Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

Council Update — winter storm resources and accessory dwelling units

Dear Resident,

As we are all working to bounce back from the snowstorm’s impact, check our Winter Storm Information Portal or reach out to my office if we can provide assistance, and check out the list of the Best Hills for Sledding in Montgomery County Parks!

On Tuesday, the Council will begin 2019 with a busy session. View the full agenda.

I will be introducing a zoning amendment that makes several needed changes to the County’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) rules.

ADUs are seperate dwelling units — think “in-law suite,” “tiny house,” etc — on the same lot as a house. Usually they are inside a house, but they can also be a smaller separate house. They have a separate entrance, full kitchen, and bathroom. Many people find that ADUs are a great housing solution for the parents or grandparents of a family, adult children and relatives, adult children with special needs, caregivers, and just generally. They provide more affordable housing in parts of the County where housing has become prohibitively expensive.

Unfortunately, the County’s rules treat this housing type as a nuisance to be avoided rather than a resource to be welcomed. This zoning change aims to change that framework. For details, please take a look at the fact sheet and the text of the zoning change.

To gather input from residents and experts, I will host a policy forum on ADUs on Saturday, January 19 from 10am-Noon in Rockville. If you are interested in learning more about ADUs and the changes I am proposing, please RSVP.

The Council public hearing on the ordinance will be take place in late February.

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

Public hearings on zoning changes related to Montgomery Mall, the Purple Line, and Farm Alcohol Production
The Council will hold public hearings on three zoning changes that I authored. The first relates to the redevelopment of Montgomery Mall. The second allows higher fence heights for residents adjacent to the Purple Line. The third allows farm breweries and wineries to locate in certain large lot residential zones.

Discussion on financial controls to prevent fraud and theft
In the wake of the recent conviction of a Montgomery County employee for theft of public money, the County Inspector General and executive branch staff will brief the Council on a report that outlines how the theft happened and that recommends countermeasures to prevent this from happening again. The County has already implemented or begun implementing these countermeasures.

Independent Investigation of officer involved death legislation
I have co-sponsored legislation set to be introduced on Tuesday by Councilmember Jawando that would require an independent investigation of every police officer involved death. The goal of the bill is to promote public confidence in these investigations. A public hearing will occur in early March.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know if you need assistance with County services.

Stay safe out there!

Hans Riemer Signature
Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

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 Update — confronting fiscal challenges at final session of 2018

Dear Resident,

As the holiday season gets into full swing, the Council is holding its final session of 2018 on Tuesday. We have a packed agenda, including interviews for County Executive Elrich’s appointments to three top positions.

County fiscal condition requires action
The Council will receive a briefing from Council and Executive Branch staff on the state of the County’s finances. While this year’s revenues are on track with what we estimated in the Spring when we passed the budget, last year’s revenues were lower and expenditures were higher than we expected. This has created a nearly $44 million hole in the County’s reserves, dropping our reserve-to-revenue ratio to 8.4%. The County’s goal is 9.4% this year and 10% by 2020. Given the importance of healthy reserves to our overall fiscal picture, the Council expects to take up a savings plan recommended by the County Executive in January, 2019. Read the full staff report.

Introduction of three zoning changes
I am introducing three zoning text amendments (ZTAs) for Council consideration. The first changes the minimum allowed fence height for a home confronting the Purple Line. The second changes the height limit for a building in a shopping mall. The third allows breweries and farm alcohol producers in rural zones, not just agricultural zones. I look forward to engaging with the public, stakeholders, and my colleagues on the Council as these measures move through the legislative process.

Voting reform town hall
I am excited to be working with Ranked Choice Voting – Montgomery County to host a community policy event on Saturday, Dec 15 at 9am at the Silver Spring Civic Center. You can RSVP here for the free event. Ranked Choice Voting is where the voting process counts not only first choices but also second, third, etc. In an election where the top vote getter does not get a majority of first choice votes, then the second choices count, until a candidate has a majority. Legislation in the State House is necessary to enable the County to adopt this system, which may move forward this upcoming state legislative session if there is sufficient community support.

Happy Holidays,

Hans Riemer Signature
Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

P.S., ICYMI, my remarks about the County’s future at the recent inauguration ceremony, my list of the Council’s 2018 accomplishments, and more about the Council’s progress on pre-k.

Councilmember Riemer’s Remarks at Inauguration of the 19th Council

Councilmember Hans Riemer giving remarks at the 2018 Inauguration

Welcome to the beginning of a new era in County government and politics. I am Hans Riemer, president of the Montgomery County Council. It is my honor to bring greetings to you at the inauguration of the 19th Council and share my thoughts on the road ahead.

I will begin by saluting a remarkable man who inspired confidence in our County’s leadership: Isiah Leggett. Thank you for everything, Ike. Together with Catherine, you have guided this County on its journey as we have transformed from farmland suburbia to inclusive, metropolitan Montgomery.

For my colleagues from the 18th Council who are moving on, Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal, thank you for your dedication to public service.

To our new County Executive, Marc Elrich, thank you for your work on the Council, congratulations on your victory and best wishes for success.

