In the great upper Montgomery County property annexation race, it seems to be Gaithersburg 1, Rockville 0.
Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney A. Katz said the city will vote on the annexation of the Sears property on Shady Grove Road at the Monday, Aug. 6, mayor and council meeting. That follows Tuesday's unanimous vote by the Montgomery County Council approving the city's proposed zoning change for retail use of the property.
Currently residing in unincorporated Gaithersburg, the city is attempting to annex two properties totaling 27.9 acres that is owned by Sears and Roebuck Co. It was previously home to the now-closed Great Indoors.
Of the county council vote, Katz said, "Everyone sort of had their own opinion on what the annexation process should be," but Gaithersburg followed the required process set forth by the state of Maryland after being approached by Sears regarding possible annexation of the property.
Had the Sears property not been rezoned from Research and Development (R&D), which prohibits retail, to Mixed Use District (MXD), Katz said it could not have continued to be used.
"The Research and Development market is not there at this time," Katz said.
Montgomery County Council legislative attorney Jeff Zyontz said the council's approval of the zone change is beneficial to Gaithersburg and Sears. If voted down, Gaithersburg could still annex the property but current, non-retail zoning would have remained for five years.
As Gaithersburg moves swiftly to annex the property, Rockville has fallen behind in a race to determine the property's fate.
If Gaithersburg is the first to approve annexation, Rockville is basically out of luck, Zyontz said.
Gaithersburg’s attempt to annex the property caught Rockville off guard, Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio told Patch. Marcuccio said that she had always understood that Shady Grove Road was the “unspoken border” between the cities.
“Clearly Gaithersburg does not subscribe to that feeling,” she said.
Rockville took action to draw a clear boundary in June when the council launched an effort to annex a portion of Shady Grove Road into the city.
“I am still concerned that Gaithersburg is pushing its boundaries south,” Marcuccio said. “I’m sorry that we didn’t make an issue of it earlier.”
Rockville is pushing for a task force made up of representatives of Rockville and Gaithersburg, and possibly county representatives, to look at issues related to the border between the cities.
The task force would work off a 1992 memorandum of understanding between the cities, according to Marcuccio. The memorandum expired on Monday, July 23, 2012. By not voting to annex the property until after its expiration, Gaithersburg did not violate the memorandum, Katz said.
"We're happy to meet sit down with [Rockville and the County Council] at some point" to discuss future agreement on the two cities' border, Katz said.
Editor's Note: Rockville Patch editor Sean Sedam and Alexandra Scarfone contributed to this report.
Border Wars: Gaithersburg, Rockville Fight Over Shady Grove Site (July 26, 2012)
Rockville Letters Oppose Great Indoors Site Annexation (June 7, 2012)
Council Considers Adding 28 Acres To City (March 5, 2012)