Showing posts with label West End. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West End. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Rockville Mayor & Council hear arguments for, against historic designation of 406 Great Falls Road


The fate of a nearly 80-year-old Tudor Revival home at 406 Great Falls Road will be decided by Rockville's Mayor and Council at their May 16, 2022 meeting. Last night, they heard arguments for and against historic designation of the home in a public hearing. The property was nominated for historic designation by local preservation organization Peerless Rockville on June 8, 2021. After an evaluation by city staff found the home met two of the criteria for designation, the Rockville Historic District Commission and Planning Commission both agreed, and the question now goes before the Mayor and Council for a final decision.

406 Great Falls Road was constructed from a Sears Roebuck kit home model called The Belmont. The house has already been listed in the Rockville Historic Buildings Catalogue. Its new owners are seeking to demolish the home and build a larger one on the property. Co-owner Joel Martinez and his architect (and former HDC commissioner) Craig Maloney have argued that the home is in disrepair, and does not qualify for historic preservation. The owners' attorney, Erin Girard, noted last night that the home was rejected for historic designation when it was first nominated in 2007. Given that the house has only further deteriorated since then, and no significant new evidence has been brought forward to argue otherwise, Girard suggested it would be inappropriate for the Mayor and Council to now place it under historic designation.


One point of controversy is whether or not the owners plan to live in the home, or are developers who are merely going to build a new home and then flip the property. West End resident and former mayor Larry Giammo testified that he considers the owners to be developers, as they recently tore down another home at 515 Beall Avenue. After building a new home on the site, they then sold it for $1.15 million, he reported.

Martinez was asked by the Mayor and Council if he would like to respond to the assertion that the owners plan to do another teardown flip project. He testified that he had built a dream house to live in permanently at 515 Beall, and that it had won an architectural award. But, he said, a neighbor would park his pickup truck in front of the home, so that he had no place for his own vehicles or those of his guests to park, and could not put his trash cans out for curbside pickup.

When he asked the neighbor about moving the truck, the neighbor allegedly responded that he knew Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, and "threatened me with your name, Madam Mayor," Martinez testified. Thus, he and his co-owner decided to sell the home, purchase 406 Great Falls, and build a similar house in its place. Martinez said the new home site has plenty of parking for the use of owners and guests.


Doug Lunenfeld, a neighbor of the owners in the West End, a real estate professional, and an active landlord in the city, backed Martinez' assertion that he is not simply a house flipper and developer. "That is not the case," Lunenfeld testified. "I am 100% certain that these owners want to build their dream home." He called 406 Great Falls a "dilapidated home," and urged the Mayor and Council to take a walk-through of the house before they vote next month. "The integrity was bad in 2007," Lunenfeld said, and it's even worse now. He argued that the gateway to Rockville would be improved by the prospective new home. "Let's make it the great gateway again," he concluded.

But Giammo posited that the owners would know that city staff had just recommended historic designation for the home, when the previous owners had sought to tear it down in 2020, if they had done "due diligence" in making the purchase. Giammo, himself a licensed real estate agent and broker, noted that their real estate agent would have been required to notify them of that fact, even if the owners hadn't researched the matter themselves. They were also familiar with the process from having gone through the historic designation evaluation of 515 Beall, he added. Peerless Rockville has made an "objective, compelling and unassailable case" for preservation of the home, Giammo said.


Peerless Rockville's Director, Nancy Pickard, underscored the fact that her organization has been extremely sparing in its nomination of homes for historic designation. Their nomination of 406 Great Falls has been supported by both of the city commissions whose approval is necessary, she testified, and that it is a rare example of a Tudor Revival home in the city. "We felt very strongly that this property merits this protection," she said.

West End resident Noreen Bryan testified that, like Lunenfeld, she lives on a nearby street. She, too, referred to Great Falls as the gateway to the city, but viewed that as a reason to preserve the home, not tear it down. The architecture and its placement on the large lot with generous setback makes it a key landmark that is visually memorable, "and has been so for nearly 80 years," she noted. Bryan said that 406 Great Falls is "unusual and therefore precious," and is key to the defintion of the West End's neigbhorhood character. "This property is of great importance to the city," she said.


Another nearby West End resident, Margaret Magner, also testified in favor of historic designation. She asked the Mayor and Council to consider that, in the time since the designation of the home was not approved in 2007, many more original Rockville homes have been lost. That makes the home "of greater value to the community today than it was 15 years ago," she suggested. Magner also expressed concern that a window of the house has been left open during bad weather recently.

