The president of Regents Square's condo board told Rockville planning commissioners that the draft Bikeway Master Plan would be "a disaster for our community," at last week's public hearing on the document. Joe Covey said his community of 252 townhouses on Azalea Drive, and Nelson Street, were planned with street parking designed to complement off-street lot parking. Woodley Gardens Civic Association President James Reschovsky shared Covey's concern, although both emphasized that their communities are not opposed to improving bike mobility through their neighborhood.
A primary issue is the plan for a .4 mile bike climbing lane on Azalea Drive, that would displace existing street parking. Reschovsky said he did not have the precise number of parking spaces that would be lost, but estimated them as 50-75. "What I can say with confidence," Reschovsky added, is that "the street is totally parked, the off-street parking lots are full [and] there’s already a parking problem now." "50 to 75 is a substantial number of cars," Planning Commissioner Jack Leiderman said, describing the parking elimination as "a major change."
Reschovsky suggested the city examine alternative routes for the new bike connection between Nelson Street and Gude Drive. Pressed by commissioners for specific routes, Reschovsky said it would be inappropriate to speculate, without input from Woodley Gardens residents. He said Crocus Drive and Aster Boulevard would be possible alternatives, but that residents had not had a chance to address that specific question yet.
Montgomery College also expressed opposition to the draft plan's route that passes through its Rockville campus. Don Smith, director of the college's Evening and Weekend Office, and a member of its bike task force, said the college "strongly supports" biking, noting its participation in the Capital Bikeshare program. But "it cannot compromise security by opening the perimeter fence" in the northwest area of the campus, Smith said. "Controlling access is critical to the prevention” of crime on campus, Smith argued. The college "does not endorse" the plan's proposed through-campus route for that reason, Smith said.
The solid opposition of the college to opening the fence needs to be taken into account before passing the draft plan, two commissioners argued. Commissioner John Tyner said the campus is "not to be breached in any place." Leiderman pointed out that, while the city can put any route into the plan, the college cannot be compelled to open its property. To go forward with the college segment as written, would be "exercising futility, to put something in a master plan that cannot be," Leiderman argued.
Proponents of the plan stressed the importance of bike route connectivity both within the city, and to bike infrastructure outside of it. Rockville is already ahead of most in the county in its number and route miles of bike trails. It seems realistic that the goal of more connections could be accomplished while addressing community concerns, such as those expressed at the hearing.
Leiderman moved to hold a second public hearing after the commission holds work sessions, and to keep the public record on the plan open until after that hearing is held. That would ensure the public can comment on finer details not yet known, he said. Tyner agreed, and urged citizens to get involved on the issue. Commissioner David Hill recommended the record close one week following the second hearing. Leiderman and Tyner concurred. Leiderman's amended motion passed unanimously.