By

Development mitigation — schools and transportation

I would not be surprised if you missed news reports about the County Council’s rewrite of our development mitigation policy, called the Subdivision Staging Policy, or SSP.

We have spent several months working on the policy. Because I serve on both committees that deal with the SSP, I have worked particularly hard on it and I am happy that it reflects three key priorities that guided my decisions:

  1. simplicity and transparency
  2. a stricter policy to address school overcrowding, and
  3. ensuring new development invests in public transportation, walking, and biking in order to reduce the number of new cars on the road.

The Washington Post Editorial Board praised our new “smart growth” plan as a “thoughtful framework.” Following are some of the highlights that may be of greatest interest to you.

A transparent policy that people can understand: Perhaps the worst aspect of our existing policy was that very few people could understand it. A needlessly complex policy erodes accountability and discourages public participation. The new policy is much simpler and should be easier for residents and business interests to evaluate. In the future it will be much clearer – for developers, community members, and us managing the County’s budget – how much new development will be required to contribute for new infrastructure.

School-capacity development moratorium: The County Council significantly strengthened the moratorium policy to pause development where schools are overcrowded. The new policy will not allow residential development to move forward if any of the individual schools that serve that area are more than 20% over capacity, unless there is a funded project that will add sufficient capacity. Previously, we used a test that averaged all of the schools in a given high school cluster, so that, for example, if one elementary school was severely over capacity but other schools in the cluster were not, the moratorium would not be in effect.

School impact taxes: As a general rule, we charge an impact tax on new development that ensures that developers cannot free-ride on previous county investments in schools and transportation. I supported significantly raising the school impact tax rate to fully reflect MCPS’s one-time expenses for new students. This position was strongly supported by the Montgomery County PTA, and it was one of my top priorities.

Transportation impact taxes: Transportation impact taxes will now be set according to a geographical sliding scale, with higher rates for development that will generate more automobile traffic. New development that is farther from Metro requires more new infrastructure and will be charged more than new development near Metro, which is consistent with the smart growth principles that I support.

Multi-modal development mitigation: Our localized review process will now measure and require improvements for biking, transit and walking infrastructure — not just driving. In the past, development projects were only required to mitigate their impacts on automobile traffic. This policy was one of many in the county that create an unfortunate loop where people do not take advantage of other transportation options because we do not invest in other options. We need to break that cycle, and requiring new development to improve surrounding transportation infrastructure for all modes or options will help.

Comprehensive mobility plans for urban districts: Previously, new developments in our urban districts were required to research their auto traffic impacts and identify possible solutions. This approach often let developers off the hook or favored solutions that were easy rather than the solutions that were most desired by the community. Under the new policy, the county will take charge of modeling traffic impacts and devising a comprehensive plan for the Metro station districts, then charge each developer proportionately for their contribution to additional use of the networks. The plans will also address and require mitigation for all modes of transportation (public transportation, walking and biking), not just driving.

A final but crucial piece of policymaking in this area will be a new Transportation Demand Management Ordinance. I advocated that the County adopt such a policy and as a result a DOT work group is in the final stages of formulating a proposal for council consideration. A TDM Ordinance will require new development to reduce the number of drivers on the road by investing in and managing other transportation options. For example, building owners will work with their tenants’ employees or residents to increase use of public transportation, biking, or carpooling. The County Council will take up this plan in 2017 and I think it will become a crucial component of our transportation strategy.

The Subdivision Staging Policy, which might be better called the Development Mitigation Policy, is intended to be reviewed and updated every four years, although it can be amended at any time.

By

Montgomery County Greenlights New Policy To Encourage More Craft Distilleries

I am pleased to announce that the County, at my request, has adopted a new policy that makes it easier to open craft distilleries in our urban nodes.

Please see the press release below:


Montgomery County Greenlights New Policy To Encourage More Craft Distilleries

September 6, 2016


ROCKVILLE, MD — County Executive Isiah Leggett and Councilmember Hans Riemer today announced a new County policy to encourage the location of emerging and growing craft distilleries.

The policy, based on the recently adopted Zoning Rewrite, allows the annual production of up to 50,000 gallons of distilled liquor in certain commercial/residential mixed-use zones. For companies that grow or are at greater levels of production, of between 50,000 and 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor will be allowed in light industrial zones. More than 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor are allowed in heavy manufacturing zones.

“Applying the new artisan zone to distilleries makes clear to artisans, craftspeople and small businesses that Montgomery County welcomes and supports their spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and has the places for them to locate, create, market and grow,” said County Executive Leggett. “County residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on beer, wine and spirits and this will help encourage ‘home-grown’ products.”

“Since joining the Council, I have worked to strengthen our ability to offer an urban lifestyle,” said Councilmember Riemer. “We need to create communities where younger workers and families as well as empty nesters want to be. When the creative, high-value workforce wants to live in a community, the companies and jobs follow. Breweries have been adding new life to many communities in Montgomery County, and we hope to build on that by clearing hurdles for distilleries.”

Leggett and Riemer worked together to create the Night Time Economy Task Force in 2013, which recommended a policy of self-distribution for breweries, as proposed by the Department of Liquor Control. The subsequent state legislative change resulted in a significant number of breweries launching in the County over the past few years, leading one successful entrepreneur in the brewery sector to call Montgomery County “the best place in the DMV” to start a brewery. New breweries in the County include Denizens, Seven Locks, Waredaca, and Brookville Beer Farm, joining Gordon Biersch, Growlers, and Rock Bottom.

Distilleries, like breweries and wineries, are manufacturing businesses and retailers. They are part of the innovation economy culture that is taking root in Montgomery County. Communities with locally produced beverages benefit from both a vibrant social scene for residents and export-based jobs, as breweries and distilleries sell their spirits to consumers around the country and globally. Breweries are sprouting because of new laws allowing them to sell directly to restaurants without going through a distributor, as well as supportive financing from the State and County. State law
regarding self-distribution has also been applied to distillers, clearing a separate hurdle to innovation and entrepreneurship.

