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Mayor and Council Vision, 2020
Rockville is thriving and has recovered from the prolonged recession. The recession’s impact on City revenues resulted in a renewed appreciation for the role of business as a provider of services, a revenue source, and a partner in community development and activities. It also provided an incentive to transform already good City budgeting, planning, and communication processes into superb ones. Through a community-wide public dialogue and review, the City Charter was amended to provide a form of government suitable for a city of 70,000 residents.
While Rockville is a regional economic engine, it stays true to its core values of environmental leadership and preserving neighborhoods and historical resources. The City has adopted a new Zoning Ordinance and Master Plan to reflect changing priorities and a better understanding and working relationship among all stakeholders.
City leaders recognize Rockville as an integral part of the greater Washington, D.C. region, and not an island unto itself. Rockville faces tremendous development pressures from its borders to the southi and northwestii, which strain the City’s roads and schools. Rockville accepts its responsibility to absorb and manage its share of the area’s considerable population growth.iii A strong urban core is considered essential to absorbing this growth and protecting neighborhoods. People are attracted to live and work in Rockville in increasing numbers because of the excellent municipal services and education system, the City’s success with balancing competing goals and engaging with its citizens and businesses, as well as the considerable cultural, recreational, entertainment, dining and shopping choices that are found here.
Rockville is the governmental center of Montgomery County with a significant county, state, and federal presence. These higher levels of government have an enhanced respect for City policies and processes due to the coordinated and proactive approach of City and community leaders and residents.
The vision builds on the following seven themes: Strong and Distinctive Neighborhoods; Urban Sensitivity; Engaged Governance; Business Friendly; Multimodal Transportation; Exceptional City Services and Amenities; and Quality Environment. These themes have equal importance and Mayor and Council view them as mutually compatible. Budget priorities are explicitly not part of the vision; these are best addressed in the normal budget process.
Strong and Distinctive Neighborhoods
Our attractive neighborhoods retain their distinctive identities and have strong, energetic leaders. Residents identify with and are proud of their communities, yet are fully aware of the value of their relationship to the rest of the City. Stable residential and commercial property values and a strong income tax base contribute to supporting excellent municipal services and amenities.
Zoning standards reinforce neighborhood identity and property values. A wide variety of housing choices are available among Rockville’s diverse neighborhoods. Mixed-use neighborhoods are established in the urban core. Rockville’s traditional neighborhoods are buffered from the urban core by effective transition zones that encourage positive redevelopment with sensible height and mass parameters. Neighborhoods are well connected to each other, adjacent commercial centers, and the urban core. Bicycle and pedestrian paths provide connections where streets cannot. These paths are safe, well lit, and have appropriate and helpful signage throughout the system.
Neighborhoods are safe, well policed, and houses are well maintained. Code enforcement is strict but is needed in relatively few situations. Together these policies reinforce the efforts of neighborhood leaders in maintaining a quality living environment.
Every neighborhood has recreational choices through local parks and recreation programs, and is served by high-quality public schools. Also, an array of private schools serves a large minority of the City’s children.
The City values its seniors, providing services to this fast growing population and making it easier for seniors to age in place. Rockville recognizes that in order for both seniors and young professionals to live in their own homes, it is necessary to support the renovation and upkeep of existing homes, as well as permit a variety of housing types.
The City’s urban core is concentrated in Town Center and radiates south and north along Maryland Route 355, a thriving, pedestrian-friendly boulevard. The bulk of the City’s new housing is located within mixed-use communities in this urban setting, and there are options for long-underserved young professionals, young families, “empty nesters” and non-traditional households. Phase II of Town Center development north of Beall Avenue was completed a few years ago, as were mixed-use buildings along East Middle Lane.
Further south, Rockville Pike is transitioning to a denser and more pedestrian, bicycle and mass transit-friendly environment. To the north, the commercial segments along Hungerford Drive are revitalized and thriving, contributing to the City’s tax base and to Rockville’s reputation as a destination. To the east, properties along Veirs Mill Road have redeveloped in a manner consistent with the Twinbrook Neighborhood Plan.
Commercial entities, residential developers, Montgomery College, and county and state government drive the development of the urban core. The development is accomplished with neighborhood input resulting in optimum outcomes. Stonestreet Avenue has redeveloped with mixed uses.
Rockville is a major regional cultural center, and is recognized as such regionally, nationally, and internationally. Its entertainment and performance arts districts are well known throughout the area and contribute to Rockville’s reputation as a “destination.” There is a lively nightlife in the urban core and in some of the mixed-use centers. New urban cultural and civic amenities continue to emerge, and complement VisArts, the library, and Town Square. These are primarily private, but a few, such as the new Science Center, involve public/private partnerships.
Historic preservation processes and standards have been refined, and many historic properties have been preserved through thoughtful and creative re-use. Peerless Rockville continues to be a strong and visible proponent for protecting Rockville’s history.
Through extensive public dialogue and review, the City Charter was revised several years ago. A high percentage of voters understand and act on the importance of participating in the electoral process. The community actively engages with City Hall and the Mayor and Council, thereby positively affecting the City’s responsiveness. Communication between the City government and the citizenry is effective and runs both ways.
