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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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Council supports wineries and farm breweries

This week the County 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. This is a win for farmers, creators, and consumers alike.

The County already has a growing industry of wineries and breweries, thanks to visionary entrepreneurs and a commitment from County government that has resulted in reduced regulatory barriers and increased incentives.

Serious challenges, however, existed in our zoning code for entrepreneurs trying to start and grow a business in our rural and agricultural areas. Tackling these challenges head on, the zoning measure passed this week establishes clear and reasonable zoning rules that incentivize investment and enhance the agricultural heritage of the County.

The core of the ordinance is to allow these businesses as accessory to a farm operation. In other words, the primary use of the land or property must be agricultural. The measure also set prudent and balanced requirements for events and local ingredients. For all the details, read the staff report.

There are many reasons to support this industry:

  1. Making beer, wine, cider, and spirits has historically been agricultural activity— farmers brought not only grain or produce but also beer or whiskey to market.
  2. Increasing demand for local ingredients from our craft alcohol producers opens new opportunities for Montgomery County farmers. There is potential for hundreds–or even thousands–of acres of grains, hops, and fruit being grown in the County for our local craft alcohol producers.
  3. Allowing this use is helping a new generation to return and thrive as business owners in our agricultural reserve. You can see the creativity and energy these young cultivators and creators are bringing to the job. Having this opportunity makes farming more viable which will reduce pressures to sell for residential development or sell to corporate farming conglomerations.
  4. These businesses enhance the quality of life of our residents and make Montgomery County a better place to live. Have you spent a Saturday afternoon at one of our farm breweries or wineries? It is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Farm Alcohol Production in the County

Checking out the scenery, soil, and production facilities of Montgomery County wineries

I want to thank Councilmember Craig Rice for co-leading this effort with me as well as all my colleagues for their support. Most of all, I want to thank all the stakeholders and community members for their advocacy and inspiration. There is no doubt that the ordinance I introduced last spring improved considerably as we learned more and incorporated good ideas from all sides.

Here’s to a prosperous, vibrant, and sustainable agricultural reserve!

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Promoting wineries and farm breweries in Montgomery County

Have you had the chance to visit one of Montgomery County’s new wineries or breweries? Thanks to visionary entrepreneurs and a commitment from County government that has resulted in reduced regulatory barriers and increased incentives, a new industry is beginning to thrive here.

These small businesses create good middle-income jobs in manufacturing, marketing, and sales. They have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination experiences in our farmland communities such as Poolesville, Laytonsville, Dickerson, and Brookeville.

After resolving zoning and regulatory barriers in our commercial areas, the next important step is to establish a reasonable framework in more rural areas for wineries and for farm operations to establish breweries, cideries and distilleries.

I support allowing farm operations to open these business because:

  1. Making beer, wine, cider, spirits has historically been an accessory agricultural activity— farmers brought not only grain or produce but also beer or whiskey to market. We can return this production if we establish laws to enable it, rather than continuing to support laws that stifle local production and thereby advantage large-scale corporate production.
  2. Allowing this use is helping a new generation to return and thrive as business owners in our agricultural reserve. You can see the creativity and energy these young cultivators and creators are bringing to the job. Having this opportunity makes farming more viable which will reduce pressures to sell for residential development or sell to corporate farming conglomerations.
  3. These businesses enhance the quality of life of our residents and make Montgomery County a better place to live. Have you spent a Saturday afternoon at one of our farm breweries or wineries? It is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Accordingly, I introduced zoning changes (ZTA 18-03). I thank Craig Rice for joining as co-lead. I appreciate Councilmembers Floreen and Leventhal’s supportive work on the ZTA at the PHED committee and Councilmembers Hucker, Katz, and Navarro for joining as co-sponsors. The ZTA seeks to carefully balance the opportunity to support these businesses with our commitment to preserve the agricultural heritage of the County.

The core of the proposal is to allow these businesses as accessory to a farm operation. In other words, the primary use of the land or property must be agricultural, but a brewery can be an accessory business that supports the farm.

ZTA 18-03 enjoys wide support from a diverse group of stakeholders, including the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, the Montgomery Agricultural Producers, the Montgomery County Agricultural Advisory Committee, Montgomery County Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board, the Montgomery County Office of Agriculture, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, the Montgomery County Food Council, the Maryland Breweries and Wineries Associations, the Maryland Distillers Guild, and many individual members of the community.

The ZTA has been the subject of public hearing and two committee worksessions. It will come before the full Council in September 2018 for final action. I invite you to learn more and consider sending your thoughts to the Council by emailing County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

If you would like to read more about some of the new wineries and breweries that are growing roots in our farmland areas, here are some references for Black Ankle, Old Westminster, Rocklands, Waredaca, Brookeville Beer Farm, and Elder Pine.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office directly at Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov or 240.777.7964.

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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