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.