The attempts of Rockville officials to control development turned sharply and obviously political last week, officials there say, as the mayor and City Council voted to delay until after the Nov. 3 elections action on a plan that would guide growth on Rockville Pike.
Caught in the middle of an increasingly bitter mayoral campaign, the mayor and the council split 3 to 2, deciding to let the next administration set a growth policy for the city's overgrown main street.
In his campaign for reelection, Mayor Steven Van Grack has strongly endorsed speedy passage of a plan that could limit many new buildings to one-sixth the size currently allowed. Van Grack's opponent, three-term council member Douglas Duncan, has recommended that the city hold additional public hearings on the proposal before approving any policy.
The Rockville Pike plan, expected to be sent from the city Planning Commission to the council next week, calls for lower limits on building height and floor space. But it also allows a developer to exceed those limits by agreeing to pay for public improvements such as pedestrian bridges, plaza areas, and in some cases, day care centers.
Before the action at the Sept. 14 council meeting, Duncan and Van Grack accused each other of manipulating progress on the plan for their respective political advantages.
Duncan has charged that Van Grack's wish to pass the plan quickly was motivated by a desire to have a growth policy to point to as a political device. Van Grack has countered by saying Duncan's desire for additional public hearings was an unnecessary delay tactic, "intended to put off for tomorrow -- for the hopes that it would be a new administration -- what we can and should do today." has announced that he will not run for another term, joined Duncan in opposing Van Grack in his attempt to set public hearings soon after the council receives the plan. Only council member Stephen N. Abrams, who supports Van Grack's reelection, sided with the mayor.
In an interview, Hartogensis said, "I am disappointed not to take action on this . . . but there is not enough time to make a good, informed decision."
Planning Commission Chairman Richard Arkin, a Van Grack supporter, said a new council would "probably not get to it in six months. They have ambushed the planning process . . . . We have tried to keep it away from politics."END NOTES
The council and the mayor will meet Oct. 19 to offer their opinions of the plan and the planning department will present details of the plan for city residents on Oct. 5.
In an unrelated action, Rockville officials won at least a temporary victory last week when the Montgomery County Planning Board rejected a developer's plans to build a $320 million office park just outside the city's borders.