Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2013

Zoning Code Rewrite Update

By Marc Elrich

[The following was excerpted from a 15 September 2013 email from County Council Member At-Large Marc Elrich.  It has been edited to fit.]

In May 2013, the Planning Board sent its draft rewrite of the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance to the County Council for review and adoption.  This 400-page document would fundamentally change the way we plan and zone in Montgomery County.

For decades, the County’s master planning process has served us well; in fact, we have achieved a national reputation for good planning.  We have accomplished this by encouraging the full participation of residents, business owners, and others concerned with the outcome of land use decisions in the master-planned areas.  This process has given the County Council a sound basis for exercising its zoning authority in a way that manages desirable changes and retains the characteristics essential for preserving the existing, well-established neighborhoods that make Montgomery County a place where people want to live.

The proposed zoning ordinance breaks with the master planning process as we know it.  In fact, it turns the relationship between master plans and zoning upside-down.  Instead of master plans managing change which is then enacted through the zoning ordinance, the new zoning ordinance dictates change.  In addition to providing the clarifying, simplifying changes requested by the Council, the new zoning ordinance codifies an entirely new approach to growth and intensifies development through countywide adoption of a new land-use table and new zones that would supersede or undermine the language and recommendations in all of our existing master plans.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to become familiar with the proposed changes and how they may affect you.  Here are some links you may be interested in:

Montgomery County Council Member Marc Elrich

Since 14 June 2013, the Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee (PHED) has held several worksessions [] to review the proposed rewrite.  Three more work sessions remain, on 17, 20, and 27 September.  All of these sessions will be televised on County Cable Montgomery (CCM); Comcast and RCN customers can watch the work sessions on channel 6 and Verizon customers on channel 30.

The review process has been extended to allow additional public input.  The PHED Committee’s recommendations on the rewrite will be made available by 11 October; a public hearing on those changes is tentatively scheduled for 12 November.  If you are interested in weighing in, you may want to sign up to testify once the public hearing is scheduled and/or call or write to councilmembers to let them know your views on the proposed changes.  After the public hearing the PHED Committee is expected to hold additional work sessions to consider the new testimony.  The full Council is expected to begin its worksession early in 2014.

If we all work together, we can adopt a zoning code that not only simplifies and clarifies the existing code but does so without undermining the approved and adopted master plans that have served Montgomery County’s communities well.  We are always at our best when we work collaboratively to find the best way forward.

[Elrich welcomes your feedback on this issue.  Contact him at 240.777.7966 or via email at councilmember.elrich at]   ■

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