Showing posts with label Rockville planning commission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rockville planning commission. Show all posts

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rockville Planning Commission reopens building height discussion in Rockville Pike Plan

The Rockville Planning Commission last night reopened discussion of perhaps the thorniest element in the draft Rockville Pike Plan, building heights. Commissioner Jack Leiderman expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the draft's current language on height. He noted that both the previous 1989 Pike Plan, and the Rockville zoning code, measure building heights in feet. The draft plan, in contrast, speaks of height in stories.

"Part of it is transparency," Leiderman explained, suggesting that the public would be fooled in regard to the actual heights that could end up on the Pike. A building described as "7 stories" could actually be the height equivalent of 12 stories, should the current draft language pass, Leiderman said.

Commissioner David Hill said the difference would be more aesthetic than a notable change in density. But Leiderman said that the height in feet was important, as it would have practical impacts such as permanent shadows, delay in ice melting, and incompatibility with the residential character of adjoining single-family home neighborhoods.

"I want a maximum expressed in feet even if we're using stories," Leiderman said. He added that he would prefer a cap on heights that would require developers to get permission to build taller, rather than simply give that height away "by right" to every project.

Some commissioners also suggested the visual chart on building heights was less-than-transparent, as well. Don Hadley, whose term as Chair of the commission ended last night, said that apparently "the intent was to avoid shock value" by not showing the highest building height possible. "I favor reviewing the issue," he added, and concurred with Leiderman's suggestion of a hybrid story/feet/cap model for heights.

"Is it the will of the Commission to revisit heights?" asked David Levy, Rockville's Chief of Long Range Planning.

New commission chair Charles Littlefield called a straw vote on the question. Commissioners narrowly voted 3-2-2 to reopen the height discussion. Planner Cindy Kebba said staff would come back with several alternative height schemes at a future meeting. Staff liaison Andrew Gunning advised commissioners that their schedule in the months ahead is growing increasingly tight, making it difficult to fit in the unexpected further discussion on the plan. He said there may be time at one of the February meetings to hold further discussion on heights.

Leiderman requested staff include a new visual chart of actual maximum building heights, to compare with the draft version.  He said he suspected it "would look quite different" from what's currently being shown.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rockville Planning Commission grants schools waiver to hotel converting to senior housing

The Rockville Planning Commission granted a schools waiver from the city's Adequate Public Facilities Standards to the Quality Suites hotel that is converting into senior housing. Located at 1380 Piccard Drive, the 219-room hotel will become a 203-unit senior housing development. No exterior changes are planned for the building.

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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Choice Hotels requests street name change in Rockville Town Center

Choice Hotels is requesting permission from the Rockville Planning Commission to change the name of Renaissance Street, which is the current address for its Cambria Suites hotel that will soon open across from Rockville Town Square. The hospitality chain, which is also headquartered across the street from the hotel, has suggested the following possible names for the street:

Bainum Way, Quality Court, Gatsby Way, or Convergence Avenue

Gatsby Way would seem to have the most logical connection to Rockville. However, city staff is recommending against Gatsby, stating that there is already a street named "Gatsby" in the county. It cites the zoning ordinance forbidding name duplication of streets already existent in the county.

The other most logical name, to my mind, would be Quality Court - named after an earlier Choice Hotel brand, Quality Courts. That is a bit of a relic of the 1970s and earlier, but does have a connection to the company. But that, too, has been rejected by city staff, who argue that the street will not technically be a "court," causing driver confusion.

Staff is recommending Bainum Way or Convergence Avenue. Bainum refers to Choice founder Stewart Bainum, and the staff memo suggests Convergence is symbolic for the "coming together of activities in Town Center."

Renaissance apparently fell out of favor with Choice, as it is a brand associated with a competing chain of hotels.

