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Montgomery Council cuts costs to start new breweries, wineries and distilleries

Council Vice President Hans Riemer’s latest initiative builds on success in supporting local craft production

ROCKVILLE, MD., May 17, 2017—The Montgomery County Council approved the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which includes a key reform promoting the local production of alcohol proposed by Vice President Hans Riemer.

Local producers of alcohol in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will now be exempt from the system development charge (SDC) generally imposed on every applicant for new or increased WSSC service from the bi-county agency. Council Vice President Riemer was the primary sponsor of the initiative from Montgomery County.

The councils of both counties have created exemptions from SDC charges for purposes benefiting the public, including for affordable housing, revitalization projects, senior housing and biotechnology research and manufacturing facilities. As part of the revitalization exemption, the local alcohol production exemption seeks to promote the growing industry of locally produced alcohol that provides good paying jobs and investment in the community.

“My goal is to make Montgomery County the best place in the region to start a brewery, winery or distillery,” said Vice President Riemer. “Fitting out a new beverage manufacturing facility often requires new larger pipes because alcohol production itself has high water needs. These connections can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By exempting alcohol production from the WSSC system development charge, we will lower startup costs for new breweries, wineries and distilleries.”

The County’s efforts to open the doors to the craft industry, initiated through the County’s Nighttime Economy Task Force spearheaded by Councilmember Riemer, have resulted in entrepreneurs coming in to the County to establish new businesses. These efforts include:

  • Allowing craft brewers to sell directly to stores and restaurants without going through a middleman / warehouse distributor (the County’s Department of Liquor Control).
  • Increasing the amount of beer that craft brewers can sell per year to customers on location.
  • Clarifying zoning rules to allow craft distilleries to locate in urban and light industrial areas, where they were not previously allowed.
  • Allowing wineries (and farms) to host food trucks—areas where they were previously prohibited.
  • Easing regulations on the sale of beer and wine growlers.
  • Allowing wineries to also sell beer on their premises.
  • Repealing distance requirements that breweries could be located from churches and schools.
  • Extending hours of operation for alcohol licensees to 2 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Reducing the food to alcohol ratios for restaurants, allowing them to get more revenue from alcohol sales.

Montgomery County is currently home to at least seven breweries: Brookeville Beer Farm (Brookeville), Denizens Brewing (Silver Spring), Gordon Biersch (Rockville), Growlers Brew Pub (Gaithersburg), Rock Bottom Brewery (Bethesda), Seven Locks Brewing (Rockville) and Waredaca Brewing (Laytonsville). Wineries in the County now include the Olney Winery, the Rockland Farms Winery (Poolesville), Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (Dickerson) and the Urban Winery (Silver Spring). The County’s only distillery is Twin Valley Distillers.

Several of these businesses opened in recent years as State and County laws have been modernized to reflect the rising interest among residents for craft beer, wine, and spirits.

“The reforms we have pursued in recent years have made the County much friendlier to local production,” Councilmember Riemer said. “Our new breweries and wineries are already having a tremendous impact by revitalizing areas in our urban, industrial, suburban and agricultural communities. The culture is just taking off, and the potential is great.”

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Funding a study for dedicated lanes on US 29 BRT

If a bus could move past traffic, wouldn’t you be more likely to ride it? That is the premise behind the need for “dedicated lanes” for buses. When a bus has a dedicated lane, it can move past traffic jams. At that point, riding the bus becomes a much better service for those who do not have the opportunity to own a car as well as a real alternative for people who have a car. But if the bus is stuck in traffic, many people will prefer to just drive.

Today, the Council’s Transportation Committee supported my request for further study of an exciting and potentially effective proposal to create dedicated lanes for buses south of Industrial Parkway as part of a US 29 BRT plan. The key to this proposal, which was initiated by county residents and transit activists, particularly Sean Emerson and Sebastian Smoot, is shrinking the regular travel lanes from 12 to 10 feet. This makes enough room to add a dedicated lane for buses without taking a lane away from cars, a potential win-win situation.

The County Department of Transportation agreed to prepare a supplemental appropriation to fund the study for the Council’s review at a later date. My MEMO is below.

