 75 Very walkable: Baltimore Road and Grandin (East Rockville)
- 66 Somewhat walkable: Twinbrook Parkway and Viers Mill (Twinbrook)
- 65 Somewhat walkable: Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Road (Fallsgrove)
- 65 Somewhat walkable: Redland Boulevard and Pleasant (King Farm)
- 63 Somewhat walkable: West Montgomery and Laird (West End)
- 48 Car dependent: College Parkway and Princeton (College Gardens)
- 35 Car dependent: Falls Road and Kersey (Horizon Hill)
I’m sure this will generate controversy and prompt comparisons between neighborhoods (what!? Twinbrook rated the same as Fallsgrove and King Farm? Not possible!) but I’d really like to encourage a discussion about making our community more bike and pedestrian (and sometimes car) friendlier.
What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score, the more of the following characteristics it has, the better:
- A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
- People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
- Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
- Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
- Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
- Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
- Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
The City of Rockville recently received federal funds to develop “complete streets” near the Twinbrook and Rockville Metro stations, so scores for those locations (and pedestrians using those locations) should improve as a result. Any suggestions to make your neighborhood more walkable? Should walkability be a goal for Rockville?
This Wednesday, May 16, I’ll be leading a tour of 20th-century planned communities for the American Institute of Architects’ annual convention. We’ll start with 1930s Greenbelt (one of a handful developed by the federal government to demonstrate how communities could be intentionally planned, not just haphazardly developed) and then visit two other nationally significant planned communities, both in Rockville: 1960s-70s New Mark Commons and 2000s King Farm. I’ll be joined by Dr. Elizabeth Milnarik, Dr. Isabel Gournay, and Jim Wasilak (Rockville’s Chief of Planning). By the end of the day, participants will have a nice overview of “community making” in the 20th century, all very different responses by some of the best minds of their times.
I love sharing Rockville with anyone who’s interested but unfortunately, this tour is limited to members of the AIA. But you can easily explore these neighborhoods yourself and if you want more details, Greenbelt has a museum in one of the original residences and Dr. Isabel Gournay at the University of Maryland has written a scholarly essay on King Farm (and Woodley Gardens) in Housing Washington: Two Centuries of Residential Development and Planning in the National Capital Area , edited by Richard Longstreth (2010). If you’d like a guided tour, suggest it to Peerless Rockville and perhaps they’ll put one together in the near future.
New Mark Commons and King Farm are hailed as idealistic suburban communities, but it wasn’t true of all neighborhoods in Rockville. In 1956, John Keats criticized the monotony and isolation of the suburbs around Washington, DC in his popular novel, The Crack in the Picture Window. He follows the lives of Mary and John Drone, a young family trying to get established. They move up from a small old apartment in northern Virginia and move to a new house in suburban Maryland, supposedly based on Rockville’s Twinbrook neighborhood:
[John Drone counted his blessings and said,] “Great. I have a wife and two swell kids, a new split level with everything in it, a new car with all the extras, and I got myself not one but three jobs. I’m meeting all my payments, every month.”
As for Mary’s life, the first few weeks were spent in the charming exhilaration which new surroundings always bring. Gaily, she explored the cellar bedroom which had been added to her domain. She liked the little thrill of going up two steps to the living room, and then up another two into the bedrooms. She was as happy as a squirrel in a new, three-ring cage. This light mood persisted through nearly two months, until at last there came that day when her new world suddenly became only too familiar.
It was the day she stood looking out her picture window and for the first time became completely aware of the picture window across the treeless street. For a horrid moment she stood there, staring. The she ran to her door and tore it open, looking up and down the block. And everywhere she looked, she saw houses exactly like her own, row on row of them, the same, the same, the same…
This Saturday, April 21, from 10 am to 12 noon, join Peerless Rockville for a tour of The Alaire at Twinbrook Station, the beginning of a significant, New Urbanist community called Twinbrook Station being developed by the JBG Companies and WMATA. It’s the first Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) plan in the Washington metropolitan area, has been designated a Smart Growth project by the Washington Smart Growth Alliance, and received the International Charter Award for Excellence from the Congress for the New Urbanism. So if you want to know what all the fuss is about, staff from JBG will discuss their approach to development around a transit station, view an apartment, and find out more about their future plans and on-going projects, both at Twinbrook Station and on adjacent properties. Tour starts at 10 am at 1101 Higgins Place (the entrance to the Alaire apartments) and costs $7. Space is limited and reservations are recommended. Two-hour free parking in the Alaire garage (and the adjacent Metro lot is free on weekends). For more information, please visit PeerlessRockville.org or call 301-762-0096.
And just in case you didn’t catch my previous tweets, it appears that the nearby Walmart project at the Rockville Pike and Bou Avenue has been temporarily postponed: Bagel City recently signed a two-and-a-half year lease. A few doors down, the Office Depot is closing but it’s unrelated to future developments of the site (btw, everything is on sale at 10-30% off but is non-returnable).
In other related news, a couple of Rockville’s communities will enjoy national attention in May when I co-lead a tour of New Mark Commons and King Farm for the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects. We’ll be looking at cutting-edge planned communities in Montgomery County, starting with 1930s Greenbelt and ending with the 21st century King Farm. Lunch will be in Town Square, which has turned up as the poster child for the Congress for the New Urbanism. If you thought Rockville was just a little sleepy suburb, it’s time to change your mind.
The October edition of the King Farm Chronicle, the community’s monthly newspaper which is mailed to over 3,500 homes within King Farm, will feature the upcoming Rockville City election. They asked the candidates to provide answers to four questions and here’s the fourth and last one (with a bit in addition to the Chronicle’s 250-word limit):
4. What do you believe is the best use of the King Farm Farmstead Park and how would you bring that about? Do you favor expanding the City’s community garden at the Farmstead, or using the space to build a parking lot?
I strongly support preserving King Farm Farmstead, not only because of its historical significance but also because the community draws its name from this place–that doesn’t mean it needs to remain a farm, a dairy, or a home or has to be enshrined as a museum. Because of its history as a farm, its use for a community garden is certainly sympathetic. But I encourage additional compatible uses to ensure Continue reading →
The October edition of the King Farm Chronicle, the community’s monthly newspaper which is mailed to over 3,500 homes within King Farm, will feature the upcoming Rockville City election. They asked the candidates to provide answers to four questions and here’s the third one:
3. What would you do to help the King Farm Village Center thrive? Would you allow more signage on nearby streets and roads?
We’d have to first agree on what we mean by “thrive” (e.g., more sales per person? per square foot? more shops? more traffic? more people?) so let me assume you mean that Continue reading →
The October edition of the King Farm Chronicle, the community’s monthly newspaper which is mailed to over 3,500 homes within King Farm, will feature the upcoming Rockville City election. They asked the candidates to provide answers to four questions, limiting our response to 250 words or less, by 5:00 pm on Friday, October 2, 2009.
Now that the deadline has passed, I thought others may be interested in my opinions (I’m happy to give my opinion whenever someone asks) but I’ll post each separately in case anyone wants to respond (they must be somewhat controversial, otherwise why ask me?).
Here’s the second one:
2. What mode of transportation do you favor for the Corridor Cities Transitway and why? Do you favor a grade separation for the CCT at MD 355 and King Farm Boulevard? How will you make certain King Farm residents have input into the CCT decisions on stations, traffic, and design?
To serve the largest number of people and to be attractive to people working in the businesses served by the CCT, I strongly recommend Continue reading →