The Rockville City Council’s 3-2 vote last week to put city money toward Rockville Housing Enterprises’ proposed purchase of the Fireside Park Apartments creates a problem, Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said in an interview with Rockville Patch.
The council had “such a drive to do this without all the risks really considered,” said Marcuccio, who joined Councilwoman Bridget Donnell Newton in voting against the deal. “One of the risks is to put all this public housing into an area—you’re going to have an enclave.”
The approval allows Rockville Housing Enterprises, which administers public housing in Rockville, to proceed with the $37.5 million purchase of the 236-unit garden-style Fireside Park Apartments at 735 Monroe St.
Supporters said it was a good deal with almost no risk or cost to the city, but Marcuccio disagreed.
“You don’t put this cluster of low-cost housing there without having problems,” she said.
She cited other affordable housing on or near Monroe Street, including, The Fields of Rockville, the under-construction Victory Court Apartments and other Housing Opportunities Commission-subsidized housing for seniors in Rockville Town Center.
“We have created a low-cost housing corridor on Monroe [Street],” Marcuccio said.
That stands in contrast to city planning principles regarding low-cost housing, she said. “It’s always been our desire in the city to make sure it’s spread around,” she said.
The approval of the deal with Rockville Housing Enterprises is “really an issue of making an area of the city low-cost housing,” Marcuccio said. “You don’t do that if you’re smart.”
Councilman Tom Moore took issue with the characterization of the council creating an "enclave."
“This deal doesn’t create anything,” Moore said. “This deal preserves what’s there.”
RHE is proposing that 60 percent of the complex’s units (142 units) be rented at the market rate. The remaining 40 percent of units would rent at rates affordable to families with incomes of about $64,500 or less—equal to 60 percent of the Area Median Income.
RHE Executive Director Ruth O’Sullivan has said that the proposed mix is roughly equal to what exists at Fireside Park now.
Residents who live near Fireside Park have testified that they like Fireside Park being there and that “they’re good neighbors,” Moore said.
He recalled the debate over Victory Court, which drew strong opposition from some neighbors of the project. That opposition died down once the council approved the project, Moore said.
“I think that’s what’s going to happen here as well,” he said.
SPEAK OUT: Is the city creating an “enclave” of low-cost public housing? Do you agree with the city's purchase of the Fireside Park Apartments? Tell us in the comments.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misquoted Councilman Tom Moore as saying residents who live near Fireside Park told the City Council that RHE is "good neighbors." The residents said residents of the apartments were "good neighbors," but "were less thrilled with the prospect of RHE arriving," Moore said in an email. Rockville Patch regrets the error.