Approximately 100 people representing more than 60 organizations and 12 County departments and agencies attended last month's forum designed specifically for homeowner association and condo board leadership. I dedicated nearly the entire meeting to questions and comments from participants, who raised issues ranging from speed humps to nuisance animals and a whole lot in between. Many participants said homeowner associations and especially condo boards, which can assess monthly dues in the hundreds of dollars, need better tools for collecting overdue fees. Several people had questions about the recently revamped Water Quality Protection Charge and its associated credits. Others expressed a need for individual utility meters in multi-family buildings.
With so many department and agency heads on hand, participants were able to walk away with answers to their questions or commitments for further follow-up. Several participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with leaders and decision-makers face-to-face.
I organized this forum because people who are involved with their homeowner associations are connected to their community in a unique and highly localized way. I wanted to make sure these volunteers have the tools they need to continue in their good work.
You can see the forum on YouTube. It is a little long, but it is chock full of good information from both the participants and from these County representatives:
Jewru Bandeh (East County Regional Services Center), Ken Hartman (Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center), Nadim Khan (Health and Human Services), Reginald Jetter (Permitting Services), Eric Friedman (Consumer Protection), Peter Drymalski (Commission on Common Ownership Communities), Steve Shofar (Environmental Protection), Rick Nelson (Housing and Community Affairs), Walter Wilson (County Attorney), Gwen Wright and Pam Dunn (Park and Planning), Bruce Johnston and Gary Erenrich (Transportation), Cmdr. James Fenner and Lt. Jaques Croom (Police) and Susan Hoffman (Recreation).
All three bond rating agencies--Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's--reconfirmed the County's AAA bond rating. This is good news because it allows Montgomery County to issue bonds for our capital borrowing at the most favorable rates, saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The County's pending issuance will refinance $295 million of bond anticipation notes and $27.7 million of long-term debt. Montgomery County is only one of 38 counties (out of 3,140) in the nation to receive the AAA rating from all three rating agencies.
During the Great Recession, the Council took extraordinary steps to strengthen the County's fiscal health. Starting in 2010, we approved a balanced six-year fiscal plan that ensures the County develops a long-term strategic approach to budgeting. We also made structural changes that have enabled the County to bounce back faster than most jurisdictions nationwide.
The County Council will hold a second public hearing on proposed changes to the County's Zoning Ordinance starting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and continuing at the same time on Thursday, November 14. The hearing will address proposed changes to the recommendations of the Planning Board by the Council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and how the revisions will be applied. This hearing gives you a further opportunity to comment on changes proposed since the first public hearing in June on Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 13-04 and District Map Amendment (DMA) G-956.
The Council introduced the Planning Board’s recommendations on May 2 following years of the Planning Board’s extensive work and discussion with community groups and other stakeholders. The Council heard from more than 50 speakers at a public hearing on the Planning Board’s recommendations in January and has received extensive email and other correspondence from County residents as the committee continues to do its work.
The Zoning Ordinance has not been comprehensively updated since 1977 and has grown to more than 1,200 pages over the last 30 years. The goal of the Rewrite is to reorganize and simplify the Zoning Code. Rewriting the code in plain language and reorganizing it into rational sections will enable residents to more easily participate in key land use decisions, and courts and agencies will have clearer rules to apply.
Although the County Charter calls for only one public hearing, the Council decided to hold a second public hearing because we recognize the significance of the proposed text and map revisions. Changes are possible for non-residentially zoned properties. ZTA 13-04 would implement the text changes to the Zoning Law, and DMA G-956 would update the zoning for each property to apply a new zone. The proposed rezoning in DMA G-956 is designed to mirror each property's current zoning as much as possible.
You can see the proposed Zoning Rewrite, along with the tentative changes being considered by the PHED committee, at www.zoningmontgomery.org. You also will find an interactive map where you can determine the existing and proposed zoning for every property in the County. Clicking on a particular property will display the development standards (density, height limits and setbacks) for the existing and proposed zone.
To sign up to testify, call 240-777-7803 by 5 p.m. on Monday, November 11. You can also send your written testimony to County Council, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, Maryland, 20850 or to email@example.com.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections has increased the number of Early Voting Centers from five to nine for the 2014 elections, pending Maryland State Board of Elections approval. Early voting for the primary election will occur from June 12 to June 19, 2014, and early voting for the general election will occur from October 23 to October 30, 2014. See the Early Voting Centers.
Let us know what you think about Bus Rapid Transit and other elements proposed in the Planning Board Draft of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. This plan recommends ten transit corridors that would operate in the median, in a dedicated lane or in mixed traffic, depending on the route. Proposed corridors include Georgia Avenue, MD 355, New Hampshire Avenue, University Boulevard, US 29, Veirs Mill Road and others.
We already held the public hearing and began our committee worksessions, but it’s not too late to weigh in. I value your input, so please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will continue its work on November 1 and 5, and the full Council will take up the plan on November 12 and 26. These meetings are open to the public. They are also broadcast live and on demand on County Cable Montgomery.
You can now watch Council sessions and hearings live on your mobile device. Using your Android or iPhone, go to http://m.montgomerycountymd.gov/CCM/liveplayer.html for live streaming. Thanks to our technology folks for their excellent work on this.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Highway Services will conduct its annual vacuum collection of leaves in the southern part of the County from November 4 through mid-December. DHS makes two collections on every street in the vacuum leaf collection district during the fall.
Residents should look for signs posted along the streets announcing the collection dates in their neighborhoods. DHS posts green signs indicating the date of the first collection and red signs indicating the second and final collection. See the guidelines.
The leaf vacuum collection district is bounded by I-495, I-270, the Rockville City limits, Norbeck, Bel Pre and Bonifant roads, Northwest Branch Park, and the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County lines.
Is your community organization hosting a public meeting? Please let me know how I can help. I am happy to assist residents in understanding pending bills or in finding ways to get involved in the political process. Even more important, I want to hear about what matters to you. Send your meeting notices to email@example.com or call 240-777-7959 if you would like me to address a particular topic with your group.