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.

County Council Continues to Consider the new updates to the County Growth Policy

The Montgomery County Council is continuing their review of the update to the County Growth Policy. Major changes include policy name change (from the Subdivision Staging Policy to the County Growth Policy), creation of school impact areas, limitations on the use of moratoria, requirements for premium payments in area with overcrowded schools, and incorporation of Vision Zero concepts in transportation adequacy review. Please review the Recommendations At-A-Glance for a brief overview of the schools recommendations.

Montgomery County Council Schedule

Monday, October 5  PHED Committee: County Growth Policy Schools Element | 9:30 AM
Friday, October 9  PHED Committee: County Growth Policy Transportation Element | 10:30 AMGO Committee: Impact Tax Bill | 1:30 PM
Monday, October 12  GO Committee: School Impact Taxes and Recordation Tax Bill | 9:30 AM
Tuesday, October 13  PHED Committee: County Growth Policy) | 3:00 PM
Tuesday, October 20  Full Council: County Growth Policy | TBD
Tuesday, October 27  Full Council: County Growth Policy | TBD
Tuesday, November 10  Full Council action

You can watch the Council work sessions live (or watch recordings of past work sessions) from the Council website.

What is the Subdivision Staging Policy?
The Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) — one of the many ways that Montgomery Planning helps to preserve the excellent quality of life in Montgomery County — is based on having sufficient infrastructure to support growth. It includes criteria and guidance for the administration of Montgomery County’s Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO), which matches the timing of private development with the availability of public infrastructure. Every four years, an effort to update the Subdivision Staging Policy originates with Montgomery Planning staff before working its way through the Planning Board and the County Council. The purpose is to ensure that the best available tools are used to test whether infrastructure like schools, transportation, water and sewer services can support future growth.

Subdivision Staging Policy and the Community
Montgomery Planning prepares updates to the SSP every four years and this year’s update takes a special focus on schools in relation to growth and development in the county. Census information, demographic shifts, student generation rates, housing stock and projections, equity, along with master plans and development projects are some of the components that must be considered when looking at the policy. The transportation side of the SSP includes looking at transportation policy areas in the county, modes of travel, areawide development impacts and modeling data with a new focus on Vision Zero safety standards.
Since the update to the SSP started in summer 2019, two citizen advisory groups have assisted with this work: the Schools Technical Advisory Team and Transportation Impact Study Technical Working Group. Community members have also been engaged through local presentations, a community workshop in October 2019 and a series of roundtable discussions throughout the county.

View the Planning Board Draft and Appendices:
County Growth Policy – Planning Board Draft County Growth Policy – Planning Board Draft Appendices

The update to the schools element of the SSP included a review by an Urban Land Institute Virtual Advisory Services Panel (vASP) in April.

Read the ULI Final Report and presentation. Learn more about the vASP’s review of the SSP.

Additional resources, including links to Planning Board work sessions on the policy, can be found on Montgomery Planning’s website.

 

Free Montgomery Smart Growth Advocacy Training

Coalition for Smarter Growth is holding a Montgomery Smart Growth Advocacy Training, on Thursday, September 17th at 7pm.

They’ll be demystifying the legislative and planning processes of the County Council and Planning Board, and answering any questions. Their goal is to help empower community members who may have felt intimidated by the county’s bureaucracy to advocate for housing, land use, and transit, including the General Plan that’s currently being written.

Here is the registration link,

7 Ways Montgomery County is Changing

From Dan Reed and Greater Greater Washington

1. The county is growing slowly, but still adding a lot of people. During the 1950s and 1960s, Montgomery County grew really fast, doubling in population each decade. These days, it’s adding new people at a much lower rate—but with over one million residents, that’s still a lot of people. County planners anticipate 208,000 new residents in the next 20 years.

2. The county is getting more diverse, but not evenly. The county became majority-minority for the first time in the 2010 Census, and planners found that many neighborhoods across the county are pretty mixed, with no majority ethnic or racial group. At the same time, the east-west divide is still very real: as East County and the Upcounty become more diverse, west side communities like Bethesda and Chevy Chase have simply remained white and affluent. One exception: close-in Silver Spring, which has become both more diverse and wealthier.

3. This isn’t just a place where people raise kids anymore. Today, households with kids make up just one-fourth of the county’s population, down from 60% in 1960. The county has more older residents whose kids have grown, and planners anticipate that we’ll have fewer and fewer working-age people in the future. Meanwhile, one-fifth of the county are Millennials, who either don’t have kids yet or aren’t planning to have them.

4, County planners found an average of 230 single-family home demolitions each year since 2013, over half of which are in Bethesda, where entire blocks have been transformed.

