After a winter hiatus, Our Fair City’s Mayor and Council is back on schedule for Monday night meetings, and Rockville Central was (as always) virtually on hand to give you the important details. Here is a recap of highlights from last night’s meeting.
City Manager’s Report
Instead of City Manager Scott Ullery, Craig Simoneau gave an update on a new program for marking fire hydrants. Large red and white stalks are already attached to about 125 hydrants and 150 more are on tap. There are 1,370 hydrants in City, and it is likely that they will be deployed throughout the city.
Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio took this time to ask a few questions. First, she reported that she asked the City Clerk to verify that Rockville is still #2 in the state of Maryland in terms of population. Second, she asked for an update on a Montgomery County Public Schools meeting between Scott Ullery and City Planner Susan Swift relating to the portables issue. He reported that they made good progress toward an agreement.
She also asked Mr. Ullery to give a quick synopsis of a tax issue related to Woodmont Country Club. Mr. Ullery reported that Woodmont has been paying a lower tax rate based on an annexation agreement that ends in 2014. The City also found some parcels in King Farm that had not been placed into the correct tax category and “as a result for four or five years in a significant way have been in the wrong tax rate, a much lower tax rate.” That has been corrected moving forward but the City Attorney has advised that there is no way to collect the back taxes.
Chamber of Commerce Update
Andrea Jolly, director of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce gave an update on Rockville Rewards. 61 businesses have signed up for this effort, which is signing new businesses every day, and nonprofits are raising significant amounts of money. She also reported that the Chamber has established a committee to look at the City’s sign regulation, in conjunction with City staff. Councilwoman Bridget Newton asked that the task force make sure to coordinate with the City’s signage commission.
Appointments and Reappointments
This week’s appointments:
Cultural Arts Commission
- Abe Brown, III (Appointment as member until January 1, 2013)
- LiLiane Blom (Appointment as member until January 1, 2013)
Recreation and Parks Advisory Board
- Vincent “Chip” Boylan (Reappointment as member until January 1, 2013)
Traffic and Transportation Commission
- Mallory Duquesne (Appointment as member until January 1, 2013)
Anyone may speak at Citizen’s Forum. The best way to do this is to call ahead to the City Clerk’s Office at 240-314-8280 by 4:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting. However, even if you don’t call the Mayor typically allows all who wish to speak and who are present to do so. You can speak on anything you wish, for up to three minutes. (In the notes below, I may have spoelled some names wrong.)
- Maynard Moore: Spoke about concern about an “imbalance” at playgrounds when it comes to accessibility for people in wheelchairs and other disabilities.
- Charles Segerman: CEO of Clean Currents, the Mid-Atlantic’s leading clean energy company, located in downtown Rockville. Spoke in favor of a proposed green building tax incentive plan.
- Joe Jordan: Spoke as chairman of the RedGate Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee had suggested that the City improve its public information execution. A first draft of the NGF report was received on December 19, but Advisory Committee members were not allowed to see the report. Later, the report was released to the press three days before it was released to the public.
- Anne Goodman: Also spoke on RedGate. She supports maintaining RedGate as a golf course, and expressed concern over the environmental effects of other possible uses.
- Mike Rabkin: Spoke on ways he had thought of that would save the City money. For example, Rockville Reports costs approximately $84,000 per year — he suggested setting the default delivery mechanism as email (while still preserving the ability for residents to choose to receive a copy in the mail).
- Susan Prince: Spoke on the NGF RedGate study. A supporter of the golf course, and expressed dismay that the report was released to the press before it was provided to the public. Also expressed concern over staff receiving a first draft. As to substance of the report: Pointed out that the report exposes serious problems in how the course has been managed at a senior management level. When it comes to suggesting what to do about this situation, she feels the report falls far short, providing only two options that do not address the underlying problems.
- Alice Von Saunder: Expressed desire for a similar study to the RedGate one to be applied across all recreation facilities in Rockville, especially the Swim Center and the Senior Center.
National Golf Foundation Report
The new report by nonprofit golf consultants the National Golf Foundation that was kicked off at a Mayor and Council meeting last September was formally presented to the Mayor and Council (see the report here).
Recreation and Parks Director Burt Hall introduced Richard Singer of the National Golf Foundation, who gave a presentation on the report.
Go here to see a full recap of that presentation — it was an extensive discussion.
Here is the key finding according to Singer: “I have to say that this is one of the highest overall expense structures I have ever seen in 20 years,” he said. “That in and of itself is the issue with RedGate. That is especially true in terms of personnel costs, but we did not see those direct costs to be out of line.”
Singer said that, even if every idea were implemented and successful, the course would still be short in terms of its ability to meet expenses. “Even if you get a couple of good years,” he said, “you might be back where you started in three to five years.”
The NGF’s best recommendation, he said, is to privatize the course so as to both control expenses and grow revenue. He recognizes this could be problematic when it comes to staff and good will.
Rockville Pike Plan
David Levy, Chief of Long Range Planning, introduced the Draft Plan For The Rockville Pike Corridor. This draft is the official draft for the Planning Commission, which will consider it at their meeting on March 9 at 7pm. The purpose of this presentation is to provide key information, provide an understanding of how the public can comment, and to provide an overview of the document.
This part of the meeting was a joint meeting between the Mayor and Council and the Planning Commission.
The document was released on December 29. Tonight (1/10) is the presentation. On Tuesday night (1/11) there is a presentation. (See this article for more on the schedule and for links to the plan.)
Editor Cindy Cotte Griffiths has been following the Pike Plan very closely, and all her Rockville central coverage is collected here.
ACP Visioning and Planning was the consulting company that implemented and drove the public visioning process. Gianni Longo from ACP presented the plan itself.
“The time we have taken has been time well spent,” he said, “as we have been able to develop a vision from the community about what they want the Pike to become.”
More from Mr. Longo:
The group wanted a plan that reflects the vision of the community, and tried to determine what is the full potential of the Pike?
This is a timely plan, and extension of the 1989 plan. But there are a number of considerations. Traffic congestion along the Pike is likely to get worse. Second, city traffic standards for development are going to inhibit further development. Third, the Pike needs redevelopment to stay economically competitive in the region.
But, traffic conditions along the Pike impede redevelopment. We are at the intersection of Rock Drive and Hard Place.
The biggest difference is to create a shift from private automobiles to transit, walking, and use of the bicycle.
The key element is the creation of a “multi-way boulevard.” This is a time-tested way to address transportation and creating a great place, in use in many of the world’s major cities as well as places throughout the U.S. (K Street in DC is an example.)
The basic idea keeps the same size of the existing Pike. It adds access lanes to either side, with two traffic lanes, ample sidewalks, and a lane that is shared by bike and transit. So the middle section has vehicles only, for through traffic, and the access lanes are mixed. This also brings sidewalk businesses closer to the traffic that is actually liable to stop.
Two key issues we focused on was safety (especially pedestrian safety) and transit service.
The main land use recommendation is to make the Pike walkable by moving the buildings closer to the road. A second recommendation is to create a situation where there is a variety of heights.
There is a problem with moving forward however. Given only already-approved development, the City’s existing development requirements will not allow redevelopment without taking remedial actions to increase capacity of the Pike.
Overall, the key recommendations are:
- Adopt the Plan
- Create a tool to support quality development over time
- Implement congestion management strategies
- Partner with property owners
Mr. Longo’s presentation started late and ran into the wee hours. The questions back and forth caused him to miss the last train! That got a few chuckles, and the City’s chief of planning David Levy promised to get him home.
The next meeting of the Mayor and Council is TUESDAY, January 18.