Rockville commission again defers decision on Chabad expansion, but Chabad sees cause for optimism


The Rockville Planning Commission again put off making a decision Wednesday night on whether the Chabad Israel Center should be permitted to expand its activities at its current location in a residential neighborhood.

But Seven Van Grack, a lawyer for the Chabad Center and former mayor of Rockville, believes there is cause for optimism amongst the Chabad Center at its supporters.

“We have made a lot of progress toward what we have sought, which is to allow the members of the Chabad Center to worship as they want,” said Van Grack.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the commission considered whether to approve a revised schedule of activities submitted by the Chabad Center, which is located in the Rollins Park neighborhood.

Under the revised schedule, the Chabad Center would operate on Friday night and Saturdays, religious holidays, three times a week for morning prayer services and Thursdays for teen programming. Other lifecycle events would also be permitted and High Holiday services would be held offsite.

Neighbors have opposed the expansion of the Chabad Center’s hours because they fear that it would cause increased traffic and disturbances in the neighborhood. The planning commission staff recommended the commission reject the Chabad Center’s original application to expand hours because they argued it “would not be compatible with the residential character of the neighborhood.”

Steve Robbins, another lawyer representing the Chabad Center, said during Wednesday’s hearing that center has made “major concessions” by scaling back its proposal to increase educational and community events.

The commission will reconsider the matter at its Oct. 26 meeting. Before then, it will review a list of Jewish holidays when the Chabad Center would be open, consider whether to suggest or require that the Chabad Center appoint a community liaison and determine whether the Chabad Center should be required to have a commercial hood in its kitchen in order to heat up food.

Van Grack said that the Chabad Center will continue to try to work with its neighbors and find compromises.

“This is a neighborhood synagogue and we can’t forget that,” he said. “We have to be sensitive to their concerns.”

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