Photo by thecourtyard on Flickr.
Voters in Rockville and Gaithersburg will choose at-large members of their city councils tomorrow. The choices voters make could affect how much these cities encourage and welcome development around transit and transit around existing development.
Rockville has several councilmembers, including Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio, who rode into office 2 years ago on a platform partly based on slowing down growth in the dense core of this small city. She had successfully kept away a mixed-income housing development within walking distance of the Metro.
The Gazette endorsed Piotr Gajewski to unseat Marcuccio tomorrow. Unfortunately, Gajewski voted with Marcuccio on one of the Rockville council’s most embarrassing moves this year: a recommendation to reroute the Corridor Cities Transitway away from King Farm.
This development, close to Shady Grove, was explicitly built around a central boulevard with a very wide median that could accommodate a light rail line in the future. Yet some residents afraid of a transit line have organized against bringing the line where it was always meant to go. Marcuccio and Gajewski both voted to ask the state to reroute the line.
Gajewski, who lives in King Farm, said the line would provide “no benefits.” It’s strange to think that a quick ride to the Metro in one direction and jobs in the other wouldn’t benefit residents. Fortunately, the state isn’t heeding this bad advice.
Patch contributor and lobbyist Richard Parsons wrote a useful summary of the growth and transit issues in Rockville. He says that few candidates in either city want to reform the damaging Adequate Public Facilities laws that hinder walkable development while encouraging sprawl. These laws, designed to ensure development doesn’t overcrowd schools or roads, actually end up just stopping growth in the core and pushing it to less dense outer areas which will create more traffic and a need to build schools in the future.
Parsons’ summary of Gaithersburg’s races, on the other hand, are a lot more suspect because he was previous paid by Johns Hopkins to promote their so-called “Science City” development. The Gaithersburg council opposed the project at its proposed size, and Parsons criticizes this decision without disclosing his conflict of interest.
2 challengers to the Gaithersburg incumbents are criticizing that decision, which Parsons applauds on behalf of “those who want to see a more aggressive approach to job creation and transit-oriented development.” “Science City” could have been true transit-oriented development by locating around Shady Grove or other underdeveloped Metro station areas; instead, Johns Hopkins brought enormous pressure and lobbying dollars to approve widely-scattered “towers in the park” office parks, connected by a winding bus route, and stamped as “transit-oriented development.”
Gaithersburg voters should make up their own minds, but be wary of any recommendations around “Science City” from anyone who made some real money in exchange for promoting this lousy project.