With Town Square finished, developers are looking north of downtown Rockville to the second phase of the Town Center development and finding they might not have as much oversight in what is built there as they would like.
As preliminary plans for the area begin to come in, officials and residents are looking for ways to shape the development into what they had envisioned.
The “Town Center 2” area sits north of Beall Avenue between North Washington Street and Hungerford Drive. The site is home to a mish-mash of buildings, including a fire station, Orange Ball Billiards and the former site of a Giant grocery store.
The Town Center Master Plan calls for a high-density mixed-use development along the same lines as that in Town Square to the south, but unlike the Town Square area, the city does not own land in the area to give it extra clout in determining what will go there.
Plans are in the works for apartments, retail space, a Walgreens and a bank.
Rockville’s mayor and council are not too happy about plans for a building on the former Giant site, however, where developer JBG is planning to put a small, two-story building with space for a bank, offices and retail. The mayor and council are now exploring the possibility of revising the city’s zoning ordinance to put more scrutiny on development projects in the Town Center Area.
Proposed development projects in Rockville currently go through one of three levels of review, depending on factors such as the size of the space, how many people will use the new facility and how close it is to residential development. The chief of planning reviews smaller projects, while the Rockville Planning Commission or mayor and council review and approve larger developments.
The scale does not take into account whether the proposed development falls into a special planning area like Town Center, but Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said maybe it should.
“What we’ve got here is a scheme ... that doesn’t give enough value to the area,” she said during an Oct. 8 mayor and council meeting.
Councilman Mark Pierzchala suggested that all projects in the Town Center Performance District should be reviewed at least at the planning commission level, which would guarantee a public hearing.
“Just the very fact that you’re going to go through a public hearing is incentive to communicate with the community ahead of time,” he said.
The Town Center Performance District roughly includes the core area of Town Center bordered by Jefferson Street, North Washington Street and the train tracks.
City staff will study how to implement Pierzchala’s suggestion and bring it back to the mayor and council for further discussion.
In an effort to get more residents involved in shaping Town Center’s future, Newton organized a meeting in September of the Town Center Action Team, which had provided input on the first phase of Town Center.
The group had fallen by the wayside, but Newton and others are now seeking to revive it in hopes of communicating to developers what Rockville wants in the northern portion of Town Center.
“It’s a concern about the piecemealing that is going to happen,” Marcuccio said.
The next TCAT meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at Rockville City Hall.