Showing posts with label Rockville zoning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rockville zoning. Show all posts

Friday, July 9, 2021

Rockville zoning change would allow self-storage use at office buildings in mixed-use employment zones

U-Haul, Inc. has filed a request with the City of Rockville for a zoning change that would permit a self-storage use on existing properties citywide that are currently zoned as MXE (mixed-use employment) zones. The applicant is seeking the change because it would like to install self-storage units in an office building it owns at 1355 Piccard Drive. Self-storage warehouses in MXE zones were eliminated as a permitted use in 2019 by the Mayor and Council, and became a conditional use, and only if the site adjoins property that allows heavy industrial uses.

A zoning text amendment (ZTA) proposed by U-Haul would allow the self-storage use under the following conditions

  • Self-storage would be operated in conjunction with an existing permitted use in the MXE zone
  • Access to the self-storage units is internal-only, from inside the building
  • Self-storage use is located inside an existing office building

The Rockville Planning Commission will receive a briefing on the proposed ZTA at its July 14, 2021 virtual meeting. 

Planning staff have advised against adopting the ZTA. At U-Haul's Piccard Drive building in particular, staff suggests the area proposed for conversion to self-storage is large enough to make that the principal use, rather than a use "in conjunction with" an existing principal use. The change would also reduce the job-creating potential in existing office buildings, staff argues. Any existing, "underperforming" office building could add self-storage as its principal use under the ZTA as proposed, which staff indicates goes against the reasoning behind banning self-storage facilities in MXE zones in the first place.

The ZTA will come back before the Planning Commission on July 28. At that time, commissioners will have the opportunity to discuss and make a formal recommendation to the Mayor and Council on the ZTA.

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.

Monday, January 21, 2013


The local media - with the latest example being a Washington Post article I read online this morning - is doing what it does best: controlling the narrative.  In this case, the issue is the closure announcement by local grocery chain Magruder's, including their Rockville store.

The "official" narrative promoted by this article and others, is that the demise of Magruder's was simply a matter of time and a "failed business model."

Can I take a moment to debunk the bunk?

First of all, these arguments are applying a national phenomenon of "big box vs. Mom-and-Pop" that simply doesn't apply in Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Council has done everything in its power to keep big box stores - grocery giant Walmart above all - out of Montgomery County. There are only a handful of Target stores in the county.  And I believe the Wheaton Plaza Costco will be only the second in the county when it opens.

Snider's Super Foods in Silver Spring is still operating, and is in a similar business position to Magruder's. So if it's just a matter of big box stores, why is Snider's still going?

The facts are that the biggest pressures on smaller companies in Montgomery County are coming not from big box stores, but from developers and our own elected officials.

Property taxes are the highest in county history. As I mentioned the day Magruder's confirmed it was going out of business, the Rockville Magruder's was one of the specific businesses most demonstrably, and memorably, hurt by the devastating county Energy Tax. Does anybody think a 5¢ bag tax helps grocery store profits, and encourages customers to buy more?

As I also mentioned, the chain's flagship county store in Rockville Town Center was condemned and demolished - for private developer profit - by the City of Rockville a decade ago.  Personally, I don't believe the chain ever fully recovered from that blow.

Our county's congested roads are no secret.  But what you rarely hear from local media is the real impact the costs of driver hours, and fuel burnt, have on the price of goods you buy in Montgomery County. Our elected officials' failure to build the highways planners put on the books decades ago is directly responsible for the resulting costs and gridlock.

Compete on price with bigger chains? Try doing that under the county-specific financial burden described above.

But wait, there's more.  The shopping centers where most Magruder's stores are located are now eligible for rezoning for mixed-use redevelopment, under the new zoning code the council rammed through over citizen objections last year.

And, of course, Rockville rewrote its own city zoning code in recent years, making it more developer-friendly.

In fact, while Snider's is still in business in Silver Spring, the county and state have already quietly drawn up plans to redevelop the shopping center and neighborhood around it.

What happens then?

Rents go up and lease terms shorten. Magruder's is not commenting publicly, so I don't know the specific terms of its leases in Rockville and elsewhere.

But I do know that a Giant in Bethesda that once held a 99-year lease on its store signed a new one that expires a few years from now.

Did they do that because of big, bad Sam Walton? No. They did it because Ahold bought the Giant chain, doesn't have the emotional attachment to the brand Izzy Cohen did, and the store's shopping center was bought by Capital Properties. What did the new owner want to do? Redevelop the site as mixed-use under the then-pending zoning rewrite. So they did what? You guessed it - raise the rent, shorten the terms.

You can't tell me the College Plaza shopping center isn't being considered for future redevelopment by every developer in town, much like every strip mall up and down the Pike, Veirs Mill Road, and even Woodley Gardens. Didn't Giant quietly close at Wooten and Hurley a few months back? Does anyone really believe that site will be a grocery store 10 years from now?  Much like Woodley Gardens shopping center, developers are already rubbing their hands together at the thought of the unlimited possibilities.

Finally, there's the fact that Montgomery County forbids grocery stores from selling beer and wine, cutting off a significant profit engine for smaller grocery chains in particular.

The local media spin is understandable. Divert attention to a tired punching bag like Walmart. Divert attention away from the developers and politicians actually responsible for the demise of so many local chains and businesses.

No diversion in the world can mask the pathetic business environment in Montgomery County, nor the tax burden, failed leadership and crippled transportation system that ensure it stays that way.