ROCKVILLE — The mayor and City Council moved one step closer to completing work on the master plan for reconstructing a 1.9-mile stretch of Rockville Pike Monday, submitting its last sets of edits to staff.
Among the big changes from the June 13 meeting was changing the name of the plan itself from the possessive “Rockville’s Neighborhood Pike Plan” to the non-possessive “Rockville Neighborhood Pike Plan.”
Council member Julie Palakovich Carr included that edit among a series of technical, contextual and editorial changes made to the Planning Commission’s draft report presented to the Council back in March.
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she approved, noting she “always” wanted to change the name.
First developed in 1989, the plan has undergone years of rework by the Planning Commission, which submitted its recommended version to the City Council back in March.
That left the mayor and council with four options about what to do with it: approve it, change it, reject it or send it back to the planning commission. They opted to change it.
Council members are scheduled to receive the final draft for review back from staff July 18 and subsequently vote on it Aug. 1, seven weeks from this past Monday, June 13.
The most contentious issue to come up Monday regarded building heights.
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Council member Mark Pierzchala, who ran against each other for mayor in 2013 and opposed each other during the 2015 election, debated whether to change part of the revised version of the Pike Plan to either keep what the Planning Commission included.
Council members previously stripped any language regarding minimum or maximum building heights from the Plan.
However, there was still a conceptual issue dealing with the height of commercial buildings that spurred a disagreement between the mayor and council member.
“Taller buildings are acceptable in the Core, close to the Twinbrook Metro Station, particularly if occupied by non-residential uses that could complement the multifamily dwelling units that are currently planned near the Metro station, and where strong potential exists for creating the type and intensity of uses that serve and promote transit,” stated the Planning Commissioners in the plan.
Pierzchala accused the commissioners of ideologically opposing against multifamily high-rises.
“The Planning Commission just has this bias against dense residential,” said Pierzchala, who’s advocated for building higher residential buildings near mass transit centers.
Newton, however, advocated for taller commercial buildings as a way of increasing mixed-use development, which includes residential units and different retail and office businesses.
“Having more residential balanced by mixed use is the kind of community we want,” she said.
Council member Beryl Feinberg agreed with the mayor, saying there are lessons to be learned from businesses not performing well at Rockville Town Center, one of the city’s primary mixed-use development areas.
“I would like to see a combination of mixed uses so I think we should keep it in,” she said.
Council members ultimately deferred a decision about the subject until they take up changes to the zoning code for the South Pike area.