5. Incomes have been flat for 30 years, which means homeownership is now for the old. Over one-third of Montgomery County households are renters, and they’re not just living in apartments, but in townhomes or single-family houses that are being rented out. One consequence is that homeowners are getting older, as rising prices mean that people who bought their homes decades ago can’t afford to move, and younger residents can’t afford to buy their homes anyway. In 1990, people over 55 owned one-third of the county’s homes and people under 34 owned 18% of them. Today, adults over 55 own 54% of the county’s homes, while those under 34 own just 7% of them.

6. Most people who live here also work here. Nearly 600,000 people work here, and planners found that about 61% of them also live here. In fact, the percentage of people who leave the state to work in DC or Virginia has actually gone down a little. Just 15% of the county’s workers work for the federal government. More people work in the “eds and meds” fields, like education or health care, in the hospitality or food service fields, as well as what’s called “professional work,” like lawyers or consultants.

7. There’s a shift in where people work. Office vacancies in Montgomery County are the highest they’ve been in over a decade, in part to changing work habits like telecommuting, coworking, and smaller offices.  Downtowns like Bethesda are attracting companies like Marriott from suburban office parks, which are now struggling.

Fascinating Report on Covid’s Impact on Real Estate

One of our resident board members, Jonathan Chambers, shared the Delta Associates Spring 2020 report, “Covid-19’s Impact on the Economy and the Washington Multifamily Market” he helped write. Below are some of the highlights, if you lack the time to review the entire report, which is actually quite interesting.

Washington metro area job growth in April was an unprecedented -319,200, or a loss of approximately 10% of the region’s total employment. The regional unemployment rate also skyrocketed to 9.9% in April, compared to 3.3% in March 2020 and 2.8% in April 2019. The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been wildly uneven among individual business sectors, with some faring far worse than others.

Commercial real estate in the region has been moderately affected by the pandemic, although much of the industry is in a wait-and-see pattern. According to a survey by The Associated General Contractors of America of the Northeast region, 15% of respondents mentioned they have been notified to cease projects that were underway in May. About 33% of respondents are experiencing project delays due to a shortage of
personal protective equipment, and another 28% reported a shortage of construction material. However, domestic production of materials and a national slowdown in construction activity has resulted in a reduction in some construction costs.

Delta conducted a survey of multifamily real estate developers in the Washington metro area to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on scheduled groundbreakings. About half of the respondents have experienced delays due to the difficulty in obtaining financing. Despite delays for some planned multifamily projects, several have started construction amid the pandemic.

A Delta survey of property management firms showed that the pandemic has significantly altered operations of multifamily buildings, including: the closure of common areas, adjustment to cleaning routines, the closure of leasing offices to the public, and the widespread use of virtual tours. During the months of April and May, data from the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) shows that rent collection rates in the U.S. were down in 2020 compared to the same months in 2019, but not as much as expected.

They determined that while the Washington multifamily market has underperformed rapidly growing metros in the Sunbelt and West Coast since the Great Recession, it is better positioned to weather a down cycle than nearly all its peers. They expect minimal delays in deliveries of apartment projects already underway due to the pandemic. The pandemic will likely cause delays in projected construction starts n the second half of 2020, which will reduce the number of deliveries in 2022 and into
2023, well after the end of the medical emergency (hopefully); however, the short-term impacts will be minimal.

They project that deliveries of Class A office space will outpace absorption in all three substate areas over the next year. In turn, they project a rise in vacancy in office space by Q1 2021, reaching close to 5.0% in the metro area compared to 4.4% as of the first quarter of 2020. Rent growth will remain below average and likely turn negative in several submarkets.

While the pandemic will likely not lead to large, permanent migratory shifts away from urban areas, there may be some changes to the design of existing and new multifamily buildings. Some building design features and trends that are likely to become more prevalent going forward include: retrofitting buildings with contactless opening technology, redesigning common areas and amenity space to accommodate social distancing, such as creating office pods or spacing equipment in the fitness center, and adding a greater amount of dedicated workspace in units. COVID-19 will leave its mark on multifamily design just as other market disruptions have over the years.

Covid-19 Update – Record-low Maryland COVID-19 positivity rate

Governor Larry Hogan recently announced that Maryland’s statewide COVID-19 positivity rate has reached a new all-time low of 3.62%. He also said that positivity rate among for those under 35 has dropped nearly 30% since July 23, to 4.78%. The state’s hospitalization metrics continue to plateau, with ICU beds dropping below 120 for the first time since July 14.

Montgomery County’s positivity rate has dropped to 2.94%. On Saturday, the county had 121 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is a daily case growth of 0.6%, marking the 32nd consecutive day the increase was less than 1%.

