The developers of Rockville’s Town Square want the city’s approval to put up more signs to promote the area and the businesses in it, including a lighted rooftop one.
Federal Realty Investment Trust, Town Square’s developer, is asking the Mayor and Council to amend the city’s zoning ordinance so it can put up signs currently illegal under city code.
At a Mayor and Council meeting Monday night, Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton said she was concerned that a "preponderance of signs" were becoming a problem, not just for Town Square, but for Rockville in general.
"I fear that we're getting very close to pollution," she said.
The proposed signs would include one lighted sign on top of a building, an additional sign to promote incoming grocery store Dawson’s Market, up to 18 signs on lamp posts and a large, sculpture-like monument sign.
In a 4-1 vote earlier this summer, the planning commission and staff recommended rejecting the request and instead starting a comprehensive review of the city’s sign ordinances.
In a memo, some commission members said they were concerned that the plan called for too many signs. Some also said it would be unfair to allow Town Center to put up signs that other businesses in the city could not have.
At the Monday meeting, Deane Mellander, zoning administrator, said the decision would set a precedent for other businesses, and agreed with the Planning Commission that the city should make changes to zoning ordinances as part of a comprehensive review.
Newton also said the city needs more comprehensive discussion of its sign ordinances, and she did not support granting any of the amendments.
Councilmember John Hall Jr. also expressed concerns about how many signs were included in the request.
"The volume here is more than gives me a lot of comfort," he said. In a non-binding straw vote, Hall supported allowing most of the signs, however, although he wanted to know if the proposed rooftop sign could be moved lower and what the design for the monument sign would look like.
Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said he would support the signs, especially the one to promote Dawson's Market.
"We are hopeful there's enough walk-up traffic to support them, but I doubt it," he said, adding that the grocery store will need signs to attract people in cars to shop there. Dawson’s Market is set to open next month.
The Mayor and Council asked for more details from the developers and will likely vote on whether to approve the zoning text amendment at their next meeting Sept. 24.
Housing agency seeks city help to fund affordable housing purchase
A city housing agency wants to purchase apartments in downtown Rockville to rent them out as affordable housing, but may need the city’s help to fund the project.
Rockville Housing Enterprises, a City of Rockville public housing agency, wants to buy the Fireside Park Apartments on Monroe Street and rent some of them out to families who meet a certain income level criteria.
The agency can get a loan for most of the $36 million purchase price, but is asking the city for $500,000 from its Moderately Priced Development Units fund, as well as a $1.5 million loan to help make up the difference.
While the property will serve as collateral for the loan, RHE expects the lenders to ask for a “carve out guarantee.” If the agency defaults on its loan and fraud, mismanagement or environmental hazards have reduced the property value, the lenders can seize the property and get money from the guarantor. RHE is also asking the city to act as that guarantor.
At Monday’s meeting, the Mayor and Council asked city staff to consider where the city could get the $1.5 million from and report back in two to three weeks.