Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

5 ámbitos que plantean impulsar la economía del condado de Montgomery

Estimado residente:

El condado de Montgomery es un lugar increíble. Hay muchos cambios positivos porque hacemos las cosas bien!

Claro que también enfrentamos algunos desafíos, particularmente en el área de desarrollo económico. Nuestro crecimiento laboral ha disminuido y si es que continúa disminuyendo y se convierte en una tendencia a largo plazo habrán consecuencias serias que enfrentar.

Por esta razón, estoy creando un plan de desarrollo económico que impulse la mejora económica de nuestro condado.

La necesidad es clara. Según el Instituto Fuller, en el 2018, Virginia generó el 71% de todos los empleos nuevos en la región de Washington. Hasta el momento, las cifras del 2019 muestran que Virginia está generando un porcentaje de empleos aún mayor que el del año pasado llegando a cifras de hasta un 90%.

Las cifras del 2018 y las de este año 2019 muestran un gran cambio en nuestro patrón histórico; ya que usualmente en Maryland se generan aproximadamente un tercio de los empleos del área de Washington. Estas cifras son sorprendentes y amenazan la sostenibilidad económica de nuestro condado.

Desde hace aproximadamente un año que estoy en conversaciones con líderes empresariales y educativos sobre cómo trazar un mejor plan de acción. Con un enfoque en las asociaciones públicas-privadas para impulsar la inversión y política, con este nuevo plan podremos generar fuerza, impulso y resultados.

Lo siguiente, son cinco ámbitos de política que han alcanzado máxima popularidad y que por lo tanto tengo la intención de emprender de manera continua como presidente del Comité de Planificación, Vivienda y Desarrollo Económico (PHED).

Esta lista no excluye a otras iniciativas o prioridades de desarrollo económico. Hay muchos otros temas que abordaremos; temas como por ejemplo, la tecnología 5g, las zonas de oportunidad, la transformación de autobuses, temas de vivienda, etc.

No obstante, los temas a continuación son temas que abarcan múltiples iniciativas y tienen un impacto amplio en nuestro condado.

5 ámbitos que plantean impulsar la economía del condado de Montgomery

1. Distrito de Innovación de la Línea Morada

Recientemente, El Comité de Planificación, Vivienda y Desarrollo Económico (PHED) recibió información sobre los objetivos de vivienda asequible propuestos por La Alianza del corredor de la línea morada (The Purple Line Corridor Coalition) una campaña impulsada por la comunidad. Una de las visiones de la alianza exige que se aseguren por los menos 6,000 unidades de vivienda asequible en el condado a lo largo del corredor. Para poder alcanzar ese objetivo necesitamos desarrollar un plan específico, enfocado en el financiamiento de adquisición de vivienda como también fomentar la reurbanización con requisitos asequibles elevados.

Con una estrategia de vivienda en desarrollo, debemos maximizar el potencial económico de la Línea Morada. Esta es una herramienta perfecta para hacer crecer nuestra economía. Tenemos la oportunidad de crear un entorno urbano próspero conectado a varios de los centros de investigación más poderosos del mundo.

Tenemos a Bethesda y al NIH en un extremo de la línea, a NOAA, Montgomery College y Silver Spring a solo unos minutos de la Universidad de Maryland y a su programa de informática líder en el país, y a la NASA y al FDA cerca; los anclajes ya están colocados ahora solo queda impulsar un corredor de ciencias y tecnología.

La Línea Morada es una gran oportunidad para formar una asociación de desarrollo económico de dos condados con el propósito de reclutar empresas para que formen parte del corredor. Actualmente estoy trabajando en ese tema con Danielle Glaros, Presidenta de PHED en el condado de Prince George. Las jurisdicciones de Virginia también están trabajando en conjunto para atraer empresas. Nosotros podemos hacer lo mismo.

Necesitamos trabajar con dueños de negocios e instituciones educativas para explorar la ubicación de nuevos laboratorios e instalaciones de investigación en Silver Spring y Bethesda. Hay muchas posibilidades, desde un nuevo campus universitario hasta espacios de incubadoras para laboratorios.

Más allá de comercializar el corredor, necesitamos construir comunidades transitables donde se pueda caminar y montar bicicleta. Tenemos una red de bicicletas en construcción en Silver Spring y otra planificada en Bethesda que debemos completar con urgencia ya que necesitamos construir más lugares publicos ejemplares.

