Rockville Residents Voice Concern Over Seven Locks Road Restoration Center

More than 100 community members attended an Oct. 6 forum on a county proposal that would create a new restoration center – a facility that would provide care for people experiencing behavioral health crises – along two dozen acres of Seven Locks Road in Rockville.

Dozens of residents who attended in person sported bright yellow t-shirts and signs that read “Keep 7Locks Safe”, while more than 90 people listened in on the three-hour public forum via Zoom. The forum is the latest clash between county officials and Rockville residents about the fate of development along Seven Locks Road. 

The proposed restoration center took center stage at the forum after county officials opened the discussion with the announcement that the space was no longer under consideration for a new Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Ride On bus depot. The planned restoration center was initially supposed to share the development space with the depot.

A young community member voices her views on the Seven Locks Road Development during a community forum on Oct. 6 in Rockville.

County officials presented information on the restoration center’s scope, security and urgency to the community during the forum. Community members who have experienced behavioral health crises and received help that diverted them from prison time also shared their perspectives. 

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) Chief Scott Goldstein shared that about 15% of patients transported to area hospitals each year are experiencing a behavioral health crisis – equivalent to roughly 10,000 residents. But there are currently no restoration centers in the county to divert those people from hospitalization.

Many residents who spoke up at the forum supported the county’s efforts to decriminalize and destigmatize mental health treatment. But they argued that the restoration center should not be at the Seven Locks Road site – which is adjacent to eight Rockville neighborhoods. 

Falls Ridge Homeowners Association President Mariana Cordier emphasized that there is community support for the restoration center, but that the county is “setting residents up to fail” by forging this new service in peoples’ backyards. Calderon’s neighborhood directly backs up to the planned development.

“You can understand the concern and the fear,” Cordier said. “We want to participate with you to make the program better and address these issues.”

In recent months, Rockville officials have voiced concerns over the restoration center’s proximity to the Seven Locks Correctional Facility and residential areas. 

Rockville City Council Member Beryl Feinberg highlighted these concerns at the forum – emphasizing that the county’s current plan comes with “serious community impacts” and “numerous unanswered questions.”

“A restoration center could be constructed as a free-standing facility anywhere in the county. I know it’s difficult to find a site. But it does not have to be in a residential neighborhood,” Feinberg said. “Let’s not pit neighborhood against neighborhood.”

Dozens of community members voiced concerns over the Seven Locks Road Development during a community forum on Oct. 6 in Rockville.

Other residents suggested that the county sell the land along Seven Locks Road and move the restoration center to a more rural area that would have less residential backlash. Numerous residents claimed that the new restoration center location is contrary to the goals of the county’s Crisis Now model – which looks to improve access to mental health care among county residents – because there is no nearby hospital.

But County Chief Administrative Officer Richard Maladeno said county courthouses and the Seven Locks Detention Center are centralized in Rockville, making it hard to relocate the restoration center.

During a discussion that often became contentious between residents and public officials, stakeholders were able to discern a path forward in negotiating the future of the Seven Locks Road site. 

“The restoration center is a beautiful program. I think there are a lot of questions. Those questions can’t be answered easily and quickly,” resident Gloria Paul said during her public testimony. “I really hope that we can all come together and find something for those people who have mental health needs.”

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