|School sign indicates Maryvale ES|
is nearby proposed self storage site
at First and Taft Streets in Rockville
Siena's attorney, Robert Dalrymple, has previously threatened legal action against the city, should his client's project be stopped. The ZTA appears almost certain to pass, as Mayor Bridget Newton, and Councilmembers Beryl Feinberg and Virginia Onley have spoken in support of it. Feinberg and Onley both stressed Monday evening that, in their view, the ZTA is not targeted toward the Siena project. But passage of the ZTA is the only thing standing in the way of Siena's plans, particularly after the Rockville Planning Commission ruled that there was no legitimate reason to deny the company's proposal last month.
Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr put great weight on the commission's ruling, quoting from each commissioner's remarks during the discussion. Councilmember Tom Moore concurred, saying that while he often disagrees with the commission, he thought the decision was significant. Both warned Monday evening of the potential legal and fiscal consequences passing the ZTA could hold for the city. Moore attempted to grill Feinberg for more detail on what specific data should give the city pause about the potential dangers a self storage facility would pose toward schools and residents. He read from a list of other possible uses for the Taft Street property, including fuel filling station, temporary carnival and adult-oriented establishment, arguing that several on the list posed greater dangers to children and pedestrians than self storage. The meeting grew contentious as Moore pressed Feinberg for specifics. Feinberg later returned the favor, demanding data to back up one of Moore's points, saying, "I'm gonna do to you what you do to me."
As the debate began to circle further into the night, Newton chided Moore, saying, "people don't know when to stop repeating themselves."
Moore offered an amendment to grandfather the Siena project, but it was defeated 3-2, with Newton, Feinberg and Onley opposed. Feinberg suggested making the buffer 500 feet, but withdrew her amendment after staff could not demonstrate advantages in the city requiring the added distance. A third amendment by Moore would have required the city to set aside $3 million dollars in FY2016 for legal fees, which he believed would face the city should the ZTA pass. That measure, too, failed, only drawing support from Palakovich Carr.
Newton said the matter was a public safety issue, which should take priority over fears of legal action. Feinberg concurred, saying, "I'm not going to be intimidated or succumb to fearmongering."
Ultimately, the Mayor and Council voted 3-2 to instruct city staff to draft a final ZTA, and present it at the January 12 Mayor and Council meeting. Moore, who said he is "deeply concerned" about the zoning action, and Palakovich Carr, who lives in East Rockville, were both opposed to the motion.
Photo: Google Maps