The matter will be taken up by the Commission at its April 22 meeting at 7:00 PM at City Hall. You may recall the Commission rejected an earlier attempt by Choice to rename part of E. Middle Lane as "Choice Hotels Lane" in 2011.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Rockville hotel switching to senior housing requests APFS waiver (Photo)

The Quality Suites at 1380 Piccard Drive wants to convert its building into senior housing, and has requested a waiver from Rockville's Adequate Public Facilities Standards requirements. Under their plan, the 219 room hotel would become a 203-unit seniors-only (age 62+) apartment building.

Their development application was approved by the city's planning chief, Jim Wasilak, on January 10. Because no exterior changes are being made to the building, the Chief of Planning was the approving authority in that case.

However, the applicant must obtain a minimum of 5 approving votes from the Planning Commission to receive the APFS waiver. Based on the current APFS standards, city planner Nicole Walters says the applicant is eligible for the waiver. The rules allow exemptions for "age-restricted residential uses."

The commission will take up the waiver request at its April 8 meeting, at 7:00 PM in City Hall.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


The developer of 1900 Chapman Avenue, a delayed project with an extension due to expire this August, is formally requesting a rules change that would lengthen extensions to a year.

Currently, the term is six months. The applicant is also requesting a change in how extension dates are calculated when a project is in an appeals process and/or litigation, as 1900 Chapman was.

City development staff are recommending approval of the changes, with conditions, at the March 11 meeting of the Rockville Planning Commission. The public will be allowed to testify for or against the proposed changes at the meeting, which will be held at 7:00 PM at City Hall.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The Rockville Planning Commission tonight will take up a Zoning Text Amendment requested by the Mayor and Council that would streamline the process by which a Sectional Map Amendment could be filed for a historic property. Instead of having the Historic District Commission forward a recommendation to the Mayor and Council for approval, the HDC could file it directly. A public hearing would still be held by the Mayor and Council before a final decision would be made.

Tonight's meeting will also continue the discussion of the Rockville Master Plan scope of work. It will be held at 7:00 PM in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall. The meeting will also be broadcast live on Rockville Channel 11, and streamed on the city website.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Ahead of a February 2 discussion and February 9 vote by Rockville's Mayor and Council on the proposed changes to school capacity standards in the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the Rockville Planning Commission approved a memo expressing its opinion on the matter. The opinion is advisory to the Mayor and Council, separate from the actual legislation that will be voted upon on February 9. The memo was approved at Wednesday night's meeting.

In discussing the memo's final draft, prepared by Commissioners Charles Littlefield and Anne Goodman, some changes were suggested. Goodman and Commissioner Jack Leiderman agreed that a line proposing the city fully adopt the Montgomery County APFS, if the school standards were changed, should be eliminated. Leiderman said it would be preferable for the Mayor and Council to make changes in that event, rather than require automatic adoption of the County policy in whole.

Chair Don Hadley informed his colleagues that a pending Maryland court case could require delay of the city requesting an "authoritative interpretation" from the state's Attorney General's office on whether the Mayor and Council indeed have the authority to change the APFS. He said an Anne Arundel County case pending before the State Court of Appeals will determine if a jurisdiction can "have laws passed by the legislative body that are inconsistent with the Master Plan."

The case will involve the legal standing of a citizens association to challenge something inconsistent with a Master Plan. And how "inconsistent" is defined, Hadley said.

Hadley advised that requesting an opinion from Attorney General Brian Frosh be put on hold until the court rules in the Anne Arundel case, or else "we'd be asking the AG to get ahead of the court." He suggested the Attorney General could then issue an opinion. Hadley noted that the Attorney General's brief in the case reflects his office's Fall 2014 opinion that has raised the question of whether or not the Mayor and Council have the power to change school standards.

Commissioner John Tyner questioned if Commissioner David Hill's previous concern that the school changes might be unconstitutional should be written in authoritative language, or by stating the commission believes there is a chance it might be. Tyner suggested "may well be unconstitutional" for the language. The commission's "resident expert", Commissioner Dion Trahan, said that the argument wouldn't "hold water," in his professional opinion. Trahan holds a graduate degree in Constitutional law. No clear final language was stated aloud on that point.

