Showing posts with label Siena Corporation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Siena Corporation. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 3, 2015



Rockville's Mayor and Council voted 3-2 to ban self storage facilities located within 250' of schools last night, an action that will stop Siena Corporation's already-approved facility at First and Taft Streets in East Rockville. 

Nearby residents, and parents of children at the adjacent Maryvale Elementary School, have expressed concerns about pedestrian safety, crime, fires and even homeland security concerns, as cited by federal officials. Materials used in the 1993 World Trade Center and 1995 Oklahoma City bombings were kept in self storage units prior to those attacks.

Councilmember Tom Moore and Siena attorney Bob Dalrymple were having none of it. Moore has repeatedly asked Council colleagues to specify the perceived dangers, relative to other potential uses of the industrial site. He sought to delay the vote 30-60 days, to allow Siena to enter negotiations with residents to attempt a compromise.

Dalrymple was eager to do so. He implored the Mayor and Council to bring the citizens to the negotiating table, tell them to act like adults, and "work this damn thing out."

Suddenly, all of the previous public testimony and petition signatures were seemingly
back on the table again.

But only Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr was willing to support Moore's work group proposal. The substitute motion failed 3-2. "This is where you lose me," Councilmember Virginia Onley said to Moore. She said the city is always free to participate in negotiations between an applicant and residents, but that it is not the city's place to create the group, or force residents to negotiate. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said, "it is not up to the city" to compel residents to enter negotiations. 

Dalrymple's performance proved ineffective. He reversed himself while pleading his case, initially asserting that Siena had never threatened to sue the city if it passed the ban. "It wasn't just you," Newton countered, but a second Siena attorney, as well. Siena's threats were reported by several media outlets, including the Gazette:

Asked after the discussion if Siena will pursue legal action if the measure is approved, Robert Dalrymple, an attorney representing the company, answered in one word: “Absolutely.”

"We're not going to roll over," Dalrymple answered, reversing his earlier claim.

At times, the vote took on the trappings of a public hearing. Residents testified that Siena has been "kicked out" of at least two communities where they had sought to build facilities, and that they had not been forthcoming about fire and crime incidents at their properties. "If you had done your homework, you would know this as well," one said to Moore. East Rockville resident Kashi Way said Dalrymple's sudden interest in negotiations was "a stalling tactic," noting that Siena could have arranged such negotiations weeks or months ago. "They had our addresses, they know where we live," Way said.

Dalrymple argued that there were really only 3 residents opposing the facility. "It's not just 3 people," Newton countered, noting the large number of petition signatures gathered, and turnout at public hearings in opposition to the proposal.

The ZTA passed 3-2, with Newton, Onley and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg voting for, and Moore and Palakovich Carr opposed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


School sign indicates Maryvale ES
is nearby proposed self storage site
at First and Taft Streets in Rockville
A zoning text amendment that could scuttle a planned self storage facility near Maryvale Elementary School in Rockville will be presented by staff to the Mayor and Council at their January 12 meeting, following a vote instructing staff to do so Monday evening. The ZTA would prohibit self storage facilities to be place within 250 feet of schools, which would disqualify the facility currently proposed by Siena Corporation on Taft Street.

Siena's attorney, Robert Dalrymple, has previously threatened legal action against the city, should his client's project be stopped. The ZTA appears almost certain to pass, as Mayor Bridget Newton, and Councilmembers Beryl Feinberg and Virginia Onley have spoken in support of it. Feinberg and Onley both stressed Monday evening that, in their view, the ZTA is not targeted toward the Siena project. But passage of the ZTA is the only thing standing in the way of Siena's plans, particularly after the Rockville Planning Commission ruled that there was no legitimate reason to deny the company's proposal last month.

Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr put great weight on the commission's ruling, quoting from each commissioner's remarks during the discussion. Councilmember Tom Moore concurred, saying that while he often disagrees with the commission, he thought the decision was significant. Both warned Monday evening of the potential legal and fiscal consequences passing the ZTA could hold for the city. Moore attempted to grill Feinberg for more detail on what specific data should give the city pause about the potential dangers a self storage facility would pose toward schools and residents. He read from a list of other possible uses for the Taft Street property, including fuel filling station, temporary carnival and adult-oriented establishment, arguing that several on the list posed greater dangers to children and pedestrians than self storage. The meeting grew contentious as Moore pressed Feinberg for specifics. Feinberg later returned the favor, demanding data to back up one of Moore's points, saying, "I'm gonna do to you what you do to me."

As the debate began to circle further into the night, Newton chided Moore, saying, "people don't know when to stop repeating themselves."

Moore offered an amendment to grandfather the Siena project, but it was defeated 3-2, with Newton, Feinberg and Onley opposed. Feinberg suggested making the buffer 500 feet, but withdrew her amendment after staff could not demonstrate advantages in the city requiring the added distance. A third amendment by Moore would have required the city to set aside $3 million dollars in FY2016 for legal fees, which he believed would face the city should the ZTA pass. That measure, too, failed, only drawing support from Palakovich Carr.

Newton said the matter was a public safety issue, which should take priority over fears of legal action. Feinberg concurred, saying, "I'm not going to be intimidated or succumb to fearmongering."

Ultimately, the Mayor and Council voted 3-2 to instruct city staff to draft a final ZTA, and present it at the January 12 Mayor and Council meeting. Moore, who said he is "deeply concerned" about the zoning action, and Palakovich Carr, who lives in East Rockville, were both opposed to the motion.
Photo: Google Maps