Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Press Release: Council Approves Increase in Minimum Wage

Here's the full text of the press release:

Montgomery County Council Approves

Increase in County Minimum Wage
First of Four Phases to Begin on Oct. 1, 2014; Minimum Wage Would Increase to $11.50 Per Hour in 2017 

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 26, 2013—The Montgomery County Council today enacted amended Bill 27-13 that establishes a County minimum wage for certain private sector and County employees for work performed in the County for an employer operating and doing business in the County. The County minimum wage would be phased in over four years, reaching $11.50 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017.
 
Bill 27-13, with amendments, was approved by a vote of 8-1. Voting in favor of the bill were Council President Nancy Navarro, Council Vice President Craig Rice, and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer. Councilmember Phil Andrews voted against the bill.
 
The chief sponsor of Bill 27-13 was Councilmember Elrich. Council President Navarro and Councilmember Ervin were co-sponsors.
 
Bill 27-13 will:
  • Require certain employers in the County to pay a minimum wage to employees for work performed in the County.
  • Provide enforcement by the County’s Office of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission.
Maryland's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or $15,000 a year for a full-time, year round worker. This leaves a full-time earner and their family below the Federal poverty line. Twenty-one states have raised their minimum wage above Maryland's rate.
 
Bill 27-13 establishes a County minimum wage for work performed in the County unless the State or Federal minimum wage is higher. The County minimum wage would be phased in over four years. The rate would be $8.40 per hour on Oct. 1, 2014, $9.55 per hour on Oct 1, 2015, $10.75 per hour on Oct. 1, 2016, and $11.50 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017.
 
The County minimum wage would not apply to a worker who is not covered by the State minimum wage or a worker eligible for an opportunity or youth minimum wage under the State or Federal law. 

Today, the Council, in addition to modifying the phase-in of the increase to $11.50 per hour, approved several other amendments to the original bill. The amendments included will:
 
  • Apply the County minimum wage to tipped employees by requiring an employer to pay a base equal to 50 percent of the State minimum wage with an obligation to make up any shortfall in tips up to the County minimum wage.
  • Delete the health care credit.
  • Add an exemption for a person under the age of 19 who works 20 hours or less in a week.
  • Add a provision requiring the County Executive to delegate enforcement to a State agency that enforces the State Wage and Hour Law and is authorized to enforce a County minimum wage law.
  • Add an anti-retaliation clause.
  • Amend the applicability to clarify that a worker must perform the work in the County.
  • Apply the County minimum wage to County employees.

Press Release: Council Approves Plans for BRT

Here's the full text of the press release:

Montgomery County Council Approves
Plans for Bus Rapid Transit System
Completed System Would Cover 82 Miles, 110 Stations

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 26, 2013—The Montgomery County today unanimously approved the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. The main purpose of that plan is to establish the routes and possible station locations of the proposed countywide Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

BRT is a plan for specially designed buses to travel over mostly dedicated lines throughout the County. The plan approved by the Council provides a framework for future transit that would enhance transit already available in the County in the form of Ride On, Metrobus and Metrorail and MARC Commuter rail, as well as the future Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT).

The Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan recommends a network of Bus Rapid Transit lines covering about 82 miles and 110 stations, not including the already master-planned CCT.
 
The master plan approved by the Council recommends the routes, the station locations and, for each segment, the minimum right-of-way. The recommended plan also states whether there would be dedicated lanes or not, and whether there would be up to 0, 1 or 2 lanes added in the road's cross-section dedicated to BRT. 

The recommendations in the approved plan will serve as guidelines. Subsequent project planning studies could indicate that a route should be diverted slightly to serve a major destination. A station location in the plan means that there would be a station in the vicinity.

"I’m happy we are at this point today of adding Bus Rapid Transit routes to the master plan and acknowledging the importance of transit in our county.  Seven years ago I asked my staff to find some roads where we could put transit that connected people from where they live to where they work. I knew that with all the existing congestion and all the planned and already approved development, we needed more and better transit to deal with traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions" said Councilmember Marc Elrich, who introduced the concept of BRT for the County. 

“Today our Council has set out a bold course toward a less congested future,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “A network of 10 Bus Rapid Transit corridors—in dedicated lanes—is at the heart of the plan unanimously adopted by our Council.  It is an aspirational plan that will be implemented only after extensive community involvement, and if achieved, will make our County a transit leader in the country. It is a plan that focuses on moving people most efficiently utilizing our existing infrastructure, not just cars, and by doing so we will improve our quality of life, our environment, and our competitiveness in the region.”