Hill moved that the document be adopted and transmitted to the Mayor and Council by today. The memo was unanimously approved by the commission.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


The more Rockville's Planning Commissioners analyze and discuss the proposed changes to school capacity standards in the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the less convinced they are of the wisdom in adopting them. Several commissioners have expressed doubt that the proposal to adopt Montgomery County's weaker 120% overcrowding cap - and assess capacity by cluster rather than by individual school - is necessary, viable, or even Constitutional.

"I would actually contend that it’s a violation of your Constitutional rights to equal protection when it comes to public schools," to measure capacity by cluster, Commissioner David Hill argued. Hill found it ironic that many MCPS policies are "based on that specific premise." Adopting the proposed changes would be "incredible. Criminal? Yeah, I suppose, if you violate someone’s Constitutional rights," Hill concluded. The matter is "a question of principle," he said.

Commissioner Jack Leiderman noted that the current language exempting senior housing from traffic standards would allow an automobile-dependent mega-retirement community the size of Leisure World to be built in the City of Rockville, and still be exempt from the standards - an oversight Leiderman described as "mind-numbingly stupid." "I think you have a good logical point about that, it makes sense," Hill concurred.

Leiderman went on to demolish the case that proponents of the changes have made on several points.

"It basically eliminates everything that the city had put into place to more accurately count school demand," he said, removing "the protection that it gave city residents." Alluding to the obvious developer support for the proposal, Leiderman suggested passage of the legislation would be "basically a complete deregulation of the development industry in the city."

Language that would allow extension of queue dates for individual developments was too weak to account for the fact that a developer could always claim that lack of school construction funds from the state of Maryland were an issue. Leiderman predicted developers could exploit that "ad infinitum. The way this is constructed, you’ve got all this language in here that looks like we’re doing something, when in fact we’re not doing squat to protect the schools, or the citizens, if this unfortunate piece of legislation were to pass," Leiderman said. "Eloquently put," Commissioner John Tyner seconded.

Use of the MCPS 5-year test and cluster averaging will be "an elaborate shell game” to cover-up the overcrowding of city schools, Leiderman said. It's the "distorting effect of cluster averaging and the 5-year test" that allows MCPS to currently run schools at 180% capacity, even when it claims a 120% cap exists. Faced with development moratoriums, Leiderman said, MCPS will cite "paper schools" where there will be capacity in 5 years. But it’s a "fictitious school" that never actually gets built, while the proposed development does. Under that scenario, "you’re not even adopting a 120 - you’re not even adopting a 180," Leiderman argued.

Citing City Councilmember Tom Moore's recent grilling of his colleagues who oppose the changes, Leiderman found a double standard on the use of data. "The leading proponent of this legislation was sort of torturing his colleagues recently about their positions not being data-driven, and I had to just laugh out loud. Because this is not only not data-driven, but it’s ignoring the data that we have, which says that the schools that operate under this are in horrible condition," Leiderman recalled. Echoing the argument of Mayor Bridget Newton, Leiderman made the case that the current APFS standards have succeeded in not only protecting Rockville students from overcrowding worse than today's, but have actually resulted in new schools getting built. "We in fact have [new schools] coming online…ahead of a lot of the other areas in the county, despite" the APFO. He said that fact suggests "the impetus behind [changing the APFS] is extraordinarily specious, and unsupported by the data. I wish that the people who are behind this would actually tell us the real reason why they want this to happen."

Tyner implored the city to consider the impact on core facilities at schools, not just classrooms. "Beall no longer has playgrounds anywhere, neither does Twinbrook," Tyner noted. Core facilities are "the things that really determine if kids get a good education or not," Tyner said. "We’re only talking about classrooms."

One other interesting point not often brought up is that tying city standards to the County would leave Rockville bound to any future changes MCPS would make to its current standards, for better or for worse. Senior Assistant City Attorney Marcy Waxman confirmed that would be the case, after Commissioner Charles Littlefield questioned why the language couldn't be simpler in noting that link.

