Rockville candidates debate development at West End forum -- Gazette.Net


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Development issues took center stage at a candidate forum hosted by the West End Citizens Association.

The forum was held Oct. 15 at the Rockville Senior Center.

Bridget Donnell Newton and Mark Pierzchala, both current councilmembers, are running for mayor.

Early in the forum, the candidates disagreed over what had been said in a closed Mayor and Council meeting to discuss how city officials might influence development in “Town Center II,” the area north of the Town Square development adjacent to the West End.

“The council would not agree to have a vision,” Newton said

Pierzchala said the city had less influence on development plans in that area than in Town Square. He also said that to get more residences in Town Center II, which some in the West End wanted, the city would need to grant a waiver to its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Newton has opposed the idea of APFO waivers.

Later in the forum, council candidates shared their vision for growth along Rockville Pike. The Rockville Planning Commission is currently working on a draft of Rockville’s Pike Plan that would cover development along Md. 355 south of Town Center to Rockville’s southern border.

Don Hadley, planning commission chairman and council candidate, said he supports a lower density than the one suggested in earlier versions of the draft plan. Some have said that the Pike Plan could double Rockville’s population, but Hadley said that is probably an overstatement.

Tom Moore is a current councilmember running for re-election.

“Ever since the second person joined the first person here in Rockville, periodically, the population has doubled,” he said.

Moore said Rockville is fortunate that people want to live there, and the plan is about managing growth.

Claire Marcuccio Whitaker, who is running for council, said that even with lower growth, traffic will get worse due to people who live outside the city limits driving through on its roads. Beryl L. Feinberg, a council candidate, said she favors mixed-use development and some increased development of the type that could bring in more young professionals.

Council candidate Julie Palakovich Carr said since the road is a state highway, Rockville needs to work closely with the county on planning for that area. Virginia Onley, a council candidate, said slowly increasing density is key.

Two more debates are scheduled ahead of the Nov. 5 election. The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County has one scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at Thomas Farm Community Recreation Center, and the Rockville Senior Citizens Commission is sponsoring a candidate forum at 1 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Rockville Senior Center.

ewaibel@gazette.net