Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Move by Chestnut Lodge developer stirs controversy in Rockville

Revised project plan
rendering of
JNP Chestnut Lodge, LLC's
townhome proposal
Developer JNP Chestnut Lodge, LLC has submitted a revised project plan amendment to the City of Rockville for its proposed townhome development at 500 W. Montgomery Avenue. The move has stirred controversy among residents and elected officials alike.

Last week, a City email stated that a revised plan had been submitted, and that the Mayor and Council would potentially vote on it next Monday, June 20. Subsequently, additional City emails were sent out to clarify that the Mayor and Council would instead be discussing "the review process" for the unusual filing. The original amendment failed to achieve majority support from either the Planning Commission or the Mayor and Council.

 It is now up to the City zoning chief to determine what the appropriate process is to follow in this case.

The email confusion, and the apparent fact that the new revised plan was not shared with any of the parties of record by the developer, brought former mayor and current West End Citizens Association President Larry Giammo and Peerless Rockville Executive Director Nancy Pickard out to address the issue during the Community Forum of last night's Mayor and Council meeting.

During Old/New Business later in the meeting, the Mayor and Council discussed the issue further, but no action was taken in terms of voting. One question debated was whether or not the Mayor and Council should seek advice from outside counsel on the matter, or rely on the City Attorney.
Revised site plan, which
drops the number of units
to 6 townhomes
Of what little information is available as of press time, the revised plan reduces the number of townhomes from seven to six. The controversial rear design, including garages, remains intact. Most of the filing simply makes the case for why this plan complies with both the City master plan and historical preservation standards. By removing one unit, the length of the project is slightly reduced horizontally, but still does not resemble the original lodge. Opponents of the townhome plan have argued that the original agreement between the City and the original developer remains in effect, and requires a multifamily condo building. With Chestnut Lodge having burnt down in 2009, their position is that the developer must replace the former mental institution with a building of similar proportions, and with the type of housing units that the agreement was based upon.
Developer's new building
footprint comparison between
townhome proposal (blue dotted
line) and the original
Chestnut Lodge (grey filled area)
The new footprint in the revised plan now increases 10% over the original lodge's. What the next step is, will be determined by the Mayor and Council next Monday evening.

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