Chicken Out recently moved up Rockville Pike to College Plaza, taking over the old A&W Restaurant. But recently, the parking lot is empty, and no one appears to be inside when I drive past. Yesterday evening, I pulled in during their business hours, and saw no evidence the restaurant was open. But no sign is posted to tell potential customers what is going on.
If the restaurant has closed, hopefully a fast food chain that doesn't currently have a restaurant in Montgomery County will move in, and make use of that drive-thru (Chicken Out did not use the drive-thru, but it is still there).
A change in Rockville policy could give the city's Public Works Director broader, but more defined, authority to determine parking and - in practice - throughput on roads in Business Districts. Some on the Montgomery County Council have sought similar power to slow down traffic, but in many cases those county roads are actually controlled by the State Highway Administration.
Part of an increasingly nationwide effort to reduce speeds, the objective is not always purely about public safety. For some, it is sincerely a safety or business development issue. A few proponents are part of the "war on cars," who seek to make driving as painful as possible, in the hopes of forcing drivers to "get out of their cars," and use public transit. Others include developers seeking to maximize development potential of properties along busy roads and highways, such as Rockville Pike. Plans for outdoor cafes on the curbside of roads where cars rush by have, understandably, sounded quite preposterous. Seeking to lower the embarrassment level for themselves, many have seized upon the idea of taking control of those roads, and forcing traffic to slow to 25 MPH (or even 10 MPH, in New York City). That concept is specifically being floated for state roads in the White Flint area, as well as for parts of Georgia Avenue, to name a few.
One Rockville street targeted by the potential new policy is N. Washington Street. Under the proposed policy, it could become a two-lane road with street parking. Should N. Washington Street become a 2-lane crawlspace like Maryland Avenue? A potential problem, which of course is the source of much traffic on N. Washington, is that it functions as a bypass or parallel route for MD 355. It is also an alternative route to reaching parts of the town center area. Snarled capacity on N. Washington could have a direct and negative effect on 355 traffic.
Public Works Director Craig Simoneau told the Mayor and Council Monday evening that the new policy would actually better define his existing powers to make road classification and parking decisions. Mayor Bridget Newton expressed concern that these decisions not be removed from the discretion of the city's elected officials. Simoneau argued that he currently possesses more leeway on these matters, and that a new policy would clarify his authority.
Early election returns show County Executive Ike Leggett and all Montgomery County Council incumbents prevailed in Tuesday's election. In the open seat races, things weren't quite so predictable.
In District 3, unseemly ageism attacks on Gaithersburg Mayor Sid Katz by the Washington Post, and other allies of his primary opponents, appear to have backfired - big time. Katz is squarely in the lead for Phil Andrews' old council seat, and the few voters who turned out Tuesday clearly voted for name recognition, and steady, experienced leadership over youthful exuberance. That said, with the unofficial defeat of current city councilmember Tom Moore, Rockville lost the opportunity to have a city resident on the county council.
Katz will be unopposed in the November election, meaning he will be a de facto councilmember-elect once voting results are final.
All Democratic At-Large councilmembers appear to have won their primary race, although the vote totals of challenger Beth Daly and incumbent George Leventhal were what passed for drama Tuesday evening.
Here are the standings as of early this morning:
Guled Kassim 458
Sid Katz 5,578
Tom Moore 4,527
Ryan Spiegel 3,074
(no Republican candidate in District 3)
Beth Daly 36,787
Marc Elrich 53,394
Nancy Floreen 49,094
George Leventhal 42,835
Vivian Malloy 23,829
Hans Riemer 46,473
Robert Dyer 10,283
Chris Fiotes 9,586
Adol T. Owen-Williams II 9,474
Shelly Skolnick 9,794
Rockville residents had the opportunity to address the Mayor and Council on the proposed lengthening of 2-year elected terms to 4 years at a public hearing last night. A majority of city voters supported the proposal on last November's ballot. Far fewer turned out to speak at the hearing Monday night at City Hall.
Former city councilmember Mark Pierzchala testified in favor of the change, but lamented the "construct" of the less than 17% of registered voters who voted speaking for the other 83%. Pierzchala, an expert on surveys and statistics, urged the mayor and council to put a second issue - moving city elections to presidential years - back on the ballot again in 2015. That particular calendar change was rejected by city voters in 2013. This time, Pierzchala suggested, the ballot question language should include a statement explaining the benefit intended by the initiative's supporters - namely, increasing voter turnout.
