.

Moore Encourages Public to Speak Out at Hearing on Pumphrey Parking Lot

Councilman: 'Remind us that Pumphrey's is a valued neighbor.'

Rockville's Mayor and Council are holding a , on .

This battle is not lost. Your Mayor and Council deeply value the input we receive from citizens at our public hearings. You would be amazed by the effect an outpouring of public opinion can have. I encourage you to sign up for the hearing and make your voice heard.

It's polite to send an e-mail to clerk@rockvillemd.gov, call 240-314-8280, or send a fax to 240-314-8289 to sign up to speak, but even if you don't sign up, you can still show up Monday night and you will be heard.

You can even make your voice heard before Monday: Post this article on Facebook, tweet it, or email the link to your Rockville friends.

When you get to City Hall on Monday night:

  • Let us know how much you value Rockville's family-owned businesses. And tell us why you don't think the City of Rockville should casually tell a family-owned business that has operated in Rockville since 1854 to simply move away.
  • Tell us you'd like us to actually support Rockville's employers, not just promise to do so during our campaigns, and not just talk about doing so during our meetings.
  • Remind us that the more successful Rockville's businesses are, the less tax Rockville's people have to pay.
  • Let us know how much you value pedestrian safety. Please ask us what we're going to do when the first funeral-goer trying to dart across Route 28 at dusk ends up needing their own funeral.
  • Remind us that 's is a valued neighbor. Let us know that you realize the West Montgomery Historic District is a historic district with a lovingly cared-for funeral home smack in the middle of it. Feel free to point out how the funeral home is possibly the best-maintained building in the West End, sometimes irritatingly so in comparison to our own homes.
  • For that matter, remind us that Pumphrey's predates the historic district—and just about every home in the area.
  • Remind us that Rockville's employers need to be able to rely on the decisions their government makes. Remind us that we are a lesser place when we can't trust the word of our City government.
  • Remind us that the only reason the parking lot didn't get built promptly after the approval was given way back in 2010 was that Pumphrey's did trust the word of Rockville's government. More than $100,000 in planning and legal costs later, I'm sure they are sorry they did.
  • Come equipped Monday night with information about what else could be built or operated on that space if Pumphrey's left. (The short answer: not much.) Come bearing the knowledge that it was fully legally and procedurally appropriate for the previous council to decide what it did.
  • Remind us of something we're already fully aware of: The City of Rockville always evaluates each zoning exception request it receives on a case-by-case basis. There is no such thing as "opening the floodgates."
  • Remind us that Pumphrey's asked to combine their two lots only because City planners asked them to do so; point out to us that wielding that request as a weapon against them now is grossly unfair.
  • And remind your Mayor and Council that when we make a commitment to overturn a previous decision only if that decision was legally or procedurally wrong—and it turns out to be neither—we should keep our promise, even if it ends up in a result we don't like. Our word matters.
  • More than anything, remind us that you will not allow Rockville to be run by the rule of NIMBY. We are better than that.

See you Monday night!

The author is a member of the Rockville City Council.

