Council Update — thinking creatively about the housing shortage

Dear Resident,

Tuesday evening is the Public Hearing on a zoning change (ZTA 19-01) that I have introduced to make it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), such as backyard cottages (aka “tiny houses”), basement apartments, and garage conversions.

These units have always been allowed in theory, but until 2012 they required an onerous and expensive approval process. In 2012 the Council tried to streamline that process, but added new restrictions that we have seen make it impossible to add an ADU on many properties. For example, only property owners with one acre can add a backyard cottage.

The result has been that production of ADUs has barely risen, and there are only 468 legal ADUs in a County of more than 1 million residents.

Montgomery County is facing a housing shortage and an affordability crunch. The two are tied together as the cost of housing is the primary driver of a community’s affordability. As we look to the future, I believe we must think differently and find new and creative approaches to the problem.

ADUs are an important housing solution. They can provide housing for different generations of a family to live together but with a measured independence. As we have heard from many residents, ADUs can enable grandparents to live near their children; or adult children, including those with special needs, to live near their parents.

ADUs can also provide an additional income for the property owner, improving affordability for retirees or young families. Because the units are generally small, they can provide affordable rental units in areas that have become prohibitively expensive.

And because ADUs are dispersed, they provide desperately needed additional housing supply without the concentrated impacts on schools, traffic, and the environment that large new housing developments might have.

Specifically, an ADU is a seperate dwelling unit that is on the same lot as a single family home. It has its own entrance, full kitchen, and bathroom. Providing an ADU is different from renting a room in a house. The tenant in an ADU does not have access to the rest of the home.

While the proposal removes many restrictions, there are nevertheless a wide array of protections that remain. For example, the units could not be used for short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb) and the total combined structure cannot be bigger than what the code already allows for a single family house. An ADU can only be rented, it cannot be subdivided and sold as two units. The property must be owner occupied. There are more.

You can watch the 7:30pm hearing on livestream here, and the Council will accept written comments up until the final vote. In the weeks after the Public Hearing, the Council’s Planning Committee, which I chair, will hold worksessions to consider amendments and send a recommendation to the full Council.

You can send written testimony to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. #mocotinyhouse

More Metro in Montgomery County
Metro could provide MUCH more service in Montgomery County. Metro could run all 8 car trains rather than 6 car trains. Metro could eliminate the turn back on the Glenmont side, as it has (finally!) done on the Shady Grove side. And Metro could reduce headways (meaning running trains more frequently), including on the weekends when ridership has dropped severely. Several years ago, I successfully pushed for the County to include these rider-friendly improvements in our transportation priorities letter to the Governor, which is how we express our request to the State and in turn to Metro. Momentum for these changes has increased as Metro now has a long term capital funding source and the community of advocates has grown stronger. While the Capital funding is huge, these next improvements are largely operating budget expenditures, where Metro has constraints. The good news is that General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has included many of these improvements in his proposed budget, but it is ultimately up to Maryland to fund the new service and the Metro Board to approve it. Time to speak out! #8cartrains #endtheturnbacks

The Lynching of George Peck in 1880
As you know, I have worked with my colleagues to create a Commission on Remembrance and Reconciliation about our history of racial injustice and directions for the future. As part of my learning about our history, I joined local historian Anthony Cohen at an event in Poolesville as he spoke about the long-overlooked story of the 1880 lynching of George Peck, a local laborer accused of assaulting a young white girl. Here is a video about the presentation where Tony examined the details of Peck’s arrest, abduction and murder.

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Correction: This post has been corrected to show that the County has 468 legal ADUs. A previous version had the number at 133.

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!

The Council Connection — WMATA chief to brief Council

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council in in regular session on Tuesday, and we have a full agenda.

WMATA chief to brief the Council
During Tuesday’s session, the Council will hear from Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Mr. Wiedefeld is expected to discuss how WMATA plans to use the new annual infusion of $500 million to its capital budget, which was recently agreed to by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Beyond the remaining rehabilitation work necessary to fully restore reliable service, some of the candidate projects for these funds include the Forest Glen Station underpass, a new stairway at Shady Grove, a northern entrance and underpass at White Flint Metro and eliminating the Red Line turn backs at Silver Spring, among others.

In addition, the Council sent a letter to the WMATA Board of Directors requesting that it continue the Riders’ Advisory Council. The Council is a group of riders and residents from the DC-metro area that suggest service improvements and provides feedback on proposed changes. You can read more about it here.

Council to vote on wireless infrastructure zoning changes
Following a lengthy and productive worksession two weeks ago, Council is set to vote on a zoning change that guides the deployment of wireless infrastructure in our residential areas. With setback, size, and design requirements, the general concept is to allow a streamlined path for wireless infrastructure on existing utility poles and tall light posts, but to require greater scrutiny for the replacement of neighborhood light fixtures in areas without utility poles. The zoning changes allow for the deployment of this critical infrastructure in a way that is a sensitive to resident concerns.

Before making a decision on Tuesday, the Council will consider the zoning committee’s recommendations, a variety of amendments by Councilmembers, community feedback, and Council staff’s analysis. Read the staff report for more information.

Montgomery County receives Triple-A Bond Rating for 2018
Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2018 from all three Wall Street bond-rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable for a municipal government. According to Moody’s, the Montgomery County’s tax base “will experience additional growth because of economic expansion and diversification” while affirming that “going forward, Moody’s will continue to monitor the county’s ability to main financial flexibility and reserve levels that are compliant with its 10 percent fund balance target.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring lower costs across the board.

Pressing the State on pedestrian safety
In light of the recent spate of needless and tragic pedestrian deaths on State highways in the County, the Council has called on Gov. Larry Hogan to take immediate steps to address pedestrian safety along the Rt. 97/Georgia Ave corridor and other high danger areas. The Council has requested that the State review the speed limits along Georgia Ave as well as install a number of short-term initiatives to immediately improve pedestrian safety. State officials will brief the Council on November 13, 2018 on their plans.

Autumn has arrived and so have the leaves
Ready for fall leaf cleanup? The County’s Vacuum Leaf Collection Program will begin on Monday, November 5, 2018. The Neighborhood Leaf Collection signs will be posted in your community during the week of October 22, 2018. View the schedule for your neighborhood!

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

VA funds transportation. Will MD?

Virginia’s legislature just reached a deal to add $880 million per year to the state transportation fund.

How much money is that? For Maryland, it would be enough to build our Purple Line and Baltimore’s Red Line, fund badly needed improvements to Metro, build the Corridor Cities Transitway, and plenty more.

And without a funding increase?…. the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway will be cancelled.  

That’s why NOW is the time to speak out for a transportation funding solution for Maryland — your voice is needed. If thousands of Marylanders raise their voices, our state leaders will be more likely to act.



I am supporting Get Maryland Moving, a new statewide coalition that is calling for action in the legislature, which will be making a decision within weeks.

Why act NOW?  Because of the way that transportation is funded.  The Federal government will pay for half of the Purple Line and Red Line, but they have a fixed pot of money and it is almost gone.  In order to get our share, we have to put OUR half on the table first.

That’s the process: the state puts the money on the table first, the Federal government approves and matches, and construction starts. Without a state transportation funding increase, we can’t claim our money, the funds will be gone, and the projects will be dead in their tracks.



This is our last best chance, maybe for a generation, to get these great projects going in Maryland.  And without them, we are guaranteed to fall behind.

The need for action couldn’t be any greater than it is right now.

Sincerely