Potomac Inn Project’s Opponents Speak Up at Hearing; Supporters Hold Signs
Council hears testimony on proposal aimed at restricting country inns to rural areas
Old Angler's Inn supporters hold up signs during a County Council hearing on country inn legislation.
Screenshot from Montgomery County Government broadcast
Out of about 10 people who spoke Tuesday afternoon at a County Council hearing, only two were in favor of a plan that benefited the Old Angler’s Inn.
But Mark Reges, the Potomac establishment’s proprietor, was confident that he had the audience on his side.
Reges came to the Rockville hearing carrying printed signs that read “We are all in for the inn” and handed them out to attendees. At one point, he shouted out from the audience asking his supporters to identify themselves.
“I felt like it was necessary for them (council members) to see that there’s a large swath of the Montgomery County community that does, in fact, support us,” he said.
Reges is hoping to generate opposition to council legislation that calls for tightening restrictions on the location of country inns, or rural dining establishments that also can include guest suites. The bill as written would likely derail Reges’ plans to open a new event venue next to the historic Old Angler’s Inn on MacArthur Boulevard, an outcome that would please several neighborhood groups opposed to the project.
All nine council members have signed on to the legislation stipulating that opening a country inn in certain residential areas is only possible if the property borders an agricultural zone. Reges’ 7-acre site wouldn’t qualify, since it’s surrounded by residential zoning.
With the public hearing completed, a council committee will now take up the country inn proposal in a work session.
“A country inn belongs in the country, not in the middle of a suburban community,” Keith Williams, president of the Civic Association of River Falls, told council members Tuesday.
Resident Lori Newsom said the existing inn already creates noise and disruption for neighbors; adding a banquet hall with four guest rooms would make matters worse.
“This new proposal will allow for longer parties. Sleepovers,” she said.
In the face of community pushback, Reges sought to rally his own following. His business recently sent out an email offering supporters rides to the council hearing, a free reception afterward and a $50 gift certificate. The inn owner said about 12 people took him up on the offer, but many others showed up at the council building on their own.
Council President Roger Berliner said many inn supporters were late in voicing their interest in testifying, so they weren’t allowed to speak. However, he invited them to submit their written comments to the council and assured them that officials will consider all perspectives.
“The books aren’t cooked here,” he said.