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The Council Connection — WMATA chief to brief Council

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Council President’s Message

The Council in in regular session on Tuesday, and we have a full agenda.

WMATA chief to brief the Council
During Tuesday’s session, the Council will hear from Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Mr. Wiedefeld is expected to discuss how WMATA plans to use the new annual infusion of $500 million to its capital budget, which was recently agreed to by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Beyond the remaining rehabilitation work necessary to fully restore reliable service, some of the candidate projects for these funds include the Forest Glen Station underpass, a new stairway at Shady Grove, a northern entrance and underpass at White Flint Metro and eliminating the Red Line turn backs at Silver Spring, among others.

In addition, the Council sent a letter to the WMATA Board of Directors requesting that it continue the Riders’ Advisory Council. The Council is a group of riders and residents from the DC-metro area that suggest service improvements and provides feedback on proposed changes. You can read more about it here.

Council to vote on wireless infrastructure zoning changes
Following a lengthy and productive worksession two weeks ago, Council is set to vote on a zoning change that guides the deployment of wireless infrastructure in our residential areas. With setback, size, and design requirements, the general concept is to allow a streamlined path for wireless infrastructure on existing utility poles and tall light posts, but to require greater scrutiny for the replacement of neighborhood light fixtures in areas without utility poles. The zoning changes allow for the deployment of this critical infrastructure in a way that is a sensitive to resident concerns.

Before making a decision on Tuesday, the Council will consider the zoning committee’s recommendations, a variety of amendments by Councilmembers, community feedback, and Council staff’s analysis. Read the staff report for more information.

Montgomery County receives Triple-A Bond Rating for 2018
Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2018 from all three Wall Street bond-rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable for a municipal government. According to Moody’s, the Montgomery County’s tax base “will experience additional growth because of economic expansion and diversification” while affirming that “going forward, Moody’s will continue to monitor the county’s ability to main financial flexibility and reserve levels that are compliant with its 10 percent fund balance target.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring lower costs across the board.

Pressing the State on pedestrian safety
In light of the recent spate of needless and tragic pedestrian deaths on State highways in the County, the Council has called on Gov. Larry Hogan to take immediate steps to address pedestrian safety along the Rt. 97/Georgia Ave corridor and other high danger areas. The Council has requested that the State review the speed limits along Georgia Ave as well as install a number of short-term initiatives to immediately improve pedestrian safety. State officials will brief the Council on November 13, 2018 on their plans.

Autumn has arrived and so have the leaves
Ready for fall leaf cleanup? The County’s Vacuum Leaf Collection Program will begin on Monday, November 5, 2018. The Neighborhood Leaf Collection signs will be posted in your community during the week of October 22, 2018. View the schedule for your neighborhood!

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

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The Council Connection — bicycle master plan

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

Here is the Council agenda for our Tuesday session.

We will begin with an interview for a seat on the Housing Opportunities Commission. The Commission plays an important role in the County by building, maintaining, and operating housing for low-income residents. The Council will then recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The Council’s legislative work will focus on the Bicycle Master Plan and a bill concerning labor peace agreements with the County’s trash-hauling contractors.

Bicycle Master Plan

The Council will review the Bicycle Master Plan, a comprehensive proposal that aims to make the County a “world-class bicycling community.” Using an innovative and rigorous analytical framework that measures the level of “stress” to ride a bike on any given street, the plan makes detailed recommendations on the appropriate bicycle infrastructure for each street in the county.

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. Generally speaking, the higher the stress of the street (high speeds and heavy traffic) the greater the separation from traffic proposed.

In addition to roadway infrastructure, the plan recommends bicycle parking stations at Red Line, MARC, Purple Line and Rapid Bus stations to make bicycling a viable cog in the County’s transit systems.

The plan is important 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.

The transportation committee reviewed the plan in two worksessions and recommends approval with amendments.

Bicycle Master Plan Map

Trash haulers “Labor Peace Agreements”
Bill 6-18 aims to prevent interruptions of critical services for residents provided by county contractors, such as trash and recycling pickup, and ensure that any cost increases provided to contractors for labor costs are passed on to workers.

Semi-Annual Report from the Planning Board
Twice a year, the County’s Planning Board comes before the Council to report on their proposed work program and to discuss major planning and parks issues. The Board is expected to review master plans adopted over the last couple years and highlight several award-winning parks projects. You can view the presentation here.

Council prioritizes School Bus Safety
Last week the Council approved a $4.7 million supplemental appropriation for the county’s School Bus Safety Program. The appropriation increases funding for additional safety cameras and other safety mechanisms designed to protect our students. Read more about it here.

Do you need a Replacement Recycling Bin?
Is your recycling bin damaged or lost? Request a new one here.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

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The Council Connection — Hispanic Heritage Month, affordable housing, and wireless infrastructure

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council is in regular session on Tuesday, and we have a full agenda.

The Council will commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month with a special roundtable discussion. Panelists will share their professional and life experiences and discuss issues of importance to the community and the County.

The Council’s legislative work will focus substantially on affordable housing and wireless infrastructure.

Affordable Housing
The Council will take up two issues related to housing in the County.

Zoning Text Amendment 18-06, MPDU – Bonus Density is a complement to Bills 34-17 and 38-17 which the Council passed earlier this year. Bill 34-17, introduced by Councilmember Floreen and cosponsored by Councilmember Rice, made several significant changes to modernize the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) law which requires that 12.5% of new residential units be affordable to residents with moderate incomes. Bill 38-17, introduced by Council President Riemer and cosponsored by Councilmember Katz, increased the requirement to 15% in the most expensive parts of the County. ZTA 18-06 updates the bonus density formula which provides a bonus to incentivize developers to do more than the required minimum MPDU’s to take account of changes approved in Bills 34-17 and 38-17.

