How Much Good Faith Does $4 Million Buy? About 1,314 cinder blocks.

Guest post by Danila Sheveiko.

A cinder block wall by the loading docks is all the adjacent communities have to show of the good faith Montgomery County government promised three years ago in return for the $4 million taxpayer subsidy to Westfield Group – the largest retail real estate property holder in the world based out of Australia – for their Wheaton Mall Costco Expansion Project.

WallOfGoodFaith

The Council promised good faith negotiations between neighborhood associations and Westfield on seven areas of concern:  Costco loading docks, nighttime truck deliveries, traffic, walk-ability, building height, environmental issues, and a Costco mega gas station proposed 118 feet from single-family residences. Continue reading

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New zoning code adopted on March 4 with added neighborhood protections

Guest post by Meredith Wellington

Dear Neighbors,

On March 4th the County Council passed the new Zoning Code.  The vote was 7-1 (Councilmember Elrich dissenting; Councilmember Branson abstaining).  The code becomes effective on October 30, 2014.  The Council postponed action on the companion District Map Amendment (DMA) G-956 that would rezone substantial parts of the County with the new zones.  The Council will take action on the DMA in the fall around the time that the Zoning Code becomes effective. Note:  The residential zones that we have focused on—R-60 and R-90–are not a part of the DMA.  If your lot is zoned R-60, it will stay R-60, and the same is true for R-90. Any changes to the residential zones are contained in the new code, and that is why we focused on the code.

What is the take away?

The Council heard our voices and increased the protections for our neighborhoods. While it did not make all of the changes we requested, it made changes to the provisions that would have done the greatest harm to our neighborhoods: Continue reading

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Bethesda CBD plan uses new public outreach

Guest post by Naomi Spinrad

South of Ten Mile Creek, in the downcounty area, work has begun on the update of the Bethesda CBD sector plan, now known as the Bethesda Downtown Plan. As it likely will be finished after the zoning rewrite is approved, we might start thinking of it as the Bethesda CR plan, as much of the zoning will change over to the new Commercial Residential zones.

The Montgomery County Planning Department, under the leadership of director Gwen Wright, is not going to have a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for this plan. Instead, there will be a huge public outreach effort. Wright’s rationale for this, based on her experience in Alexandria, Va., is that CACs allow only a limited number of people to participate, and exclude far more. So public input will be developed through frequent meetings, presentations and Q&A with smaller groups, and electronic and social media. Planners also may carry out surveys.

Continue reading

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County council in straw vote approves 6-15-15 impervious cap for Ten Mile Creek

After hours of discussion and months of wrangling, the Montgomery County Council today, in a straw vote, supported imperviousness caps on the three properties surrounding Clarksburg’s Ten Mile Creek at 6-15-15 percent. This compromise is in keeping with the maximum levels of development sought by the Save Ten Mile Creek coalition, a coalition of over 30 local citizens groups and national environmental groups who had asked for a six percent cap on the property at the headwaters of the creek.  The real vote takes place in three weeks after additional environmental protection criteria is worked into the final language of the Ten Mile Creek Limited Master Plan Amendment.

The Ten Mile Creek watershed is an emergency drinking water source for 4.3 million people in the greater Washington area and is the last pristine creek in Montgomery County.  It is currently a “reference stream,” a high quality source used by biologists around the state to compare water quality.  The development approved for the area threatens to downgrade the reference stream to a lower quality unless strict mitigation criteria are established and enforced.

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Mega gas station setback bill supports community health

Guest post by Danila Sheveiko

Senate Bill 631, entitled “Environment – Retail Service Stations – Setback Certification,“ was introduced by Maryland Senator Richard Madaleno at the request of the Mega Gas Station Setback Coalition and establishes adequate setbacks for new large gas stations in order to protect the health of surrounding communities.

Photo credit Lauren Wood/The Natchez Democrat

This is round two in the effort, after a similar bill submitted by a coalition of civic activists and environmental groups failed in the Maryland House of Delegates last year amid heavy lobbying by Costco, other big-box retailers, the Maryland Petroleum Council, and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. Continue reading

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County Council approves state transportation priorities

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved its list of Maryland state transportation priorities, with the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) leading the way.

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Where does the accountability buck stop in Wheaton redevelopment?

The civic heat has been turned up a notch on the County’s Wheaton Redevelopment Project, which includes Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offices, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) new headquarters and a town square on what is now known as “Parking Lot 13″ in Wheaton’s Central Business District.

Public Parking Lot 13

We covered the story months ago when local environmentalists first sounded the alarm on the project, citing a lack of vegetative elements and a box-like building design that do not reflect Wheaton Sector Plan aspirations and MNCPPC’s green mission.

Roundly criticized by civic and environmental leaders, the County presented an updated plan that was met with slightly better reviews, only to be embarrassed later by revelations that the supposedly improved plan was heavily Photoshopped.

Continue reading

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Hill staffer Cherri Branson is new MoCo councilmember

CherriBranson

The vote is in: Silver Spring resident and Capitol Hill staffer Cherri Branson will be the new District 5 Montgomery County Councilmember. The County Council chose Branson from among 18 candidates, including one current and one former council chief of staff, civic activists, a former Maryland house delegate and two municipal officials. Branson emerged as a compromise choice who, according to one source, “has the least baggage.” She will replace outgoing Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who left her post in early January to become executive director of the Center for Working Families in New York.

All the candidates were vetted by the County Council in publicly televised half hour interviews. Branson’s interview is here (go to 1:30). Candidates were asked to affirm that they would not run for that seat or another council seat in the upcoming election. Branson will be the second African-American woman to hold a council seat.

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“We drink water- and we vote!” Rally at the County Council Building

ten mile creek logoOn Monday, January 27th, the County Council will hold a worksession about the water supply issues related to proposed development in the pristine Ten Mile Creek watershed- part of the backup drinking water supply for 4.3 Million in the DC area.

Join us at 9am to rally in advance of the worksession on the front steps of the Council building- 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. This is one of the last chances we have to show the Council just how important clean water is to MoCo residents, current and future.

All 4.3 Million who rely on the creek can’t make it- can you?
We need proactive, precautionary land use planning to protect our water resources – a plan that that looks further than 5 years out, relies on science and calculates the real costs of poorly planned development.
If you haven’t already done so:  Please contact all the Councilmembers:
County Exec Ike Leggett will be weighing in too, so please include him in your email - ocemail@montgomerycountymd.gov

 

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CANCELLED DUE TO STORM: Our Drinking Water: County Council work session on Ten Mile Creek Area Limited Master Plan Amendment

ten mile creek logoCANCELLED DUE TO STORM: Tuesday, January 21, 8:45 am, front steps of County Council Building, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville.

Write to Councilmembers at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov and tell them:

  • I drink water and I vote.
  • Save, don’t pave, Ten Mile Creek: I want full protection for our last, best creek.
  • Ten Mile Creek is the cleanest source of water to our region’s only nearby emergency drinking water supply – Little Seneca Reservoir, which scientists say will be needed more often in the future due to increased droughts.
  • Ask them how they plan to vote on the Ten Mile Creek Limited Amendment.
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