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Montgomery County Greenlights New Policy To Encourage More Craft Distilleries

I am pleased to announce that the County, at my request, has adopted a new policy that makes it easier to open craft distilleries in our urban nodes.

Please see the press release below:


Montgomery County Greenlights New Policy To Encourage More Craft Distilleries

September 6, 2016


ROCKVILLE, MD — County Executive Isiah Leggett and Councilmember Hans Riemer today announced a new County policy to encourage the location of emerging and growing craft distilleries.

The policy, based on the recently adopted Zoning Rewrite, allows the annual production of up to 50,000 gallons of distilled liquor in certain commercial/residential mixed-use zones. For companies that grow or are at greater levels of production, of between 50,000 and 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor will be allowed in light industrial zones. More than 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor are allowed in heavy manufacturing zones.

“Applying the new artisan zone to distilleries makes clear to artisans, craftspeople and small businesses that Montgomery County welcomes and supports their spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and has the places for them to locate, create, market and grow,” said County Executive Leggett. “County residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on beer, wine and spirits and this will help encourage ‘home-grown’ products.”

“Since joining the Council, I have worked to strengthen our ability to offer an urban lifestyle,” said Councilmember Riemer. “We need to create communities where younger workers and families as well as empty nesters want to be. When the creative, high-value workforce wants to live in a community, the companies and jobs follow. Breweries have been adding new life to many communities in Montgomery County, and we hope to build on that by clearing hurdles for distilleries.”

Leggett and Riemer worked together to create the Night Time Economy Task Force in 2013, which recommended a policy of self-distribution for breweries, as proposed by the Department of Liquor Control. The subsequent state legislative change resulted in a significant number of breweries launching in the County over the past few years, leading one successful entrepreneur in the brewery sector to call Montgomery County “the best place in the DMV” to start a brewery. New breweries in the County include Denizens, Seven Locks, Waredaca, and Brookville Beer Farm, joining Gordon Biersch, Growlers, and Rock Bottom.

Distilleries, like breweries and wineries, are manufacturing businesses and retailers. They are part of the innovation economy culture that is taking root in Montgomery County. Communities with locally produced beverages benefit from both a vibrant social scene for residents and export-based jobs, as breweries and distilleries sell their spirits to consumers around the country and globally. Breweries are sprouting because of new laws allowing them to sell directly to restaurants without going through a distributor, as well as supportive financing from the State and County. State law
regarding self-distribution has also been applied to distillers, clearing a separate hurdle to innovation and entrepreneurship.

At the request of Councilmember Riemer, the new policy was crafted by the County’s Department of Permitting Services, in close cooperation with Montgomery County Park & Planning.

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Gaithersburg passes polystyrene foam ban

I am pleased to share that the City of Gaithersburg has adopted a ban on polystyrene, which effectively implements that County’s ban within the city limits of Gaithersburg. I authored the County ban ( Legislation | Blog Post ), and it passed the Council unanimously in January, 2015.

According to Mayor Jud Ashman, “Creating a sustainable community is a key component of Gaithersburg’s strategic plan. Joining Montgomery County in banning these materials that don’t break down in our landfills furthers our goal of protecting the environment and ensuring a high quality of life for future generations.”

Polystyrene is a petroleum based product that breaks up into small pieces, but does not decompose. It builds up in the waterways and wildlife can mistake it for food. The key points of the County ban are:

  1. Prohibits the use of foam food service products by food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2016.
  2. Prohibits the sale of foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) and bulk foam foodservice products (bulk foam cups and plates) beginning on January 1, 2016.
  3. Requires the use of compostable or recyclable food service products by the County, County Contractors, and food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2017.

Enforcement for the City of Gaithersburg will begin January 1, 2017.

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Montgomery County Moving at the Speed of Ideas

Yesterday, the County announced an exciting partnership between Bytegrid and USA Fiber that will bring additional ultra-high speed internet connectivity to the County. With support from my Council colleagues and the County Executive, I have been working hard to make digital infrastructure a higher priority for Montgomery County. This partnership shows what can happen when you get the right people around the table. I congratulate County Executive Ike Leggett for this new fiber network partnership, which will make our data networks more competitive and strengthen our economic position in the region. I look forward to keeping the momentum going on our broadband strategy.

Read the press release below:


Montgomery County Moving at the Speed of Ideas

June 16, 2016


ROCKVILLE, MD — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett was joined by County Councilmember Hans Riemer to announce the partnership between USA Fiber and White Oak data center Bytegrid, which represents a new milestone in the creation of the Ashburn Fiber Express. The Ashburn Fiber Express is a key component of Leggett’s ultraMontgomery Broadband Economic Program. ultraMontgomery will create faster, more reliable, fiber connections for Montgomery County and Maryland data centers, businesses, and research institutions to reach major data centers in Virginia.

USA Fiber’s low-latency, direct fiber route, built underneath the Potomac River, will connect Bytegrid, a preeminent data center within the County, to a 7-mile ring of more than 30 data centers in Ashburn, Va. Ashburn is the data center hub for all Internet traffic and “cloud services” on the East Coast. More than 90% of all East Coast Internet routes use one of the 10,000 Internet connection points in Ashburn.

“Internet connectivity and network infrastructure enable our economy to move at the speed of our ideas,” said Leggett. “Using the improved fiber connectivity provided by USA Fiber’s Ashburn Express, Bytegrid can offer the opportunity for federal agencies, research institutions, and large businesses in Montgomery County to have the convenience of installing and accessing equipment locally; the security of using a federal information security standard-compliant facility; and the ease of connectivity to other data centers.”

A shorter, direct fiber route to Ashburn could lower broadband networking costs, reduce latency by 25%, improve network reliability, enhance speed and network security, and add critical path diversity to Ashburn for all entities in the Montgomery County-Baltimore-Northeast U.S. corridor. Local businesses and fiber providers, accessing USA Fiber’s Ashburn Express, will have another option to provide a diverse route for their communications, ensuring continuous access to the Internet.

“With support from my Council colleagues and the County Executive, I have been working hard to make digital infrastructure a higher priority for Montgomery County,” said, Councilmember Hans Riemer. “This great initiative shows what can happen when you get the right people around the table. I congratulate the County Executive for this new fiber network partnership, which will make our data networks more competitive and strengthen our economic position in the region. I look forward to keeping the momentum going on our broadband strategy.”

With this new Bytegrid-USA Fiber partnership, and the opening of the USA Fiber Ashburn Express in September, this public-private partnership requires minimal investment of public funds; it will provide state-of-art ultra high-speed service; and it will make gigabit Internet connectivity better in Montgomery County than in Fairfax.

Economic Benefits of a Direct Montgomery County-Ashburn Fiber Route Include:

  • Bolstering knowledge-based economy.
  • Stimulating job growth in “Advanced Industries.”
  • Enhancing the competitiveness of private and public sector employers.
  • Bridging the gap in Internet traffic flow between key data centers in Ashburn, Va. and business centers in Maryland.
  • Promoting Montgomery County and the State of Maryland as a hub for technology innovation.

The ultraMontgomery program, a key component of Leggett’s 6-Point Economic Plan, is designed to grow and attract the knowledge-based businesses that rely on ultra-high speed broadband networks. When the County’s East County Fiber Highway opens in 2017, businesses near the County’s FiberNet infrastructure and the Maryland Inter-County Broadband Network can use the County’s fiber as an “on-ramp” to USA Fiber’s Ashburn Express and to Bytegrid and other data centers within the County.

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Remarks on the FY17 Budget

Below you will find my remarks on the FY17 Budget.

I am pleased to support a county budget that puts education first and I believe the investment we are making in our schools today will pay dividends for years to come.

When I ran for county council i often spoke about how our County’s greatest challenges converge in the classroom — and in the classroom is where we can have the biggest impact on people’s lives.

I am motivated to public service by the core progressive value of creating opportunity for people regardless of who they are, where they live, or where they come from. And as a parent with a second grader and a rising kindergartner, I want for every child what I want for my own.

Having spoken with thousands of county residents over the course of three elections, I know that support for education is one of the characteristics that defines our political community here in Montgomery County – and there is broad recognition that our world class schools are the key to our success.

So really, I am grateful to have had the chance in this budget to help move us closer to this goal. I want to thank Council President Nancy Floreen, who early on established that this was going to be an education first budget and has ably led us to this result. A huge thanks as well to Craig Rice and the Education Committee for their work, as well our dedicated and extraordinary staff.

While I was pleased by the County Executive’s recommended funding level for MCPS, the fact is that his budget left a lot of work to be done — and the job fell to the County Council and the Board of Education to make the tough decisions about how the money would be spent.

And we worked together to make those tough decisions like never before.

Rather than a county budget that made no specific commitments about class size reduction or programs for the opportunity gap, we now have a budget that is certain to provide them.

Working with the Board to direct money to the classroom was a great test of leadership, because we needed them to be strong and they needed us to be strong. Thank you Mr. Durso and members of the Board.

Thank you to the union leaders who are working through this with us and the taxpayers who are being asked to make a greater investment in our schools.

And I want to thank my seven colleagues who stood strong and made this deal possible. Make no mistake, there was no other way to accomplish the symbiotic goals of raising revenues, reducing class size, increasing employee compensation by a sustainable 4.5%, and increasing county services, while getting the 9 votes required for the overall package.

We also took great strides in several other areas. We added significant funding to our brand new Public Financing fund for County elections, which will help get special interest money out of campaigns. We created two new County programs focused on promoting the growing Maker movement in the County and making STEM programming available to low income students. We are expanding Excel Beyond the Bell, the successful after-school program for Middle School students. We are adding resources for our public safety departments to keep up with growth and boosting other essential services like street maintenance, tree planting, and stump removal. And, as we do every year, we have added resources to ensure that there is a strong safety net for our most vulnerable residents, including fully funding our local match to the state EITC, which is a remarkable achievement. Finally, the significant increase in resources for Montgomery College will enable the college to provide more scholarships and targeted programs to help disadvantaged students succeed.

No doubt this was a tough budget and there are those who are disappointed. But governments have to make the tough decisions to keep the community moving forward, and that is what serving on the Montgomery County Council is all about.