ROCKVILLE – It is not every week that the Rockville Mayor and the City Council speaks to a unanimous voice on a major issue, but at the July 8 meeting, the message to city staff was clear — hurry up.
After years of study and detailed recommendations for the Stonestreet Corridor, the mayor and council had a direct message for city staff: to expedite the process of implementing its recommendations.
“I’m afraid to have the community once again feel that we did all this work, we got everybody to a point and then we’re just going to sit back. So, I support moving forward,” said Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. “I don’t really understand why it takes so long — I’ll say that as nicely as I can.”
In 2018, county staff released their plan to revitalize a 150-acre area along Stonestreet Avenue in Rockville. Staff came up with several recommendations that would help encourage mixed-use development in the area and make it a more-walkable and more bicycle-friendly part of Rockville.
While the recommendations from city staff have the backing of the mayor and council, their implementation should be a quicker process.
Councilmember Beryl Feinberg said expediting the process could encourage potential developers to begin work on submitting applications to the city for plans for the area.
“And this will also signal to any potential developers – while they may have not come forth with an application – it signals that we are taking this seriously and we want to work together, and maybe that would motivate some to actually come forward,” she said.
In 2018, the mayor and council directed city staff to expedite three parts of the plan for the Stonestreet Corridor, leaving out a direction for two recommendations, one of which is updating the zoning for the land on Park Road and North Stonestreet Avenue.
The proposed changes in land use to Park Road and North Stonestreet Avenue would allow for more mixed-use development and to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
City staff recommendations included Park Road and North Stonestreet Avenue in the Rockville 2040 master plan, which means the land use updates could be approved no earlier than the summer of 2020.
However, the mayor and council directed city staff to expedite the long process, which includes presenting a master plan amendment to the planning commission and a 60-day public comment period. Then the planning commission would submit a recommendation to the mayor and council, likely in the beginning of 2020 and, following a public hearing, the mayor and council could approve the plan in March or April 2020.
While the expedite process may save only a few months of time, for Councilmember Mark Pierzchala, that could make a huge difference. He warned that otherwise, the area could go into a moratorium.
“We’re only a paper declaration away from that whole area going into moratorium again — a development moratorium — and that’s what concerns me,” Pierzchala said.
The Stonestreet Corridor is one of several areas of the city that the mayor and council has tried to revitalize by updating zoning laws to allow more development. The Stonestreet Corridor which, like other parts of Rockville the city has tried to develop, is located adjacent to a Metro station, making it an ideal place to add more density and mixed-use development for city planners.
The plan for the Stonestreet Corridor that city staff came up with includes changes to encourage more mixed-use development, as well as updates to sidewalk and road infrastructure to make the area more pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly.