Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Apply Now to Charter Review Commission

We are accepting applications to fill an unexpired term on the Charter Review Commission. The appointee may be a Republican or someone who declines to affiliate with a party, or a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.

Submit your letter of interest by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29.

The County Charter was amended in 1976 to provide that a Charter Review Commission be appointed by the County Council every four years to study the Charter. The Commission researches and evaluates Charter issues raised by the County Executive, County Council, other government officials, and the public. Commission reports are submitted no later than May 1 of every even-numbered year. These reports contain recommendations concerning any proposed Charter amendments.

The Commission is composed of 11 residents of the County, five of whom are appointed from a list of names submitted by the County Executive. No more than six members can be from the same political party. Since six Democrats are currently serving on the Commission, applications from Democrats will not be considered for this particular vacancy.

Send your letter of interest with a resume to: Roger Berliner, President, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, Maryland 20850 by 5 p.m. on Feb. 29. Resumes should include professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers and an e-mail address. Letters and resumes submitted are made public as part of the appointment process. Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.

For more information about the Charter Review Commission or how to apply for consideration to become a commission member, call Linda Lauer at 240-777-7979.

Friday, January 27, 2012

County’s First Easement Acquisition Under Building Lot Termination Program

I was pleased to join the County Executive and representatives of the County’s agriculture industry for the announcement of the Building Lot Termination (BLT) preservation easement acquisition of the 200-acre W. Drew Stabler/Sunny Ridge Farm, the Stabler family’s home farm in the Laytonsville/Damascus area. The BLT easement acquisition represents the first of three such anticipated easements to be settled under this fledgling program.

For the past several years, the Department of Economic Development has actively worked with County leadership to develop a BLT program that would be implemented through both public and private funding initiatives. This new program represents a major opportunity to expand on the County’s steadfast efforts to conserve farmland within the Agricultural Reserve.

The BLT program differs from other County agricultural easement programs in that all eligible properties must have an on-site waste disposal system site plan approved by the County. Whether the BLT easement is acquired through the public or private program, both require the extinguishment of the on-site waste disposal system in addition to the actual development right itself.

The County is working with the development community to promote an understanding of the benefits of this new program and is moving forward with the publicly funded program to demonstrate how effective the program can be in reducing the development threat for the most at-risk farms.

Details regarding the process for applying to the Building Lot Termination Program are available at www.MontgomeryCountyMd.gov/agservices.

The County's diverse agricultural industry includes 577 farms and 350 horticultural enterprises producing more than $243 million in economic contribution from agricultural products and operations. The majority of Montgomery County farms are family-run operations, many reaching back several generations. These farms employ more than 10,000 residents, with half working full time in farming.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Council Seeks Office of Legislative Oversight Director

We’re accepting applications for the position of Director, Office of Legislative Oversight. OLO is an independent Legislative Branch office that conducts program evaluations, fiscal analyses, audits, and policy research projects assigned by the Council. By law, a majority of Councilmembers appoints the OLO Director to a renewable four-year term. The new OLO Director will succeed Karen Orlansky, who plans to retire from County service in May. Applications will close on March 9. For details on the application process, click here or contact the Council’s Administrative Services Coordinator, Mary Jane Berry, at 240-777-7930.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Council Endorses BRT for CCT

Today the full Council unanimously endorsed bus rapid transit for the Corridor Cities Transitway. We changed our recommendation from light rail because of a new study showing significantly better economic benefits if the transit system can be built sooner. BRT is less expensive and can be built more than a decade earlier than light rail. We need the CCT, and we need it now, so I’m glad to make this adjustment. For more information see my January 19 post.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cross-Agency Effort to Streamline Building and Land Development Process

Today I joined the County Executive as he announded a major cross-agency effort to further streamline County government operations. This latest initiative will make meaningful changes to the development application process by streamlining reviews and inspections. As an initial streamlining step, the County is consolidating construction inspections currently being done by the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services (MCFRS). The Montgomery County Planning Board (MCPB) is kicking off this effort with a change to the way in which it reviews DPS issued building permits. All three agencies, along with others, have committed to collaborate to make their customer service more business-friendly, and make it easier to navigate the development process and obtain building permits.

The streamlining initiative kicks off with:

• Collaboration between the departments of Permitting Services and Fire/Rescue Services to transfer the inspection of fire protection systems in connection with new building and renovation construction to DPS. Previously, both MCFRS and DPS inspected new construction and customers had to schedule and await separate inspections and pay for multiple inspections. This new approach will result in construction project time and cost savings through a more complete “one-stop shop” approach. Inspections will be performed by DPS inspectors trained in the National Fire Protection Codes and Standards. This change will take effect February 1, 2012.

