Council Vote on the Update to the Subdivision Staging Policy Expected by November 16

Below is some information on the progress of the update to the Subdivision Staging Policy at the Montgomery County Council. We still have a few more Council work sessions to go before the update is approved and adopted by November 16, 2020.
In the meantime, the County Council has taken many straw votes reflecting major policy changes, including:

  • Eliminating the Housing Moratorium countywide.
  • Utilization Premium Payments (UPP). Establishing three tiers of UPPs at 105 percent, 120 percent and 135 percent utilization, including seat deficit thresholds along with the utilization thresholds. The Council has not yet decided the payment amounts associated with the different tiers.
  • Use of UPP Funds. Requiring that UPP revenue be spent on any project that alleviates overutilization at the school for which the funds are collected. The projects would have to be at the same school level that adds capacity.
  • Four-Year Projections. The Annual School Test will evaluate projected school utilization four years into the future using certain school utilization adequacy standards.
  • Utilization Report. The Annual School Test will include a utilization report that will provide a countywide analysis of utilization at each school level as well as utilization trends for each individual school.
  • Calculating Student Generation Rates. Analyzing all single-family units and multifamily units built since 1990 to calculate countywide and School Impact Area student generation rates. Low-rise and high-rise multifamily units will remain distinct structure types for the purposes of evaluation and impact taxes.
  • MCPS Participation on DRC. Extending MCPS’s role on the Development Review Committee (DRC) to include providing comment on the application’s impact on schools (currently MCPS’s role is limited to discussions around dedicating land for schools).
  • Retesting at APF Validity Extension. Requiring that a development application be retested for school infrastructure adequacy when an applicant requests an extension of their Adequate Public Facilities validity period, with a limitation that only requires the retest if the application’s unbuilt units are estimated to generate more than 10 students.
  • School Impact Tax Discount for 3-Bedroom Units. Providing a 40 percent discount on school impact taxes to multifamily units with 3 bedrooms in Infill Impact Areas.
  • Large Home Surcharge. Eliminating the current school impact tax surcharge on residential units larger than 3,500 square feet.
  • Enterprise Zones. Eliminating the impact tax exemption for former Enterprise Zones.
  • Opportunity Zones. Exempting development in Opportunity Zones from all impact taxes. The Council also supported the City of Rockville’s request to not include their Opportunity Zone in the exemption.
  • 25 percent Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs). The impact tax exemption on market rate units for projects providing 25 percent MPDUs is limited to amount of the applicable school  impact tax in the Infill Impact Areas and the applicable transportation impact tax in the Red Policy Areas.
  • Net Impact Basis. Impact taxes will continue to be applied on a net impact basis, providing a credit for any residential units demolished.

Work sessions are expected to continue through next week. The policy must be adopted by November 16.

Local Voting Results (although these are not final results)

Board of Education

District 2
Michael Fryar – 39.4%
Rebecca Smondrowski (Incumbent) – 59.8%
District 4
Shebra Evans (Incumbent) – 66.2%
Steve Solomon – 33.2%
At-Large
Suni Dasgupta – 45.8%
Lynne Harris – 53%

Judge

Circuit Court – Judicial Court 6
Vote for up to 4
Bibi M. Berry (Incumbent) – 23%
David A. Boynton (Incumbent) – 21.1%
Christopher C. Fogleman (Incumbent) – 20.1%
Michael Joseph McAuliffe (Incumbent) – 20.8%
Marylin Pierre – 14.4%
Thomas P. Johnson III
Court of Appeals – Circuit 7
For continuance in office
Mary Ellen Barbera – Yes – 90.7% / No – 9.3%

Ballot Questions

Question A – Charter Amendment by Act of County Council Property Tax Limit – Limit Tax Rate Increases

  • For – 62.4%
  • Against – 37.6%

Question B – Charter Amendment by Petition – Property Tax Limit – Prohibit Override

  • For  – 41.6%
  • Against – 58.4%

Question C – Charter Amendment by Act of County Council – County Council – Increase to 11 Councilmembers

  • For – 61.5%
  • Against – 38.5%

Question D – Charter Amendment by Petition – County Council – Alter Council Composition to 9 Districts

  • For – 41.6%
  • Against – 58.4%

Please join us Thursday November 19, 7 to 8 pm

Friends of White Flint is hosting an online community meeting on Thursday, November 19 from 7 to 8 pm that promises to be both interesting and informative.

