Chipotle - Letter to Planning Division
To: The Montgomery County Planning Board
From: Manor Lake Civic Association
Re: New Establishment at Rock Creek Village Center
Dear Planning Board,
On behalf of the Manor Lake Civic Association (MLCA), our board has some concerns over the establishment of a fast casual drive through restaurant in place of the former SunTrust Bank in the Rock Creek Village Center. The MLCA had a meeting with Troy Leftwich and Richard Brockmyer on June 14, 2023, after that conversation, it is our understanding that:
· The applicant proposes that the net increase of cars in their location will be less than 50 cars during peak hours.
· The transportation coordinator, we understand that he has completed his assessment using the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) data set and agrees with the proposal.
· Based on the current policy, a net increase of greater than 50 trips would trigger a traffic study.
MLCA would appreciate it if the Planning Board would reconsider their decision to forgo a traffic study at the Rock Creek Village Center for the following reasons:
1. Our concern for the potential for increase in traffic in the main Rock Creek Village Center lot.
a. Currently, the application site produces 0 (zero) person trips, as it has been closed for years. During peak hours, the Rock Creek Village Center lot in front of the proposed business is close to capacity. While the proposed new business would not likely require significant parking allocation, it speaks to the high traffic capacity already within an area looking to add a drive-through.
b. This shopping center was designed decades ago when fewer people lived and traveled in this area. And while there have been tenant changes, none of those individual tenant changes has generated a trip increase threshold to warrant traffic study. The cumulative increases, especially considering the addition of this application could exceed the threshold handedly, and the shopping center’s traffic capacity and current challenges as they are now (detailed below), should be considered.
2. Our concern for the traffic flow egresses from the main Rock Creek Village Center lot back onto Bauer drive.
a. There are two main entrances/exits to the main surface lot of the Rock Creek Village Center. An uncontrolled (no light) entrance/exit just south of the Exxon and a controlled (light) entrance/exit just North of the Safeway. The proposal utilizes the uncontrolled entrance/exit for the drive through lane traffic.
b. Left turns at the uncontrolled intersection are difficult, and near impossible during busy hours, due to:
i. Bauer traffic makes left hand turns difficult.
ii. Traffic queuing on Bauer at the traffic signal (Bauer/Norbeck) does not provide space to enter the roadway.
iii. Due to elevation differences, there is limited sight of traffic turning right onto Bauer from Norbeck and traffic heading north on Bauer towards Norbeck.
iv. Due to the proposed business drive-through, cars could back up and prohibit entering using this entrance.
c. At the controlled entrance/exit left hand turns are also complicated:
i. The green light to allow traffic to egress from the Rock Creek Village Center is short, allowing only a few cars through each cycle.
ii. The cars queued up waiting to turn left at the light block egress from the parking lot lanes and block traffic flow for those looking for parking or looking to join the que to turn left at the light.
3. Our concern for pedestrian safety – particularly minors.
a. The Rock Creek Village Center is within walking distance of both the Earle B. Wood Middle School (across Bauer Dr. from the shopping center) and Rockville High School. Many students from Manor Lake and Aspen Hill, who are required to walk to school, visit the center when school is released.
b. The controlled entrance to the shopping center is a protected pedestrian crosswalk, where traffic is stopped in all directions while pedestrians are given the signal to cross. This is an important safety feature but complicates the egress out of the main Rock Creek Village Center parking lot as mentioned above.
c. Pedestrians going between their vehicles and Safeway need to move amongst the queued cars waiting for the light at the protected entrance/exit. We fear distracted and/or hurried drivers trying to make a short light will not take pedestrians’ right of way into account and this increased traffic flow from the new establishment could increase that threat.
d. Multiple bus stops on Bauer and Norbeck, by the Rock Creek Village Center already increase pedestrian traffic and any new establishment would increase that.
e. There is an egress from the Bauer Park Apartments across from this uncontrolled entrance/exit, further complicating the traffic pattern.
f. There is a pedestrian crosswalk at the uncontrolled entrance/exit, but shrubbery makes it difficult to see pedestrians prior to almost being in the crosswalk.
We disagree with a decision to approve the application as-is and have the local government attempt to adjust conditions after the fact, in a “piecemeal fashion” as was suggested during our meeting with the county representatives. Certain improvements may need the cooperation of the owner and after the approval of this application, incentive to engage with needed improvements diminishes. A full traffic study to collect actual data of this specific environment would be useful for planning effective long-term strategies for improved land utilization and safety.
We have taken a lot of time studying the documentation and meeting with representatives and we would like to ask for a traffic study to be conducted before access is given to this establishment to come into the shopping center.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
The Manor Lake Civic Association