Today we welcome new voices to Council leadership, Gabriel Albornoz, Andrew Friedson, Evan Glass and Will Jawando. We are looking forward to your contributions. You’ll join an outstanding Council including Tom Hucker, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro, and Craig Rice. In the four years ahead, we will engage in spirited discussions, while upholding our Council’s traditions of professionalism and respect.

We probably don’t all agree on everything at the Council, but friends, you don’t either. That is what makes democracy so vital and exciting. We work through our differences to find a way forward.

If there is one thing you can count on, it is that — even if the federal government is no longer responsive to the views of the majority — Montgomery County is going to continue to set an example of effective governance.

We will strive for an inclusive community that respects and values the contributions that every single person can make to our world, and we will reject politics that rely on telling some Americans that they are less than.

In Montgomery County, every resident counts, no matter who you are, what you look like or where you are from.

This is not just a matter of values, it is the key to our success. Montgomery County is changing. We are not the same community that we were 30 or even 15 years ago. Some might see it differently, but I believe that we are changing for the better, as more and more families are able to find success in the corner of the world that we have made.

Today our County is a complex, dynamic, inclusive, cosmopolitan community. From farms to high rise apartments, there are Montgomery County residents living out just about every kind of lifestyle you can imagine.

Our past decisions to support new housing, public transportation and education continue to pay dividends, but as our community has grown larger and more complex, so have our needs.

If we want to continue to be an inclusive and welcoming community — then there are some basics we have to get right. There needs to be a place for everyone to live. We need reliable transportation. Young people need a great education. Immigrants and others starting out need an on-ramp to the economy.

It all begins with economic development. Government can do a lot to improve our lives, but good jobs are the foundation of every successful family, neighborhood and community.

My wife Angela and I have two amazing young boys. I hope they will stay close when they grow up, but I’m worried that, even if they want to – they won’t be able to.

First they’ll need to find a job here that supports their dreams. The federal government, a key building block of our local economy, isn’t expanding that fast anymore.

To provide job opportunities for the next generation, we’ll need our private sector job base to grow.

If our boys can find their chosen career path here, then they will want to find a place to live. But we have a housing crunch as there is not enough supply. That causes prices to go up. The affordability crisis in turn causes resentment as our younger workers wonder why, after taking on debt to get the same education and career potential their parents had, they can’t afford to live where they grew up.

To make room for the next generation, we need more housing. And absolutely, that means we need to build schools, public transportation and other infrastructure to support that growth. But just as we reject an immigration policy that says, “Sorry, we were here first,” we must reject a housing policy that doesn’t recognize that we all share a responsibility for building and maintaining the infrastructure that we use, not just the new generation that is trying to make our County home.

Our region enjoys a growing technology economy. Our ability to attract technology companies and their employees here also depends on our ability to connect to other job centers in DC and increasingly in Northern Virginia.

We must restore Metro to world class status, but that is not enough, either. As a region we should re-envision MARC and Virginia’s VRE to create a DMV commuter rail network. Imagine: a one-seat ride from the 11 stops in Montgomery County all the way to National Landing.

While we thank Governor Hogan for putting the focus on I-270, now is the time for us to work with our State Delegation to support our clean energy future by ensuring this project makes transit a real priority.

Welcome to our state elected officials here in the audience today. We have made great strides on county issues these past few years and we know we can count on you. With the Kirwan Commission’s education recommendations coming soon, we will be working together to ensure that what happens in Annapolis is good for Montgomery County school children.

Because if we are going to create prosperity for everyone, nothing is more important than preparing our young people to step up and fill the tech and science jobs across our region.

It starts with early childhood. In the past two years, the Council has made great strides on early education. Providing a high-quality pre-k slot for every low-income 4-year-old is now within our grasp. We could do it this Council term or even sooner, within our budget, and ensure that every single child starts kindergarten ready to learn.

This generation of digital natives knows how to use technology. We just have to show them how they can turn a passion for technology into a career, no matter what zip code they call home.

As our education leaders know, we must reinvent STEM learning so that it is cutting edge, relevant and exciting. Luckily, Montgomery County is home to the KID Museum, a wonderful partner that is working with MCPS to do just that. And with the leadership of our Board of Education and the vision of our Superintendent Jack Smith, we are on the verge of a breakthrough.

But to achieve it, we need a new approach to high school that is outside the box. We need opportunities for students to learn in new environments that are closely related to our local employers and career pathways, aligned with course credit at Montgomery College and the University of Maryland.

Let’s look to our downtowns — downtowns that we are reinventing with contemporary bike and pedestrian infrastructure, breweries and nightlife, restaurants, transit, fast internet and affordable housing — and find buildings we can repurpose for 21st Century high school academies.

And finally, we must meet these challenges as we continue to be disciplined with our budget. Rainy days will surely come again. We must continue to save while the sun is shining. Ike Leggett put us on the right path, and we should not stray.

So welcome to my new colleagues on the County Council – I know how eager you are to meet the challenges before us. Working together with the County Executive, our State Delegation, our U.S. Senators and Members of Congress, and most of all our entire community, we will help the County achieve new heights.

Thank you everyone!