Twinbrook Quarter, a development at the center of heated debate in Rockville, is expected to receive Rockville City Council approval next week, making it the first big project to get an exemption from the city’s school capacity test.
The project is intended to transform a seven-block stretch of Rockville Pike into a “world-class, mixed-use area,” according to developers from B.F. Saul, the company leading the project.
Plans call for demolishing 240,756 square feet of existing commercial property and replacing it with 11 mixed-use buildings with office, retail and entertainment space and up to 1,865 apartments. The project would be done in six phases and span more than 30 years.
The multimillion-dollar project turned heads earlier this year when information surfaced that new residents could strain already crowded Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson high schools.
Enrollment at the schools is anticipated to be pushed over the maximum capacity generally allowed before residential building projects are put on hold, but the Rockville City Council in February voted to allow certain “champion” development projects be granted an exemption from conducting the school capacity rules test, which calculates the number of students a new residential development project would have.
The project is expected to add 45 students to the Richard Montgomery cluster and 160 to the Walter Johnson cluster, according to City Council documents.
If capacity at any school impacted by the project exceeds 120 percent, development applications are generally denied. The Twinbrook Quarter project meets qualifications outlined by the council to receive an exemption, but the final decision about its designation and possible approval of the plan is expected Monday.
The city’s Planning Commission has unanimously recommended the project receive the designation.
Representatives of B.F. Saul declined comment.
Throughout the nearly two-year review process since the project was initially proposed, Rockville residents have spoken out against the project, largely due to its impact on nearby schools.
At a public hearing last month, one resident, Sam Shipkovitz, called the project a “cultural Chernobyl,” saying it would change the character of the area to a more urban area that residents would not prefer.
“No homeowner in Twinbrook wants this proposed change … with their shadow on our homes, vast increase in population and associated bad effects,” he said.
Proponents of the project argue it will bring much-needed density and amenities to the area.
Representatives of The Twinbrook Community Association, comprised of neighborhood residents, say they support the project.
Developers have also proposed a 1 acre park in the center of the property serve as public gathering space, dog parks, three new roads to accommodate traffic through the area and bike lanes.