Zoning Text Amendment 18-07, Accessory Residential Use – Accessory Apartments will make it easier for homeowners to add an Accessory Dwelling Unit to their home – a rental unit with a seperate entrance and kitchen. In 2012, the Council created a more streamlined approval process for most Accessory Apartments, while still giving neighbors notice and an opportunity to object to a proposed unit. This ZTA (and companion Bill 26-18) would extend that process to cover the all proposed accessory apartments, rather than having some units still required to go through the more cumbersome Conditional Use process. This does not change any of the substantive requirements for accessory apartments, such as parking, the location of a second entrance, or any of the safety features required as part of the building code.

Wireless Infrastructure
The Council has been grappling with issues surrounding next-generation wireless infrastructure for the last two years. This past spring, the Council enacted a zoning amendment that allows wireless deployment in our commercial areas. We are now considering an ordinance proposed by the County Executive that guides deployment in residential areas. Taking into account the views of concerned residents, the Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee reviewed and amended the ordinance. That amended ordinance is now before the full Council. With appropriate setback, size, and design requirements, the general concept is to allow wireless infrastructure on existing utility poles and tall light posts by limited use and to require conditional use for the replacement of shorter light posts.

The Council is taking up this ordinance in the context of efforts at the FCC, Congress, and the Maryland General Assembly to preempt local control over wireless infrastructure siting. Passing a responsible ordinance that a) protects our neighborhoods, b) allows deployment, and c) does not run afoul of federal law/regulations, strengthens our ability to fight these efforts. You can follow the Council’s worksession on the issue, which will begin around 10:00am.

Climate Mobilization Report
Finally, the Council will receive a presentation about the Climate Mobilization Report that the Executive Branch recently prepared. Pursuant to a Council Resolution that set a goal of reducing emissions 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035, the County Executive convened a task force to make policy recommendations in a report to the Council. Read the report here.

Public Forum: Community Grants
The Council invites the public to a forum on October 9, 2018 at 7:30pm at the Council Office Building to discuss the community grants program. Each year the Council allocates funding to non-profit groups doing important work in the community. The Council is interested in hearing from the public on how to improve the effectiveness and accountability of these grants. Council committees will consider public feedback as they review the community grants program in the coming weeks.

Committees taking up substantial issues
The public safety committee will review the County Executive’s proposed savings to the fire and rescue budget. Meanwhile, the transportation committee will review WSSC’s spending control limits and several road and bicycle projects.

Council supports farm wineries and breweries
Last week the Council unanimously passed a zoning measure that creates a clear and reasonable path for farm-based breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries to locate and grow here in our agricultural areas. Read more here.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

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The Council Connection — housing affordability (cont’d)

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

Before we head into the August recess, the Council meets this Tuesday with a full agenda (pdf).

Housing Affordability
After extensive discussion, the Council will take action on two significant pieces of legislation that make improvements to our Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program – a visionary law first enacted in Montgomery County in 1973 and since copied in jurisdictions across the Country. The MPDU law requires that 12.5% of all new developments with more than 20 housing units be set aside in the County’s affordable, below-market rate program. The law has produced more than 11,000 affordable units since its creation (though many aged out of their control period before it was extended to 99 years). Bill 34-17 (pdf), sponsored by Councilmember Floreen, would make several changes to update and strengthen the law. Bill 38-17 (pdf), sponsored by Council President Riemer, would increase the requirement to 15% in the areas of the County with the least affordable housing.

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

Renaming New High School After Josiah Henson
Last week, First Lady Catherine Leggett and Council President Hans Riemer sent a letter to the Board of Education (pdf) urging them to name the new high school on Old Georgetown Road in Rockville after Josiah Henson. Reverend Henson, one of the great unsung heroes in the County, lived and labored in the area where Tilden Middle School now stands on what was once Riley Farm.

To learn more about Josiah Henson’s story and why he is such a pivotal historical figure, please attend a special screening of the documentary film “Josiah” on August 10 at 7:00 p.m at the AFI Theatre in Silver Spring. Tickets are available on the AFI Silver Theatre website and at the AFI box office.

Crime Statistics
The Council public safety committee reviewed the County’s 2017 and 2018 year-to-date crime statistics. While crimes against persons have ticked up in 2018, the total number of criminal offenses are trending lower than 2017 (-48.8%). Please see the full update here.

Wireless infrastructure zoning changes
At the request of the County Executive, the Council will introduce zoning changes (pdf) that are designed to speed the deployment of wireless infrastructure in residential areas while maintaining appropriate safeguards for neighbors. The public hearing will be on September 11, beginning at 7:30pm. You can also provide feedback by writing to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Converting streetlights to LED
The Council will vote on an appropriation proposed by the County Executive to begin phase 1 of an ambitious plan to convert all County street lights from high pressure sodium (HPS) to light-emitting diode (LED). LED streetlights use less energy and are easier to maintain, which saves the County (and taxpayers) money.

And finally, an update on the Council’s efforts to promote local craft alcohol production.

Farm Alcohol Production Zoning Changes
In order to improve Montgomery County’s offering of wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries in our agricultural areas, Councilmember Riemer and Rice introduced ZTA 18-03. After making a number of changes suggested from stakeholders, the zoning committee (PHED) unanimously recommended the ZTA to the full Council this week. The full Council will take up these zoning changes in September.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President