The master plan does not recommend specific approaches on how BRT would be implemented on certain routes. For example, where the plan recommends dedicated lanes and adding one transit lane to the cross-section, it does not specify whether it would be a reversible lane (one direction in the morning peak, the opposite in the evening peak) or bi-directional lane (both directions in both peak periods, with a periodic lane to allow buses to pass).
 
Including the CCT, the plan identifies about 81 miles of dedicated lanes and 21 miles of mixed traffic operations. Subsequent project planning will determine the details of each route and there will be opportunities for considerable public input.
 
"I was very proud to preside over the passage of the Countywide Transit Corridors Master Plan, a plan to augment our public transportation system with an ambitious network of dedicated lanes for buses,” said Council President Nancy Navarro. “By itself, the plan we approved today will not alter the flow of traffic on any road in the County. We still have many years of funding decisions, public hearings, design and analysis before the first shovel can touch the ground for any of the routes in the plan. But we have put down an important marker—the Council understands that the only way to accommodate growth without traffic screeching to a halt is investing big in transit." 

Councilmember Valerie Ervin said: “As the Council’s representative on the County’s Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, I appreciate the designation of additional Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, which will promote better accommodation of non-automotive modes of transportation and increase safety, as part of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. In addition, I recognize how interconnected improved transit is to our land use decisions, especially in eastern Montgomery County.”

Councilmember Hans Riemer said: "As a member of the transportation committee I am pleased to see the transit master plan earn such strong support. Recognizing that most people will continue driving, this plan seeks to add fewer new cars to our roads in the future by gradually building a high quality public transportation alternative. We should proceed immediately with the Corridor Cities Transitway as our demonstration project."

The corridor routes in the recommended plan are:
Corridor 1: Georgia Avenue North. A  proposed 9.6-mile corridor that would run nearly entirely on Georgia Avenue (Maryland Route 97) between the Wheaton Metro Station and Olney.
  • Corridor 2: Georgia Avenue South. A proposed 3.9-mile corridor that would run nearly entirely on Georgia Avenue between the Wheaton Metro Station and the District of Columbia line.
  • Corridor 3: Maryland 355 North. A proposed 15.3-mile corridor that would run almost entirely on Maryland 355 between the Rockville Metro Station and Redgrave Place in Clarksburg, with two routes in Germantown East. The southern portion of the corridor lies within the City of Rockville and the center portion lies within the City of Gaithersburg.
  • Corridor 4: Maryland 355 South. A proposed 7.8-mile corridor that would run entirely on Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue (Maryland 355) between the Rockville and Bethesda Metro Stations. Despite the fact that it would run directly parallel to the Red Line, it is projected to carry more riders than any other proposed BRT route in this plan.
  • Corridor 5: New Hampshire Avenue. A proposed 8.5-mile corridor that would run on New Hampshire Avenue (Maryland 650) from the Colesville park-and-ride lot south to Eastern Avenue at the District of Columbia line. This corridor is distinctive because it will require cooperation with Prince George's County and the District of Columbia.
  • Corridor 6: North Bethesda Transitway. A proposed 2.7-mile corridor that would run from either the Grosvenor or White Flint Metro Station to Old Georgetown Road, south on Old Georgetown Road to Rock Spring Drive, and west on Rock Spring drive and Fernwood Road to Montgomery Mall.  There would also be a new interchange connecting Fernwood Road to the HOV lane to and from the south on I-270. This is part of a planned transit/HOV lane that would connect to the HOT lanes in Virginia.
  • Corridor 7: Randolph Road. A proposed 10.l-mile corridor that would run in mixed traffic nearly entirely on Randolph Road between the White Flint Metro Station and the U.S. Route 29 corridor station at Tech Road.  In the western segment of the corridor, an alternative would be to add a BRT lane on Montrose Parkway between Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike.
  • Corridor 8: University Boulevard. A proposed 5.5-mile corridor that would run on University Boulevard (Maryland 193) between the Wheaton Metro Station and Langley Park. It would also connect to—and, for a short stretch, run concurrent with—the Purple Line, as well to five other proposed BRT corridors: Veirs Mill Road, Georgia Avenue North, Georgia Avenue South, U.S. 29 and New Hampshire Avenue.
  • Corridor 9: U.S. Route 29. A proposed 12.3-mile corridor that generally would run along Colesville Road and Columbia Pike between the District of Columbia boundary and Burtonsville, with two routes in the White Oak area.
  • Corridor 10: Veirs Mill Road. A proposed 6.2-mile corridor that would run almost entirely on Veirs Mill Road (Maryland 586) between the Wheaton and Rockville Metro Stations.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Recreation Department Offers Holiday Events