On Saturday, the county added 121 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 18,260 since the pandemic began in mid-March. There have been 763 confirmed deaths from the virus in Montgomery County.

Delegate Marc Korman posts these statistics everyday on Twitter and Facebook.

Live from the Strathmore Mansion

In this week’s Live from the Mansion, we are joined by Elijah Jamal BalbedIsabelle De Leon, and Mark G. Meadows for a soulful set that is sure to make you move.

Live from the Mansion features host Christylez Bacon and fellow Strathmore Artist in Residence alums of varying genres each week for music and insightful conversation. Learn more at bit.ly/LiveFromTheMansion and tune into our Facebook page Wednesdays at 7:30pm!

Directed by T.L. Benton of Mecca Film Works
Strathmore’s Virtual Programming is supported by AARP Maryland

Montgomery County Provides Guidelines for Businesses to Prepare for Phase 1 Reopening

Montgomery County began Phase 1 of its reopening at 6 a.m. Monday, June 1, as outlined in County Executive Marc Elrich’s Executive Order. To assist businesses to prepare for the transition, the County has developed reopening guidelines. These guidelines are designed to foster a safe environment for businesses and their employees and customers. 

Reopening Guidelines

  • County Executive Elrich’s Executive Order outlines the type of businesses and activities that may reopen in Phase 1.
  • Only businesses referenced in the Executive Order are permitted to reopen; all others must continue to follow the “Stay-at-Home” Order.
  • In order to safely reopen, all businesses must agree to abide by safety requirements to ensure the spread of the virus remains low for employees, patrons and the general public.
  • The County’s Reopening Requirements must be reviewed and posted in a clear and visible location at the business.
  • Any restaurant that plans to offer outdoor dining in accordance with the new safety guidelines must complete an easy registration form confirming their understanding of the new guidelines.
  • Bathrooms must be made available to patrons by restaurants offering outdoor dining.
  • If providing curbside retail pickup, businesses should instruct customers to call or order online first and wait in their vehicles for employees to bring out or deliver merchandise.
  • Employees and customers of hair salons and barbershops are required to use face coverings, gloves, and any other personal protective equipment appropriate to their workplace. In addition, these requirements must be met:
    • Limit of one customer for every 200 sq. ft. of service delivery space;
    • Use of physical distancing markers for staff and customers; and
    • High-contact surfaces (those with hourly or greater contact frequency) must be cleaned with CDC- and EPA-approved disinfectant at least every two hours.
  • The Reopening Montgomery web page features resources, best practices and answers to reopening questions.

As the County moves into Phase 1 of reopening, businesses and patrons are urged to continue practicing safety measures:

  • Wear face coverings always in public indoor spaces and when physical distancing cannot be maintained outdoors;
  • Continue physical distancing;
  • Limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer; and
  • Telework whenever possible.

Montgomery County Opens Up on Monday!

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today announced critical benchmarks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have been achieved, allowing the County to begin a gradual reopening. Phase I will start this Monday, June 1 at 6 a.m. The County plans for an incremental reopening, based on public health data. 

Phase I allows additional businesses and activities to start and/or increase modified operations under specified guidelines. They are:   

  • Retail; curbside only
  • Restaurants and bars; outdoor seating (curbside pick-up still allowed)
  • Childcare; State-approved emergency programs open for dependents of essential employees and Phase 1 reopening employees
  • Personal Services; hair salons and barber shops for hair only appointments
  • Car washes; exterior cleaning only
  • Manufacturing; fully reopen with precautions and guidance
  • Outdoor Day Camps: following Maryland Department of Health guidelines
  • Outdoor Youth Sports; following Maryland Department of Health guidelines

Certain outdoor recreation continues to be permitted; golf courses, archery, shooting ranges, marinas, campgrounds, horseback riding facilities and tennis courts.

The following businesses and services remain closed:

  • Swimming pools; (however, licensing and inspection can be requested and conducted)
  • Senior Centers
  • Fitness Centers
  • Movie Theaters
  • Shopping Malls
  • Nail Salons

Protective measures such as maintaining physical distancing, careful cleaning and disinfecting by staff and face coverings being worn by employees and customers, are just some of the measures being required of businesses that are in this initial phase of recovery. 

“This is an important first step,” said County Executive Elrich. “But it is a first step, and restrictions are still in place. I know we are all eager to resume our activities, but based on careful discussions with our County Health Officer Dr. Gayles, we have identified certain restrictions that can be lifted. I urge you to follow the guidelines so that we can keep moving forward and not have spikes in the number of cases. This first phase can be successful if all of us do our part and follow the guidelines.”