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The Council Connection – Council discusses plan to widen 270 and 495

As summer comes to a close and school resumes, the Council is back for regular session on Tuesday with a full agenda.

In the morning, the Council will discuss issues related to the Governor’s plans to add lane capacity to I-270 and I-495. Governor Hogan announced last fall his intent to form a public-private partnership to widen both highways and likely add toll lanes. The State Highway Administration (SHA) outlined 15 “cross sections” for their Request for Proposals, which you can view here.

We invited SHA to discuss this project with the Council, but they responded that they will not do that until they have “narrowed the options,” likely in December. As Council President, I felt that this issue was too important to sit on the sidelines, so we will have a public discussion with our own transportation policy team to better prepare for this challenging issue.

The Council has long been on record urging the State to advance options that align with County master plans. For I-270 that means an additional two reversible lanes (not four) on I-270, and only between I-370 and Frederick County. These lanes would be reversible HOV or high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes, with both lanes running southbound in the morning peak and northbound in the evening peak. South of I-370 we do not advocate adding more through lanes, since any additional widening would have a major impact on abutting homes.

On I-495, the County’s master plan calls for an additional two HOV or HOT lanes (not four), and only between the I-270 West Spur and Virginia, where the right-of-way is wide enough (300′) to accommodate two lanes. East of the I-270 Spur we do not advocate adding more through lanes, since the right-of-way is only about 200′ wide there; any added widening would have a major impact on homes, businesses and parks.

We look forward to reviewing this issue more closely.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Legal assistance for residents facing deportation

Following up on initiative developed by the Council in the FY19 budget, the County Executive has identified 3 nonprofit organizations that will receive funding to help residents who are facing deportation: AyudaHIAS and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense). Why is this important? Here is one example: You have heard about the family separation crisis caused by the Trump Administration. KIND works to help those children who are connected to our community, by providing legal assistance. Tuesday’s action will designate these three groups as eligible for the $370,000 funding initiative the Council adopted.

10 Year Water and Sewer Plan

The Council aims to wrap up work on the 10 Year Water and Sewer Plan with a straw vote on Tuesday and final action the following Tuesday. The plan sets the policy for how and where water/sewer extensions are allowed in the County.

Public Hearings on affordable housing bills

On Tuesday at 1:30pm, there will be public hearings on a zoning change (Zoning Text Amendment 18-06) that would help implement the recent changes the Council made to the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) law. The Council passed legislation increasing the MPDU requirement to 15% of new housing units in the most expensive parts of the County, and made a host of changes to modernize the law and make it more flexible. Additionally, a different ZTA would streamline approval processes for “accessory apartments,” which are small apartments that a homeowner might build inside of their home, over a garage, or in their yard.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President


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