Tenemos una oportunidad única. Trabajemos juntos para hacer del corredor de la Línea Morada un motor económico sostenible y próspero para nuestro condado.

2. Desarrollo económico del norte de Bethesda

Nuestro condado tiene la visión de construir un corredor urbano en la parte alta y baja de la Rockville Pike. No es fácil darse cuenta de ello porque la calle no ha cambiado mucho desde su construcción como autopista suburbana. Ese desajuste entre nuestra visión y la realidad de como se ve la Rockville Pike en este momento no nos está dejando avanzar.

Grandes empresarios están invirtiendo en el mercado de oficinas y de comunidades en North Bethesda. Podemos apoyar su inversión mejorando las estaciones de Metro y reconstruyendo la Rockville Pike para que se convierta en una comunidad transitable.

Podemos empezar construyendo una nueva entrada al metro de White Flint. Este tema continúa siendo una batalla por ya dos años seguidos. Junto con el concejal Andrew Friedson, soy un gran defensor de ese proyecto, así como también apoyo la reconstrucción de las intersecciones en esa área para que sean más seguras y transitables.

Con eso en marcha, también necesitamos agregar más mobiliario urbano, arte y diseño con el propósito de demostrar nuestro interés de convertir a North Bethesda en un lugar atractivo para el comercio. North Bethesda tiene el potencial de convertirse en un centro urbano.

Aún queda trabajo por hacer para convertir a North Bethesda en un lugar con un mercado de oficinas dinámico que respalde nuestro crecimiento futuro. Pongamos este plan en marcha!

3. Reservas de Talento Tecnologico

La economía de hoy en día está centrada en la tecnología, las empresas de tecnología buscan talento, ya que el talento impulsa el crecimiento. El Condado de Montgomery es una fábrica de talento debido a nuestras excelentes escuelas, programas de educación superior y una comunidad altamente diversa. Pero podemos y debemos hacer más.

En nuestra apuesta por Amazon HQ2, el estado de Maryland y el condado de Montgomery se comprometieron en apoyar una inversión de educacion importante que apoya el crecimiento de empleos de Amazon. El estado de Maryland y el condado de Montgomery deben de seguir adelante con ese compromiso sin prestar mucha atención a la ubicación de Amazon, porque aún así pese a la ubicación Amazon tiene el potencial de ayudar a nuestro Condado a atraer y retener empresas enfocadas en tecnología, y respalda a nuestros residentes y a nuestro crecimiento futuro.

Los líderes educativos del condado de Montgomery y del estado de Maryland deben diseñar programas de estudios universitarios que nuestros empleadores necesitan y que también estén alineados con la tecnología emergente en demanda. Esto puede ser posible a través de una colaboración con las universidades de Shady Grove, Montgomery College, la Universidad de Maryland y con todas las potencias de desarrollo de fuerza laboral.

Meeting to develop new Cloud Computing Degree program

Convoqué una reunión con las universidades de Shady Grove, Montgomery College, KID y Amazon con el objetivo de colaboración para crear un programa de estudios en informática de nube. El objetivo es construir una reserva de talento en el sector de servicios profesionales de AWS.

Por ejemplo, la iniciativa de reservas de talento en Nueva York más conocida como “The New York Talent Pipeline” es un gran modelo que debería duplicarse en nuestro condado. Esta iniciativa atrae a empresas a asociarse con universidades y brindan a los estudiantes y/o trabajadores capacitación gratuita en especialidades tecnológicas. Si es que nos ponemos de acuerdo podemos hacer lo mismo en Maryland.

Para diversificar las reservas de talento, el Condado de Montgomery necesita más programas de STEM en las escuelas y necesita crear programas de aprendizaje más conocidos como “internships”. El Condado de Montgomery debe aprovechar el éxito del programa Summer Rise promovido por el concejal Craig Rice, para realizar prácticas profesionales durante todo el año. Cuando nos referimos a prácticas profesionales el programa, en Colorado llamado “Career Wise Colorado” es un modelo exitoso para replicar.

Los miembros del Consejo y el Ejecutivo del Condado estamos trabajando en la posibilidad de abrir un nuevo museo KID, un centro de habilidades e instalaciones escolares STEM en Silver Spring donde podremos diseñar y poner a prueba programas de reserva de talento o “talent pipelines” que promuevan la equidad.

La primera reunión conjunta de este año entre el comité de PHED y los comités de educación se concentró en el desarrollo de reservas de talentos de tecnología más conocidos como “tech talent pipelines”.

4. Más espíritu empresarial en laboratorios federales

Finalmente, debemos de concentrarnos en aprovechar los recursos tecnológicos que tenemos actualmente. —e.g. algunas de las instituciones de investigación más poderosas del mundo: NIH, National Cancer Institute, NIST, por nombrar algunas.

Estos laboratorios tienen el mismo poder de investigación que las mejores universidades de Estados Unidos. Pero las universidades se han convertido en motores de desarrollo económico con más éxito que estos laboratorios federales, gracias a estrategias deliberadas para el desarrollo y la formulación de políticas que apoyan el espíritu empresarial.

El Instituto Nacional de Salud (NIH) gasta más dinero en investigaciones realizadas en Bethesda de lo que gasta en enviar fondos de financiamiento a institutos de investigación en Massachusetts, los fondos invertidos por el NIH alimentan al sector dinámico de salud biológica de Boston. Si bien el NIH genera beneficios para nuestro crecimiento, el estado y el condado no hacen lo suficiente para aprovechar y tomar ventaja de esta oportunidad.

Para poder fomentar el crecimiento del sector de biotecnología en el condado, necesitamos triplicar los programas que apoyan el espíritu empresarial en nuestra comunidad de científicos y visionarios del NIH y del Instituto Nacional de Cáncer. Con NIST (Instituto Nacional de Estándares y Tecnología) podemos promover el espíritu empresarial de ciberseguridad. Con el FDA (La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los Estados Unidos) podemos concentrarnos en dispositivos médicos; con NOAA, (La Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica) podemos promover la ciencia climática y tecnología geográfica y meteorológica.

La reforma de las políticas federales que mantienen las innovaciones y los científicos en los laboratorios debe ser una prioridad constante. Necesitamos reunir a socios comerciales y educativos para abogar por estrategias de comercialización, ya sean reformas legislativas federales o asociaciones locales de talentos.

Los resultados de este plan no serán inmediatos pero es un plan realista con resultados tangibles para una economía próspera.

5. Tránsito para Upcounty y a través de Potomac

Gaithersburg (una potencia de bioalud), Germantown y Clarksburg son considerados futuros centros de empleo. Sin embargo, las empresas buscan cada vez más ubicaciones con servicios de tránsito que sean accesibles para personas interesadas en llegar a su centro de trabajo por medios secundarios como por ejemplo, a pie o en bicicleta. Es por ello que necesitamos ampliar Upcounty. Por esa razón estoy abogando por:

  • El corredor de las ciudades Transitway
  • BRT en 355 a Clarksburg
  • BRT en 270 hacia el norte de Virginia – tal como he propuesto que se agregue al plan de la 270 de carriles administrados
  • Monorriel a Frederick y Tysons – actualmente estoy explorando ideas con la High Road Foundation
  • Integración de MARC con VRE – permite un viaje de un asiento desde UpCountry a Crystal City

Debemos conectar mejor las rutas de tránsito para que las áreas de Upcountry continúen prosperando.

Espíritu de Alianza Público-Privadas
Estos temas no son exclusivos ni exhautivos; Hay mucho más que debemos hacer en una variedad de áreas. Sin embargo, estas son cinco áreas que planeo seguir desarrollando.

Con nuestras recientes reuniones con MCEDC y con las voces de nuestro liderazgo empresarial, el comité PHED ha adoptado un espíritu de asociación público-privado en nuestra estrategia de desarrollo económico.

Sigamos prestando atención a los temas de desarrollo y trabajando juntos para obtener mejores resultados.

Agradezco sus comentarios a Councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Gracias,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Concejal del Condado de Montgomery

County Liquor Stores Losing Money, and What To Do

Montgomery County has an unusual alcohol policy. Restaurants and private stores must buy every bottle of wine, whiskey or beer from a County warehouse.

(Unless it was made locally, in which case it can be delivered by the maker directly.)

The County also operates 25 no-frills retail stores. They are the only stores where you can buy spirits.

Hundreds of private stores — but only a handful of grocery stores — sell beer and wine.

If you follow local issues, you probably know that our system generates a lot of revenue, $20-$30 million per year, for schools, parks and other priorities.

What might surprise you though is to learn that the net profit is entirely due to the warehouse operation. The County’s retail operation actually loses money — about $5 million a year!

In this year’s budget review, in dialogue with Councilman Katz, the ABS (formerly DLC) shared that they had recently made changes to their accounting practices to better track the profit and loss of each store. They said a few stores actually lose money.

Wanting to better understand the issue, we asked Council staff to analyze the most recent financial data from ABS.

FY19 ABS Retail Store Profit and Loss (all stores)

I was shocked to find that almost all of the stores lose money.

The County’s stores have long appeared to be profitable because they were not charged a markup from the County warehouse. This makes the retail operation’s inventory cost seem low and the stores therefore to be artificially profitable. Or put another way, the warehouse was allowing the store to book its profits.

ABS changed the practice so that now the stores must report their inventory at the same cost as private retailers — the cost that includes the markup charged by the warehouse. This was a wise change to make because it enables the County to judge the true cost of providing the service.

The new data for the previous fiscal year shows that 19 of the 25 retail stores are unprofitable with average annual net loss of over -$230,000. While the warehouse operation sent a profit of over $34 million to last year’s County’s budget (including debt service payments), retail operations actually lost more than $5 million.

In other words, if the County had only acted as a wholesaler in these transactions – selling the product to private stores rather than County stores – County resources would grow by $5 million — funds that we could use to support, for example, the education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

What should we do about it?

There is no good justification for operating retail stores at a loss.

At this juncture, the most financially advantageous approach would be to retain the warehouse but close the stores and allow private stores to sell spirits.

Creating a license regime for private stores to sell spirits, however, would require state law changes. It is unclear if the state legislature would support that.

There is another option. In 2015, I chaired the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control. The Committee’s investigations brought issues to light that resulted in a wide array of reforms.

(We also unleashed a craft alcohol production sector, which is thriving now, featuring multiple breweries in downtown Silver Spring, Rockville/Derwood, and Olney/Brookeville; and new wineries and distilleries.)

Based on the Ad Hoc Committee’s work, the state adopted a law allowing the County to sell spirits by contracting with a private store, rather than issue a license to that store. Replacing the County stores in this manner would allow the County to retain control over the location and density of liquor stores in the County, something that many people care about.

It would also enable private beer and wine stores to expand their offerings and generate more customers. And it does not require any further state legislative action. The County Executive could direct the ABS to do it now.

A final option is running the retail operation at a profit. That will require some big changes (but it might be possible).

In my view, residents tolerate the County liquor stores because they believe the stores produce funding for education and public safety among various priorities. But knowing that the County liquor stores actually cost us money is a different story.

With all of the needs in our community, we simply cannot afford to expend resources on services that don’t have a compelling public benefit.

Frankly, the only real consideration is the retail employees. They deserve fair treatment; there may be other jobs in County government.

I hope our letter to the County Executive will encourage him to bring the county union to the table and work out a plan to make it happen.

Let’s get on with it.

What about the warehouse?

While the Ad Hoc Committee recommended a partial privatization of the operation, we stopped short of saying “just get rid of the whole thing.” A big reason is that the warehouse profits were used to secure about $125 million in bonds, a long term financial decision made by the County in 2008 and 2009 that we must live with today.

Anything that would result in losing the revenue stream supporting those bonds would require the County to use our general construction budget to pay them off.

That is about the cost of a new high school. We are currently building three high schools in our construction program — Crown (Gaithersburg), Woodward (Bethesda), and Northwood (Silver Spring) — costing the County about $125 million each. So, to examine realistic trade offs, which school should get cut to pay off the warehouse bonds?

As much as I favor liquor reform, I have long believed that paying for schools is a bigger need and a higher priority for most of our residents.

And Grocery Stores Should Sell Beer and Wine

Finally, an issue that I believe the state legislature must urgently address is allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine. They are prohibited by state law. Changing it requires creating a state license for grocery stores to sell, which only the legislature can do. It wouldn’t cost us a penny. (Just the opposite, it would generate revenue.)

A lot of people assume this bizarre restriction is part of our County system, but the fact is that it is a state prohibition that was created to protect small retailers from grocery store competition.

