Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Legislation Introduced to Create More Affordable Homes - Bill 34-17, Housing -Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs)

Today I introduced Bill 34-17Housing - Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) - Amendments, which is the first major revision to the MPDU law in 13 years. This legislation would add flexibility to the MPDU program. Our County's future depends on a robust economy. This bill will set the stage for many new housing opportunities to support a growing workforce. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 31, 2017—Today, Councilmember Nancy Floreen, Chair of the Planning Housing and Economic Development Committee, introduced the first effort in thirteen years to update the County’s rules to increase the supply of affordable homes. Significant revisions to the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program, which Councilmember Floreen proposes in Bill 34-17, Housing – Moderately Priced Dwelling Units – Amendments, hold the promise of increasing the number of affordable homes for families who need them.  
Councilmember Floreen’s bill will add needed flexibility to this landmark program, to bring it in line with current needs. It would confirm the Council’s authority to increase the required percentage of MPDUs on a community by community basis during each master plan review. Master plans guide development and land use in the County.  The Council reviews, revises, and approves master plan recommendations made by the Planning Board.  Currently, County law requires at least 12.5% of housing developments to be MPDUs, but, in some areas, the Council has determined that 15% is a more appropriate minimum requirement.  
“Our County’s future depends on a robust economy. This bill will set the stage for many new housing opportunities to support a growing workforce,” said Councilmember Floreen.  
In a break from the past, Bill 34-17 extends the requirement to contribute to our housing needs by requiring a payment to the Housing Initiative Fund for all new housing developments including those below the current threshold of 20 units. It also broadens the authority of the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to accept Housing Initiative Fund payments in lieu of including MPDUs in a development. Experience has shown that the County can achieve more MPDUs in certain circumstances if affordable homes are provided in a different location. The funding can be strategically used to increase needed rental units in place of condominiums with unaffordable fees. Restrictions apply so that the off-site location remains in the general vicinity of the original development. These new sources of revenue will add badly needed support to the county’s efforts to add more affordable units for the folks who need them the most.  
Also, the bill would authorize the Director of DHCA to calculate the MPDU obligation by square feet if the result is more homes or homes better sized to meet the needs of our low and moderate-income residents.  
Councilmember Floreen’s bill contains many other provisions designed to update the MPDU program, make it more responsive to the needs of today’s residents, and, most importantly, produce more homes for families.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Full Council Meets with Senator Ben Cardin

Today we met with Senator Ben Cardin. This informal session allows time for Senator Cardin to discuss important issues with the County Council. We covered a wide range of topics including concerns of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), gun control, the proposed tax reform bill, and healthcare. We are fortunate to have Senator Cardin advocating for the residents of Montgomery County.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins November 1

The Affordable Care Act enrollment begins November 1. Several changes have occurred but health insurance coverage is still available through the ACA. The enrollment period is only 45 days this year (until December 15), so be sure and enroll early so you don’t miss the chance for affordable health coverage. You can browse and compare plans at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov. Financial assistance is still available for those who qualify.  Find out what documents you need to enroll at www.montgomeryhealthconnection.org.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Apply for Merit System Protection Board - Application Deadline is Wednesday, November 1

We're accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. Generally, the Board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 17, 2017 - The Montgomery County Council is accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. The term of Charlotte Crutchfield (Democrat) will expire on Dec. 31. Ms. Crutchfield has indicated that she does not intend to apply for reappointment. Applications must be received in the Council office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.  
In addition to Ms. Crutchfield, current members of the board are Angela Franco (Republican) and Michael Kator (Democrat). By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee for this position may be a Democrat, Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party, or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.
Generally, the board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:
• A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record.
• A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal.  
The board, on a periodic basis, conducts special studies, audits or inquiries of the administration of the merit and retirement pay systems and, in this effort, may compel the attendance of witnesses. Written reports of its findings and recommendations are filed with the County Executive and the County Council. The board also provides comments on any proposed changes in Merit System law or regulations.
The board generally holds hearings during the day, which may take the full day, with any additional proceedings normally scheduled for subsequent days or evening(s). The board normally meets once per month during the day for approximately two hours. Additional time is also required for preparatory work.  
Members of the board currently receive $7,862.91 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index. The chair receives $10,084.77 per year.
Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states, in part: “No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member’s term of office.”  
Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.
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 Nov. 1. 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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday, October 28 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Here's complete information regarding Montgomery County's participation in this year's Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day:

Montgomery County Law Enforcement Agencies and DHHS to Participate in
DEA Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 16, 2017

On Saturday, October 28 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., community members can drop off unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs as Montgomery County once again participates in the Washington Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

County law enforcement agencies and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse Prevention Office are co-sponsoring the effort. This is a safe, free and anonymous opportunity to dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs and is part of a national effort to prevent the increasing problems of prescription drug abuse and theft that continues to occur nationwide.

