2021 | Rockville

Rockville mayor, council pass master plan update

‘Rockville 2040’ is the first change since 2002

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Rockville officials on Monday unanimously approved an update to the city’s master plan for the first time in nearly two decades, capping a process that started in May 2015.

The plan, ‘Rockville 2040,’ is an update to the city’s 2002 master plan. It covers broad topics like land use, municipal growth, transportation, economic development and housing.

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council members have spent multiple meetings this year going line by line over various sections of the plan with city staff members. The city’s Planning Commission sent the mayor and council a draft of the plan in February.

Rockville 2040 has various goals and recommendations. In its land-use chapter, there are goals to install more electric vehicle stations and to update building codes to require those stations in new and current buildings.

The housing chapter allows for rezoning certain areas for duplexes, triplexes, apartment complexes and other housing types to create more of a supply for new and current residents. It also asks officials to consider “alternative housing” like tiny homes and micro-unit apartments, along with considering old hotels and office spaces as potential residential areas.

Rockville residents previously sent in comments in support of making the city more walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly. In response, Rockville 2040 recommends connecting current bike lanes and routes to the county’s trail system, and expanding the bike-share system. 

Rockville 2040 also would create a Pedestrian Master Plan centered around the three Metro stops serving Rockville. That includes focusing on better sidewalk access, more bike racks nearby and better signage to get people to those stops.

There also is a goal to have a city park within a 10-minute walk of every resident. There are 67 city parks, but also areas where residents have to walk longer than 10 minutes — especially in the southern half of Rockville — to reach one. 

Rockville 2040 will help inform smaller area plans and overall zoning proposals citywide in upcoming years.

Newton and council members kept their comments brief after Monday night’s final vote.

The plan’s approval was one of Andrea Gilles’ last actions as a city employee, Newton said Monday. Gilles is a city planner who worked with Newton and council members throughout the Rockville 2040 process. 

Newton said Gilles was “instrumental” in not only creating Rockville 2040, but also in smaller plans in recent years. Her departure is a “huge loss” for Rockville, she added.

Even though the vote was unanimous, Council Member Mark Pierzchala said he had “deep reservations” about parts of the plan.

“I think we will have to revisit major parts of this in the next three to 10 years because it doesn’t move Rockville forward in the way it needs to be moved forward,” Pierzchala said during Monday’s meeting.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com