Rockville votes for change: no change
While most of the attention leading up to last week's election focused on the Virginia governor's race, the elections in Rockville carried major repercussions for that city's growth. Or rather, the city's lack of growth, as voters brought in a mayor and new Councilmembers opposed to growth.
By a margin of 313 votes, Councilmember Phyllis Marcuccio unseated current Mayor Susan Hoffman. Marcuccio has built her political base on opposing most development in the City of Rockville. Especially if that development is four stories high. And especially if people making $35-60,000 a year might live there.
The flashpoint in question is Beall's Grant II, a proposed moderate-income housing development at the edge of Rockville Town Center. The Montgomery Housing Partnership wanted to replace their existing Beall's Grant apartments and adjacent vacant lots and parking with a new building. They secured zoning approvals and financing for the project, but required a letter from the Rockville City Council to qualify for federal tax credits. Opponents organized to stop the project, charging that it would bring crime and traffic and overcrowd schools. But others noted that Beall's Grant I is not high-crime and few residents have children in the schools, and if the lot were developed with offices instead, it would bring far more traffic.
Ultimately, the Council refused to provide the letter, stalling the project. Marcuccio was one of the opponents of the project, and ran on a platform of opposition to that project and increased density in general, even in areas like the center of Rockville.
Marcuccio wasn't the only anti-change candidate who prevailed last week. According to DailyKos diarist Enterik, anti-development Council candidates also did well, including Bridget Newton, Vice-President of the anti-Beall's Grant leading West End Civic Association, who won the most votes overall, and Mark Pierzchala, who took the last seat on the Council.
Naturally, the Rockville election hinged on many more issues than just development and the Beall's Grant II project in particular. Pierzchala rides his bike to Metro year-round and ran primarily on a platform of open government. He also endorsed mixed-use development. Candidates talked about civility on the Council and the city's budget.
I can't find any candidate statements about the Rockville Pike plan, which envisions turning Rockville Pike from a chain of strip malls into a walkable boulevard starting with a series of "catalyst sites." Do Marcuccio and the new City Council support continuing that project, or do they prefer to maintain the Pike as it is? Does anyone from Rockville or who's been following the race more closely know? It would be a shame if Rockville reversed their current trajectory toward better utilizing their Metro corridor just as the adjacent part of Montgomery County is moving toward better mixed-use development at the next station to the south, White Flint.
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