MEMORANDUM

To: Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee
From: Council Vice President Hans Riemer
Date: May 2, 2017
Re: US 29 BRT Dedicated Lane Proposal


I am writing to urge your support to further develop a potentially effective concept for a dedicated bus rapid transit lane south of Industrial Parkway for the US 29 BRT.

Like many of you, I recently met with Sean Emerson and Sebastian Smoot to discuss their proposal to improve BRT on US 29. As you know, the current proposal before the County Council calls for BRT vehicles to ride in the shoulder on the northern section of corridor, providing a dedicated lane. South of Industrial Parkway, to the Silver Spring Transit Center, the vehicles would travel in mixed traffic.

While the overall plan is a meaningful step forward for bus service, the game changer for the corridor is securing dedicated lanes where congestion is the worst, south of Industrial Parkway. Mr. Emerson’s proposal envisions a dedicated lane and platforms in the median of US 29 south of Industrial Parkway. Mr. Emerson’s proposed dedicated lane can largely be accommodated within the existing curbs and without removing travel lanes, which reduces additional impacts. In fact, it seems possible that most or all of the elements of the Executive’s proposal would nest readily into Mr. Emerson’s more comprehensive plan.

My understanding is that MCDOT and SHA have expressed interest in the proposal. I believe the next step after approving the Executive’s proposed project is to identify the funding to flesh out the design of Mr. Emerson’s proposal, as well as engaging the US 29 Citizens Advisory Committees.

Therefore, I respectfully request your support for the further study of a dedicated BRT lane between Industrial Parkway and Downtown Silver Spring.

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Head Start and Pre Kindergarten Expansion

I would like to thank my colleagues on the joint ED/HHS committee as well as our partners at Montgomery County Public Schools for supporting my focus on expanding existing half-day Head Start and pre-k programs to full-day for our lowest income children. The committees requested Council staff to identify how investments could be most efficiently targeted in the budget for next year, information that will be very valuable as we conduct our budget review over the next 6-8 weeks. I am hopeful that we can get to the $5 million expansion goal that I have proposed, but we will have to make some tough choices to create resources at that level.


To: George Leventhal, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee
Craig Rice, Chair, Education Committee & Member, Health and Human Services Committee
Nancy Navarro, Member, Education Committee
Marc Elrich, Member, Education Committee
Council President Roger Berliner, Member, Health and Human Services Committee
From: Council Vice President Hans Riemer
Date: March 13, 2017
Re: Head Start and Pre Kindergarten Expansion

When this Council passed Bill 13-15 eighteen months ago, we began to build the capacity to plan and implement a major expansion of programs to ensure access to quality, affordable early care and education for every child. Since that bill’s passage, the County has funded and hired a new Child Care Policy Officer in the Department of Health and Human Services and completed a Child Care Strategic Plan. The HHS and ED Committees recently held an exceptionally informative work session to hear from New York City about how they achieved their pre-k expansion, and the Committees instructed the HHS Department to determine how we could undertake a similar “universal” expansion.

With the receipt of OLO Report 2017-7, “Pre-K in Montgomery County and in Other Jurisdictions,” we have several approaches to consider as well as a crucial piece of the puzzle – clear evidence that the benefits of government-funded pre-k, at least for low income students, far outweigh the costs.

I am thrilled that the OLO report includes a series of discrete increments in which we could stage an expansion, with digestible cost estimates. I understand that Council staff intends to work with stakeholders to further define the costs and requirements of the incremental steps laid out in the OLO report.

I seek your support to direct Council staff to identify how we could best invest $5 million in FY18 to provide full-day pre-k for our lowest income children.

Over the past few weeks, my staff and I have conducted our own research and held meetings with staff from HHS, MCPS, and other stakeholders. My office has identified specific high poverty schools and the scope of their existing programs. Some of these schools already offer full-day pre-k, others offer half-day pre-k programs. Combined with the existing full-day slots, I believe $5 million would allow us to offer full day prekindergarten classes to ALL children who qualify for Head Start at all elementary schools, and begin to expand MCPS half-day pre-K to full day at the schools with the greatest concentration of children in poverty. This expansion could be accommodated on site at many schools, but would require some classes be provided through community partners or at other spaces such as Recreation facilities.

