Monday night's Rockville City Council hearing on Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home’s proposal to build a parking lot in the city's historic West End included nearly two hours of testimony from 40 people.
Rockville Patch live tweeted the hearing @RockvillePatch. Click here to read our tweets from the hearing.
In January, a newly elected council moved to reverse the previous council’s 2010 decision to grant Pumphrey the right to build the parking lot.
On Friday, Councilman Tom Moore used Rockville Patch and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce’s email listserv to call on residents to testify in favor of upholding the decision allowing the lot.
Among those testifying on Monday was Rockville resident Jacques Gelin, who opposes the parking lot. The following is written testimony submitted by Gelin that closely follows his oral testimony:
Last week I announced to friends and fellow residents of Rockville that I was tired of the unremitting acrimony that dominates our civic discourse and that I was withdrawing from active participation in Rockville politics. That was before I received a statement from Councilman Moore on the letterhead of the Chamber of Commerce. I don’t know who is using whom, but my deep concern for our community prompts me to answer Mr. Moore’s statement.
The facts are undisputed. Pumphrey’s is a commercial enterprise located in a residential neighborhood. This is a nonconforming use. Maryland law forbids the expansion of a nonconforming use. The Planning Commission, the Historic District Commission and City’s planning staff all opposed the expansion of this nonconforming use. A prior Mayor and Council, by a 3-2 vote, overrode the city’s planners and City’s Historic District and Planning Commissions to allow Pumphrey’s to expand its parking lot; this body must now decide whether it has the courage to correct this error.
The matter before you is not whether Pumphrey’s is a long-established business that maintains a fine building in the West End. It is. West End residents have always valued Pumphrey’s as a good neighbor. That too is not an issue. Nor is the issue whether this Mayor and Council can or should reverse a wrongful vote, one that disregarded the positions of the City’s planning staff and Historic District and Planning Commissions. Of course it can and it should. Nor is this an anti-business or NIMBY matter.
The real issue here is whether you will protect our neighborhoods. Rockville is built on residential neighborhoods that make it a place where people want to live. Rockville’s core value as a fine place to live is under constant attack—by developers and their allies, including ambitious politicians. They have one objective: profit—fueled by unrestrained development. They don’t care about clogging our streets, further overcrowding our schools, degrading the character of our neighborhoods and the quality of life of our residents. It’s that simple. Forget the red herrings and the disingenuous arguments. We have a never-ending battle: The Rockville Pike Plan, the Twinbrook plan, the Silverwood annexation, Bealls Grant II, Victory Housing. Do the right thing: Deny this attempt to expand a nonconforming, commercial use in a residential neighborhood.
The public record will remain open for written testimony until 5 p.m. on April 6.
Should Pumphrey be allowed to build the parking lot? What would a reversal say about the Rockville City Council? Vote in our poll and add your comments below.