Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rollingwood remains divided over the neighborhood’s future

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Now that the Montgomery County Council unanimously struck down a request by some Chevy Chase residents to vote on becoming their own municipality, the Rollingwood rift carries on.

Advocates for creating the Rollingwood Village of Chevy Chase say the council’s decision was unjust. They want another shot at becoming a semi-sovereign, tax-funded village and plan to ask the council this week for a second public hearing on the matter.

But opponents of the incorporation effort were satisfied with the council’s decision. They want to start mending the community after a two-year fight over incorporation.

‘‘Now that we have the council’s attention, it would be much better to communicate with the council” about the neighborhood’s needs, ‘‘rather than continue to irritate the council with the continuation of this request,” said Rollingwood resident Mau Van Doren.

The organizers for a Rollingwood village intend to keep pursuing their efforts, beginning with a hearing request this week, and possibly restarting the process if the council confirms its decision in a vote likely to be scheduled for fall.

‘‘We would’ve accepted what we think is a well-reasoned, sound decision, but we don’t think the one that we got [last week] was,” said pro-incorporation resident and Rollingwood organizer Charles Garrison.

Anti-incorporation resident Stuart Schwartz disagreed.

‘‘The county is the best judge of whether the county’s best interest is served, one way or the other,” he said.

Rollingwood incorporation proponents have backed the effort because, they say, a local government could better represent villagers and take care of services like neighborhood lighting improvements.

Opponents have argued that incorporating would add unnecessary bureaucracy. They argue the county is already providing adequate service.

The Rollingwood organizing committee assembled a village charter that was presented to the council in June. The council’s review of the charter was followed by a public hearing attended by 150 people on July 10.

According to Maryland state law, the Rollingwood village would have been entitled to 17 percent of its residents’ county income taxes, or about $1.2 million returned directly to Rollingwood.

The committee wrote up a budget that would pay for 16 services, including twice-weekly trash pickup and policing by off-duty officers.

The village’s proposed boundaries included 2,200 registered voters and subdivisions like Dunlop Hills and Pinehurst Village, where some neighbors spoke against becoming a defined municipality.

‘‘It seems to me that if Pinehurst wanted to remain an island [in Chevy Chase], Pinehurst has the right to remain an island,” said Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of incorporated Takoma Park.

The council cited the lack of uniform support within Rollingwood, the $1.2 million fiscal draw from county coffers and a lack of critical need for incorporation among the reasons for rejecting the Rollingwood committee’s petition.

‘‘I think there should be a more driving need for local government than what has been presented here,” said Councilwoman Nancy M. Floreen (D-At large) of incorporated Garrett Park, during the council’s vote July 19.

Regardless of whether the Rollingwood committee requests a second hearing, the council must review and confirm, or reverse, its decision to reject the organizers’ plea.