The following schools have programs that could readily be expanded.
Expand half-day Head Start to full day for about 250 kids in:
Bells Mill ES
Clearspring ES
College Gardens ES
Drew ES
East Silver Spring ES
Fairland ES
Glenallen ES
Maryvale ES
Montgomery Knolls ES
Christa McAuliffe ES
Strawberry Knoll ES
Twinbrook ES
Viers Mill ES
* Students from families living below 100% of the federal poverty line are eligible for Head Start

Expand half day pre-K to full day at highest FARMS schools for about 185 kids in:
Broad Acres ES
New Hampshire Estates ES
Harmony Hills ES
South Lake ES
* Students from families living below 200% of the federal poverty line are eligible for Pre-K

There are about 435 children in half day Head Start and pre-k programs in these schools. Our estimate is that creating full day Head Start and pre-k for all schools listed above would cost about $5 million, and we believe it can be done in FY18. Nevertheless, a more precise roadmap is required.

Both the OLO report and the HHS’s Department’s Early Care and Education Strategic Plan identify expanding existing half-day pre-K programs to full day as a top priority. The Early Care and Education Strategic Plan states:

S4. Work toward a guarantee of quality, affordable, full-day prekindergarten for all three and four-year old children in a mixed delivery system (e.g. services provided by both public schools and community-based programs).

Research shows that for low-income children, two-years of high-quality preschool improves children’s early literacy and math readiness for school compared to one year of prekindergarten. The number of hours in school, also known as dosage, is also an opportunity to close the readiness gap and meet the needs of working families. The new Head Start Program Performance Standards increase the number of hours a year Head Start programs must provide services. Early Head Start programs already operate for a full day.

Next Steps: In FY2018 and succeeding years, expand targeted assistance for low-income three and four-year-old children to have full-day prekindergarten in a mixed delivery system and increase the local contribution for full-day Head Start.

I look forward to working with you on this important County Council priority.

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Update on the Nighttime Economy Task Force

To be competitive for creative-class workers as well as empty-nesters, Montgomery County must be able to offer the new urban quality of life that those residents are seeking. To advance this issue, I requested the County Executive to establish the Nighttime Economy Task Force, which examined policies, resources and amenities that impact Montgomery County’s nightlife offerings. The task force led to the passage of numerous pieces of legislation in the Maryland state legislature as well as the County Council, all of which make it easier for restaurant and entertainment-oriented businesses to thrive in Montgomery County. I think it has been a success.

Please see the most recent implementation report below (PDF), as prepared by the County Executive’s team.

Nighttime Economy Task Force Implementation Summary May, 2015

Task Force Recommendations

County Executive Ike Leggett appointed the Montgomery County Nighttime Economy Task Force in May 2013 to explore ways of improving nightlife offerings at Montgomery County’s urban centers to meet the changing needs of our community.

After five months of intense work, the Nighttime Economy Task Force delivered the report, “Destination Montgomery,” to the County Executive with 32 recommendations for improving options and quality nightlife in Montgomery County. These recommendations covered the following six areas:

  1. Arts and Entertainment,
  2. Business Engagement,
  3. Public Space and Amenities,
  4. Quality of Life,
  5. Transportation, and
  6. Venue Operations and Public Safety.

Implementation Overview

A year and half after the report’s official release, the recommendations are at varying stages of implementation. A few have been implemented, some are actively being implemented, others are being further evaluated, and a few are no longer applicable or supported by the County government.

