Thursday, August 17, 2017

Montgomery County Council Seeks Applicants for Council Administrator

After 26 years of service to seven County Councils as Council Administrator, Steve Farber is retiring in February, 2018. Applications are currently being accepted until September 12. Here's the complete press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., August 14, 2017—The Montgomery County Council is seeking applicants for the position of Council Administrator.  On July 31, Council Administrator Steve Farber announced plans to leave his post in February 2018.  Mr. Farber was first appointed in October 1991 and has served seven Councils. 

The Council Administrator, the principal adviser to the Council, helps develop and implement the Council’s policies and work program, oversees the Council staff, and represents the Council on several County boards, including the investment boards of the County’s retirement plans.

“For the past 26 years, Steve Farber has served the Council and the community with the highest distinction,” said Council President Roger Berliner. “We look forward to appointing a worthy successor.”

Applications will close on September 12.  Details on the application process can be viewed here.
  
For further information, please contact Mary Jane Berry, Administrative Services Coordinator, at MaryJane.Berry@montgomerycountymd.gov.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Montgomery County Council Appeals Circuit Court Ruling Overturning Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

I was disappointed with the recent Circuit Court decision that overruled the ban on certain pesticides in the County, but I am pleased that the Council is appealing this ruling. Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am concerned with the public’s health and welfare, and that all residents, particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides. Here is the full press release on today's action:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Aug. 16, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Council directed the Office of the County Attorney to appeal the Montgomery County Circuit Court ruling that overturned the County’s cosmetic pesticides ban.  The ruling stated, “Maryland’s comprehensive program of pesticide regulation occupies the field of pesticide use and thus impliedly preempts the ordinance.” The court also held that the County’s ban on the application of certain pesticides on private property conflicted with Maryland law.

In October 2015, the Council enacted Bill 52-14, Pesticides - Notice Requirements - Cosmetic Pesticide Use Restrictions, which would have prohibited the use of certain registered pesticides on private property starting on January 1, 2018.   The County is one of the few local jurisdictions to have such restrictions.  The Council enacted this legislation with a focus on pesticides that included chemicals linked to the risk of developing cancer.

Complete Lawn Care, Inc., et al. v. Montgomery County invalidated certain provisions of Bill 52-14 because the Circuit Court found that County regulation of the use of pesticides on private property is preempted by state law.

“Our Council’s legal team advised us that the County would have a reasonable chance of prevailing in an appeal of the Circuit Court’s decision,” said Council President Roger Berliner, who also serves as chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee.  “It is important that the Council is allowed to protect our community from the threat posed by pesticides on private lawns.  Moreover, the broad scope of the court’s decision threatens our existing regulatory regime and other efforts short of a ban, even if the ban itself is ultimately deemed in direct conflict with state law.  We have also been advised that an appeal will not carry significant costs, as the work involved can be absorbed as part of the Office of the County Attorney’s normal workload.  Accordingly, my colleagues and I agree that an appeal is in the public interest.” 


The Annual County Health Rankings for Maryland has recognized Montgomery County as the “Healthiest County in Maryland” for the last four years.  The County is often at the forefront of initiatives that enhance public health like the cosmetic pesticides ban.


“I am delighted that the Council is appealing the Circuit Court ruling on the pesticides ban,” said Councilmember George Leventhal, who was the lead sponsor of Bill 52-14 and serves as chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee.  “Studies have linked numerous chemicals found in lawn pesticides to cancer and other serious health conditions. The Council sits as the Board of Health, but the court has ruled that we are preempted from protecting our residents from this health threat.  This sets a worrisome precedent that should be overturned.”   

County law provides that the Council is, and may act as, the County Board of Health.  In this capacity, the Council may adopt any regulation which a local board of health is authorized to adopt. “With Trump’s EPA protecting the interests of chemical companies instead of our residents, it is more important than ever that local communities take action to ensure that our children are not exposed to hazardous chemicals,” said Council Vice P
resident Hans Riemer.  “This decision takes that right away from us and should be overturned.”