Councilmember David Myles sought to clarify the notation by the city's preservation expert, Sheila Bashiri, that historic designation would still allow the property to be added to or altered. This was confirmed by staff. But Maloney said that, in this particular case, the condition and size of the property is such that the modification route is not viable. 

Of the residents who submitted written testimony to the HDC, thirteen supported historic designation of 406 Great Falls, and one opposed it.

Photos via City of Rockville

Friday, January 12, 2018

Historic District Commission to decide if barn in Rockville's West End Park can be demolished

A barn believed to date from at least the early 20th century is holding up approval of demolition of all structures at 537 Anderson Avenue in Rockville. Examining the request in November, the Historic District Commission determined the home and an additional rental home on the site have no historic significance. However, the barn was a sticking point for commissioners, as little information is available on its history, and it is a unique structure in the city of Rockville these days.

City staff has consulted with Peerless Rockville and others with historical expertise, but has so far been unable to obtain much more information about the history and significance of the barn. They hope to have found more information by the time commissioners take the matter up again at their January 18, 2018 meeting, which will be held at 7:30 PM at City Hall (and will be televised on Channel 11 for cable tv viewers).

Photo via City of Rockville

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MoCo school board thumbs nose at Rockville parents in Richard Montgomery ES #5 boundary decision

Option B was approved in a split
vote by the school board Monday night
The Montgomery County Board of Education will bus some kids out of their home neighborhoods to the new Richard Montgomery Elementary School #5, after choosing Option B out of five redistricting proposals Monday night. While it was far from the worst of the options to parents' minds, it still will result in longer travel times for a good number of Rockville elementary school students. Those students would have originally attended Beall ES and Ritchie Park ES in their own neighborhoods; now they will be bused to RMES#5.

The board's decision maintains a high number of FARMS students at Twinbrook ES, students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, meaning they will be able to continue going to their neighborhood elementary school.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Residents protest proposed school bus parking lot at Carver Center in Rockville

Outraged residents spoke out last night about a Montgomery County Government blunder that has resulted in a school bus parking lot being proposed at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville. Even more troubling - some residents, as well as City Councilman Mark Pierzchala, see evidence the lot may not just be a short-term plan.

A resident of College Square called the bus plan "malpractice" at Monday's Mayor and Council meeting. He said the smart growth plan "went off the rails" after the County failed to enforce the agreement that the developer purchasing the current Crabbs Branch Way bus depot would have to find a new bus parking site. The private developer plans to build housing on the depot site.

Another resident who lives near the Carver Center said she is concerned for the health and safety of her two young children. But in addition to her fears about noise, pollution and neighborhood traffic congestion, she suspects a potentially more-sinister County plot. Montgomery County Public Schools currently plans to merge the adjacent Rock Terrace School with Tilden in Bethesda. That move, she said, "would create a very large area for bus parking." Several other speakers concurred, and the potential for maintenance and fuel facilities on such a larger site were predicted.

Pierzchala shares those concerns. He noted that MCPS is bonding over a million dollars for the bus site plan at Carver. "You don't bond something if you're just going to use it for a few years," Pierzchala noted.

Other concerns expressed by residents include the plan for an ugly high fence at the historic school site, and questions over not only how buses would get in and out of the site, but the traffic generated by their drivers taking their personal vehicles to and from work twice a day. Many mentioned the dirty tactics by the County Council in giving virtually no advance notice, and holding the only public hearing on the matter during workday hours when residents would be unable to attend to testify.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton sought to not only assure residents that she would "do everything in my power" to stop the plan, but also to dispel "an unfortunate statement" by an unnamed County Councilmember that Newton supports the plan. County Councilmember Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) was quoted in The Sentinel as saying, "“The mayor was supportive of the plan." "I just want to set the record straight," Newton said in making clear her opposition to the current proposal.

Friday, July 11, 2014

2 PROPOSED HOME DEMOLITIONS ON AGENDA FOR ROCKVILLE HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION

Two small, single-family homes will be considered for demolition at the July 17 meeting of the Rockville Historic District Commission. One is at 209 Elizabeth Avenue in Lincoln Park, and the other is in the West End, at 112 North Street.

Also on the agenda, are approval for tax credit applications for two historic properties.

The meeting will be in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall, and will begin at 7:30 PM.

Friday, June 13, 2014

DEMOLITION REQUEST ON HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION AGENDA FOR JUNE 19

A demolition request will be among many items on the agenda of the Rockville Historic District Commission on Thursday, June 19. Applicant Ni Linmei is asking for permission to demolish a structure at 215 North Van Buren Street. That appears to be a single-family home between Beale and Dawson Avenues, in Rockville's West End.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 PM in the Mayor and Council Chambers at City Hall.