The Mayor and Council are currently scheduled to act on the proposal in early February, and residents can speak on the matter at a public hearing this coming Monday.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The Rockville Planning Commission voted 5-1 Wednesday night to recommend the Mayor and Council drop a proposed Zoning Text Amendment regarding self storage businesses. Commissioner Charles Littlefield cast the lone dissenting vote.

Self Storage facilities have been a hot button issue in recent months, as neighbors of a potential such facility fought plans to build one near Maryvale Elementary School. The attorney representing that EZ Storage project, Bob Dalrymple, warned commissioners that his client would pursue other avenues if they approved of the ZTA.

The sense that the ZTA was targeting the EZ Storage project ultimately led to its dismissal by the commission. A majority of commissioners found that the ZTA was too narrowly targeted, was arbitrary, and did not provide an adequate public process to sort the matter out.


The Rockville Planning Commission voted unanimously last night to oppose proposed changes in the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance regarding school capacity standards. Some on the city council are in favor of replacing the current school standards with those used by Montgomery County. The changes would include averaging school populations over a cluster, rather than measuring overcrowding at each individual school, as the current Rockville standard does.

Commission Chair Don Hadley reiterated his previous remarks that the recent legal opinion handed down by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler suggests the Mayor and Council lack the authority to change the APFS school standards. Hadley said they and the commission "need to find out what the rules of the road are," before changing the standards. Commissioner John Tyner said the recommendations of the city's APFO Committee a couple of years back - to implement no changes to the Rockville school standards - were forwarded by the Planning Commission to the Mayor and Council. "My opinion has not changed on that," he added.

There was a sense among some commissioners that something fishy is going on, and that the proposed changes are being pushed behind the scenes for an unstated purpose. "I'm fearful something non-transparent is going on that should be made transparent," Commissioner David Hill said. Commissioner Jack Leiderman said the demand for changes is certainly not coming from the city's residents. "Whenever there has been a proposal to weaken the APFO, this room has been filled to capacity" with citizens opposing the change, Leiderman noted. He said the January 5 date for the APFO public hearing - during holiday vacations - appeared to have been "frankly, chosen to minimize" public input.

Hill said he welcomed a "vibrant public debate" on school standards, but agreed that January 5 was not particularly conducive to having one. He reiterated Tyner's point that the commission had already spoken to the school matter by forwarding the committee report to the Mayor and Council. "I am not ready to change" school standards, Hill said. He said other jurisdictions in the state have used Rockville's 2005 APFO standards as a model, and therefore, the authority issue is very appropriate for Gansler to address at this juncture. Commissioner Anne Goodman concurred that the city should get a legal opinion from Gansler before acting on the APFS. "We have a legal uncertainty," Hadley said. "It leaves us in a very tenuous position."

Leiderman suggested the commission go on the public record regarding the controversial January 5 public hearing, and send a formal letter to the Mayor and Council. Hill said he agreed "it's the Planning Commission's place to make a recommendation."

Hill prepared language for a commission resolution that would reiterate the body's support of the 2012 APFO committee recommendations. He said they should emphasize to the Mayor and Council that those recommendations were "the product of a citizen committee that spent many hours" studying the complex issues related to adequate public facilities. Leiderman argued the commission should add one element missing from the committee recommendations, namely, to affirm that 110% of capacity is the maximum allowable in a particular school. He also said that passing the proposed changes would not be a mere alteration of regulations, but a de facto repeal of the APFO - an act that would require a text amendment. Leiderman warned that the county has even considered raising its weaker standard to a higher level of acceptable overcrowding - which would leave Rockville's schools well over the 120% county standard.

Ultimately, the commissioners came to a unanimous recommendation that the Mayor and Council should not change school standards at this time. 

