The City of Rockville is formally expressing interest in acquiring a 5-acre property at 175 Watts Branch Parkway, which is currently owned by Montgomery County.
In response to concerns expressed by nearby residents of Rockshire and Fallsmead, the Mayor and Council voted on November 18 to declare its interest in the county disposition process.
According to Assistant City Manager Jenny Kimball, the county recently had the property appraised at $760,500. Other entities will likely seek to purchase the potentially-valuable property.
The two affected neighborhoods would like the site to be annexed into adjacent parkland. But councilmember Tom Moore expressed concern about that use. "We don't need a park there," Moore said last Monday. He argued that the neighborhood has sufficient parkland already, and that there is great need for affordable housing for the elderly and disabled.
Councilmember Beryl Feinberg disagreed. In her on-site inspection, she said, she saw residents making recreational use of the site. Feinberg also cited traffic concerns on the relatively narrow roadway.
What residents may correctly fear is either a dense, infill redevelopment of the site, or a public facility that could affect quality of life in the neighborhood. While there is Ride On bus service to Town Center in Rockshire, the site in question is not suitable for transit-oriented development.
Mayor Bridget Newton proposed an addendum to the declaration of interest that she said would give the city flexibility, should the county not prefer the site be used as parkland. Newton also suggested the possibility of a land swap to address needs elsewhere in the city.
The motion to proceed, including the addendum, passed unanimously.