The City enjoys productive and respectful relationships with all levels of government, including other Maryland municipalities and Washington-area communities, and public institutions. For example, Montgomery County has been rebuilding its governmental center throughout Town Center, contributing to economic growth and vitality for the entire urban core. The Montgomery College campus is now fully integrated into the City’s bike and pedestrian pathways.
Relationships between Mayor and Council and City staff run smoothly and are informed by well-understood and respected delineation of duties and responsibilities. The budget process is clear, and the growth of the government is constrained.
Development processes are transparent and there is ample and early opportunity for collaborative neighborhood input. The College Gardens Plaza is a sterling example of how a commercial owner and developer work with the community to define a highly profitable and well-accepted commercial and mixed-use project.
The City’s Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance are clearly written and provide attractive alternatives for continued business investment. Opportunities for and limits on development are clear and reasonable. The City has a longstanding economic development unit, and possesses economic and tax-impact analysis capabilities so that it knows how the zoning ordinance and permitting processes impact business and the tax base.
Permits and approval processes are clear and are executed efficiently. The business community is active and highly respected, and business people are fully and positively involved in the City. The City’s tax base is stable, reasonable, and slowly increasing. Property tax rates are defensible and competitive.
Rockville has programs to actively attract and grow new small to medium size businesses. The business incubator in the Arts and Innovation Center continues to have waiting lists for the high-tech businesses in biotechnology, computing, and services. Businesses locate here because Rockville is a cultural, recreational, educational and entertainment leader, a transportation hub, and a great place to raise a family. Rockville boasts a highly educated and motivated workforce, which includes many young professionals and members of the “creative class.”
Improvements to the transportation infrastructure over the past decade have mitigated the impact of increased traffic. More viable transportation options exist throughout the City connecting Rockville neighborhoods and Rockville to the wider metropolitan area, including bus routes, trolley lines, the Corridor Cities Transitway, and expanded METRO and MARC service. Rockville is recognized as a “Pedestrian First City.”
Pedestrian safety is a perennial Mayor and Council priority. Over the years pedestrians have been better accommodated through Zoning Ordinance provisions, improved pedestrian infrastructure, and pedestrian and driver education and outreach. The City continues to rigorously enforce speed limits and red light violations, and provides excellent pedestrian crossing infrastructure.
The car is still the predominant mode of transportation, but residents are more willing to use transit, cycle, or walk. As areas of the City are redeveloped, it has become easier to abandon cars for daily commutes. Mixed-use communities facilitate this, and many residents live either near their work places or in proximity to commuter transportation hubs. Rockville leads the nation in the adoption of energy-efficient cars. Many residents work from home through high-speed Internet services blanketing the City.
The rehabilitated and renamed Rockville Town-Center Metro platform now extends over Park Street, and crossing 355 on foot has become a comfortable and safe experience.
Exceptional City Services and Amenities
City services and amenities continue to be exceptional. The City provides high-quality services including snow and leaf removal, well-maintained streets, and refuse and recycling services. The Police moved to their new headquarters in Town Center several years ago and continue to provide outstanding service to the Rockville community.
The Recreation and Parks program remains the envy of the mid-Atlantic region. RedGate is still a jewel. There is a remarkable Science Center focused on the biotechnology sector. Reliable and extremely fast Wi-Fi is available everywhere in the City.
The City’s longstanding efforts to upgrade its water system, including the 20-year project to replace worn-out water mains in the older parts of town, are proceeding on schedule and within budget. Rockville continues advancing inspection and preventive maintenance methods and technologies for its water, sewer, and storm water infrastructure. As a result, the incidences of water main breaks, sewer backups, and spot flooding have decreased dramatically.
Rockville continues to apply reliable advanced information technology to improve the quality, cost, and speed of providing municipal services.
Rockville is a “Green City” in all areas. Cities around the country have taken notice of the fact that Rockville has found a way to be both green and economically attractive. Incentives and education have effectively achieved the convergence of individual self-interest and environmentally sensitive behavior. Rockville has enticed a number of new “green” businesses to open their doors and provide employment in the City.
Rockville continues to be the regional leader in Storm Water Management and energy conservation, not only for City facilities, but also for residential and commercial properties. It does this through education and innovative programs, incentives, and regulation where appropriate.
An energy conservation task force established in the early part of the decade developed federal and state grant opportunities that persuaded residents to aggressively adopt energy-conserving ways of life because they saw that this was in their self interest. The City is in the process of replacing its entire vehicle fleet with alternative energy-powered vehicles.
The City addresses its planning and development issues by bringing all parties to the table from the outset, recognizing that sustainability has economic and environmental components that must work together. Development standards are high but not unreasonable, and are not a disincentive to development.
i Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) that results in more development in Bethesda. Also the County’s White Flint Sector Plan just south of Rockville.
ii The Great Seneca Science Corridor development spearheaded by Johns Hopkins University.
iii Council of Governments report of 2010 predicts two-million person population growth in the Washington, DC region between 2010 and 2050.