Drop-off locations will be open to the general public throughout Montgomery County. These locations will accept prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications only. Liquids, illicit drugs, needles, sharps and syringes cannot be accepted as part of this take-back program. Officers will staff collection boxes in the parking lots of the following facilities or in facility lobbies:

  • Bethesda
MCP 2nd District Police Station                                     7359 Wisconsin Avenue

  • Chevy Chase:
Village of Friendship Heights
      Community Center                                                           4433 S. Park Avenue

Chevy Chase Village Police Station                                 5906 Connecticut Avenue

  • Damascus
Damascus Library                                                             9701 Main Street

  • Gaithersburg:
MCP 6th District Station                                                 45A West Watkins Mill Rd.

Gaithersburg Police Station                                              14 Fulks Corner Avenue

Asbury Methodist Village – Lobby of Hefner Bldg.       417 Russell Avenue

Senior Living at Kentlands Manor                                   217 Booth St., Kentlands

  • Germantown:
MCP 5th District Station                                                20000 Aircraft Drive

  • Rockville:
Rockville City Police/Montgomery County Sheriffs       Rockville City Police Station  
2 W. Montgomery Avenue (Lobby of Rockville City Police building)

Maryland State Police Rockville Barrack                        7915 Montrose Road

Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Washington                                                                                                                                   6125 Montrose Road
  • Silver Spring:
MCP 3rd District Station                                                1001 Milestone Drive

Fire Station 1                                                                    8110 Georgia Avenue

  • Takoma Park:
Takoma Park Police at Takoma Park City Building Lobby 
7500 Maple Avenue
  • Wheaton:
MCP 4th District Station                                                2300 Randolph Road                                                                       

Residents are encouraged to bring in medications containing controlled substances but will accept any medications brought for disposal. All sites will take pills and medication patches of all kinds. If possible, prescription labels should be removed or personal information should be blacked out; however, pill bottles will still be accepted if the labels are attached. No questions will be asked. This is an opportunity to safely empty out a medicine cabinet of drugs that are no longer needed.

Disposing of prescription drugs through a drug take-back day is the safest option. If it is safe to dispose of a drug by flushing it down a toilet, the drug label or prescription information will indicate that option is an appropriate means of disposal. Otherwise unused drugs should not be poured down a sink or flushed for disposal.

Drugs should not be thrown in the trash unless specific safety precautions for safe disposal are followed. The County’s Division of Solid Waste Services offers these suggestions:

  1. Place unwanted or expired medication into a plastic bag (with a seal) or other empty container with a lid to prevent liquid medications from leaking out.
  2. Mix with kitty litter, coffee grounds or sawdust. (Liquid medications can be solidified using kitty litter or sawdust.)
  3. Seal the bag and/or container.
  4. Crush pills or tablets.
  5. Put the container and/or bag containing the medication into your regular household trash.
  6. Remove the label with the patient’s name from the original medicine vial or bottle.
  7. Place the empty plastic vial or bottle into your blue County recycling bin. Empty aerosol inhalers can also be recycled in recycling bins.

Unused and/or expired medicines that remain in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. According to the DEA, rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
The returned medications on Drug Take-Back day will be incinerated according to federal and state environmental guidelines.   


Media Contact: Lucille Baur, 240-777-6547 or Lucille.Baur@montgomerycountymd.gov

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Community Meeting on Small Cell Antennas is this Monday, October 23 from 7-9 p.m.