The Montgomery County Department of Recreation is offering a wide range of community events for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season:

  • Holiday Magic and Fun – December 6, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Good Hope Community Recreation Center, 14715 Good Hope Road, Silver Spring. Free. Celebrate the magic of the holidays with Speed, one of the east coast’s premiere magicians.
  • Bauer Drive Craft Show – December 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, 14625 Bauer Drive, Rockville.  Free. The show features an assortment of vendors showcasing their artistic talents and creativity. Items for purchase include fiber arts, holiday items, jewelry, photography, pottery, woodwork and more.
  • Clara Barton Holiday Craft Show – December 7, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Clara Barton Community Center, 7425 MacArthur Boulevard, Cabin John. Free. Sponsored by the Friends of Clara Barton Community Recreation Center, the show features local artists and crafters.
  • Scuba Santa – December 8, noon to 4 p.m. Olney Swim Center, 16605 Georgia Avenue. Ages 10 and up may use provided scuba equipment after receiving instruction. Those nine and under can hold their breath and swim down for a quick shot with Santa. Or, Santa will go to the concrete steps leading into the pool’s shallow end. A suggested donation is any non-perishable food item of $5 or more. Cash donations are also accepted. All donations benefit Manna Food Bank.
  • Clara Barton Senior Lunch – December 11, noon to 2 p.m. Irish Inn, 6119 Tulane Avenue, Glen Echo. For more information, call 240-777-4910.
  • Workshop and Winter Wonderland – December 11, 6 to 9:30 p.m. Damascus Community Center, 25520 Oak Drive. Cookie Exchange – bring six dozen – four dozen to share, and two dozen to trade. Local craft vendors and music. Also, hot chocolate, caroling and a visit from Santa. Crafts, games, dreidels, etc. Bring two canned food items for the needy. Volunteer musicians, prop person (train conductor with train), toy builders or event helpers are needed. Student Service Learning (SSL) hours available.
  • Potomac Community Center Senior Holiday Party – December 13, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Potomac Community Recreation Center, 11315 Falls Road. Live holiday music by “Rearview Mirror.”  Refreshments served for a nominal fee. For more information, call 240-777-6960.
  • Winter Bash Middle School Dance (Grades 6-8) – December 13,  8 to 10:30 p.m. Good Hope Community Recreation Center, 14715 Good Hope Road, Silver Spring. Bring a friend for games, music, food and fun. Dance contest and a door prize. $5 per person. Course #370931.
  • Clara Barton Community Holiday Party – December 15, 5 to 7 p.m. Clara Barton Community Center, 7425 MacArthur Boulevard, Cabin John. Free. Holiday activities for the whole family.
  • Active Adults 55 + Jingle Bell Fun – December 16, noon. Longwood Community Recreation Center, 19300 Georgia Avenue, Brookeville. Catered lunch and performance by the Rearview Mirror Band. $12 per ticket or $20 per couple. For ticket information, call 240-777-6920.
  • Annual Jingle Bell Breakfast – December 18, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  Long Branch Senior Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring. Holiday music and a continental breakfast of bagels, juice, coffee and tea. No charge, but reservations must be made by December 16. Call 240-777-6975.
  • Winter Wonderland – December 20, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center, 14906 Old Columbia Pike Burtonsville. Includes “Pigs at the Pole” presented by Blue Sky Puppet Theater, holiday crafts, cookies and punch, and visits with Santa. Course #370029.
  • Breakfast with Santa – December 21, 9 to 11 a.m. East County Community Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring. Kids will enjoy a hearty breakfast, have their picture taken with Santa and participate in fun activities. Cost is $3 for children ages 3-7 and $5 for ages 8 and up.
  • Santa’s Workshop – December 21, 1 to 4 p.m. Mid-County Community Recreation Center, 2004 Queensguard Road, Silver Spring. Family fun includes Rufus the Red-Nosed Raindog performed by the Blue Sky Puppet Theatre. Also, activities include crafts, games and a visit with Santa. Free, but pre-registration is requested. Course #365235.
For more information about these activities, or to register for one of the courses, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec or call 240-777-6840.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Council Approves Long Branch Sector Plan

