Montgomery County Council’s Top Ten 2018 Accomplishments

Here is my list of the Council’s top ten accomplishments during my year-long term as Council president, a position for which I am grateful to my colleagues for electing me.

10. Convened the Council’s first emergency session to respond to the GOP Congress’ Tax Act, passing legislation to allow County residents to prepay 2018 property taxes in 2017 and maximize their State and Local Tax deductions.

9. Approved funds to support organizations that provide legal assistance to county residents who are in deportation proceedings. Grants have been provided to Kids In Need of Defense, which helps children that have been separated from their families, as well as HIAS and other groups.

8. Funded a revised stormwater infrastructure program that will ensure efficiency and affordability while maximizing environmental benefits. Negotiated a solution to overcome an executive veto. Also approved a ten year update to the County’s Water and Sewer Plan.

7. Supported the County’s bid for Amazon HQ2, including a zoning plan to streamline the process for corporate headquarters to locate in the County.

6. Approved a zoning change for the Agricultural Reserve in the County enabling business owners there to operate wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries.

5. Adopted a visionary Bicycle Master Plan to guide the future of biking infrastructure in the county; and added funding for a Bethesda protected bike lane loop, in addition to the Silver Spring protected bike loop under construction.

4. Approved a zoning change to support additional wireless infrastructure (4g leading to 5g) in downtown and commercial areas (consideration continues on residential areas).

3. Supported major capital investment in WMATA. Locally funded new pedestrian access entrances for White Flint and Forest Glen Metros. Successfully advocated to expand rush hour service from Grosvenor to Shady Grove; similar expansion on Glenmont side is under study by WMATA.

2. Enacted legislation to increase affordable housing in the County by increasing the minimum percentage of Moderately Priced Housing Units (MPDUs) that are required to be built in new residential developments from 12.5 to 15 percent in high income areas of the county. Modernized the MPDU ordinance generally and established a clear MPDU incentive structure for bonus density.

1. Approved a $5.6 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget without raising taxes. The Budget fully funded the Board of Education’s request for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), including an additional $3.3 million for expanded pre-k programs — raising the two year total of early education expansions to over $7 million and creating more than 650 new full day pre-k slots, for a total of about 3,200 children attending publicly funded pre-k programs. The Council also added Excel Beyond the Bell after school programs at two additional Elementary School.

Bonus: Did it all in an election year!

Council Suggests Strategies to Improve Pedestrian Safety Along State Highways in Letter to Maryland State Highway Administration

ROCKVILLE, Md., Dec. 3, 2018— Council President Hans Riemer sent a letter on Nov. 30 to Greg Slater, administrator for the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), to suggest a number of strategies that should be pursued to improve pedestrian safety on state roads. The letter follows up on the Nov. 13 Council meeting with SHA, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Department of Transportation and others. The following is the text from the letter, which is also attached:

On November 13 the County Council had a wide-ranging conversation with you regarding both general and specific strategies for improving traffic and pedestrian safety along State highways in Montgomery County. I want to summarize for you the general strategies we wish the State Highway Administration to pursue going forward:

  • Reduce the lane widths to 10 feet in all our urban areas (11 feet if adjacent to a parking lane or a curb), consistent with the direction in the County’s Road Construction Code. This is the standard that has been applied to County roads since the Council updated the Road Code in 2014. It was developed after significant engineering review by our Planning Board and Department of Transportation staffs; the 10-foot-width standard was deemed sufficient to accommodate trucks and buses. The state roads in urban areas should adhere to the same standard. The County has formally adopted about 25 urban areas where this standard applies (see the attached map).
  • Set the speed limit on all state roads in urban areas to 25 mph unless a different target speed is specified in a local master plan. This, too, was a provision in the 2014 Road Code update. Target speeds in our suburban areas are not specified in law, but many of our most recent master plans do set them, and they are often lower than the current posted speed limits. As we noted in our earlier letter, the speed limit on Georgia Avenue (MD 97) in Aspen Hill should be reduced from the current 45 mph posting.
  • Audit the location and access to both transit bus and school bus stops on state highways to identify where stops and crosswalks should be relocated or installed, and where improved lighting is needed.
  • Identify where the next set of full pedestrian signals and HAWK signals will be implemented, and to develop the warrants for these types of signals.
  • Incorporate officially designated Safe Routes to Schools in the prioritization for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • Reconfigure state roadways where we have identified bikeways—especially protected bike lanes in the Bicycle Master Plan we adopted on November 27.
  • Reduce the time to analyze proposed pedestrian safety improvements as well as the time to install them once a decision is made to implement them.

The above initiatives should apply to all state highways; we would like to also proceed as we have discussed to work through a set of changes for Georgia Avenue specifically.

As promised at the November 13 worksession, I am attaching a set of individual locations along State highways of immediate concern to Councilmembers. I request that your staff evaluate each of them and report back with an action plan.

We look forward to a continuing partnership with SHA in achieving the Vision Zero goal in the foreseeable future. These steps will hasten us on that path.