The County Executive is asking for the community's input regarding a proposed Zoning Text Amendment to revise the County’s zoning code for deployment of small antennas on neighborhood streetlights and lower-height buildings.  Here's the full press release:

The County Executive is requesting public input on a draft Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) to revise the County’s zoning code to address deployment of small antennas on neighborhood streetlights and lower-height buildings. A community meeting for this input is being held from 7-9 pm on Monday, October 23, 2017 at the Stella B Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, 3rd Floor Hearing Room Rockville, MD 20850 and will be carried live on County Cable Montgomery, Facebook, and YouTube.
Because wireless technology is evolving, Montgomery County has recently received an unprecedented number of applications to deploy small cell antennas in residential neighborhoods as well as commercial areas around the County. Federal law is clear that Montgomery County cannot pass zoning laws that would have the effect of prohibiting service throughout the County. Therefore, the proposed ZTA is intended to allow providers to provide service while protecting the character of both our residential neighborhoods and commercial areas by regulating how and where these antennas can be placed, and how they should be screened or camouflaged.
The ZTA, an interactive map, and links to submit public comments can be found at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/antennaZTA.
# # #

Release ID: 17-439
Media Contact: Mitsuko Herrara 240-777-2928

Thursday, October 19, 2017

County Council Proclamation Presented to For 3 Sisters for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Earlier this week, I presented a County Council Proclamation recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness month to For 3 Sisters. This grassroots organization is headquartered in Olney, MD and was founded by retired Montgomery County firefighter, Marshall Moneymaker, after he lost his three older sisters to breast cancer. You can watch the Proclamation presentation here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Council Unanimously Approves Legislation on Short-Term Rental Services

Yesterday, we voted unanimously to enact two pieces of legislation, Zoning Text Amendment 17-03, and Bill 2-16, which address the legal and regulatory status of short-term rentals in the county. Effective July 1, 2018, these two measures allow county residents to legally use short-term residential services like Airbnb and HomeAway, with some restrictions.

For example, each short-term rental must have a license, and that location must be the primary home of the person applying for the license. Furthermore, if the owner of the property, or the authorized representative of the owner, isn’t on the premises during the rental, then rentals are limited to 120 days a year. Also, online ads must include the County license number. Here’s the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 11, 2017—The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, October 10 to enact two legislative proposals that address the legal and regulatory status of short-term rentals in the County. The two measures, ZTA 17-03 and Bill 2-16, represent Council Vice President Riemer’s and the Montgomery County Planning Board’s recommendations to balance the substantial economic potential for County residents of short-term residential services like Airbnb with concerns about regulating these services. The measure was initially introduced by Council Vice President Riemer more than a year ago, and was sent to the Planning Board to gather public input and refine the approach. After a September 12 public hearing and two Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee meetings to review these measures, the Council voted unanimously (9-0) to adopt both measures.  
ZTA 17-03 makes bed and breakfasts limited uses in most residential and mixed-use zones. It limits the total number of adult overnight guests in a short-term rental to six, limits the total number of adult overnight guests per bedroom to two, and requires one off-street parking space for each rental contract. These measures put in place a regulatory framework that did not exist before, addressing concerns about the potential for residential housing to be used exclusively as a short-term rental service.  
ZTA 17-03 was approved with two revisions: (1) The dwelling unit used as a short-term rental must be the property owner’s or owner-authorized resident’s primary residence, which was an amendment recommended by the PHED Committee and (2) If the property owner or owner-authorized resident is not present in the residence, the property can be used as a short-term residential rental for a maximum of 120 days in a calendar year, which was an amendment recommended by Councilmember Katz. 
The Council also enacted Bill 2-16, which requires that several conditions be met to receive short-term residential licensing. Bill 2-16 was introduced by Council Vice President Riemer and cosponsored by Councilmember Rice.  
Council Vice President Riemer spoke about the importance of these measures which ensure that residents can benefit from short-term rental services while maintaining the security and character of neighborhoods.  
“By bringing all the stakeholders together, we were able to find a balance that works for us here in Montgomery County,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “This legislation will allow residents and visitors to get the value of home-sharing services, while preventing abuse and stopping investors from creating de facto hotels in residential neighborhoods and taking valuable housing stock off the market.”  
At the September 12 public hearing, the Council heard compelling testimony from County residents who use Airbnb and similar services to rent out rooms. Marcy Wolf-Hubbard described how, after her husband retired due to health issues, “the income we make from renting our room helps with the high cost of living here in Montgomery County.”  
Another resident, Elizabeth Wallace, described how short-term rentals help her age in place, which was a common theme among those testifying. “I’ll be 65 next month. I paid off my mortgage a decade ago; I’d like to stay in my home.”

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Councilmembers Ask State to Limit Toxic Coal Waste from Power Plants

The full Council sent a letter to Benjamin H. Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, asking him to reduce toxic coal waste from the Dickerson power plant and other coal-fired plants in the State. It’s imperative the State abide by current standards adopted by the federal EPA in 2015, to protect our water from the pollutants that coal plant waste produces. Here's the press release