“Too many people believe that because a pesticide is allowed for use by the federal government and by the state, then it must be safe,” said Councilmember Marc Elrich.  “Yet scientists, medical researchers and physicians advocate for great caution when using pesticides.  Pesticide use simply is not necessary on lawns - it is not good for the environment, our children or even our pets. It is important that we appeal this decision.”


“I was disappointed with the recent Circuit Court decision that overruled the ban on certain pesticides in the County, but I am pleased that the Council is appealing this ruling,” said Councilmember Nancy Floreen. “Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am concerned with the public’s health and welfare, and that all residents, particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides.”


“While I was disappointed with the Circuit Court’s ruling, I am pleased that the Council will be appealing this decision,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “I have received hundreds of emails from constituents in just the last few days, and there is nearly unanimous support for an appeal. The County’s leadership with regard to local health and environmental policies has been a great source of pride for our residents. It is important that the Council be able to act in the best interest of County residents by ensuring we maintain our high standards for quality of life.”
 

Enacted
Bill 52-14 can be viewed here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Minimum Wage Impact Study

Hot off the press: here’s the Montgomery County, Maryland Minimum Wage Increase Impact Study.  The report addresses the impact on the county economy and labor market; the impact on the county government; the impact on county businesses; and the socioeconomic impacts. When the Council reconvenes in the fall we will take up Bill 28-17 that would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 for many workers in Montgomery County. The current minimum wage is $11.50 per hour, and there are no requirements in law for further increases. In January the Council enacted a minimum wage bill in a vote of 5-4 that was subsequently vetoed by the County Executive. If you would like to weigh in on Bill 28-17, sign up to testify later this month at the public hearing to be held in late September; or send your written comments to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Council Urges Stronger Carbon Emissions Standards

Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 26, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan urging him to take a stand against climate change by supporting stronger carbon emissions reduction standards in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  

Maryland is one of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that are part of RGGI, a regional cap-and-trade system on power plant carbon emissions established in 2009.  Last year RGGI began a review to determine whether to adopt a lower cap and stricter standards.  All nine Councilmembers signed a letter to Gov. Hogan asking the state to back increasing RGGI’s annual emissions reduction target to five percent.

“The urgency with which more aggressive emission reduction goals are needed has only increased in recent months given our federal government’s shortsighted and negligent decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement,” wrote the Councilmembers.  “It is more important than ever that state and local governments do their part.  And it has become increasingly clear that doing so will not hurt our economy.  Power generators under existing RGGI standards have successfully adapted to current standards while continuing to provide a reliable supply of electricity.”

RGGI is expected to announce the results of its review this summer.  Maryland is represented on the Board of Directors of RGGI, Inc., by Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Benjamin Grumbles and Maryland Public Service Commission Chairman Kevin Hughes.

“The regional cap-and-trade system established by RGGI in 2009 has proven to be a success, with 2015 power plant emissions in the participating states falling 6.3 percent below the cap and electricity prices across the region decreasing by 3.4 percent on average compared to a 7.2 percent increase in other states,” wrote the councilmembers.  “During this time, the nine RGGI states reduced carbon emissions by 16 percent more than other states while experiencing 3.6 percent more economic growth, according to a 2016 study by the Acadia Center.  Even stronger standards will bring stronger results.”

The complete letter can be viewed at:
https://tinyurl.com/yb7p79pb.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rental Housing Study Briefing

In response to concerns raised about affordable housing, and particularly market-rate affordable housing, during discussions of the Long Branch and Glenmont Sector Plans, Park and Planning proposed and the Council funded a county-wide Rental Housing Study. The Planning Department provides this background on the purpose of the study.

The economic trends of Montgomery County and the Metropolitan DC region have exacerbated a rental housing shortage. And providing the appropriate housing stock to meet the demand for affordable housing is a challenge. The purpose of the study is to identify Montgomery County's rental housing issues and needs, and offer holistic and sustainable approaches to meeting them. A goal of the study is to help guarantee long term affordability of rental housing for a diverse range of households. The study will provide recommendations for increasing the availability of affordable rental housing by determining factors that contribute to increased housing costs, identifying best practices that could be implemented to preserve and add to the affordable rental stock, and recommending potential changes to current policies and programs. 

