Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Zoning Code Takes Effect Thursday

On the day before Halloween we will say "rest in peace" to the old zoning code. Council President Craig Rice, Councilmember Cherri Branson and I will join with County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, Planning Board members and staff at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday at a park next to Park and Planning Headquarters in Silver Spring for ceremonies to “bury” the County’s Zoning Ordinance that was originally established in 1977. Earlier this year, we approved the first major revision to the ordinance in 37 years. The new regulations go into effect on October 30.

After we bury a copy of the hefty original zoning ordinance in Royce Hanson Park, we will unveil the slimmer, easier-to-navigate new ordinance in an interactive presentation.
We will celebrate the modernized code’s clarity and ease of use, which will encourage community engagement and foster innovation. Previously, only experts in land use generally could navigate the zoning ordinance, but now it will be easier for more people to get comprehensive information about every County property in an interactive, online format.

Since its establishment in 1977, the zoning ordinance has undergone more than three decades of piecemeal changes—all of which combined to create a disjointed system where antiquated, complicated rules made the zoning process difficult for individuals to understand. In a coordinated effort to address these issues, the Council, the Planning Board and staff members have spent about five years reviewing, streamlining and overhauling more than 400 land use categories, 123 zones and 1,200 pages of rules.

With more predictability in the system, businesses will be able to act more nimbly and be more responsive to community concerns. That’s good news in a County that has long been criticized for failing to support job creation.

The new zoning code has broader land use categories that are inclusive of an ever evolving marketplace. The rules help to promote smart growth principles with more density allowed in and around transit. In addition, residential uses are generally permitted in commercial zones, which will create more mixed-use developments.

The zoning code rewrite is one example of how the County’s land use evolution is entering an exciting stage of development. The current Council has devoted considerable time to land use issues, and during its four-year term has approved more master and sector plans than any other Council in recent memory.

In addressing master and sector plans around the County, the Council has focused on creating cutting-edge centers for innovation in areas that have historically been underutilized, like the White Oak area.

The revised zoning ordinance is now available at:
www.montgomeryplanning.org/development/zoning/documents/FULLCh_59withzta9.30.14_000.pdf .

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