Meanwhile, former mayor Larry Giammo posted a second article on his blog regarding the APFO controversy. Giammo was mayor when the city passed the original ordinance, which several commissioners argued last night is clearly working to prevent further school overcrowding. This latest post is devoted to debunking the stated rationales for loosening school standards in Rockville.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Rockville Planning Commission Chair Don Hadley dropped a bombshell in the heated debate over the future of the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance/Standards last night. During his annual presentation on city planning and development, Hadley touched on the APFO issue. Just as some councilmembers are prepared to loosen school overcrowding restrictions on development, Hadley cited a recent legal opinion by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler that suggests they lack the authority to do so.

The opinion resulted from a 2011 request by the Mount Airy Town Council to settle the question of whether the council could amend or change a comprehensive plan or plan element formulated by the town's planning commission. The council and its attorney believed it could. "Respectfully, we disagree," Gansler wrote back in his November 18, 2014 opinion.

Based upon Sections 3-202 and 3-205 of the Maryland Code’s Land Use Article, the 2012 Code Revision notes, and his review of legislative history, Gansler concluded the council lacked the legal authority to change a planning commission plan or plan element without receiving a new recommendation from the planning commission. Gansler's opinion argued that the council could only approve or disapprove of a plan, not alter it.

The opinion does not apply to counties or Baltimore City, but does apply to municipalities like Rockville.

Accordingly, Hadley suggested at last night's Mayor and Council meeting, the APFS changes proposed by some councilmembers are in conflict with both the current Rockville Master Plan, and also state land-use laws.

Councilmember Tom Moore, an advocate for changing the APFS school standards, vigorously disagreed. "You made a pretty bold claim," Moore charged, saying that Rockville City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel had concluded the opinion did not apply to the APFS change "because it's not a Master Plan item." 

But Daniel's legal opinion has not been made public, and - under Mayor and Council privilege - must remain secret unless the Mayor and Council waive their right to confidentiality. Hadley asked if the city attorney's decision would remain "under a rock" where the public cannot review it.

Mayor Bridget Newton and a majority of the council said they were willing to waive their legal right to confidentiality, although Moore raised the question of whether there were any negative implications for the city in doing so. The APFS issue "is on a fast train, and four of us have asked you" to make the decision public, Newton said to Daniel.

Daniel agreed to make her opinion public, but it is not known how soon it will be released as of this writing.

An extra dash of intrigue has now been added to the debate, which had tensions high all evening. Near the meeting's end, Newton and Moore clashed on a labor relations item being added to a future agenda. Moore opposed the item, interjecting repeatedly. "Councilmember Moore, you are out of order," Newton said firmly, as Moore continued to protest.

Hadley said that, as chair of the commission, "I'm a dummy if I sit here and watch" the APFS matter be resolved by the council, if it has no legal authority to do so. He pointed to the city's master plan language and state land use rules, both of which explicitly emphasize that school capacity must be provided to support new development. The Mayor and Council should ask Gansler for an opinion on their authority to tamper with the APFS before doing so, Hadley suggested.

"I wouldn't mess with the APFS until the Attorney General rules," Hadley advised. "The city doesn't want me to do this, but we've got to do it."

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Two current hot-button issues will come up during the next Rockville Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, December 10, at 7:00 PM. Commissioners and staff members Jim Wasilak and Deane Mellender will discuss the Adequate Public Facilities Standards changes proposed by the Mayor and Council. The commission will also take public testimony on a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) that would prohibit the construction of self-storage facilities on land within 250 feet of a public school.

This comes during a major controversy over an EZ-Storage facility that is proposed to be built near Maryvale Elementary School in Rockville.

Two townhome projects that would add a total of 129 housing units to King Farm will also be reviewed. Those project sites are located at 900 and 901 King Farm Boulevard.