Jeff Hawkins March 23, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Well said Piotr.............the citizen's of Rockville will be "watching". Promises kept and one's word of honor matter the most in my book.
Temperance Blalock March 23, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Many of the West End activitists who've led the fight against Pumphrey's are the same people who aggressively lobbied the late Mr. Snowden to campaign against Bealls Grant II as a threat to his own funeral home. However, I don't doubt that once someone has been used by those activists, they won't end up being thrown under the bus themselves once they've ceased to serve a purpose.
Theresa Defino March 23, 2012 at 06:16 PM
For folks who cannot make in Monday night or are uncomfortable speaking in public before a live TV audience, PLEASE email the mayor and council and let them know your thoughts. These will be read and they will be part of the public record. The email address is: mayorcouncil@rockvillemd.gov
Linda Brunett March 23, 2012 at 07:18 PM
As one who lives on Williams Street and deals with the parking issue on a frequent basis, I appreciate everyone's help in communicating to the Mayor and Council that overturning the text amendment would be a terrible mistake.
Doug R March 23, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Me too. I will certainly be there, having spoken on this issue before, and this is a plain and simple issue of fairness, and good government. If people want both, show up, and speak out!
Stephen Kelley March 24, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Open. Honest. Intelligent. And ethical. Let me be the first to sign up for Tom Moore for Mayor 2013! I sure hope Councilmembers Newton and Hall read this. Thank you, Tom, for making happy to have voted for you.
Brigitta Mullican March 24, 2012 at 01:10 PM
From the beginning of the request I have fully supported of the expansion of the Pumphries parking area and knew that Mayor and Bridget Newton were against this, but I voted for them anyway. I don't always agree with all the positions of the candidates, but consider how receptive they might be on important issues. I do hope that the entire council will conclude the best decision by approving the parking expansion to solve a problem for the folks on Williams St. Approving this parking expansion is the right thing to do. Council Member Moore has presented all good reason that should be considered for the vote on Monday. Sorry I won't be able to make it to the hearing.
Art Stigile March 24, 2012 at 04:35 PM
After Glenview Mansion, Pumphrey's is the first place in Rockville I show to my out-of-town guests. I frequently drive out of my way just to enjoy its grandeur. If I had the money, I would have bought the home next to it a few years ago. Pumphrey would be a great neighbor. They appear to want to do the right thing for all of the homeowners in the immediate area. I particularly want to associate myself with the statements made by Councilmember Moore and others about fairness. Businesses and homeowners should feel they can trust the City’s word. I imagine that when William Reuben Jr purchased the home for Pumphrey in 1928, a hand shake was enough to seal a deal. People honored their word. The last Mayor and Council decided this issue, and Pumphrey should be able to move forward based on that decision. If this Council pulls the rug out from under them, it would send a message that the City of Rockville cannot be trusted.
amarynth March 24, 2012 at 06:21 PM
When I was little, I told a relative that I wanted to live there. She tried to explain the concept of a funeral home to me, but all I took from her explanation was that there were dead people there. I'm told that for a few days, I refused to get in the car because I was scared that they were going to take me there and leave me!
Jeff Hawkins March 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM
@Theresa Thank you very much for the information.....
Piotr Gajewski March 26, 2012 at 01:39 PM
For those planning to testify this evening (Monday), there are two opportunities as follows: The first is at Citizen’s Forum, which will roughly take place at 7:10 p.m. At this time, one can address any issue with the Council, but the testimony would not be made part of the public record on the Pumphry’s issue. The second is at the Public Hearing, specifically on the Pumphry’s issue, which will roughly take place at 8:20 p.m. (could be slightly earlier) Agenda # 11 – following public hearings on two other issues, that may draw few or no speakers. This is the appropriate time to address the Pumphry’s issue and have the testimony be included in the public record. There is no prohibition on testifying in both time slots; indeed it is a reasonable strategy to do that, as each opportunity offers only 3 minutes.
Susan Prince March 26, 2012 at 03:23 PM
As a point of clarification - the vote Mr. Gajewski is referring to was the West End Citizen's Association meeting last spring. After general discussion where pros and cons of this proposal were discussed at length, a "straw" vote was taken to gauge the general sentiment. This vote was almost evenly split - with several abstentions. Because there was no clear consensus on this issue WECA declined to take an official position. To say that: "...those who support the expansion of the parking area prevailed." is inaccurate and misleading. I would ask that individuals who do not attend our meetings refrain from "reporting" on them. It perpetuates a culture of misinformation. Our meetings are open to any resident of the West End and we regularly discuss issues that affect our neighborhood. I encourage any interested individuals to attend. For more information please visit our website: http://weca.us/. Susan Prince President West End Citizen's Association
Piotr Gajewski March 26, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Ms. Prince: it is my recollection that it was reported at a Council meeting, in response to a question, that there were more votes supporting the parking expansion than opposing it. The fact that you conclude that “there was no clear consensus” does not negate the fact that, as reported, the majority (or at least plurality) of the people at the meeting voted for the expansion. Are you now claiming that this is inaccurate? What is “misleading” about repeating the report of this result? Personally, I would characterize your explanation above as “misleading” as it never reports the result of the vote other than to say that “it was almost evenly split.” So if it was indeed not “evenly split” then one side prevailed. Which side was it Ms. Prince, and why are you avoiding reporting it now? Not reporting it is misleading.