At yesterday's briefing on the study, we learned that 33 percent of all residential housing units are rental units; that 74 percent of renter households earn less than 100 percent of area median income; and that only 19 percent of rental units are affordable to households earning less than 50 percent of area median income.

The Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee will start looking at these issues and recommendations on October 2. Read the full study or watch the briefing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Council Opposes New Potomac River Crossing

This morning the Council passed a resolution reaffirming our opposition to a new Potomac River bridge. We took the action at this time because the Long-Range Plan Task Force of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board recommended further study of a northern crossing. Montgomery County has long opposed a second crossing as a part of our commitment to protecting the Agricultural Reserve, to conserving farmland and to protecting established residential neighborhoods. We also believe our scarce transportation dollars would be better spent on other projects, including solutions on I-270. See the resolution.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Watch Out for Telephone Scam

The County is asking for your help with this scam. Here's the full press release:

Montgomery County Government wants to inform residents about a telephone spoofing scam that is taking place in our area. Several County residents have reported receiving calls from scammers who are fraudulently using County telephone numbers (240-773-xxxx and 240-777-xxxx). While we don't yet know the objectives of the perpetrators, there have been no reports of loss of money, nor personally identifiable information, to date.

Many calls are left without a message, which has prompted affected residents to call back. When the resident calls back the County number, the County employee answering the call is unaware that anyone is using their telephone number. County officials are investigating and would like to hear from residents who have received these calls to assist our efforts in addressing this problem. 

If you receive a call from a County government telephone number that is suspicious, please report it by calling MC311 or by visiting MC311.com to answer the following questions:

  1. When did you receive the call or message (date/time)?
  2. If you received a message or spoke to someone, what did they say?
  3. What number did the caller ID indicate that the call originated from? (What County number was used in the spoof call?) 
Residents can reach MC311 in the County by dialing 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311 from anywhere, Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The MC311 website, www.mc311.com, is available 24/7.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Take the Transportation Survey

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is working on a new kind of long-range transportation plan for the region, and they are calling it Visualize 2045. The plan will will highlight hundreds of regionally significant highway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects being planned throughout the region in the coming decades. It also will serve as a tool for visualizing the future—to help us understand where today’s planning and funding decisions will get us. Learn more about Visualize 2045 or take the public input survey.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Holiday Schedule for Independence Day

Here's our holiday schedule for Independence Day, Tuesday, July 4:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County Liquor stores – all stores will be open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Recreation – Indoor and outdoor pools open, Germantown Indoor Pool closes at 3 p.m. all other pools close at 6 p.m.; Administrative offices, senior centers and recreation centers will be closed.
  • Montgomery Parks - Information available at http://www.montgomeryparks.org/
  • Ride On – will operate on a Saturday schedule. Information is available at this link: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/holiday_schedules.html.
  • Metrorail – Information available at www.wmata.com
  • Metrobus – Information available at www.wmata.com
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no July 4 collection. Collection will slide by one day. For information on slide schedule go to https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/holidays/
  • The Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station - closed
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Schools and Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices and courts – closed

Monday, June 19, 2017

Apply Now to Airpark Liaison Committee

Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 16, 2017--The Montgomery County Council is seeking applicants to fill positions on the Montgomery County Airpark Liaison Committee. The Council authorized the re-establishment of the committee on June 13.
The committee was established to provide a forum for increased communication among interested groups and individuals concerned with the operations of the Montgomery County Airpark.
Applicants are being sought for the following seats on the committee:

  • Seven residential neighborhood representatives: two from Montgomery Village East and five from other neighborhoods surrounding the Airpark.
  • Two business representatives: one from inside the Airpark and one from outside the Airpark.
  • One Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board representative.
  • Two Airpark users.
In addition, the Council will appoint two Montgomery County Revenue Authority representatives, including the designated Airpark manager, and one representative from each of the following: the Montgomery County Executive, the County Council, the County Planning Department and an Airpark lease holder.

Letters of application expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, County Council Office, Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Applications also can be submitted via email to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. The Council will review the letters of application and resumes, and anticipates making the appointments in July.

Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process, and are available for public review.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Apply Now for Board of Appeals

Get your application in by July 19. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 16, 2017— The Montgomery County Council is seeking applicants for a four-year term on the County Board of Appeals. The term of Carolyn Shawaker (Democrat) will expire in September 2017. She also serves as chair of the board. Ms. Shawaker has served on the board since October 2008 and is not eligible for reappointment to another term. Applications for the position must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19.

County law provides that the Council may designate a member of the Board for the position of chair. The Council will select a new chair from among the current or new members of the board in conjunction with this appointment process.

By law, no more than three members of the board shall be from the same political party. This position can be filled by a Democrat, a Republican, a voter who is unaffiliated with a party or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.
In addition to Ms. Shawaker (Democrat), current members of the board include John Pentecost (Democrat), Stan Boyd (Democrat), Edwin Rosado (unaffiliated), and Bruce Goldensohn (Republican). Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.

Members of the board receive $15,272 annually, with the Chair receiving $21,584. Salaries are adjusted annually each December to reflect 50 percent of the change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index.

Duties of the Board of Appeals include hearing and deciding requests for variances from development standards contained in the Zoning Ordinance; hearing appeals from certain administrative decisions rendered by County government agencies; and hearing oral argument on and deciding appeals from decisions of the Hearing Examiner on conditional uses. The board also considers and decides requests for modifications of special exceptions.

The board normally holds weekly hearings all day Wednesday and worksessions every other week. If necessary to accommodate an extended caseload or continued hearings, the board schedules hearings on other weekdays. Members are expected to prepare for the hearings by reading the cases to be heard and to share the workload of drafting and editing opinions or to follow-up on investigations on specific cases. Members work approximately 15-25 hours a week.

The principal jurisdiction of the Board of Appeals (concerning variances, special exceptions and conditional uses under the Zoning Ordinance) does not include the municipalities of Barnesville, Brookeville, Gaithersburg, Laytonsville, Poolesville, Rockville and Washington Grove. The normal Council practice is not to appoint residents of those municipalities to the board, however, exceptions to this practice may occur.

Letters expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers and an email address, should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850 or can be emailed to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on July 19. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the application closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and may select applicants for interview.

Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process. Any interviews held are open to the public and will be televised. A financial statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required of all applicants. Only the appointed candidate will be required to make the financial statement available to the public.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Security Changes at Council Office Building

You will want to make note of these security changes for the next time you visit the Council Office Building. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 12, 2017—To enhance the safety of all who visit and work at the Council Office Building in Rockville, starting on or about July 5, visitors will use two entrances with security screening measures.

All visitors to 100 Maryland Ave. will enter at one of two designated, ADA-accessible public entrances. One is in front of the building near the second-floor cafeteria. The other is adjacent to the first-floor auditorium near the parking garage adjacent to the building. No other entrances will be open to the public. Signs will be posted that identify the two public entrances.

All visitors will pass through a metal detector. Hand-held items, including but not limited to bags, briefcases, cell phones, containers, laptop computers and purses, will pass through an X-ray machine. Individuals who are unable to go through a metal detector will be screened by security personnel using a hand-held electronic wand. Individuals who have health-related issues that prevent them from passing through a metal detector or coming in close contact with an X-ray machine can request special accommodations from security personnel.

At the screening stations, security personnel will ask visitors to place all metal objects, such as coins, cell phones and keys, into a small basket. Visitors will not be asked to remove belts, coats, jackets, shoes or watches.

Items that are prohibited in the Council Office Building include, but are not limited to, explosives, guns, knives, pocket knives, box cutters, pepper spray, Mace, tasers, batons, and scissors.
Screening stations will be in operation from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Public access to the Council Office Building will not be available outside of these hours.

For public hearings and meetings attended by many visitors, those coming to the building may experience a line to enter and are asked to plan accordingly. For Council public hearings, visitors may want to base their arrival time on the order of the speakers’ list, which is available online the day of the hearing by 11 a.m. for afternoon hearings and by 3 p.m. for evening hearings. The speakers’ list can be viewed at: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/PHSignUp.html.

For questions or concerns regarding visits to the Council Office Building, email County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-7910.

