ROCKVILLE – The City Council Monday night decided to facilitate City plans to develop the historic Chestnut Lodge property into a public park.
The Rockville City Council voted 4-0-1, with Mayor Bridgett Donnell Newton voting to abstain, to file a local map amendment to rezone the area around Chestnut Lodge. In July, City officials acquired the three parcels of land on West Montgomery Avenue that make up the Chestnut Lodge property, with the intention of turning the site of the former 19th century psychiatric institution Chestnut Lodge into a public park.
Council member Mark Pierzchala said he specifically wanted to amend the City’s Planned Residential Unit (PRU), or zoning.
“I personally want to remove any possibility whatsoever that this lodge will ever be reconstructed from fresh and by either removing it from the PRU or amending the PRU I think I can achieve that,” Pierzchala said. “We bought it as a park to be a park.”
Chestnut Lodge was a Victorian-era hotel- turned- psychiatric- institution in Rockville. Since the historic building burned down in 2009, City planners have debated what to do with the property. During the last few years the Mayor and City Council members voted down several proposals to allow developers to build townhouses on the Chestnut Lodge site.
In June the Mayor and City Council finalized their decision to build a public park on the 10.69 acres of land after finalizing a contract to purchase the Chestnut Lodge property for about $2.58 million from Chestnut Lodge LLC. City officials also acquired two other additional parcels of land at Chestnut Lodge from the nearby homeowners association in exchange for maintaining the land.
Nancy Pickard, executive director of non-profit, historical preservation organization Peerless Rockville, said she was concerned that changing the zoning around the Chestnut Lodge site could potentially leave out the current historic value left on the property. “My concern is that the PRU was crafted to take the whole Chestnut Lodge campus and find a way to make a community there while protecting the integrity and landscape of the entire campus,” said Pickard, who supports the City Council’s decision to turn the Chestnut Lodge property into a public park.
While the historic Chestnut Lodge building is gone, Pickard said she hopes City government will still incorporate the historic value of the property into any zoning change(s) they make around Chestnut Lodge.