Piotr Gajewski March 26, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Ms. Prince: I have now received word from someone who was at the meeting that you cite reporting that the vote was 26 for the parking lot expansion, 20 against the parking lot expansion and 5 abstaining. Please confirm this result. Also, if this is what constitutes “almost evenly split” then I guess I am “almost” the mayor of Rockville. ;-)
Susan Prince March 26, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Mr. Gajewski, Your recollection of my report to the Mayor and Council is accurate. However, it is the leap from my report to your interpretation that I wanted to correct. As I reported then and will again, there were 50 people in attendance of which 25 voted for expansion, 20 voted against with 5 abstentions. A motion was made to report to the M&C that we would not take a position, because there was no clear consensus. We included the tally to give an indication of the closeness of the vote. By focusing solely on the number of votes misses the point. The arguments for and against were equally strong and people were passionate on both sides of the issue. There was no prevailing viewpoint. Our practice is to take positions only when there is a clear desire to do so among the residents. In fact, in the 3 years I've been President, this was the only major vote that was not virtually 100% for or against. We do not seek a simple majority but rather look to build consensus among residents on issues that affect us. The strength of our organization comes from our unanimity. I do not view our role as taking stands that pit residents against residents and could potentially split the neighborhood. I also would not use my position as President to advocate to my neighbors in support of my own personal viewpoint (much like Councilmember Moore is doing with this letter). Of course residents are free to contact the M&C individually. Which I encourage them to do.
Piotr Gajewski March 26, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Ms. Prince: thank you very much for clarifying the facts. Based on your clarification that at the meeting I initially referenced 25 people voted for the expansion of parking while 20 voted against it, I stand by my statement (above) which you characterized (above) as “inaccurate” that “the only time neighbors actually got together and took a vote on this issue, those who support the expansion of the parking area prevailed.” Personally I declare that you characterizing my statement as “inaccurate” indeed “perpetuates a culture of misinformation” that you so bemoan in your post.
Sean R. Sedam March 26, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Kudos to everyone who's posted. It's obvious that this is a topic that has the attention of Rockville residents. This comment stream is an example of how to engage each other on Rockville Patch. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
Susan Prince March 26, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Mr. Gajewski, I agree that if you only count 45 of the votes, it is uneven. However there were 5 abstentions which must be considered as well. These individuals represent 10% of the residents present and with such a close vote is statistically significant. As President, I was one of the abstentions. Personally I am against this proposal for a number of reasons. I cannot speak for the other 4 individuals. They could be for the parking lot, in which case the vote would have been 29 to 21. They could be against the parking lot, in which case the vote would be 25-25. Because we'll never know for sure, and there is a chance that it was a 50-50 split, it is incorrect to assume there was a prevailing sentiment for the parking lot. It is disingenuous to focus only the part of the vote that suits your argument. Our informal vote should not be used as an argument that residents are for this parking lot. At best, it represents ambivalence about this project.
Jeff Hawkins March 26, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Susan, If I may "butt" in between you and Piotr for a moment. It seems to me that absentions can't or should not be considered. If these votes either for or against were not intended to be examples of the feelings of those citizen's who voted, then what good was the vote in the first place?
Susan Prince March 26, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Mr. Hawkins, Perhaps, but because the vote was structured as a straw poll - rather than a formal vote, people may have been more willing to abstain. Again, we'll never know for sure - and I don't like to speculate. The intent was to take the temperature in the room and determine if we had enough consensus to take a formal position. We didn't reach a consensus so we didn't take a position. This is why I am concerned about taking this "vote" at face value. Thanks.
Susan Prince March 26, 2012 at 10:27 PM
As a follow up to my earlier comments, I wanted to add that there were additional letters sent to the Mayor and Council from residents both for and against the parking lot during the original public hearing. In addition there was a petition signed by residents that was submitted for the public record. These documents are online on the City website. Netting out those for and against and deducting duplicates, there were a total 37 additional residents who spoke out against the parking lot. As these additional "votes" were after our meeting, they obviously did not factor into our position, but should be considered as part of the larger picture.
Piotr Gajewski March 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Mr. Doug Reimel reports on his Facebook page that last night (Monday): “there were 26 [speakers] for Pumphrey's right to build a parking lot to resolve neighborhood parking and safety issues, 13 against (aka anti-everything), and one bizarre no position five minute rant that elections have consequences...” Actually, I personally counted the “rant” in the against-column. However, Ms. Susan Prince (see her comments above) actually testified on behalf of the West End Citizen Association (WECA) and reported a neutral position of the organization (at their meeting some time ago, they took what was reported as a straw-poll vote where 25 people voted for the expansion of parking, 20 against and 5 abstained, leading to an apparent ultimate neutral recommendation result). But then Ms. Prince proceeded to use a large part of her time, advocating against the expansion of parking, so it was easy to miss that her testimony was officially neutral. So then, last night’s testimony numbers appear to be: 26 for the parking lot expansion, 13 against, and one (Ms. Susan Prince on behalf of WECA), neutral.
Jeff Hawkins March 27, 2012 at 02:06 PM