The meeting will be held in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall, and also broadcast live on Channel 11.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


The new building would be
on the site of the parking lot
pictured at upper left
The Rockville Planning Commission is recommending the Mayor and Council reject proposed changes to the second phase of the Duball project in Rockville Town Center. Duball has filed a request to nearly double the number of units in its planned apartment building at 198 E. Montgomery Avenue from 222 to 400, while reducing parking by 25%. The building would rise on the second half of the former city parking lot in front of the Regal Cinemas.

Commissioners were convinced it was too much, too soon for Rockville Town Center. Chair Don Hadley said he would not necessarily oppose the change at a later date, but not at this stage of the town center's development. One central question was whether the nature of the town center has been fully defined or realized yet. It seems to be primarily a dining destination right now, and just how urban it should become - compared to Bethesda, for example - is not yet determined, in Hadley's assessment. Parking is felt to remain a concern in town center, and was the developer's albatross at last night's meeting.

Ultimately, the Commission voted 4-1 to recommend non-approval of the request, with the motion being made by Commissioner Jack Leiderman. Commissioner John Tyner, the lone dissenting member, argued that the increased density would be essential to the commercial viability of Rockville Town Center. Several tenants have vacated, or been evicted from, Rockville Town Square over the last few months. Some have blamed rising rents, while others feel the parking situation is responsible, relative to the free and easy parking offered by nearby competition like Rio/Washingtonian Center.

Duball's phase 1 project is already under construction across from the proposed new building site, featuring The Upton apartments, and a Cambria Suites hotel.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


A new parking garage at Montgomery College's Rockville campus will be among the agenda items when the Rockville Planning Commission resumes its work on September 10 at 7 PM at City Hall.

The proposed garage will rise above existing Lot 4 on the northern side of the community college campus, and will be open to visitors, students and faculty members. There is no map of the precise location, or rendering of what the garage will look like, currently attached to the agenda online.

Friday, August 8, 2014


The Rockville Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend the Mayor and Council approve a Zoning Text Amendment allowing drive-thru restaurants at hotels on major highways in the MXE zone. That ZTA would facilitate a proposal by Potomac Foods Group to construct a new Burger King restaurant in front of the Red Roof Inn on Shady Grove Road.

Other hotels in the MXE zone whose properties have 200 feet of a major highway along their property frontage would also qualify for a drive-thru restaurant, should the Mayor and Council approve the ZTA.

A public hearing on the ZTA is scheduled for September 15.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


A large local Burger King franchisee is seeking to build a new, drive-thru location at the Red Roof Inn on Shady Grove Road. To allow this to happen, Potomac Foods Group must first obtain a zoning text amendment from the Rockville Planning Commission, to permit construction of a restaurant with drive-thru facilities on a hotel property in the MXE zone. Phew! And they said zoning was going to be simpler... The zoning change would alter the current language that forbids drive-thru restaurants in MXE zones, making it a "conditional" permitted use hereafter.

If successful, the ZTA would permit other hotels in MXE zones throughout Rockville with a minimum of 200 feet of a major highway along an existing hotel's property frontage, and which has frontage onto a major arterial road at its front line. In addition to the Red Roof Inn, this might also extend to the Crowne Plaza, the Sleep Inn at Shady Grove, Courtyard by Marriott, Quality Suites, and the Best Western. All of these are near the I-270 corridor in Rockville.

I think this should be permitted to go forward for several reasons. First, the use in this case is entirely consistent with the general commercial nature of Shady Grove Road. And those existing properties are designed with automobile access in mind. Second, a drive-thru Burger King has already been in operation there on the other side of the road. Third, it provides a convenient amenity for the Red Roof Inn. Fourth, the location is right off of I-270, which will bring travelers into Rockville, where they might see other businesses and spend further money in the city. It could also be pointed out that this location would not require a U-turn for those exiting 270 to reach. Fifth, despite the best efforts of county politicians to drive fast food restaurants out of the county, drive-thru fast food establishments remain highly appropriate for suburban and exurban areas (and even in urban areas).