Walker Freer and Atul Sharma of the Planning Department will update us on their Advancing the Pike District initiative, which includes an extension of the Trolley Trail, pedestrian improvements, and placemaking. They will also give a brief presentation on some fascinating data from the passage of the White Flint sector plan in 2010 through today.

So grab a beverage and a snack and join our online community meeting November 19 at 7pm. Register at https://cutt.ly/FOWFNov19

Trail Improvement Project at Wall Park

Montgomery Parks will start an improvement project at Wall Local Park. The project will start in late October and will take several weeks to complete. This work will interrupt trail access. As part of the project, we will be installing interpretive signs to direct traffic to the Josiah Henson Museum and Special Park.

This project will renovate the trail in Wall Local Park, located at the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Nicholson Lane in North Bethesda. The intent of the project is to make the trail ADA accessible from the parking lot to the Nicholson Lane entrance and to enhance the trail with interpretive and wayfinding signage, and with decorative pavers from donors to the Josiah Henson Museum & Park. There are two retaining walls at the Nicholson Lane entrance that need repair. The project will renovate this access point with new retaining walls, special paving, and a concrete walkway to create a more visible pedestrian entrance to the park and the parking lot.

Montgomery County Council Overrides “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act” Veto

The Montgomery County Council has overridden a veto of the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act,” a major housing initiative for Metrorail stations, according to a county press release.

Originally enacted on Oct. 6, the new act has “the potential to generate thousands of affordable housing units and help spur economic growth,” the statement claims. The act will impact the viability of building housing on Metro station property.

Taking effect in Jan. 2021, the law incentivizes new housing development by providing a property tax abatement for new high-rise developments that include at least 50 percent rental housing. In addition, the new developments would need to include “at least 15 percent affordable housing, with 25 percent of that figure being housing affordable to people making 50 percent or less of the median income in the County.”

“Montgomery County has a lot riding on getting high-rise development going at our Metro stations,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer.

“Our housing market is not producing enough new housing and that is creating affordability problems for young and working families and putting rent pressure on market affordable housing. With the potential for more than 8,000 units of housing, these measures should help us take a big stride towards our regional housing goals.”

County Executive Marc Elrich vetoed the More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act, but the council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to override the veto. Councilmember Will Jawando and Council Vice President Tom Hucker voted against the veto override.

“I’m pleased that the Council today stood strong in our continued commitment to meet ambitious housing and transit-oriented development goals so more people will have the chance to live in and contribute to our County,” Councilmember Andrew Friedson said.

“While some who oppose new people moving into our community remain satisfied with the status quo of empty lots and parking spaces on top of Metro stations, we made it clear that we won’t wait to address our housing and climate crisis or to invigorate our local economy.”

According to projections by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Urban Institute, Montgomery County is expected to grow by more than 60,000 additional households by 2040. Yet, the prices for homes are growing faster than incomes. The median household income of $108,188 was below the $125,621 required to afford a home priced at the midpoint, according to the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Pop-Up Beer Garden Coming To Pike District: Reserve Your Spot Now!

A pop-up beer garden is coming to the Pike District!

The outdoor dining experience on Bethesda North Marriott’s front lawn will feature live music and local brews and eats. Reservations are required to enter the beer garden, which will be open to the public:

  • Friday, Nov. 13, 4-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 14, 12-8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 15, 12-6 p.m.

Reservations will be provided in two-hour increments to no more than six people in a group. Masks are required.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Updates to the County’s Pedestrian Master Plan

(The plan isn’t pedestrian but it is all about pedestrians.)

Pedestrian Shortcut Map

For the past several months, the Planning Department has promoted a Pedestrian Shortcut Map on their project website. This map is an effort to understand the shortcuts that pedestrians take that aren’t sidewalks or trails. To date, they have received over 500 contributions from community members identifying lines where they walk through the grass, dirt, or gravel to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. This map is still open for your contributions.

The project team will review the submissions and eventually include a list of master-planned pedestrian connections as part of the Pedestrian Master Plan. Master-planning these shortcut connections will make it easier to upgrade them to more formal sidewalks or trails through private development or the public capital improvement program process.

Pedestrian Preferences Survey in the Field

One important part of the data collection phase of the Pedestrian Master Plan is improving our understanding of how often and for what reasons people are walking and rolling in Montgomery County. While the Census provides information on how people commute to work and traffic counts conducted as part of development projects collect pedestrian data at specific locations, we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the extent of pedestrian travel in the County.