It needs to change.

Summing up
On October 3, Councilmembers Katz, Glass, Rice, and Hucker joined me to send a letter to County Executive Elrich about our discovery that the County’s retail liquor stores are losing $5+ million annually.

We asked the Executive to review the information we provided and respond with a plan of action by the end of 2019.

This post has been updated from a previous version

5 Point Plan to Power Up Montgomery County’s Economy

5 point plan to power up Montgomery County's economy

Dear resident:

Montgomery County is an amazing place. There is so much positive change here. We get so many important things right.

We are also facing some challenges, particularly when it comes to economic development. Our job growth has slowed and if the trend becomes a long term one, there will be profound consequences.

That is why I am working on an economic development plan — to help us power up.

The need is clear. In 2018, Virginia generated 71% of all new jobs in the Washington region, according to the Fuller Institute. So far, 2019 numbers show Virginia generating an even larger share of the region’s jobs, as high as 90%.

This is a huge change from the historical pattern, where Maryland generated about one-third of the jobs. For Montgomery County, it threatens our sustainability.

For the past year, I have been talking with business and education leaders about how to chart a better course. With a focus on public private partnerships to drive investment and policy, we can generate momentum and results.

Following are five policy areas that have risen to the top and that I intend to address in an ongoing manner as chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee.

Of course this list is not exclusive of other initiatives or economic development priorities. There are many others that we will be taking up, from 5g to opportunity zones to bus transformation to housing.

Nevertheless, these themes embrace multiple initiatives and have broad impact.

Hans Riemer's 5 point plan for job growth. 1. Purple Line Innovation District 2. North Bethesda economic development 3. Tech Talent Pipelines 4. More entrepreneurship from our federal labs 5. Transit for Upcounty and Across the River

1. Purple Line Innovation District

Recently PHED was briefed on the affordable housing goals proposed by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a community driven campaign. To fulfill that inclusive vision, which calls for securing at least 6,000 units of affordable housing in the County along the corridor, we will need to develop a specific plan, targeting housing finance to acquisitions as well as spurring redevelopment with high affordable requirements. That conversation is underway.

With a housing strategy under development, we must maximize the economic potential of the Purple Line. It is a perfect tool to grow our economy, by creating a thriving urban environment that is connected to some of the world’s most powerful research hubs.

With Bethesda and NIH on one end of the line, NOAA, Montgomery College and Silver Spring just a few minutes from the University of Maryland and its nation-leading computer science program, with NASA and FDA nearby, the anchors are there for a technology-driven science corridor.

The Purple Line is a great opportunity to form a bi-county economic development partnership to recruit companies to the corridor, and I am working on that now with Danielle Glaros, Prince George’s PHED Chair. You have seen the news reports that Northern Virginia jurisdictions are working together to attract companies. We can do the same.

We need to work with business owners and educational institutions to explore locating new research labs and facilities in Silver Spring and Bethesda. There are many possibilities, from a new university campus to incubator lab space.

Beyond marketing the corridor, we need to build walkable and bikeable communities there. We have a model bike network under construction in Silver Spring and another one planned in Bethesda that we need to complete urgently. We need great public spaces.

It’s an incredible opportunity. Let’s work together to make the Purple Line corridor an inclusive economic engine for our future prosperity.

2. North Bethesda Economic Development

Our County has an expansive vision for an urban corridor up and down Rockville Pike. But you wouldn’t know it from what you see on the street there, as the road hasn’t changed much from its suburban highway imprint. That mismatch between our vision and reality is holding us back.

In North Bethesda, large employers are making investments in new office markets and vibrant communities. We can support them by enhancing Metro stations and rebuilding Rockville Pike to become a walkable, transit-oriented community.

Let’s start by building a new entrance to the White Flint metro. That has been a big battle for two consecutive capital budgets. Alongside Councilmember Andrew Friedson, I am a strong supporter of the project as well as remaking the intersections in that area so that they are safe and walkable.

With that in motion we also need to add add street furniture and art and design and actually create the vision that we are trying to market. North Bethesda can become a thriving urban center.

We have a lot to do to make North Bethesda into the dynamic office market that we have envisioned it to be to support our future growth. Let’s get going.