Recommendations successfully implemented

  1. Recommendation: Extend the hours of operation for venues with beer/wine/liquor licenses to 2 am on Sundays through Thursdays, and to 3 am on Fridays, Saturdays, and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays.
    Status: HB-463 and SB-657 were passed were passed in support of the recommendation.
  2. Recommendation: Expedite the creation of a social venue license, and modify the current alcohol to food ratio under the Class B beer/wine/liquor license from 50/50 to 60/40, to reflect the change in increased demand for higher quality, higher priced alcoholic beverages and to encourage establishment and operation of venues that host live music and other events.
    Status: HB-142 and SB-300 were passed in support of the recommendation.
  3. Recommendation: Develop an educational Patron Responsibility Program.
    Status: Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control (DLC) has partnered with Brown-Forman and a designated driver program called “Be My Designated Driver” (BeMyDD), to encourage people to plan their night out and ensure a safe ride home. These programs are being promoted by alcohol serving venues with a planned community education program with private sponsorship.
  4. Recommendations: Planning or Zoning Changes:
    1. Amend zoning standards to provide flexibility in meeting public use space and open space requirements.
    2. Support additional density in the County’s urban areas to foster a vibrant
      nighttime economy.
    3. Explore alternative, more attractive incentives for developers to include suitable, affordable performance spaces for small and emerging arts groups.

    Status: The Montgomery County National Park and Planning Commission finalized in 2014 the Zoning Rewrite for the county which ultimately, updated zoning codes and the zoning map that helped address the recommendations listed above. One remaining opportunity revolves around understanding the opportunities available under the Arts & Entertainment Districts. The Department of Economic Development is helping draft information both for the Planning Department and other entities on the Arts & Entertainment Districts but also other related tax incentives that exist for developers including Enterprise Zones, Façade Improvements, Green Building Codes, the Public Art amenity, just to name a few.

Recommendations being Implemented (in progress)

  1. Recommendation: Improve awareness of parking options.
    Status: All three urban districts are in agreement in utilizing and promoting the ParkMe application (www.parkme.com) for visitors and consumers, which is the preferred application by the Montgomery County Parking Lot District.
  2. Recommendation: Marketing County business resources and assets.
    1. Market A&E districts and county business resources to property owners.
    2. Create, develop, and implement a marketing program for the County.

    Status: These above recommendations are being advanced by multiple partners. The three A&E districts are exploring Placemaking options to enhance urban vitality and an inviting atmosphere that include both daytime and nighttime hours. The Office of the County Executive is taking a lead on developing a comprehensive economic strategy that will include better alignment of place-based economic development and program- based economic development. It is also in the middle of a multi-year marketing and branding project with several short-term projects to be delivered in spring 2015.

  3. Recommendation: Develop and implement a busker program to provide entertainment in urban areas.
    Status: The Silver Spring Regional Center and the Montgomery County Innovation Program has been developing the idea of a busker program to be piloted with the Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment Advisory Committee, the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board and Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee. This group has been working on several areas including Identifying Potential Busking Areas, Developing the Specific Parameters for Busking, Enforcement, and Promotions and Marketing.
  4. Recommendation: Enhance pedestrian and bicycle access.
    Status: Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton are all moving forward to achieve this goal based on their unique needs. Bethesda has made a top priority improving lighting. Silver Spring and Wheaton have made has made pedestrian walkability a top priority through lighting, walking and biking accessibility.
  5. Recommendation: Create Urban Parks Guidelines to activate public space through design elements, enhance the greater community, and foster multiple uses to appeal to a range of demographics at different times.
    Status: The Department of Parks is working with Planning on efforts to activate spaces such as in Silver Spring, especially in areas that are not public parks but are public properties or quasi-public such as WMATA, while developing guidelines for new development particularly within urban areas to help define and develop spaces that can foster activity both during the day and evening.

Recommendations being further evaluated

  1. Recommendations: Developing transportation options.
    1. Expand the “Safe Ride” program to all weekends (Friday evening through early
      Sunday morning).
    2. Increase the number of taxi stands.

    Status: Due to the changing market and new players like Uber that are challenging existing regulations and established players like taxis, the Council is working on addressing taxi regulations that will help address the recommendations moving forward.

