Friday, April 24, 2015
Rockville Planning Commission grants schools waiver to hotel converting to senior housing
Commissioner Charles Littlefield expressed concern that the development, while limited to seniors, would impact the city's most overcrowded school, College Gardens ES, if it somehow ever generated any students. Erica Leatham of Ballard Spahr, LLP, the applicant's attorney, said that the only residents under 62 who could live in the building would be caregivers.
One related question to that was, what if sneaky parents try to use the former hotel's address to enroll their kids at College Gardens? Commissioner Jack Leiderman asked if the city could communicate to Montgomery County Public Schools that anyone applying from the address of 1380 Piccard Drive should be rejected by the school system. Staff Liaison Andrew Gunning affirmed that could be done.
Littlefield asked if the applicant intended to operate the housing once it opens. Leatham said it does for the immediate future, but added that it is impossible to speculate about a future transaction a decade down the road.
Commissioner David Hill questioned the demand for senior housing at that location. Leatham said that her own parents had recently applied to the Ingleside senior residence at King Farm, and were told it would be a 5-6 year wait. "There's clearly a pent-up demand," she said. Commissioner Anne Goodman noted that a friend of hers was accepted at Ingleside in only 7 months. Leatham jokingly said she would have to take that up that apparent discrepancy with Ingleside.
Thoughts on the hotel's current parking lot were mixed. Hill felt the opportunity exists to reduce parking in favor of more green space around the building. But Leiderman said that would not be advisable. It turns out there are only 216 parking spaces for the 203 units. That could easily be filled if only 13 residents had two cars. And that does not begin to include parking for caregivers and visitors. If anything, it appears parking would be at a premium.
"I don’t see a lot of seniors who are going to give up driving to live out by 270," Leiderman said, citing the poor access to rapid transit at the site alongside Interstate 270.
Otherwise, commissioners were in agreement on the main points of the waiver request Wednesday night. They voted unanimously to approve the waiver, which required a supermajority for approval. The motion was made by Commissioner John Tyner, and seconded by Goodman.