Rockville residents say city should reconsider shops and residences at Shady Grove -- Gazette.Net







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Safety and traffic concerns should prompt a Rockville commission to reconsider its approval of a mixed-use development near the Shady Grove Metro station, a group of residents says.

Silverwood/Shady Grove LLC plans to build a 417-unit residential and retail building with 517 parking spaces on 4.37 acres at 15595 Frederick Road. The mayor and City Council voted 3 to 2 to annex the property Oct. 10.

The Rockville Planning Commission should repeal its decision to limit parking at the property, re-examine the effect of the development as it pertains to the city’s growth policy, and have a hearing about safety findings and traffic counts, Cathy Scott, a King Farm resident, wrote in her request to the commission.

This is the first request for reconsideration to come forward before the planning commission, said Jim Wasilak, chief of planning for Rockville.

The safety issues at the intersection of Md. 355 and King Farm Boulevard are Scott’s biggest concern.

“Our belief was that it’s already pretty dangerous and risky,” Scott said of the intersection she and her husband cross daily to access the Metro.

Scott mailed the request to the commission Nov. 12.

The proposed six-story apartment building will include a six-level parking garage with 517 spaces, according to an Oct. 19 report from Jeremy Hurlbutt, a city planner.

The residences will generate 100 new morning and 110 new afternoon peak hour car trips, according to Hurlbutt’s report and the city’s transportation staff report. Silverwood also studied in the spring six intersections during morning and afternoon rush hours, and found the intersections would continue to operate at acceptable levels of service established by the city.

Silverwood is required to pay $900 per unit as a Transportation Improvement Fee prior to the issuance of the building permit. Based on 420 residential units, the fee for this development will be $378,000, according to Hurlbutt’s report.

Scott and nine other King Farm residents who signed a petition are challenging these findings, saying the vehicles will pose a traffic and pedestrian safety concern. They say there isn’t enough parking to prevent spillover from the development to the King Farm neighborhood.

In a letter to Hurlbutt, Scott said a pedestrian footbridge is needed over Md. 355 at King Farm Boulevard to remedy an already unsafe situation. Painting diagonal hatching lines in the crosswalk and installing cameras to catch aggressive drivers also would help, she wrote.

“I believe these improvements to the intersection and the pedestrian bridge should be the responsibility of the developer if the development takes place,” Scott wrote.

Scott also said the number of vehicles the project will generate during peak hours are inaccurate; the project will generate more than 350 trips, she said.

The developer did not calculate trips generated using the most recent use of the site, Scott said.

In calculating trip generation, Silverwood credits existing trips generated by existing occupants of the site, based on the most recent use of the site. So, Silverwood used traffic volume generated by the site under the current land use “New Car Sales.”

Reed Brothers Dodge, currently on the site, sells pre-owned vehicles. Scott said she thinks a pre-owned vehicle business would generate less traffic than a new vehicle business, thereby making the trips attributed to Reed Brothers Dodge artifically too high.

Using numbers generated by industrial businesses or warehouses would more realistically reflect the true conditions, Scott said. When Scott recalculated cars generated under these different businesses, she said she came to numbers greater than 350 cars.

The planning commission voted 4-1-2, with Commissioner Kathleen Cook dissenting and Commissioners Don Hadley and David Hill abstaining, to approve the Silverwood site plan Oct. 26.

The commission expects to review Scott’s request at its meeting Nov. 30, said John Tyner, commission chair.

“We’ve seen it twice,” Tyner said of the Silverwood site plan. “And I think all the issues have been brought forward from staff and the county and the applicant and several people from the public who testified.”

If the commission receives new information from an individual, it will discuss whether to reconsider its vote, Tyner said. The public can always request a review.

If the commission decides to reconsider the site plan, it will plan another public hearing, Tyner said.