The City of Rockville is known for great services, plentiful parks, wonderful safe neighborhoods, and overall – as just a great place to live, work, raise a family, age in place, or downsize to one of our retirement communities. As you know, we pay additional taxes living in a municipality, and we expect these great amenities – as well as great service. As your Mayor, I can assure you that we will stay focused on delivering these services in as cost effective a manner as possible. In my 10 years of public service, we have not raised the property tax rate, and we continue to reinvest in our City through our capital budget. Rockville is committed to maintaining a AAA Bond Rating and maintaining reserves at nearly an all time high. We do this not only by having the best employees but by also having an engaged and caring citizenry. In the next four years, I look forward to seeing you at the pool or community center, in one of our parks, Hometown Holidays, our 4th of July Celebration, City Hall or in your neighborhood to say “thanks” for making our City a special place to call home.
I support a balanced approach to development. I will always strive to achieve a smart balance between the desire to create new housing options, retail and community gathering places, with infrastructure needs such as school capacity and the capability of utility and sewer systems to provide service to new development. Please don’t let anyone tell you Rockville isn’t growing. Town Center continues to fill in as the private sector evaluates the market conditions, the Mayor and Council recently approved Twinbrook Quarter, Shady Grove Neighborhood, another building to Ingleside and there will be housing on Stonestreet just to name a few. I continue to support our Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) because I believe that education is the “great equalizer,” and I will not sacrifice our children’s future opportunities. The City needs to work more closely with MCPS so that we all have the most current data available. Members of Team Rockville have loosened the standards, and recently went so far as to advocate moving the school capacity to 150% of capacity. I believe that tho it’s easy to be bigger – the challenge is to be better.
In spite of our efforts to improve pedestrian safety, in the past year we have incurred heart breaking tragedies. This is simply not acceptable. We must re-double our efforts, to improve crossings, add lighting, and make our downtown safer for the heavy foot traffic we encourage and need. I was a strong proponent of the Pedestrian Safety Advocacy Committee – and together with RBAC – they are guiding us towards Vision Zero. Broader deployment of solar powered cross signals such as the ones in front of Dawson’s Market, Panera and the SPOT will enhance our crossings and make our City safer. Rockville’s policy is to have sidewalks where they link neighborhoods to schools and parks, and we must continue to be proactive when it comes to pedestrians and bicyclists. We also must ensure that we include annual funding so that every neighborhood has a complete network of safe and accessible pathways.
The recent ULI Report suggests that the City look at “Road Diets” for Middle Lane and North Washington Street. I would add Beall Avenue so that we look comprehensively at ways to make our downtown more walkable and therefore more successful.
There’s a song about paving over paradise – and while I-270 isn’t paradise – adding more pavement south of Germantown will create more problems than it solves:
I was shocked and extremely disappointed to hear MD DOT Secretary Pete Rahn say that lanes on I-270 from 495 to Germantown would be built first so that the tolls would pay for the lanes from Germantown to Frederick. This is a flawed plan being driven by transportation officials stuck in 1970’s road culture.
Secondly – what works in rural communities is different than what’s needed in highly populated areas. Refusing to give due process to transit ideas – especially the monorail proposal with a 25 minute travel time from Frederick to Rockville, (and potentially creating an environmentally friendly multi-modal future crossing to Virginia) – is penny-wise and pound foolish.
Ceding land – even covered with asphalt – to an outside entity – is unwise. It’s a short-sighted attempt to fill holes in the State budget. Look no further than I-66 in Virginia where the tolls run as much as $45.00, Indiana where the tolls haven’t covered the debt payments and the Texas 130 which went bankrupt 4 years after opening.
As Mayor – I’ve been working this issue with the State, the County and our City. It’s not a NIMBY issue – it’s a reality check. Common sense says you can’t take 6 lanes to 2 and not have congestion. We need roads and we need transit – and we must seek solutions that are forward thinking. I will continue to work with our County and State legislators to move the idea of widening the southern portion of I-270 to the cutting room floor.
Rockville’s Town Center is a triangle formed by Rockville Pike, Route 28 and North Washington Street. It peaks at the Freestate Gas Station to the North and the mixing bowl to the South. Approximately 50% of our downtown is government buildings – bringing lots of people daily – but not a lot of revenue.
Town Square is one block square formed by Rockville Pike, Middle Lane, N. Washington Street and Beall Avenue. That area holds 3 public parking garages owned by the City with heavy Bond debt and are leased and managed by Federal Realty Investment Trust. FRIT also owns and leases the retail and restaurant spaces within Town Square except for the Library (Montgomery County) and Vis Arts (City of Rockville and Montgomery County).
When Rockville Town Square came on line – it was a smashing success – until the Great Recession rolled in and then it wasn’t. We’ve been climbing uphill since then and our stores and restaurants have been challenged by Amazon, duplication of dining options and unsustainable rents. When Dawson’s Market announced their Closing last year – I immediately called for a Town Hall Meeting. That meeting brought over 400 people to a standing room only conversation and eventually led REDI (Rockville Economic Development Inc.) and the City to set up a Small Business Investment Fund managed by REDI. The City also commissioned a ULI Study on Rockville’s downtown. Following more discussions with shoppers and shopkeepers – I worked with REDI to set up a CEO Stakeholders Roundtable so that those property owners could come together and find solutions.
The ULI Report was just released – and they corroborated some of what we already knew and offered suggestions for the City moving forward. Tho I am supportive of more density in Rockville – we must take a hard look at what’s missing in our housing stock. Our City is zoned for single family, townhouses, apartments or condos. We need to add the “Missing Middle” – rowhouses with garages in back, duplexes, triplexes and quads. Not every type of housing works in all parts of the City, but we should be able to widen the options so that everyone is able to find a home that meets their needs and budget.
As the population of Rockville grows, our senior community is growing at an even faster pace. Approximately 25% of Rockville’s residents are now seniors- which in Rockville means they are 60 years or older. I voted to support the villages Coordinator position which has paid dividends ten fold, supporting increased Senior Bus service and restoring a full time counselor, and voted to approve a generator for the Senior Center so that, if needed, there was a safe cooling/heated place in case of emergency.
As the liaison to the Senior Commission, I have taken a personal interest in assuring that the concerns of our seniors are always championed before your Mayor and Council. I fully support the Rockville Senior Center with its superior Fitness Center, wellness screenings, special interest classes and programs.
Baby boomers will soon face the decision the “Greatest Generation” have already faced, whether to stay in Rockville, or relocate to a community more accommodating to the senior lifestyle. Rockville and its leaders need to make sure that we AFFORD our seniors that choice-the choice to be able to choose to stay where your families live, where streets are safe and where there is access to public transportation to help those who no longer drive. I will continue to work to represent seniors and the significant contributions you make to our City because I know that you represent not only Rockville’s past-but also Rockville’s future.
Together we can do great things!