Monday, June 5, 2017

New -- Montgomery Arts Infusion

Check out Montgomery Arts Infusion, a new monthly 15-minute television show focusing on the arts and entertainment of Montgomery County.

The first edition of MAI includes a feature on artist Steven Luu, a Vietnamese refugee who joined the U.S. Air Force and left the military with post-traumatic stress syndrome after assignments most people would find unthinkable. He went on to become an artist working in mixed media and recently displayed his works at the Park View Gallery at Glen Echo Park.

Another segment is on Kensington-based Arts on the Block, which offers youth of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn first-hand about the intersection of art, design and business by engaging in real-world projects.

You will also find links to venues and events on the show's Web site. Congratulations to everyone who worked hard to get this exciting new resource off the ground.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Council Appoints Tina Patterson to Planning Board

I'm very pleased to say we appointed Tina Patterson of Germantown, whose background includes extensive experience in dispute resolution, to the Planning Board. She will replace Marye Wells-Harley, whose second term on the board will expire on June 14. She was not eligible for reappointment.

Ms. Patterson is the principal at Jade Solutions, LLC of Germantown. She is not affiliated with a political party.

Ms. Patterson’s business, Jade Solutions, provides consulting services including product management, proposal development, alternative dispute resolution and facilitation services. She is a member of Committee for Montgomery and Leadership Montgomery. She is a volunteer with the Montgomery County Interfaith Advisory Board. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown.

Council Approves Bethesda Downtown Plan

Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 25, 2017—The Montgomery County Council today approved the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan that will guide commercial and residential redevelopment in the County’s central business area over the next two decades. The plan is unique in recommending increased heights while requiring that increases in density be allocated through a process prescribed in the Bethesda Overlay Zone. The plan also seeks to protect nearby existing residential neighborhoods from being overwhelmed by tall structures. It also provides opportunities for new parks and open space and expands the County’s affordable housing inventory.

The plan was approved by a vote of 8-1. Council President Roger Berliner, Vice President Hans Riemer and Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, Tom Hucker, Sidney Katz, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice voted to approve the plan. Councilmember Marc Elrich was opposed.

The approved sector plan amends the approved 1994 Bethesda Central Business District Sector Plan and the 2006 Woodmont Triangle Amendment to that sector plan.

Details of the plan can be found at http://tinyurl.com/mq2vat7 .

In considering a plan recommended by the Montgomery County Planning Board, the Council reduced the recommended height limits near existing neighborhoods, particularly on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue. The plan allows for the new world headquarters of Marriott International, which will be relocating to Downtown Bethesda from its long-time presence in an office park in another area of Bethesda. The plan requires new development to include at least 15 percent Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs).

The Council sought to concentrate increased building heights near the Bethesda Metro Station. It also wanted to ensure that the park and open space elements of the plan are implemented through the recommendation that a park impact fund possibly be created. The plan recommends that four County-owned surface parking lots be converted to parkland or neighborhood greens. To attain this goal, the plan recommends exploration and alternative financing mechanisms. It also states that the parking needs of neighborhood businesses that currently rely on those lots be addressed and parking be replaced where necessary.

The plan recommends the creation of a Bethesda Overlay Zone that will require increased affordable housing, provide new incentives to retain existing affordable housing, require additional design reviews and provide for contributions to fund the acquisition and development of new parks.

The plan sets a cap on development to ensure that the total density in the plan area—including existing buildings and approved and new development—does not exceed 32.4 million square feet of gross floor area. The heights recommended by the plan would allow significantly more development than 32.4 million square feet, meaning some properties will be unable to develop to the full amount that may have been allowed by their assigned maximum heights.

The plan recommends a new strategy to encourage the preservation of market-rate affordable housing units by offering “public benefit points” to developers in exchange for a specified amount of preservation of rent-restricted units in existing and/or replacement units within the sector plan.

The plan recommends incentives to developers to provide 25 percent or more MPDUs. It increases the minimum MPDU requirement from 12.5 percent of units in new development to 15 percent MPDUs for all residential optional method projects. In the South Bethesda and Battery Lane districts, preservation of market-rate affordable housing and/or additional MPDUs beyond 15 percent is the top priority for public benefit points.