# # #

Montgomery Council unanimously approves Bicycle Master Plan

Plan recommends 1,000 miles of trails, paths and lanes; upgrades to infrastructure; and analytics-based policy and construction

ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov. 28, 2018—The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the Bicycle Master Plan on Tuesday, November 27. The plan, which recommends a network of more than 1,000 miles of trails, paths and protected bike lanes, has the goals of making the County a world-class bicycling community; promoting access to a comfortable, safe and connected bicycle network; and making bicycling a viable transportation option that improves the County’s quality of life.

The plan also aims to facilitate the creation of supportive infrastructure for bicycling transit, including expanded bicycle parking at transit and commercial centers. It includes state-of-the-art analytical tools for designing safe, convenient bikeways throughout the County, and promotes the long-term implementation of bicycle-friendly policies and planning.

“When fully built out, the network envisioned by the plan will make biking a real option for cyclists of all ages and experiences in their trips for work, shopping, and recreation,” said Council President Hans Riemer. “Advance work on this network is already happening with protected bicycle lane networks in Silver Spring and White Flint and soon coming to Bethesda. In addition to completing these networks, we need to lower speeds on neighborhood greenway streets, address unsafe trail crossings across the County, and bring the State Highway Administration to the table to make improvements on State highways. The plan shows us the way to a world-class bicycling community. Now we need to roll up our sleeves and get it built.”

The Council and the Montgomery Planning Board brought together stakeholders including residents of every district in the County, bicycling and transit advocates and members of the business community to provide input and feedback as the plan was developed over several years. The plan aligns closely with Vision Zero, an initiative adopted by the Council in 2016 which aims to eliminate pedestrian and traffic fatalities and severe injuries on County roadways by 2030.

“This visionary and innovative plan recommends a network of protected bike lanes – lanes where people can bike and ride in a manner that is protected from cars – as well as low-stress routes throughout the County, in our urban centers as well as connecting major activity centers,” continued Council President Riemer. “As such, the plan supports the County’s mobility, environmental sustainability, and Vision Zero goals. It will have a long-lasting and deep impact on the County’s infrastructure as it will guide budget decisions in the decades to come.

“I’m especially grateful to Casey Anderson, the Montgomery Planning Board Chair; David Anspacher, planner and project manager for this plan; and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation for all the hard work they did in engaging with the community, assessing the possibilities and bringing together a viable plan. I’d also like to thank outgoing Councilmember Roger Berliner for supporting this and many other initiatives to make the County more bike friendly. The Council is really proud of this plan and what it means for our County’s future.”

You can learn more about the plan and view the digital map of the proposed network.

The Council Connection — bike plan and farewell to 18th Council

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The 18th Council of Montgomery County will hold its final session on Tuesday. View the agenda. The 19th Council, elected this November, will convene next Tuesday, December 4th, after December 3rd’s swearing in.

To recognize outgoing Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal and County Executive-elect Marc Elrich, we will hold a special commemoration at the Council.

Council set to adopt world-class bike plan
The Council is expected to adopt the Bicycle Master Plan, a comprehensive proposal that aims to make the County a “world-class bicycling community.” The plan recommends a network of protected bike lanes — lanes where people can bike and ride in a manner that is protected from cars — as well as low-stress routes throughout the County, in our urban centers as well as connecting major activity centers.

The plan is critical because it will guide design and capital budget decisions and development plans going forward. When fully built out, the network envisioned by the plan will make biking a real option for cyclists of all ages and experiences in their trips for work, shopping, and recreation.

You can learn more about the plan and view the digital map of the proposed network.

Ensuring the safety of our faith communities
After the recent Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting, the Council will hold a public hearing and vote on a special appropriation to the County’s FY19 Operating Budget to assist our diverse religious congregations with meeting their security needs. The funding for security will be provided through a grants process that will be open to all faith communities. The full Council staff report can be viewed here.

Meeting the needs of residents with developmental differences
On November 26, the human services committee will meet to review the report of the County’s Work Group on Meeting the Needs of Residents with Developmental Differences. Last year, the Council adopted Resolution 18-989, which requested the formation of a work group to report on meeting the needs of residents with developmental differences (developmental disabilities). The work group is focused on the implementation of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) Transformation Plan, and has made several recommendations including:

  • The County Executive and Council must carefully monitor the ongoing rate setting study and advocate strongly for rates that reflect the cost of doing business in Montgomery County.
  • The focus on opportunity for employment is critical, but the County must advocate with DDA to ensure that new rules truly incentivize employment.
  • The County must continue to invest local funds to support providers, increase inclusion in County programs, and provide needed services to County residents with developmental disabilities who are either on a waitlist or not eligible for DDA services.

View the full Council staff report here.

Holiday Safety
The Council wants you to have a joyful and safe holiday. Here are some safety precautions from the County Fire and Rescue Service on how you can have a Fire Safe Home!

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Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President