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The Council Connection — full Council budget worksessions

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council is entering the homestretch for this year’s budget.

This week and next, the Council will be meeting nearly every day to make preliminary budget decisions on every aspect of County government, from police, housing, transportation, and schools to fire and rescue, recreation, and parks. A straw vote on the final budget will take place on Thursday, May 17 with formal approval one week later. You can check out the Council’s budget agendas and follow the Council’s progress by watching live and on demand. Despite the generally positive economic environment, tax revenues have been very volatile and below expectations.

The Council’s budget will reflect difficult trade-offs as we try to resolve competing community priorities. As of now, the Council has recommended more than $20 million for additions. The amount that the Council can actually fund, however, will be substantially less.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Council will also hold applicant interviews for positions on the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Board of Investment Trustees. The five-member Planning Board advises the Council on land use, transportation, zoning, and development approval issues. The Board of Investment Trustees oversees the County employee retirement plans.

Also on Thursday, the Council will travel to WSSC headquarters in Laurel, MD to meet with the Prince George’s County Council to discuss bi-county budgets. Both Counties work collaboratively to determine the budgets for bi-county agencies, which include WSSC and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).

After a busy few weeks reviewing and making recommendations on the budget, committees have a light week as the full Council turns its attention to the budget.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

RECENT ACTIONS

  • The Council held a public hearing on a special appropriation to provide legal assistance for low-income County residents without violent criminal convictions who have been detained and face deportation proceedings.
  • The Council reviewed a number of key budget items, including schools, emergency management and homeland security, the Office of Human Rights, the Sheriff’s Office, and the State’s Attorney’s Office.
  • The Council presented proclamations recognizing the week of April 29-May 5 as National Small Business Week, May 5 as Tree House Tour de Cookie Day, and the month of May as Building Safety Month.

How do I…

…learn more about the County’s Vision Zero initiative?

The County has committed itself to reducing traffic related fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030, joining many other jurisdictions across the Country. Vision Zero is a policy framework that places higher priority on human safety than mobility and recognizes that transportation-related deaths are not inevitable, but preventable. As such, the transportation system (the infrastructure itself, enforcement, law, and education efforts) must be wholistically designed to maximize safety on the roadways.

The County recently published its 2 year action plan for Vision Zero, which sets forth the vision and makes numerous recommendations. You can read it here. The County Executive’s recommended budget reflects the importance of this initiative by programming more than $118 million in the upcoming fiscal year. See where those funds are programmed here.

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Montgomery Council cuts costs to start new breweries, wineries and distilleries

Council Vice President Hans Riemer’s latest initiative builds on success in supporting local craft production

ROCKVILLE, MD., May 17, 2017—The Montgomery County Council approved the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which includes a key reform promoting the local production of alcohol proposed by Vice President Hans Riemer.

Local producers of alcohol in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will now be exempt from the system development charge (SDC) generally imposed on every applicant for new or increased WSSC service from the bi-county agency. Council Vice President Riemer was the primary sponsor of the initiative from Montgomery County.

The councils of both counties have created exemptions from SDC charges for purposes benefiting the public, including for affordable housing, revitalization projects, senior housing and biotechnology research and manufacturing facilities. As part of the revitalization exemption, the local alcohol production exemption seeks to promote the growing industry of locally produced alcohol that provides good paying jobs and investment in the community.

“My goal is to make Montgomery County the best place in the region to start a brewery, winery or distillery,” said Vice President Riemer. “Fitting out a new beverage manufacturing facility often requires new larger pipes because alcohol production itself has high water needs. These connections can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By exempting alcohol production from the WSSC system development charge, we will lower startup costs for new breweries, wineries and distilleries.”

The County’s efforts to open the doors to the craft industry, initiated through the County’s Nighttime Economy Task Force spearheaded by Councilmember Riemer, have resulted in entrepreneurs coming in to the County to establish new businesses. These efforts include:

  • Allowing craft brewers to sell directly to stores and restaurants without going through a middleman / warehouse distributor (the County’s Department of Liquor Control).
  • Increasing the amount of beer that craft brewers can sell per year to customers on location.
  • Clarifying zoning rules to allow craft distilleries to locate in urban and light industrial areas, where they were not previously allowed.
  • Allowing wineries (and farms) to host food trucks—areas where they were previously prohibited.
  • Easing regulations on the sale of beer and wine growlers.
  • Allowing wineries to also sell beer on their premises.
  • Repealing distance requirements that breweries could be located from churches and schools.
  • Extending hours of operation for alcohol licensees to 2 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Reducing the food to alcohol ratios for restaurants, allowing them to get more revenue from alcohol sales.

Montgomery County is currently home to at least seven breweries: Brookeville Beer Farm (Brookeville), Denizens Brewing (Silver Spring), Gordon Biersch (Rockville), Growlers Brew Pub (Gaithersburg), Rock Bottom Brewery (Bethesda), Seven Locks Brewing (Rockville) and Waredaca Brewing (Laytonsville). Wineries in the County now include the Olney Winery, the Rockland Farms Winery (Poolesville), Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (Dickerson) and the Urban Winery (Silver Spring). The County’s only distillery is Twin Valley Distillers.

Several of these businesses opened in recent years as State and County laws have been modernized to reflect the rising interest among residents for craft beer, wine, and spirits.

“The reforms we have pursued in recent years have made the County much friendlier to local production,” Councilmember Riemer said. “Our new breweries and wineries are already having a tremendous impact by revitalizing areas in our urban, industrial, suburban and agricultural communities. The culture is just taking off, and the potential is great.”