  2. Recommendations: Business Services Tailored to the Small Business Community.
    1. Create a concierge service that promotes positive customer service, assists with streamlining the planning and permitting process, and facilitates working relationships with multiple departments for the business consumer.
      Status: Several departments provide concierge service to small businesses including the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Liquor Control, and the Department of Permitting Services.
    2. Recommendation: Simplify and streamline the process businesses must go through in order to open an arts and entertainment venue or hold an arts and entertainment event.
      Status: The County Council has just approved a new Ombudsman in the Office of the County Executive for commercial and residential development projects who will report directly to the Chief Administrative Officer. DPS has consolidated the permitting process to support new and existing restaurants through its “Recipes for Success Packet” to explain the process of opening a restaurant in Montgomery County.
  3. Recommendation: Develop a targeted strategic plan for attracting new companies to the County, fostering entrepreneurship, and growing our existing businesses based upon the target markets.
    Status: The Comprehensive Economic Strategy underway will address the above issues and serve as a comprehensive blueprint for Montgomery County’s future economic success, including how retail and placemaking can support an overall economic vision and vitality. Achieving this recommendation would require further research into the retail inventory in the county’s urban centers ultimately leading to the creation of a retail plan for the county. This would help show gaps in retail, especially with those that are and/or can become retail destinations. That information would then lead to the strategic and targeted company attraction referenced by the task force.
  4. Planning and Development
    1. Recommendation: Reduce opportunity for crime in urban areas by incorporating Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) techniques.
      Status: This is a shared responsibility between a cluster of departments including Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, General Services and the urban districts in creative placemaking to eliminate dead spots and create an inviting atmosphere at the urban centers.
    2. Recommendation: Encourage more housing options.
      Status: Two issues related to housing options need to be addressed–the size of dwelling units and the parking standards for these developments that need to be further explored.
  5. Transportation Options at Night
    Recommendations:

    1. Improve/expand the circulator service in focus areas.
    2. Expand the frequency and reach of late-night transit service.

    Status: All three urban districts would encourage WMATA to extend hours on weekends to 3am, especially with the extension of hours to 3am in FY15. Additional bus service should be considered if demand increases over time.

  6. Urban Districts Support and Development
    Recommendations:

    1. Support dedicated public safety resources for the nighttime economy in high density
      urban centers.
    2. Increase funding for Business Improvement Districts and Urban Districts.
    3. Professionally manage and maintain public spaces through the private sector or
      through public-private partnerships (similar to the Bethesda Urban Partnership). Urban District would like to increase coordination with MNCPPC as Optional Method Developments (OMDs) come on board within the districts to activate public and private spaces.

    Status: These are long-term, broad-based recommendations, most of which will be supported as demand for services increases over time, especially for police and the urban districts services in each area. To sustain this enforcement would certainly require identifying the related departments and future funding sources, especially as it pertains to the urban districts. How this is achieved depends heavily on the types of services to be delivered in each urban district or new ones identified over time.

  7. Urban Noise Areas
    Recommendation: Amend the County’s noise ordinance to allow for the establishment of Urban Noise Areas around appropriate locations (e.g., Rockville’s Town Square, Silver Spring’s Veteran’s Plaza and downtown); increase the allowable noise levels for qualifying arts and entertainment activities in these areas to 85 dBA (measured at 100 feet from stage, PA, or other center of the performance); increase the time allowed for these levels to midnight; and ensure that nearby residents are informed prior to moving in of the possibility of event-related noise.
    Status: There are some policy considerations about the recommendation of the NETF, which is a “one-size fits all” approach that proposes a noise standard that could allow much higher noise at receiving properties than currently permitted under Chapter 31B. The recommendation also proposes a different approach to regulating noise than the current noise law by regulating the level of noise a source is permitted to produce rather than the level of noise heard by a receptor. This ignores the reality that different locations have different characteristics, and that what is reasonable at one location may be unreasonable at another. For these reasons, DEP believes it would be prudent to establish specific parameters for each UNA depending on the characteristics of the site. Some policy guidance would have to be provided regarding the balance between those entities creating the noise and those affected by it.

Recommendations no longer applicable or supported
The below recommendations are not being actively supported by the County government at this point for various reasons.

  1. Recommendation: Allow food trucks to operate after 10pm.
    Status: Montgomery County government is exploring options for mobile vending for all hours, not limited to nighttime hours.
  2. Recommendation: Artist tax that would incentivize venues that pay musicians to performance.
    Status: This recommendation is deemed a low-impact measure and thus not supported at this time.
  3. Recommendation: Development of Large-Scale Nighttime Events.
    Status: All three urban areas are concerned about large scale events that may compete with surrounding businesses.