3. Tech Talent Pipelines

In today’s tech focused economy, companies chase talent and talent drives growth. Montgomery County is a talent factory thanks to our superb schools, higher education programs, and highly diverse community. But we can and should do more.

In our bid for Amazon HQ2, Maryland and Montgomery County pledged a major education investment to support Amazon’s job growth. Maryland and Montgomery County should follow through on that vision regardless of Amazon’s location, because it will help our County attract and retain technology focused companies, and support our residents and growth going forward.

Montgomery County and Maryland education leaders need to design more degree programs that are aligned with the emerging needs of our growing employers, through collaboration with the Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery College and the University of Maryland, all workforce development powerhouses.

Meeting to develop new Cloud Computing Degree program

I convened a meeting with the Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery College, KID, and Amazon to form a partnership for a new Cloud Computing degree program. The goal is to build a tech talent pipeline for cloud computing sectors.

The New York Tech Talent Pipeline initiative is another great model that should be duplicated. Bringing companies to the table with higher ed partners, they provide workers with no-cost training in tech specialities. We can do that here.

To diversify the pipeline, Montgomery County needs more STEM programs in schools and an ambitious apprenticeship program. Montgomery County should build off of its successful Summer Rise program, championed by Councilmember Craig Rice, to make internships year round. CareerWise Colorado is a great model to replicate.

And Councilmembers and the County Executive are working together on the possibility of a new KID museum / skills center and STEM school facility in Silver Spring, where we can model talent pipeline programs that promote equity.

Our first joint committee meeting of the PHED and Education Committees this year focused on the Tech Talent Pipeline. We are moving forward.

4. More Entrepreneurship from our Federal Labs

Finally, we need to focus on leveraging the tech resources we already have — some of the world’s most powerful research institutions — NIH, National Cancer Institute, NIST, to name a few.

These labs pack the same research power as America’s top universities. But universities have evolved into economic development engines more successfully than these Federal labs, thanks to deliberate strategy and policy making that supports entrepreneurship.

NIH spends more on research conducted here in Bethesda than it sends in grant money to all of the research institutes in Massachusetts, which fuels the vibrant Boston bio health sector. While NIH does spin off benefits to our growth, the state and county do not do nearly enough to leverage the opportunity.

To fuel our growing biohealth sector, we need to triple down on programs that support entrepreneurship in our community of NIH and National Cancer Institute scientists and visionaries. With NIST we can promote cybersecurity entrepreneurship. With FDA we can focus on medical devices; with NOAA, climate science and geographic and weather tech. That’s just a sampling.

At the highest level, reforming federal policies that keep innovations and scientists inside the labs must be an ongoing priority. We need to bring business and education partners together to advocate for commercialization strategies, whether federal legislative reforms or local talent partnerships.

I recognize that the payoff from a more intensive focus on leveraging labs would be long term. But it is a very realistic way for us to foster our own thriving economy.

5. Transit for Upcounty and Across the Potomac

Gaithersburg (a biohealth powerhouse), Germantown, and Clarksburg are envisioned as employment hubs. But companies are increasingly seeking transit-served locations with walkable amenities, which we need to expand Upcounty. That is why I am advocating for:

  • The Corridor Cities Transitway
  • BRT on 355 to Clarksburg
  • BRT on 270 to Northern Virginia, as I have proposed to be added to the 270 managed lane plan
  • Monorail to Frederick and Tysons, which I am exploring with the High Road Foundation
  • MARC integration with VRE, enabling a one-seat ride from UpCounty to Crystal City

For the Upcounty areas to continue to thrive, we must connect them better by transit.

A spirit of public private partnership
These themes are not exclusive or comprehensive; there is more that we need to do in a variety of areas. These are, however, five areas that I plan to continue developing.

With our recent joint meetings with MCEDC, featuring the voices of our business leadership, the PHED committee has embraced a spirit of public private partnership in our economic development strategy.

Let’s keep listening and keep working together to get better results.

I welcome your feedback at councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Thank you,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Chair, Planning, Housing, & Economic Development Committee

Councilmembers introduce zoning proposal to legalize small-scale equipment for 5g wireless

Riemer, Albornoz and Rice call next generation wireless
infrastructure “an economic development imperative”

ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 30, 2019—On Tuesday, October 1 three Councilmembers will introduce a zoning text amendment, ZTA 19-07, that prescribes new rules for the siting of wireless facilities in the County’s residential zones. The measure, sponsored by Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice, aims to allow the deployment of next-generation wireless infrastructure, which will offer faster speeds, enhanced reliability and much greater capacity.

