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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

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The Council Connection — housing affordability

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council returns to session this week, and we have a full agenda.

Housing Affordability
The Council will introduce legislation sponsored by the members of the planning and housing committee (PHED) that will enable changes for accessory dwelling units. The legislation would allow the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs to approve applications rather than requiring hearings before the Board of Appeals. The Council is also seeking input about additional changes that could be made to enable this type of housing construction. Please share your thoughts with us by writing a note to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. The public hearing will occur on September 11, 2018 at 1:30pm.

The Council will also take up significant legislation changing the code for our Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit 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 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, sponsored by Councilmember Floreen, would make several changes to update and strengthen the law. Bill 38-17, sponsored by Council President Riemer, would increase the requirement to 15% in the areas of the County with the least affordable housing. Both laws will be before the full Council after extensive committee discussion.

Next, a number of specific items of interest:

Council research projects
The Council’s research arm, the Office of Legislative Oversight, plans projects including: minimum wage, 311, racial equity, and student loan refinancing. The Council will approve the full work program on Tuesday.

Economic development incentives
Partnering with the State, the Council agenda includes the approval of a number of economic development incentives for the expansion of companies based in Montgomery County, including Altimmune, Abt Associates, HMS Host, and Applied Biomimetics. You can learn more here.

Arts nonprofit taking space at Silver Spring Library
After a competitive selection process, the County entered into an agreement with Arts on the Block to occupy space in the Silver Spring Library. Arts on the Block is a local non-profit organization focused on empowering creative youth. Welcome to the Silver Spring Library, Arts on the Block!

New Assistant Police Chief
The County Executive has nominated, and the Council is poised to confirm, Mr. David C. Anderson as Assistant Police Chief. The current Police Commander of District 1 station, Mr. Anderson will bring 28 years of distinguished service at MCPD to his new role.

Stormwater
We will act on a special appropriation to the County’s stormwater program. This appropriation is the result of a compromise between the County Executive and the Council that allows for greater efficiencies in our stormwater program while maintaining Council oversight.

And finally:

Update on mobile communications infrastructure
The Council recently approved carefully calibrated zoning changes in our commercial and industrial zones to speed the deployment of next-generation wireless technology. There is still work more to be done, but the Council is making progress on this important issue. Nevertheless, there are efforts underway at the FCC and in Congress to strip away our authority on siting wireless infrastructure.

To combat these efforts, this week I met with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, on behalf of the County, to share our concerns with these preemption efforts and to request an update of the decades old radio frequency (RF) emissions standards. Commissioner Carr has been designated as lead Commissioner on small cell deployments and is believed to be drafting a proposal for Commission consideration in the fall. I reiterated for Commissioner Carr the message delivered to Chairman Pai by Ike Leggett, Jamie Raskin and myself last year — that the FCC should not preempt local governments but rather work with us as partners to ensure successful deployment; and that FCC should refresh its RF standards.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

RECENT ACTIONS

  • Members of the Council’s Public Safety Committee received an update from Montgomery County Police Department officials on the department’s internal affairs investigation process, in light of the recent officer-involved shooting in Silver Spring.
  • Members of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee reviewed bills on solar panels and climate policy, and receiving a briefing on the County’s composting and food waste plan.

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Council Vice President Riemer Introduces Bill to Increase Affordable Housing at Council Meeting on Tue., Nov. 14

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 14, 2017—Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer introduced Bill 38-17, Housing – Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) – Requirement to Build, during the Council’s legislative session at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, November 14. Bill 38-17 would increase affordable housing in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) High School Service Areas that have low poverty rates. Councilmember Sidney Katz is a cosponsor.

Bill 38-17 would increase 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 a MCPS High School Service Area with an eligibility rate for free and reduced meals (FARMS) of 15 percent or less. The Planning Board would make the determination about the number of affordable homes required at the time an applicant submits a preliminary plan of subdivision.

“Over the years, the County’s affordable housing requirements for new development have been recognized as among the best in the nation. By requiring affordable housing be built with every new development, we ensure that affordable housing is available throughout the County. However, we haven’t been able to keep pace with the need,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “This bill will result in more affordable housing in the communities where having it makes the biggest impact and where the market can best absorb it. We need more housing options for working families, young people who want to establish roots in our community, and seniors who are living on fixed incomes.”

The Council enacted the County’s moderately priced dwelling unit law in 1973 with the objective of providing a full range of housing choices for all incomes, ages and household sizes. The MPDU law was designed to meet an important need for low and moderate-income housing, and ensure that moderately priced housing was dispersed throughout the County.

In 2010, a Century Foundation study called “Housing Policy is School Policy” examined academic outcomes among low income students in Montgomery County who had been moved from traditional public housing and placed in MPDU’s in low poverty areas. The study found that by the end of elementary school, the lower income students who lived in higher income communities as a result of the MPDU program “far outperformed” their peers in lower income communities. Read the full study here: https://tcf.org/assets/downloads/tcf-Schwartz.pdf

Students can qualify for Montgomery County Public Schools Free and Reduced Price Meals program based on household size and income, as well as eligibility for Food Supplement Program or Temporary Cash Assistance benefits. Individual student’s eligibility status is held strictly confidential, but MCPS reports an aggregate rate of FARMs eligibility annually for each school. More information about the FARMs program is available here.

The staff report on Bill 38-17 can be viewed here.

For more information or questions, please contact Ken Silverman in the Office of Council Vice President Riemer, at 240-777-7830.

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