Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Gaithersburg City Council eases path to approval of Guapo's dining pier at Rio Lakefront

Rio Lakefront continues to pose a major competitive challenge to rival developments in the City of Rockville, with the foundational advantage of free parking. Last night, Gaithersburg's City Council voted 3-2 to shorten the approval process for a proposed dining pier at Guapo's at the popular development off of I-270. Councilmembers Neil Harris, Lisa Henderson, and Robert Wu voted in favor of the expedited process; Councilmembers Jim McNulty and Yamil Hern├índez cast the dissenting votes. The majority voted to approve the first of two options, declaring the pier proposal to be a change of minor effect, and allow the Planning Commission to make the final decision on the matter. Their other option would have been to declare the proposed addition to pose a detrimental impact to the property, which would trigger a longer approval process with a public hearing, and a final vote by the Council.

Opponents, and some who voted in favor, focused on two major concerns. First, the possibility that an increasing number of restaurant tenants would seek to have their own barges on the lake, thereby blocking water views for pedestrians and other tenants. And second, the possible pedestrian conflicts with servers frequently crossing the boardwalk with trays of food.

But the horse has already left the proverbial barn on this issue from a rhetorical and legal standpoint. The Mayor and Council have already approved a similar dining pier for Copper Canyon Grill at the property. Any other tenant could now cry foul with that precedent being set, and the time for hand-wringing about the potential drawbacks was when the original Copper Canyon pier was on the table for debate.

Guapo's supporters, including Mayor Jud Ashman, said they were confident that property owner Peterson Cos. would be capable of policing these questions on its own, and would be unlikely to allow actions that were detrimental to its long-term success. Ashman added that he would like to see more outdoor dining options in the city, in general. It's likely that Peterson will also benefit from higher revenues as more barges are approved, as it will be leasing additional square footage to the tenants in question.


  1. Didn't think it was possible to screw up a fake lake, but Rio's giving it their best shot.

  2. Seems like a bad I idea.