Resident Joe Jordan, who served on the Rockville Charter Review Commission, noted that the majority of voters who didn't turn out last November had the same chance to vote as those who did. Jordan also spoke in support of 4-year terms Monday night.
Twinbrook Civic Association President Christina Ginsberg was more skeptical of the change. Ginsberg said elected officials' efforts to avoid frequent elections, and put forward additional changes that would favor incumbents, were "very dangerous." She recommended the council take the opposite approach, and make changes that would reduce the advantages of incumbency. Such changes, she said, could motivate new challengers to run. Ginsberg mentioned several ideas, including public financing, campaign finance reform, and a limit on how many mailings city candidates could send out.
Another resident, who lives in the Rockshire neighborhood, said she and her husband specifically chose to move to Rockville 37 years ago for its frequent elections, which she believed made municipal government more accountable.
The Mayor and Council are now expected to act on the change to 4 year terms, on the basis of voters' recommendation last November.
Adventist HealthCare's urgent care facility, Centra Care, has posted a coming soon sign at its future home on Rockville Pike. The no-wait, no-reservation clinic is expected to open in late 2014 at 750 Rockville Pike.
Artist rendering of the future Centra Care urgent care center
Top photo: RockvilleNights.com Bottom photo courtesy Adventist HealthCare
It's time to try out the second of 3 mystery Doritos Jacked "test flavors." This time, it's the yellow-label Doritos Jacked Test Flavor 404. The ingredients include molasses, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and two kinds of citrus. What does that add up to?
Watch my review and find out! Plus our expert tells us what he's doing to get ready for the World Cup games.
The Rockville Planning Commission delayed its scheduled vote on the new Rockville Pike master plan at last night's meeting, in order to give the Mayor and Council, the public, and other interested parties time to study the finished draft. Given that an official transmission of the draft would trigger a 60-day review by the Mayor and Council, several commissioners expressed concern that summer would not afford the maximum time and attention to review of the document.
Following two hours of discussion, the commission voted unanimously on 3 straw votes, worded by commissioners David Hill and Jack Leiderman. The first vote was to direct the planning department to draw attention to the publication of the final draft plan on the city website. Second was to delay the formal vote in order to allow all interested parties time to review the many changes to the final draft. A final vote asked the Mayor and Council to provide "timely" advice regarding the timeframe in which it is prepared to begin the formal 60-day review process. This would likely include at least one public hearing.
Planning staff sought a more formal directive from the commission, but Assistant City Attorney Marcy Waxman backed the commissioners' decision to rely on a straw vote. Several commissioners said they wanted to avoid any sort of formal vote before giving elected officials a chance to review the plan. Now the exact calendar will be determined by the Mayor and Council's response to the commission's action. Commission chair Don Hadley requested the planning staff assist him in drafting a communication to the Mayor and Council regarding the body's decision.
Commissioner Dion Trahan expressed some disappointment in the delay of the plan's approval, saying enough feedback had already been received on the plan. "I have to work in the summer," he added, suggesting the vacation season shouldn't impact the work of city officials. He and Commissioner Charles Littlefield both stated that municipal governments need to be efficient in their land-use decisions. Leiderman noted that many significant changes had been made, and that all affected parties needed sufficient time to review what is essentially a new document.
The next move will be determined by the Mayor and Council. It certainly makes sense, given that it is difficult to get any meaningful public participation during the summer vacation months.
What's left? Not much. The demolition of the historic Suburban Trust Building at 255 N. Washington Street may well be the most shameful land-use decision by the city since its disastrous "urban renewal" of the 1960s. Virtually the entire historic downtown was demolished back then, in contrast to Maryland cities like Frederick and Hagerstown, who have maintained their original downtowns as desirable assets. This recent demolition was opposed by Rockville's Historic District Commission, as well as by historic preservationists in the city.
The demise of the "Pink Bank" not only cost Rockville a rare example of New Formalist architecture, and a historic building that represented the primacy of the suburban lifestyle that defines Rockville. It also eliminated the "sense of place" developers often cite facetiously. Whether you liked the Pink Bank, or not, you knew exactly where you were when you passed it. The same cannot be said of the cookie-cutter town centers around the DC area, with few exceptions. All the same restaurants, shops and indistinguishable architecture leave the visitor puzzled and unimpressed. Why go "there," when all the same stuff is "here?"
