#City & Town Planning
City of Rockville Mayor and Council
United States of America

A developer has proposed 7 townhouses at 500 W. Montgomery Ave., the Chestnut Lodge site, which requires a change to the approval of the Planned Residential Unit (PRU) for that overall development. The former Main Building at Chestnut Lodge Hospital, originally known as the Woodlawn Hotel, was perhaps the most significant historic building in Rockville.

The approved PRU development on the site of the former hospital was designed specifically to honor the history of both the building and the hospital. The Main building was to have been the centerpiece of the 7 acre historic district, giving the surrounding historic buildings context, both within the Chestnut Lodge site itself and in the greater W. Montgomery Historic District.

To facilitate this goal, which required maintaining the green space and gracious tree lawn along the West Montgomery frontage, a compromise was reached between the prior developer and The City which allowed the new houses to the rear in the non-historically designated portion of the PRU to be built more densely than would be allowed in the R-90 zone.

The Main building was to have been renovated with underground parking to preserve the iconic appearance and vistas from West Montgomery Ave. as well as from the other restored historic buildings behind it. Tragically, the Main building was destroyed by a fire in 2009, having stood empty for eight years.

While the original Main Building is now gone, that does not mean any structure, so long as it contains up to the 7 residential units approved for the site, should be allowed. We strongly believe it is imperative that any new building must: 1. Maintain the integrity of the approved PRU which honors the site’s history, 2. Protect Rockville’s cultural landscape, and 3. Preserve the historic view shed from all four sides.

This proposal places the side of the townhouse structure facing W. Montgomery, historically the front of the site. The backs of garages, surface parking, trash cans and the like would be placed along the west side of the site, clearly visible to all approaching from the west as well as from the residences to the west, south and north, including some in the historic district.

There are no other townhouses in the West Montgomery Historic District, along W. Montgomery Ave., nor were any allowed in the back of the new Chestnut Lodge development.

Townhouses in this area clearly do not preserve Rockville’s cultural landscape, the historic view shed, nor would they do anything to speak to the history of this site.

Given neither the Master Plan, the PRU, nor the Chestnut Lodge Design Guidelines anticipated the total loss of the Main Building there is no solid guidance for this property. We respectfully request two things of the Mayor and Council:

1. Deny this application to modify the existing PRU for Chestnut Lodge. There are likely many possible structures and creative uses that would be appropriate on this site, but this proposal is not it. To fill the site now with a sideways stick of townhouses would foreclose any future opportunity to thoughtfully find the solution that will adequately preserve and honor this historic site.

2. Begin a City lead process to engage Rockville residents and all other stakeholders to define a vision for the site that would fulfill the original goals of the existing PRU and historic district.

Thank you for your consideration.

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The No to Townhouses at Chestnut Lodge petition to City of Rockville Mayor and Council was written by Chestnut Lodge Committee of WECA and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.