@Piotr I was unable to attend and speak to the issue last night (Monday). I did send an e-mail to the Mayor and Council voicing my support for Pumphrey's right to build their parking lot. I think the gentleman stated at the beginning of the discussion that there were quite a few e-mails sent. I was able though to watch some of the event on TV and what struck me the most was that the folks who live on Williams St. and Forest St. (i.e. the ones most impacted) seemed to be in favor of the parking lot and had no issue with it. In my warped way of thinking, this matters almost as much as the issue of elected official's keeping their word. Now if those close neighbors of Pumphrey's had complained that the parking lot would ruin their life, then maybe it should not be built.....but they didn't say that.......at least the one's that I saw speak.
Doug R March 27, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Piotr, my tally sheet had 24 to 14 originally, but I missed two speakers who were very short in their discussion, including one woman who spoke immediately after I did, so I believe that the correct total is 26, but it may also be 25... Regardless, by far the most disturbing thing that transpired last night was the personal attacks levied against Councilman Moore. In the Citizens' Forum, a member of the Planning Commission arose and cited part some ethics rules or code with regard to Councilman Moore's article on this site encouraging residents to speak up about Pumphrey's. He craftily suggested that while he wasn't saying anything improper occurred, that Councilman Moore's actions were "against the spirit of the ethics rules". That was among the lowest, most vile blow I've ever witnessed in any of the local politics I've EVER witnessed. Slimeball tactics are not above this crowd. You know that all too well, Piotr. Also, Drew Powell, one of the Mayor's close confidants, so I am told, astounding stood up and bullied Mr. Moore by verbally attacking him during a hearing that had nothing to do with his attack, and then having the call to refer to Mr. Moore as a "bully", a comment so reflective of this man's cognitive dissonance on the issue that people in the audience gasped in amazement, myself included.
Doug R March 27, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Every single thing that Tom pointed out in his article has already been suggested in some form in the public discussion and debate surrounding the Pumphrey's issue. Tom's article here on Patch was purely and simply a call to interested Rockville citizens to come before the Council and give their input as citizens at the public hearing. Indeed, the very purpose of a public hearing! HOW IS THAT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM UNETHICAL? The answer, it's not! The average citizen in Rockville who tunes in and hears someone making such statements might ask themselves "what did this guy do wrong?" without understanding the full backstory. Mr Moore and ALL the members of the Council have already expressed their opinions on this subject in public meetings, multiple times. If Councilman Moore feels that this is an important issue for the city, and that he knows there is a "silent majority" in the city who isn't being heard, then he should be COMMENDED for pushing citizens to engage and speak their minds. The crowd that runs the Council now cannot have it both ways. They talk about "civility" and respecting citizens and neighborhoods, and listening. And yet, when push comes to shove, this type of tactic reveals their true colors. They need a good hard look in the mirror--they are the bullies they claim to detest so much.
Doug R March 27, 2012 at 03:13 PM
This type of personal attack hurts our city. The intent of these people in using these tactics is not what is in the best interests of our city--it is to silence and intimidate people whose opinions they don't want expressed in our city's democratic forums. And ultimately, it is a power play. What happened last night was reprehensible, and the perpetrators of the politics of personal destruction ought to be ashamed. Sadly, I am not optimistic. And this kind of nonsense makes me want to throw my hands up, stop being involved, and maybe even move out of this city that I've come to love. However, they'd love that.
Theresa Defino March 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Every single member of Congress, mayors, governors, etc., write op-ed pieces on their own websites, in other public forums and in main stream media outlets, such as newspapers, advocating their position on matters and urging public support. There is nothing wrong with this behavior, and nothing wrong with what Councilmember Moore did. Doug, you may also recall that Mr. Powell was booed for his comments last night. And I have every confidence that the complaint filed by Joe Jordan, who ran the mayor's previous campaign, repeating Mr. Powell and Mr. Hadley's allegations about such violations will be found to be baseless.
Doug R March 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Of course it was baseless. These frivolous accusations always are. What bothers me the most is the constant one-sided impugnment of elected officials' motivations--it's never that the elected official has a truly held and/or valid viewpoint that may differ from the "anti-everything" crowd. They make an inherent assumption, without any evidence, that the motivations of the person has nothing to do with a thoughtful, fact-based position on an issue. It's ALWAYS that the big bad scary developers and big bad (in this case historic) businesses are out to make money and have no regard for the concerns of neighbors, and when it comes to accusations like these it's always depicted as ethical violations, or "pay to play" contributions. It's just wrong. And it is hurting this city's future.
Temperance Blalock March 27, 2012 at 04:54 PM
They employed a sneaky tactic where they waited until it was apparent that everyone who attended with the goal of speaking had said their piece, and then they hurled their vicious attacks. They wanted to get the last word in, and knew that folks who'd already spoken would not be given the opportunity to rebut. The accusations of ethics had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand, which was to discuss the pros and cons of allowing Pumphrey's to build a parking lot. They knew that their own objections did not hold much merit, and that the consensus was overwhelmingly supportive of Pumphrey, so their only recourse was to ramp up the emotional level and to spray some verbal Napalm over everything.
Sean R. Sedam March 27, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Thanks for all the comments, folks. This is obviously an issue that, even after nearly two hours of testimony, people are still itching to debate. In that light, I've set up a new post with a poll and a link to my live tweeting of Monday's testimony: http://rockville.patch.com/articles/poll-the-pumphrey-parking-lot Please consider taking the post-hearing conversation there.

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