Construction workers were busy in the lobby, but some major outdoor work had already been accomplished at the soon-to-open EVEN Hotel on Rockville Pike. Permanent signage has now been installed, so this is how it will appear to busy travelers driving along the Pike (MD 355).
The completely-renovated hotel at 1775 Rockville Pike was most recently known as the Legacy Hotel. Now Rockville has bragging rights to one of the first EVEN hotels in the country, a new IHG brand marketed as upscale lodging for health-conscious travelers. A second hotel, Cambria Suites, is currently under construction in Rockville Town Center.
A demolition request will be among many items on the agenda of the Rockville Historic District Commission on Thursday, June 19. Applicant Ni Linmei is asking for permission to demolish a structure at 215 North Van Buren Street. That appears to be a single-family home between Beale and Dawson Avenues, in Rockville's West End.
The meeting will begin at 7:30 PM in the Mayor and Council Chambers at City Hall.
The Rockville Planning Commission will vote next Wednesday on its final recommendation to the Mayor and Council regarding the Rockville Pike Plan. That discussion and vote will take place during the Commission's meeting at 7:30 PM, June 18, in the council chambers at City Hall.
Prior to that, however, the Commission will meet in executive session to obtain legal advice on master plan processes. That 7:00 PM session, in the Diamondback Terrapin Conference Room, will not be open to the public. The 7:30 session, is open to the public, and will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 11.
Montgomery County will form 2 Rockville Bus Rapid Transit advisory panels later this summer, and if you are a resident or businessperson concerned about the impact of BRT in Rockville, you should get ready to apply. Now.
Currently, there is no funding for construction of the controversial BRT system. But the preliminary Master Plan was rammed through last year by the County Council, and these advisory panels are one of the requirements set forth by that plan.
The potential BRT system would greatly impact traffic in Rockville, as well as the implementation of any Rockville Pike plans passed by the Mayor and Council.
If you have an interest in shaping BRT in Rockville should it go forward, contact Tom Pogue of the county Department of Transportation at 240-777-7170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taco Bell's newest menu item is the limited-time-only Quesarito. Available in beef, chicken and steak variations, the Taco Bell Quesarito includes Latin rice, chipotle sauce, reduced-fat sour cream, and melted cheeses, all wrapped in a grilled quesadilla.
Essentially a burrito wrapped in a quesadilla, the Quesarito is $1.99 at Taco Bell on Rockville Pike.
You've had a chance to be heard once at the polls; now you'll have a second chance to speak to the question of whether or not Rockville's mayor and council should serve 2 or 4 year terms. The current 2-year term has provided voters with greater power to hold elected officials accountable swiftly for their actions. Many have suggested that 2-year terms are too short to maintain momentum, and follow through on big initiatives.
53.5% of Rockville voters expressed a preference to adopt 4-year terms during last November's city elections.
Residents can speak at a public hearing during the Monday, June 23 Mayor and Council Meeting, at 7:00 PM, in the Mayor and Council chambers at Rockville City Hall.
The Upton luxury apartments and Cambria Suites hotel have substantially risen skyward since my last update. Here are the latest photos from the construction site at East Middle Lane, in Rockville Town Center. Some of the first glass has been installed on the lower floors (click on photos to enlarge for greater detail):
The future New York Mart grocery store in College Plaza on MD 355 has posted another "Coming Soon" sign. But nothing has changed inside the former Magruder's grocery store yet, in terms of renovations or upgrades for the new store. Stay tuned!
Zhang Asian Cuisine, a new restaurant replacing the old Chicken Out at 1560 Rockville Pike, has installed its permanent signage. Meanwhile, work continues on the interior of the restaurant, which is a good-size space. Zhang will offer Chinese and Thai cuisine, as well as sushi.
Italian restaurant Oro Pomodoro, one of the original tenants of Rockville Town Square, recently closed. In the window, you can see a message from the Montgomery County Sheriff's office ordering the business to vacate. Another sign said the restaurant would reopen June 1. However, that was yesterday, and the restaurant remained closed.