At the request of Councilmember Riemer, the new policy was crafted by the County’s Department of Permitting Services, in close cooperation with Montgomery County Park & Planning.

# # #

By

Thoughts on the Westbard Sector Plan

Following are my prepared remarks on the Westbard Sector Plan. You may also watch a video of my remarks as delivered.


I want to start by thanking all the people who put a great deal of time into formulating this plan. Hundreds of Westbard residents – and residents across Montgomery County – who wrote, called, and came to testify to the Planning Board and the Council throughout this process, and while no one person is getting exactly the outcome they might want, I truly believe that the plan before us today is much better because of the extensive public input we’ve received – and the many changes we have made in response. Ultimately, I believe that this plan strikes the right balance between respecting the legitimate expectations of the existing community and providing a sustainable path for future growth.

I think some context might be helpful for anyone who cares to understand my vote today, so I hope my colleagues will excuse me if this is a little long:

I ran for Montgomery County Council as a progressive Democrat because I am deeply committed to the progressive values of social justice, equal opportunity, and shared responsibility. Here at the local level, these values play out very differently than they do on cable news – the county council doesn’t get much say over immigration, or gun control, or foreign policy.

Instead, we reflect our progressive values through our budget – where we ensure a robust safety net, universal health coverage, a strong education for all students. We try to build an economy that works for everyone by combining relentless economic and workforce development with efforts to level the playing field with a reasonable minimum wage, paid sick leave, hopefully one day paid family and parental leave. We do our part in the fight against discrimination and for equal rights.

But for me, the key to our community’s success is that we are welcoming and open. The message I want Montgomery County to send to the rest of the world is: Whoever you are, wherever you are from, whatever your economic status, if you are willing to work hard and be good to your neighbors, come to Montgomery County and share in the good life. You’ll have access to basic services, to training and education and jobs, your kids can go to a good school and play at great parks, and you will be safe. If you want to start a company you can find investors and a world class network of incubators, if you need employees we have the best educated workforce in the world.

I know that sounds grandiose, but at its core, the progressive values that drive the Democratic positions on economic issues, on social issues, are really about inclusion – about realizing a vision of shared prosperity – that’s it’s not enough for just the elite to prosper. And nothing is more fundamental to this vision than housing. Where you live determines the quality of your schools, what jobs you have access to, and so many other things. So I really believe that the community planning process we are engaged in today is really where the rubber meets the road for putting progressive values into action. That means providing income-restricted housing in every neighborhood to ensure that the very poorest and most vulnerable in our community have a place to live and aren’t clustered in high crime areas with little opportunity. We are breaking new ground by requiring at least 15% of new units to be affordable to low-income families. But it also means building enough housing to ensure that people of all income levels have a place here. If we don’t build enough housing to meet demand, prices rise and working class people are priced out.

And we have a moral imperative to plan this housing in an environmentally sustainable way. We know with scientific certainty what the combustion engine is doing to our planet. This means clustering new housing in existing communities rather than allowing green space to be developed and providing ways for people to get around on foot, by bike, and by public transit. While this plan is not on a metro station, and some of these new residents will certainly drive, the plan does make great strides in improving the walkability of the area and I am hopeful that expanded demand will allow us to improve bus service even further. But there can be no doubt that building townhouses on what is already a giant parking lot, just a mile from two metros, right across from the DC line, is far better for the environment than developing a farm or bulldozing a forest an hour north on 270.

Of course, our first principle must be do no harm. I don’t want to change any of the things that make Westbard wonderful. First, not a single existing home is being touched. We reduced the allowed development proposed by the Planning Board by half because we were convinced that it would have been too much, too fast for the roads, schools, and neighborhoods to handle. The plan before us today will only improve life for everyone in the Westbard sector. Traffic will be still be bad, but not noticeably worse. There will be new shopping and dining options and a great new park. The schools will still be great and Kenwood’s cherry blossoms will still bloom.

This also means making sure that the developers, who there is no doubt will make a profit from this project, pay their fair share to ensure there is adequate school and transportation capacity for all residents. This year we will be revising the Subdivision Staging Policy, which governs what developers must do and what they must pay to build in Montgomery County, and I know all my colleagues will be working to make sure that the rules line up with reality and we have the resources we need.

All in all, I truly believe this plan strikes the right balance between protecting and enhancing the things that make Westbard, and Montgomery County, such a wonderful place to live, while creating new opportunities for families from all socioeconomic backgrounds to enjoy our community’s marvelous resources.

By

We Passed Bill 11-12 (Land Disposition)

The council recently passed Bill 11-12, which is important legislation that affects how public property is sold and leased by the county. I co-sponsored this bill and was one of six Council Members who voted to pass it.

Under the procedures outlined by this new law, the County Executive must declare a property to be “surplus,” or no longer necessary for the county to own, before selling or leasing it. The County Council must approve this decision or the property cannot be sold or leased. If the Executive intends to sell the property for less than full market value, he must obtain a waiver from the council. Only after receiving these approvals may the Executive proceed to negotiate a transaction.

The law contains some important exemptions. Properties excluded from this process include those intended to be used as residential projects with more than 30% affordable units; those sold to the Housing Opportunities Commission for affordable housing; right-of-way to be used for road and transit projects; and properties valued at less than $100,000. For these kinds of properties, the Executive retains authority to lease or sell.

I worked hard to ensure that this law enhanced government accountability while at the same time not unduly burdening the county’s ability to do business or impeding construction of affordable housing. I hope you agree that its passage accomplishes those goals.