Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

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!

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!

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!

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.