Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mayor & Council nix dramatic changes for Southlawn industrial area in Rockville

Rockville will likely take a more conservative approach to improving the co-existence of the Southlawn industrial area and the residential neighborhoods that adjoin it than a consultant study recommended. The study provided a range of options from modest to dramatic for review by the Mayor and Council. Last night, there was unanimous agreement on most issues that it is too early to take a radical approach.

Transportation is one of the biggest concerns of residents in East Rockville, especially cut-through traffic. Several residents testified during the Community Forum earlier at last night's meeting that they were displeased with City staff's recommendations to not take more drastic action to curtail such traffic. They noted that neighborhood plans from years ago were already recommending such changes prior to the Southlawn Industrial Area Study.

The Mayor and Council, while seeking further study of the citywide implications of more dramatic options like closing sections of streets, generally felt that more modest measures could have an impact. These could include stricter enforcement of truck traffic restrictions, and more speed cameras on N. Horners Lane.

Regarding potential road network changes, Councilmember Julie Palakovich-Carr said she was "not quite ready to take this one off the table." She asked for further study, including whether adding more direct road connections rather than closing sections of roads might help reduce cut-through traffic. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala did not favor road closures at this time, saying it could actually hurt access for residents by making the neighborhood "one big giant cul-de-sac." He suggested a better approach would be to "make it a real pain to traverse that area," by adding more stop signs and increasing funds in the next budget for traffic enforcement in that area.

Of 10 transportation recommendations, the Mayor and Council ultimately gave the green light to Recommendations 1 through 6. They asked for further study of #7, the potential realignment of Southlawn Lane to straighten the bend north of Lofstrand Lane. Recommendations 7 and 8 were eliminated, and they asked staff to come back with more potential options for #10, long-term changes to the street grid.

The other major decision was whether or not to rezone the public housing development David Scull Courts. Clark Larson, project manager for the City on the Southlawn study, said staff concluded the development's current industrial zoning is not an issue. As public housing, David Scull Courts retains a public use rather than being a private residential development. To rezone it as residential would essentially be a semantic change, rather than a practical one.

"I don't see the need to change the zoning," Pierzchala said. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, Palakovich Carr, Onley, and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg concurred with Pierzchala on leaving David Scull Courts as industrial. They did not favor reducing setbacks between industrial and residential uses where an opaque wall separated the two uses, nor did they want to change zoning for properties in the industrial area at this time.

The formal process of addressing concerns in the Southlawn area began 13 months ago, when the City began a long-asked-for review of community issues there.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how this tract of land looks like Dilbert's tie.