Nancy Floreen's Montgomery in Focus, December edition

Revised FAQ Page for Zoning Code Rewrite

Row of townhouses

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: Do the new zones require the same amount of Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU) as the current code requires?

A: Yes. As in the current code, a developer who proposes a project with more than 20 dwelling units must provide at least 12.5% of those units as MPDUs. Further, when any mixed-use zone is converted to a C/R zone through the implementation process, the development may exceed the residential density by up to 22% for providing up to 15% of the units as MPDUs and the bonus MPDUs may exceed the density limitation of the zone, as is also the case with the current code. Zones that convert in this manner are designated with a T (Translation) following the zone name.

About 100 people testified in the second public hearing on the Zoning Code Rewrite. Now the plan goes back to the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee on December 2 and 9. The full Council will take up the rewrite on January 14, 15 and 16. Tune in to County Cable Montgomery to watch the meetings live.

Council Approves Long Branch Sector Plan

Nancy Floreen with reporter

Last month we approved the Long Branch Sector Plan which 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 façade, 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.

Council Increases Minimum Wage

Last month the Council approved an increase in the county's minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 under Maryland law. The county's minimum wage will increase to $8.40 on October 1, 2014 and will be phased in to $11.50 in 2017. This move will make Montgomery's minimum wage among the highest in the nation.

I voted in favor of the measure because I believe we have a moral obligation to our residents to do the right thing, and this is the right thing. In a county as prosperous and with as high a cost of living as Montgomery County, we must do whatever we can to help the most vulnerable among us.

The measure is not perfect, and I have concerns about the impact it will have on small businesses and especially on the very jobs it aims to protect. I'll be watching closely at the effectiveness of the new minimum wage, and in the meantime I'm glad that some Montgomery County families will be able to breathe a little easier. To see the full press release, visit my blog.

Council Approves Amemded BRT Plan

rapid transit vehicle

The Council unanimously approved the the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan which proposes routes for a possible Bus Rapid Transit system.

The approved plan has significant changes from the one proposed by the Planning Board. Most notably, it eliminates the "treatments" identified in the Planning Board's recommendation, and the plan makes clear it will serve only as a guide for future study. Each individual route will be subject to a separate public hearing, community input process and detailed studies before being approved or funded. We are still a long way away from any type of construction, and as we move forward, I will continue to look closely at whether specific routes are affordable, realistic and viable before committing any of our scarce land or financial resources to them. To see the full press release, visit my blog.

Holiday Giving

Nancy Floreen and dog

Montgomery County is known for its affluence, so it is easy to forget that we have many residents who do not have enough money to pay for even their basic needs, let alone the extra expenses associated with the holidays. To learn more about poverty in Montgomery County, take a look at the award-winning program, The Unseen Montgomery, produced by our very own County Cable Montgomery.

In addition to highlighting the hidden poverty in the county, the show identifies nonprofits that provide help to those in need, including Manna, which serves as our local food bank; A Wider Circle, which collects used furniture and household items for those in need; and Interfaith Works, which offers a whole host of programs for our most vulnerable residents.

If you can afford to pick up extra canned or other non-perishable foods, or if you have clothing or furniture you can donate, your gift certainly can go to good use right here in our community. And of course, our nonprofits are also happy to accept money. If you aren’t sure which nonprofit to support, check out Neighbors in Need Montgomery, an umbrella charity campaign that supports many local organizations and enjoys a dollar for dollar match from a generous family.

Fast Fact

The Montgomery County Department of Recreation is offering a wide range of community events for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season, including visits from Santa, craft fairs, holiday parties and scuba...yes, scuba. To see the full list, visit my blog.

Green Tip of the Month

Remember to recycle your natural Christmas tree. First, remove the stand and all decorations--including lights, ornaments, tinsel and garlands. Be sure there is no metal attached to the tree. Then take the tree to the curb on your regular recycling day, and if you are like me, remove any ornaments you missed the first time around. You can also recycle branches and needles by placing them under trees and shrubs as a temporary winter mulch--or chop them up and add them to a compost pile.

Let's Talk

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 or call 240-777-7959 if you would like me to address a particular topic with your group.

December 2013

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