On Tuesday we approved the Long Branch Sector Plan that will guide revitalization of that section of Silver Spring. With this plan, we hope we have created incentives for positive commercial redevelopment, while protecting the needs of existing community members. Using the Purple Line as a catalyst for redevelopment, the plan protects the area's character, its affordable housing and its small neighborhood-oriented businesses.
 
The plan recognizes that development of the Purple Line—the proposed east-west transit line that will connect the Bethesda and New Carrollton Metrorail stations—will have significant impact on Long Branch and its real estate values. To prevent a loss of market affordable units, and potential displacement of lower-income residents, we amended the plan to retain the zoning on most of the existing multi-family developments.
 
The approved plan continues implementation of programs to make Long Branch a more walkable community, with an emphasis on pedestrian safety.
 
Among the items addressed in the approved plan was designation of the Flower Theatre on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation. The plan is specific about retaining certain parts of the structure, including the theatre fa├žade, two adjoining shoulders and a second wall to a depth of 40 feet from the theatre building line. The plan also calls for implementation of design guidelines to encourage compatible and appropriate future development nearby. The plan states that new buildings along Flower Avenue should not rise above the theatre’s height.
 
In efforts to help preserve affordable housing in Long Branch, the plan recommends CRT Zone optional method density incentives for developers. It also recommends the targeted use of tax credits and other financing tools that support public/private partnerships. The plan encourages live/work units in appropriate locations and provides for a range of unit sizes, including those accommodating larger families.
 
The approved plan encourages the retention of small businesses and neighborhood-serving commercial uses.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Schedule for Thanksgivng

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 28:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – all programs and facilities are closed
  • Montgomery Parks – all Parks facilities are closed on Thursday. For operating schedules on Friday, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On – Sunday schedule
  • Metrobus – Sunday schedule
  • Metrorail – Sunday schedule
  • 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).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Revised FAQ Page on Zoning Code Rewrite

If you still have questions about the Zoning Code Rewrite, check out the recently revised FAQ page. Here is just one example of what you can find there:

Q: Why are non-residential buildings allowed in R-60 and R-90 if they will introduce non-residential uses into single-family neighborhoods?

A: Non-residential buildings do not introduce non-residential uses into single-family neighborhoods. The uses that are allowed in a zone are determined by the Use Table in Section 3.1.6. Currently, in single family zones, the code allows for uses such as churches, day care facilities, non-residential offices, libraries, schools, etc. The provisions for nonresidential buildings will establish standards that do not currently exist for the buildings that contain these uses. These buildings would only be permitted if they contain a use that is legal, as outlined in Section 3.1.6. The purpose of creating the nonresidential building is to protect residential neighborhoods from the impacts of non-residential uses. For example, there are currently no limits on density for non-residential uses in the R-90 or R-60 zones. The proposed draft represents a substantive change that limits the density of uses located in non-residential buildings and requires increased street frontage, setbacks for parking lots, larger side setbacks from neighboring residential properties, and screening.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Holiday Schedule for Veterans Day

Here's the holiday schedule for Veterans Day on Monday, November 11:

  • County Offices -- closed
  • Libraries -- closed
  • County liquor stores -- open regular hours
  • Recreation -- aquatic and community centers are open as scheduled. Aquatic classes and programs will meet as scheduled. All other classes, administrative offices, senior centers and all senior programs will be closed
  • Montgomery Parks -- for holiday operating schedule on Parks' facilities, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
  • Ride On -- special modified holiday schedule (www.rideonbus.com), click on "Holidays" to see specific schedules
  • Metrobus -- Saturday schedule with supplemental service
  • Metrorail -- Saturday holiday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) -- closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup --no collection*
  • Transfer Station -- open
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters -- free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices -- open
  • State offices and courts -- closed
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Monday, November 4, 2013

BRT Session 6

On Tuesday the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold the sixth worksession on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. The agenda for this worksession is:

  •  Follow-up on North Bethesda Transitway
  •  Markup of the plan