ROCKVILLE – The City Council unanimously approved a proposal to construct up to 375 new housing units along the east side of Preserve Parkway.
The vote, one of the last done by the council before beginning a six-week recess, marked the second time in the last month council members backed the project 5-0.
They previously instructed staff to draft a resolution approving of the residential proposal by developer EYA.
Although the developer will still need to present its site plan to the Planning Commission for approval, the Monday vote offered more details about what the project must contain in order to match direction from the City Council.
“I just think it’s a super project and I wish you all the best,” said Council member Mark Pierzchala.
Originally, the City Council slated the land for 755,000 square feet of commercial office space development but vacant offices at the building next door led the property owner to sell the property for housing instead.
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she backed the development for two main reasons: transit options and moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs).
As part of the agreement, EYA must offer shuttle services for residents once homebuyers occupy at least half of the available units if Montgomery County does not offer Ride On bus service.
Council member Beryl Feinberg pressed for EYA representatives to explain at what point the shuttle would come online.
“It was just a concern of mine when I read it. It was so vague,” she said.
According to Aakash Thakkar, the EYA senior vice president of land acquisition and development, EYA representatives had to base the trigger for the shuttle on occupancy, not just construction.
“We just want enough actual residents who will ride it to make it worthwhile,” said Thakkar. “Clearly it will be a benefit throughout the marketing of the project but we just wanted enough critical mass of actual residents who will ride it to make it a benefit for the HOA and for us.”
The initial proposal from developer EYA calls for 336 housing units, including a mixture of townhouses, single-family houses and condominiums.
Meanwhile, EYA is setting aside 13.5 percent of its stock of townhouses for MPDUs, housing units sold below market value, totaling 46 “affordable” townhouses.
Those units will be “integrated” throughout the community instead of clustered together, according Thakkar.
While there is an activity center in the design of the community, Feinberg pointed out the development will add more density to the area west of Interstate 270 with few indoor gathering places open to the entire public.
“Once again, this is west of 270 where we have a lack of community centers,” she said.
The project, as designed, will require removal of acres of trees from the largely wooded area, with 14 percent reserved for wooded land.
“I think there will be less environmental impact than office buildings,” said Newton.
She linked the shuttle service for residents there to the circulator bus route the City Council later that night voted to study, saying they both tie into adding more mass transit options for residents.
“It’s up to us to continue to take strides (toward) transit,” she said.
Newton said she hopes the developers “leave some of the trees” like the late developer Edmund Bennett did when designing the 96-acre New Mark Commons community, a residential community located in the wooded south-central part of the city, in the 1960s.
The council voted 5-0 Monday to recommend the State Historic Preservation Office add New Mark Commons to the National Register of Historic Places.