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Alley fight dominates Rockville

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Published on: Thursday, February 28, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – The Rockville Mayor and City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to record the abandonment of the alley between Anderson Avenue and Beal Avenue, but not before a heated debate on the contentious issue took place.

The abandonment has been a hot topic for months since the adoption of the ordinance on May 21, 2012 because of issues between just two homeowners living on Anderson Avenue. Once the abandonment is recorded in land records, ownership of the alley transfers from the city to the residents who property abuts the alley.

Sue Adams, the homeowner at 303 Anderson Avenue, supports recording the abandonment because they want to cut down four walnut trees. Meanwhile, Ida Wallenmeyer, the homeowner at 401 Anderson Ave., requested the Mayor and Council reverse the abandonment because she enjoys the shade the trees provide.

The topic had been a previous point of discussion for the Mayor and Council, but no decisions were made. Monday night the council recorded the abandonment but only after lengthy war of words.

Early in the discussion, Councilmember Mark Pierzchala declared his support for recording the abandonment and made a motion. The act of recording the abandonment has been much delayed, he said, and it should have gone forward a long time ago.

Councilmember John Hall said he supports following the law, but before recording the abandonment he wanted the Mayor and Council to “use their good offices” to help fix the issues between the neighbors. Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton said she didn’t want to rush to judgment. Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio expressed similar feelings and said she wanted to find a way to make both Wallenmeyer and Adams happy.

“It’s all about showing the council takes citizens’ problems seriously,” Marcuccio said.

Pierzchala disagreed and expressed his desires to record the abandonment because it would provide clarity for the neighbors.

“At the end of the day the parties need to agree on what they’re going to do,” Pierzchala said.

Councilmember Tom Moore agreed with Pierzchala and said he thought it would be easier for the neighbors to not have to deal with interference from the Mayor and Council. With tempers already beginning to flair, Pierzchala said there are people who are being hurt by not recording the abandonment. Marcuccio replied simply, “That is nonsense.”

Moore responded to Marcuccio’s statement, explaining that leaving citizens in legal limbo is not nonsense and indecision on part of the Mayor and Council was part of the problem.

“Our job is to make decisions we’re legally required to make,” Moore said.

After the exchange, Marcuccio asked everyone to vote, with the result being a 3-2 decision in favor of recording the abandonment. Councilmembers Hall, Moore and Pierzchala voted for, while Marcuccio and Newton voted against.

Along with the alley abandonment issue, the Mayor and Council also received an update on the purchase of the Fireside Park Apartments by Rockville Housing Enterprises. Additionally, two appointments to the Board of Supervisors of Elections were voted on. The Mayor and Council voted unanimously to appoint David Berthiaume. Andrew Powell, another appointment was not accepted after no councilmembers seconded Newton’s motion.

Finally, Moore attempted to initiate citizen interaction during the meeting by asking people viewing the meeting to use Twitter and make comments with the hash tag “#rkvcouncil.” His initiative did not go over well with Newton and Marcuccio who both expressed confusion and discomfort with Twitter. Newton said she thought tweeting would be disruptive to meetings, while Marcuccio said she thought parameters should be developed.

Moore said he was a little surprised, and he thinks his colleagues don’t completely understand Twitter.

“Perhaps I don’t want to know how Twitter works,” Marcuccio said in response to Moore’s statement.

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