• Modification of the process for the MCPB’s review of building permit applications. Building permits are issued by DPS, but Planning Board staff also reviews these applications and performs field inspections related to approved forest conservation plans. Inspections associated with an approved forest conservation plan will still be required, but they will no longer be required prior to issuance of a building permit. Implementation of the approved plan will be addressed in the field in the ordinary course of inspections – just as adherence to other approved plans is addressed in the field. This will help to streamline the permit issuance process without compromising the requirement that developers adhere to approved forest conservation plans. This change is effective immediately.

• Schedule a series of public forums on the topic of streamlining development, hosted by representatives of all agencies involved in this initiative. The public and users of the services of agencies involved with real estate development will be invited to identify points where plans and permit reviews and inspections can be consolidated; redundant reviews minimized; and inconsistencies eliminated. The first forum has been scheduled for February 14, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Another has been scheduled for March 9, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Both forums will be held in the Executive Office Building, Lobby Level Auditorium, 101 Monroe St., Rockville. A cross-agency panel will receive comments, observations and recommendations about experiences with development approvals in getting a project from idea to occupancy. In addition, a dedicated website is being created to receive comments and information on streamlining the development approval process.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Committee Recommends Rapid Transit for CCT

Today the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee unanimously recommended bus rapid transit (BRT) for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) in light of a study showing a greater economic benefit to the County if the project is built sooner. If the full Council agrees, this will mark a change from our earlier decision to support light rail transit (LRT).

The study, which was commissioned by the Maryland Department of Transportation, assumes that the first segment of BRT (to Metropolitan Grove) could begin construction in 2018 and be completed in 2020 and that the second segment (to COMSAT in Clarksburg) could begin in 2026 and be completed in 2028. On the other hand, LRT could begin in 2028 and be completed in 2031—11 years later than BRT—and the second segment could begin in 2038 and be completed in 2040—12 years later than BRT.

The study found that the present value economic impact in the Life Sciences Corridor would be 74 percent higher, employment would be 54 percent higher, and present value tax impact would be 76 percent higher if the CCT could be build sooner.

Given the huge boost to our economy, I see this as a no-brainer, and I fully support changing our recommendation to BRT. We need the CCT, and we need it sooner rather than later.

The full Council will take up the committee’s recommendation on January 24. The Governor will make the final determination about which mode the State will submit to the U.S. Department of Transportation for funding.

For more information, see the analysis we used for today’s meeting.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holiday Schedule for Martin Luther King Day

Here’s our schedule for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on Monday, January 16:

County Offices – closed
Libraries – closed
County liquor stores – closed
Ride On – special modified holiday schedule
Metrobus – Saturday supplemental
Metrorail – 5 a.m. to midnight
TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
Transfer Station – closed
Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
State offices & courts – closed

*collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Site Helps You Go Green

Now you can find all of the local incentives, information and programs you need to help you green your lifestyle and save money all in one place. Through MyGreenMontgomery, you can create a personalized green plan, add an event to the calendar, comment or ask questions about specific green projects, or share your own success story. This site not only directs you to accurate information and resources, it also serves as a platform for engaging in green topics. Best of all, it is specific to Montgomery County.

This site is open to all government and community content that can help residents decrease their impact on our environment, so if you administer a program or initiative, know of one that would be good to include in the Web site, or have completed a green community project that would be great to share, submit it through the “contribute content” page.

This comprehensive new site was developed by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. I think it is a fantastic tool, and I hope you will too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thank You, Roscoe Nix

You couldn’t hope to meet a kinder, more caring man than Roscoe Nix, who died Wednesday after a full life of political and civil rights activism. Montgomery County wouldn’t be what it is today without Roscoe's leadership, and I am grateful to have known him. I’m glad he had the opportunity to see the elementary school in Silver Spring named after him in 2006. Since he was a tireless advocate for education, the honor was extremely well deserved. Although it is sad to say goodbye, Roscoe's achievements will live on in Montgomery County for decades to come.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Montgomery Bigger than Some States

Did you know that with a population of 971,777, Montgomery County isn’t just the biggest county in Maryland, but it also boasts more residents than many states, including Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota and Vermont? In fact, our county is nearly twice as populous as Wyoming which is home to just 563,526 people. You can get more information about Montgomery County’s demographics at M-NCPPC.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day of Service Activities

As a part of a series of events commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Volunteer Center is organizing indoor, family-friendly service projects at three locations on Monday, January 16:

• Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda – 1 to 3 p.m. Activities include decorating cards for troops, assembling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for local shelters, constructing fleece blankets for Montgomery Hospice and packing snow day boxes for Meals on Wheels. Various agencies will be present at the Volunteer Fair for anyone wishing to learn more about ongoing volunteer opportunities in Montgomery County.

• Gapbuster Learning Center, Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place – 12:30to 3 p.m. A variety of family friendly service projects will be offered.

• The Universities at Shady Grove, Multipurpose Room in Building II, 9630 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville from 10 a.m. to noon. Various family friendly service projects will be available to participants.

All locations are approved for Student Service Learning hours. For more information and to pre-register for all locations, visit www.montgomeryserves.org.