At the end of this month, postcards will go out to thousands of households in the county directing recipients to complete a survey about their pedestrian travel habits. This statistically valid survey will provide insights into how people in different parts of the county get around on foot and using mobility devices. Questions focus on how often and for what purposes people are walking and what changes would encourage them to walk more, so the project team can make sure plan recommendations are tailored to increase the number of people walking.

Two letters to the editor in regards to tax abatements to encourage high-rise housing at metro stations.

Montgomery County needs to pass this tax break to meet its housing goals (Washington Post)

Regarding the Oct. 20 Metro article “Elrich veto blocks tax break for high-rises”: Montgomery County’s More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act will provide much-needed economic incentives to build high-rise housing at key Metro stations in the county. While projects at Metro stations along the Red Line have struggled to move forward because of the high cost of high-rise construction, this legislation is likely to result, over time, in thousands of new units at the White Flint and Grosvenor-Strathmore stations alone.

Planning estimates put the need for 41,000 new housing units — both market-rate and affordable — in Montgomery County by 2030. This law could help meet 25 percent of that requirement. 

By providing a financial incentive to developers in the form of a 15-year tax abatement, which in turn will significantly improve the rate of return for high-rise development, it moves some projects from “not viable” to “viable” and others from “eventually viable” to “viable today.” 

As a local land-use lawyer (now retired) who practiced for more than 40 years, I firmly believe this legislation — and more of its kind — is needed if the county is to achieve its housing goals. This law would create “Metro Oriented Transit-Centered Communities,” promote good construction-related jobs and provide costly transit infrastructure, all in keeping with the county’s carefully crafted master plans.

Stephen Z. Kaufman, Brookeville

Opinion: There are good reasons to give incentives for Metro development (Bethesda Beat)

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council will vote on whether to override the county executive’s veto of Bill 29-20, the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act.”

The bill only applies to Metro-owned properties. (Metro isn’t selling these properties, just offering a ground lease). The development has to be at least eight stories and at least 50% residential rental. The residential rental needs to be 15% moderately priced dwelling units. Twenty-five percent of those moderately priced dwelling units need to be affordable to households at 50% or less of the area median income.

Many assume developers need no incentive to build high-rises on Metro property, but the market shows otherwise. When I asked WMATA if there were any development projects on its property in the last 10 years, I was told that the most recent ones were two residential buildings (Alaire and Terano), completed in 2002 and 2007, at Twinbrook, and Aurora Apartments in 2008 at White Flint.

Metro stations are vast expanses of parking lots, impervious surface, devoid of activity. Meanwhile, we have a huge housing demand in this county. If we don’t build it here, it will go to other counties. We’ll receive the traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, but not the income taxes.

Currently, the county collects no revenue on WMATA property. This bill extends this status for 15 years to a developer who builds on Metro property — thus, there is no net loss to the county.

In fact, development of the county’s Metro stations will generate fiscal benefits for both Montgomery County and WMATA. There will be less spending on lane miles of road and pipe miles of water and sewer; reduced cost to provide services to compact development (i.e., existing fire/police services, shorter response times); and increased fare revenue from transit users.

The bill provides one-time revenues (impact tax, transfer and recordation). Residents living in the housing will pay personal income taxes. WMATA forecasts that about 8,600 new housing units could be built — 1,300 of which would be for the county’s affordable housing programs. This bill moves us toward our environmental, climate change and housing goals.

Transit-oriented development in major activity corridors, with mixed income and affordable housing, takes cars off the road and promotes healthy lifestyles. Given the climate and economic situation we’ve witnessed in 2020, now is a great time to take bold actions to move this county forward.

Tina Slater, Silver Spring

White Flint is a targeted area for the 3R Initiative Restaurant & Retail Grant program to support locally-owned businesses.

Now through November 5, restaurants and retailers can apply to MCEDC for up to $5,000 to pay for expenses related to adapting business operations during the pandemic, including e-commerce expenses and delivery fees.

While any locally-owned retailer or restauranteur with fewer than 100 employees is welcome to apply for funding and technical assistance, the 3R Initiative Restaurant & Retail Grant will prioritize businesses in ten target areas: Burtonsville/Briggs Chaney, White Oak, Wheaton/Glenmont, Aspen Hill, Germantown, Damascus, Takoma-Langley, Four Corners, Montgomery Hills, and Twinbrook/White Flint.

Find the application and FAQs here, as well as information on the Reopen Montgomery program, which may reimburse your business for purchases like outdoor seating and air filtration.

Please reach out to MCEDC at 3R@thinkmoco.com with any questions.