Wednesday, November 09, 2011


The votes have been counted in the Rockville city elections, and Bethesda drivers (and Rockville Pike shoppers, drivers and small business owners) can be counted among the winners.

Sort of.

Traffic will continue to worsen as is, but will get much worse as the irresponsibly oversized White Flint development expands. And then there's BRAC. The media and local politicians touted the $88 million federal gift towards improvements, but none of those small projects will replace the missing Northwest Freeway that was to parallel Wisconsin Avenue from Tenley Circle to the Beltway at Pooks Hill. Nor will it provide an off ramp from 495 into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Had the Northwest Freeway been built, BRAC would have had no impact on Bethesda traffic at all.

So what is the small piece of good news out of Rockville City Hall this morning? Well, there's a good chance that the equally-oversized Rockville Pike Plan is now D.O.A. with this council.

Returning Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio, and Councilmembers Bridget Newton and John Hall all oppose a developer-backed move to weaken the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The APFO protects citizens by requiring adequate school capacity, public safety staffing and other infrastructure to be in place before development can be approved (or that it will be added upon completion of the project).

Now here's the rub: the $500,000 Rockville Pike Plan is the same bloated, cookie-cutter mixed-use mumbo jumbo I testified against last March. All summer, the plan has sailed through all work sessions of the city's Planning Commission with trivial tweaks so far.

The rub? That plan would be illegal under the current APFO.

The makeup of this new council suggests that - barring a total loss of principles, or a bizarre switch to the developer faction by any of these three politicians - the weaker APFO and Rockville Pike Plan will both fail on 3-2 votes before this Mayor and Council.

Let's hope so. And hope that we can now take responsible steps to prepare for future development now, by putting infrastructure such as the Rockville Freeway in place. Our ability to travel state highway 355 in a civilized fashion depends on it.

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