The Rockville City Council finalized its decision to abandon part of Anderson Alley, following a 3-2 vote that capped a heated exchange among the mayor and council members and months of brewing tension among residents in Rockville’s West End.
The alley came under the city’s scrutiny out of residents’ concerns over flooding caused by nearby development. Abandonment was supposed to resolve the problems that arose from property owners who had driveways, sheds and garages in the alley, despite the alley's designation for public use.
On May 21, the council voted unanimously to hand over to property owners the portion of the alley between Anderson and Beall avenues. But the council held off on the final step of authorizing the city attorney to add it to land records.
A resident has since asked the council to reverse its decision and, through an attorney, has asked the council to consider changing its laws in order to do so.
“It just keeps getting worse,” Rockville resident Ida Wallenmeyer said during Citizen’s Forum at the Feb. 11 council meeting.
Wallenmeyer is asking the council not to abandon the alley, saying she will lose access to her gravel driveway and the shade of four large walnut trees, which would wind up in the yard of a property owner who has proposed removing them once the abandonment is finalized.
The period to appeal to the council to reconsider the abandonment has past, city staff said, citing city code.
On Monday, the discussion focused on the potential impact of the abandonment. The public works department also sought direction on how to proceed with fixing stormwater drainage problems in the portion of the alley that would be abandoned—a discussion the council agreed to revisit.
The most vocal opponent to finalizing the allley abandonment Monday was Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio, who pushed for delaying a decision to allow for more discussion and help neighbors broker what she referred to as a “Solomon-like” compromise.
“What we're looking for is a way to keep neighbors friendly, collaborative and cooperative and feeling as though the city took their issues seriously and tried to help them come to some sort of agreement,” the mayor said. “To me that is critical. That's what this is all about.”
Though he voted in favor of finalizing the abandonment, Councilman John F. Hall Jr. seemed to agree that more could have been done to work with neighbors.
Councilwoman Bridget Donnell Newton joined Marcuccio in voting against finalizing the abandonment.
Councilmen Tom Moore and Mark Pierzchala voted for finalizing the abandonment. They argued that the issue has been held in legal limbo since May, making it worse for the Anderson Alley residents who are unable to move forward.
“I think the fact that we haven't made this decision before tonight is what's causing this problem,” Moore said.
Moore and Pierzchala pushed for the Monday night vote over the request by Newton and Marcuccio to wait until the council’s next meeting.
“What do we hope is going to happen in that week?” Pierzchala said. “Are we still giving hope to the Wallenmeyers that this abandonment is going to be reversed? I don’t want to give that assurance.”