Should it be built, I know I'll be a customer there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


A car wash, senior housing and a controversial parking reduction request for Rockville Town Center Phase II are among the items on the agenda at Wednesday night's meeting of the Rockville Planning Commission.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is seeking permission to construct a car wash behind its current facility.

A 7-story multifamily building for seniors and the disabled is proposed by Shelter Development, LLC. The developer is asking for several waivers - to allow the rooftop deck to extend beyond the wall of the building, to add 2 above-ground electrical transformers, and an exemption from the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for school requirements. That latter request is due to the planned demographics of the residents. However, projects built as "senior housing" have been known to later shift to being all-ages apartments.

Item #2, the parking reduction request by Hungerford Retail II, LLC, could prove the most interesting of the meeting. The town center project's waiver request imploded during its initial presentation to commissioners this spring, and left the applicant subject to what the body's chairman later described as a "horsewhipping."

The meeting begins at 7:00 PM in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall, and will be broadcast live on Channel 11.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Developer Federal Realty requested a deferral for its Crest II apartments site plan, after the matter was discussed by the Rockville Planning Commission last night. Commissioner David Hill moved to allow the deferral to the commission's first August meeting; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Jack Leiderman, and approved 6-0 by the commission.

The plan was originally scheduled to be presented for approval at last night's meeting.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


A Federal Realty proposal to construct an apartment building at E. Jefferson Street and Halpine Road, by Congressional Plaza, is the main item on the agenda at tonight's meeting of the Rockville Planning Commission. The meeting will begin at 7:00 PM in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall, and will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 11.

The 5-story, stick-built project will hold 49 apartments, and an at-grade parking facility for 26 vehicles. Overflow parking is planned to be accommodated on the existing surface lot adjacent to the building.

Because the development does not meet or exceed 50% of the site's development, the project is exempt from updated stormwater, forestry, art and public space requirements. Federal Realty also proposes to correct a flawed loading dock ingress on Halpine Road during the project, making it easier for tractor-trailers to maneuver when making deliveries.

Any children in the development enrolled in Montgomery County Public Schools will attend Farmland Elementary School, Tilden Middle School, and Walter Johnson High School.

It appears the project will be called Crest II, a nod to The Crest, an existing residential building at Congressional Plaza.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The Rockville Planning Commission delayed its scheduled vote on the new Rockville Pike master plan at last night's meeting, in order to give the Mayor and Council, the public, and other interested parties time to study the finished draft. Given that an official transmission of the draft would trigger a 60-day review by the Mayor and Council, several commissioners expressed concern that summer would not afford the maximum time and attention to review of the document.

Following two hours of discussion, the commission voted unanimously on 3 straw votes, worded by commissioners David Hill and Jack Leiderman. The first vote was to direct the planning department to draw attention to the publication of the final draft plan on the city website. Second was to delay the formal vote in order to allow all interested parties time to review the many changes to the final draft. A final vote asked the Mayor and Council to provide "timely" advice regarding the timeframe in which it is prepared to begin the formal 60-day review process. This would likely include at least one public hearing.

Planning staff sought a more formal directive from the commission, but Assistant City Attorney Marcy Waxman backed the commissioners' decision to rely on a straw vote. Several commissioners said they wanted to avoid any sort of formal vote before giving elected officials a chance to review the plan. Now the exact calendar will be determined by the Mayor and Council's response to the commission's action. Commission chair Don Hadley requested the planning staff assist him in drafting a communication to the Mayor and Council regarding the body's decision.

Commissioner Dion Trahan expressed some disappointment in the delay of the plan's approval, saying enough feedback had already been received on the plan. "I have to work in the summer," he added, suggesting the vacation season shouldn't impact the work of city officials. He and Commissioner Charles Littlefield both stated that municipal governments need to be efficient in their land-use decisions. Leiderman noted that many significant changes had been made, and that all affected parties needed sufficient time to review what is essentially a new document.

The next move will be determined by the Mayor and Council. It certainly makes sense, given that it is difficult to get any meaningful public participation during the summer vacation months.