Update: 1/20/15 – The proposed development by ezStorage continues to face heated opposition and could have an impact on the city’s elections in November, in which the position of mayor and all four council seats will be available. The current council members are considering a zoning-text amendment that would prohibit storage within 250 feet of a school’s boundaries. If passed, the amendment would “cripple” the ezStorage project, and the company has vowed it will pursue legal action, the source reported.
The proposed development has drawn opposition from residents, who claim it will be “out of proportion” in the neighborhood, the source reported. Rockville resident Peter Witzler told the source the zoning issue will become a major factor in the upcoming election, saying it’s clear some council members are listening to residents’ concerns while others are siding with the developer. Witzer also said he won’t run for a council seat, but will ensure voters know where council members stand on various issues such as the ezStorage project and proposed changes to the city’s public facilities.
At the Jan. 5 meeting, council members Tom Moore and Julie Palakovich Carr said they opposed a motion to bring the proposed amendment up for introduction, fearing it would expose the city to litigation. Moore, who’s in his second council term, told the source he hopes residents believe he’s looking out of the city’s best interests. He recently faced calls to recuse himself from the amendment discussion and vote after accepting a $100 donation from an attorney representing Sienna during his bid for the District 3 County Council seat in the June Democratic primary, the source reported.
Moore told the source he’s pleased with the level of political involvement the zoning debate has spawned, even if he’s opposed to the amendment. “If they continue that advocacy through the campaign season, I would welcome it,” he said.
The school’s PTA adopted a resolution after a pre-application community meeting on March 6. The resolution stated the members were not in favor of the development and encouraged the Rockville City Council and Rockville City Planning Commission to reject it.
The online petition, “Keep the Maryvale Elementary School Neighborhood Safe,” at MoveOn.org had accumulated 120 signatures as of May 1. The goal is 200 signatures.
Melissa McKenna, the PTA’s past president and current vice president of advocacy, wrote in an e-mail to board members that the community is concerned about student safety. The proposed site is on the corner of Taft and First streets, a busy intersection for the children walking to and from the school, according to McKenna.
“These facilities can increase large vehicle traffic, and invite unlawful activity and dangerous individuals and materials into school zones and neighborhoods,” the petition states. It also notes an alert from the national Self Storage Association and Department of Homeland Security in regard to the potential for illegal use of storage units in connection with terrorism. “Our school zone and family-neighborhood location is not appropriate for this facility,” it states.
A Rockville city planner told the source he expects the city planning commission to consider the storage proposal in August.
Based in Columbia, Md., and founded in 1987, ezStorage operates 39 self-storage facilities in Maryland and another six in Virginia.