Old Angler’s Inn Owners to Give Rides, Free Food to Supporters of Development Plan

Opposition group criticizes business for trying to create ‘illusion’ of support


Map showing proposed site for an event venue near Old Angler's Inn in Potomac.

Via Montgomery County Planning Board

Owners of Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac are offering to transport, feed and give a $50 gift certificate to people who support them during a County Council hearing Tuesday.

Inn operators might even toss in a one-year membership to the “Order of the Golden Hook,” a now-defunct organization that once met at the establishment, owner Mark Reges said.

The freebies are meant to thank people for standing in solidarity with the business as the council takes up legislation that could thwart the inn’s development plans, Reges added.

Critics of Reges’ proposal to build an event venue near the historic inn have a different perspective.

“Certainly, everyone should have and does have the right to express their opinions freely,” said Curt Uhre, who chairs a civic group opposed to Reges’ project. “But I don’t think we benefit in this county by paying people to attend to try to give the illusion of community support.”

The council is considering a zoning text amendment that would tighten restrictions on the location of country inns, such as the one Reges and his wife want to build on a 7-acre site near MacArthur Boulevard. The changes would stipulate that opening a country inn in certain residential areas is only possible if the property abuts an agricultural zone. Reges’ land wouldn’t qualify, since it’s surrounded by residential zoning.

Reges said the legislation – backed by all nine council members – unfairly targets his proposal to construct a roughly 8,700-square-foot “boutique country inn” with four overnight guest suites.

Since Reges filed his proposal two years ago, neighborhood groups around the inn have fought the development plans, which they argue would bring unwanted cars and commotion to the area. Reges said project opponents have resorted to scare tactics to win support and misrepresented the proposed country inn as a potential restaurant.

Uhre’s group, the Brickyard Coalition, claims in an online petition that the council’s bill on country inns would close a loophole that might allow a “Hooters or a McDonalds in your backyard.” Reges called the assertion ridiculous.

“There’s no proliferation of Hooters under the guise of country inns moving into neighborhoods,” he said.

In the face of this pushback, Reges said he and his wife, Sara, have had to wage their own outreach campaign. The business owners have launched a petition and have met with local residents to garner support.

They tapped into their list of contacts from the petition drive to send out an email urging people to attend Tuesday’s council hearing on the proposed zoning text amendment, Reges said. According to the Sept. 6 message, inn supporters will meet at the establishment around noon and hitch a ride to the council building in Rockville. After the public hearing, the restaurant will host a reception for attendees, according to the email.

Supporters of the inn will also receive a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant and a year-long “V.I.P. Golden Hook membership featuring discounts and specials.”

Reges said members of the Order of the Golden Hook once gathered at Old Angler’s Inn to discuss current events over dinner. The society hasn’t been active since the 1900s, but Reges said he’s long wanted to revive it.

Reges is hoping about 50 supporters will attend the hearing and said he’ll probably rent a van to provide transportation. He doesn’t expect them to testify, but said they’ll sit together to demonstrate support for the business.

Council President Roger Berliner said he’s reluctant to comment on business decisions but generally discourages advocates from offering incentives to increase turnout.

“If you’re testifying on one side, you either have an economic interest in it, or you’re there because of your feelings about the larger public interest. And when you do something like this, it sort of blurs that distinction,” he said.

Berliner said he has dined at Old Angler’s Inn and “has great regard for the operation,” but doesn’t believe Reges’ development plan is appropriate for the location.

Reges said building a country inn would let him conserve four acres of woodland, more than he could save if he put homes on the property. But if his venue plans fall through, he’ll consider building homes on the site, he said.

The council’s public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. A committee will take up the legislation at a later date.

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