“The next generation of wireless technology will be profoundly more powerful than what we all use today,” said Riemer. “The opportunities for innovation and advancement in health care, education, transportation, agriculture, entertainment and many other sectors cannot be understated. I want Montgomery County residents and businesses to have access to next-generation wireless technology, but the County’s current zoning code effectively prohibits this technology in residential areas. This zoning change will fix that by enabling the deployment essential to supporting our tech devices both at home and in the workplace.”

“Connecting our County through the next generation of wireless technology will make our lives better in so many ways,” said Albornoz. “Imagine if a firefighter could be guided through a burning building by viewing the building layout in their helmet, or a paramedic treating a patient in an ambulance could be guided by a doctor miles away. This is the future, and we need to prepare for it by laying the foundation. This ZTA will get us there.”

“This ZTA is a step in the right direction for all County residents,” said Rice. “The tech industry is moving towards 5g wireless because they realize the evolution of technology has dramatically increased the number of high data users in our nation and throughout the world. Here in the County, we are seeing the increasing demand for stronger and more reliable signal service from our average tech user and especially from our small business owners located in residential areas and our budding entrepreneurs. ZTA 19-07 meets their needs, boosting their potential and consequently supporting local economic development.”

Current and future wireless networks will increasingly take advantage of millimeter wave spectrum above 24ghz, which means that they can carry a lot of information (every wobble of the wave can carry data) but they won’t travel very far. Thus, the technology requires many antennas that are closer to the device. While today’s technology relies on relatively few but tall macro towers, tomorrow’s technology will also make use of antennas on utility poles and streetlights. The problem is that Montgomery County’s zoning code does not allow these new wireless facilities in residential areas, where people also use their devices at home.

Accordingly, ZTA 19-07 does the following:

  • Allows wireless facilities on poles in the public right-of-way by “limited use” when those antennas are set back at least 60 feet from the nearest building, plus numerous other screening, color, and size/height conditions.
  • Allows wireless facilities on poles in the public right-of-way by “conditional use” when those antennas are between 30-60 feet from the nearest building, plus numerous other screening, color, and size/height conditions.
  • Does not allow antennas on poles that are closer than 30 feet to the nearest building.
  • Revises the conditional use process to comply with federal law by
    • affixing deadlines to all steps in the process to meet federal shot clocks.
    • requiring that the hearing examiner’s inquiry must determine the least visually obstructive location when ensuring provision of service.
    • allowing the batching of applications.
    • directing that appeals of the hearing examiner’s decisions go straight to the Circuit Court.

The impact of this proposal is that the industry is incentivized to use poles that are 60 feet or more from a building. When the setback distance is between 60 to 30 feet, residents will continue to have a voice in the process to argue that there are less obtrusive locations. No equipment will be allowed closer than 30 feet to a house or other habitable building.

The previous Council took these issues up in 2018 and passed ZTA 18-02. Then-Council President Riemer was the lead sponsor of this zoning change that allowed deployment of wireless facilities in mixed-use and non-residential zones. The previous Council also reviewed a residentially-focused ZTA in the fall of 2018, but Riemer did not bring the issue to a final vote because consensus on the measure was not reached.

Riemer added, “This new zoning measure also aims to disrupt efforts in the Maryland General Assembly and at the Federal Communications Commission to remove the County’s authority to control how these facilities are deployed. The County is fighting those preemption efforts, not by opposing next-generation wireless technology, but by arguing that we should retain local control over deployment because we can do a better job for our residents. This zoning change would exercise the local authority that we are fighting to protect. Our own standards are more protective of local concerns than the industry-supported proposals in the state or federal government.”

Riemer serves on the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) and as a member of the Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committee at the National Association of Counties (NACo). He has sponsored numerous resolutions and advisory recommendations as a member of these organizations and has advocated forcefully against federal preemption because the best and fastest deployment will only happen if local governments have a real seat at the table.

A public hearing for ZTA 19-07 will be scheduled at a later date. Read more about ZTA 19-07 here. Give us your feedback on social media using #MoCoWireless.

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