Dear District 1 Residents and Friends, 

Am I the only one who wonders what happened to spring?  Seems like it flew by and now school is out and summer is upon us.                         

We have been busy -- as this not so brief report underscores.  Working on important issues -- preventing predatory towing, growing our green economy, reducing exposures to pesticides, providing our employees with paid sick leave, modernizing our taxi regulations in a post Uber world, improving our approach to economic development...and that is just a partial list.  So, here is my best attempt to fill you in on all of that and more...and to solicit your feedback.  

 

Roger Berliner
District 1

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Working to Curb Predatory Towing

 

In April, I introduced legislation to combat the No. 1 consumer complaint in our county -- predatory towing. This unscrupulous business practice is the all-too-often occurrence in our county of towing companies removing people's vehicles from a lot improperly or overly aggressively. And it happens all over our county—down county, east county, up county—and it needs to stop. That is why all eight of my colleagues have co-sponsored this legislation and why the County Executive has proposed a number of amendments that will further strengthen the bill. 

The bill takes three approaches to improving the towing situation in the county. First, it prevents the use of spotters, individuals whose only purpose is to sit and wait for a resident to make a wrong move and then call a truck that takes away your car in two minutes or less. Second, it places more responsibility on property owners when a vehicle is towed from their lot. And third, it gives our Office of Consumer Protection more power and new tools to investigate improper tows.

While this bill does many good things, members of the HOA and condo communities have raised concerns that some of the proposed reforms are too burdensome on those entities as they seek to maintain parking spaces for residents. If you are a member of those communities, please know that I have listened to the concerns and will be offering amendments to reduce the burdens on HOAs and condos.  

Click here to see portions of Tuesday night's public hearing on the measure. 

Creating the Nation's First Local Green Bank

As you may know from previous newsletters, I have been working hard to establish a Green Bank here in Montgomery County. Green Banks are a way to drive investment in solar projects, energy efficiency initiatives, and in new green technologies, investments that will be better for our environment and economy. 

States like Connecticut have been able to leverage 10 private sector dollars to every 1 public sector dollar, resulting in literally millions of dollars in new investments, new green jobs, and new renewable energy sources.

Three important developments have happened recently in this effort. First, the Maryland Public Service Commission's approval of the Pepco-Exelon merger means that the Green Bank will have significant seed capital ($20 million), at neither ratepayer nor taxpayer expense.  This was one of the elements of the settlement that our county executive struck with Exelon in return for the county's support of the merger.  While my colleagues and I on the Council strongly opposed the merger even with this provision (and others), funding by Exelon of our green bank is certainly nice to have.  

Second, the Transportation and Environment Committee has passed the enabling legislation that will create the Green Bank in Montgomery County. The bill now moves onto the full Council where seven of my colleagues are co-sponsors. I am proud that Montgomery County will be the first local jurisdiction in the country with a Green Bank.

Third, I was invited to represent the D.C. region and local governments at a White House's roundtable on Green Banks today.  I was joined by leaders from across the country as we learned about new federal resources that will be available to our community to further our green economy. It is great to be part of a truly national movement that brings together federal, state, and local leaders to build a stronger local green economy and a stronger environment.

Offering Common Sense Alternative Measures to the Pesticides Bill

Our Council is currently considering legislation sponsored by a number of my colleagues that would ban the use of pesticides on county property, playing fields, and private lawns. While this legislation has garnered great enthusiasm among supporters, it is by far the most divisive issue to come before our council in recent memory. 

I personally believe that the scientific evidence linking pesticides to cancer and other diseases is strong enough to warrant a much more vigorous approach. Indeed, my goal, as Chair of  the committee that must make recommendations to our full Council on this measure, is to produce the strongest legislation in the nation.  

Having said that, I believe that goal can and should be met without an absolute ban on pesticide use on private property.  There are a number of reasons why I believe that now is not the time for outlawing private property owners from using pesticides on their lawns:

(1)  In my view, the most important issue confronting the Council is how we bring about significant changes in behavior on an issue our County has not previously seriously addressed or enforced. Prior to adopting the first ban of any large jurisdiction in the country, I believe it is our responsibility to increase awareness as to the potential health risks. If our public is made aware of the potential dangers, I believe it will significantly increase voluntary behavioral changes that lead to very substantial reductions in pesticide use; 

(2) Just as we have done in other environmental initiatives, it is a prudent course of action to first set a baseline level of pesticide use and a reduction goal prior to imposing a ban. However, if we fail to reach our goal, then it would be reasonable to consider additional measures, including a ban, to curb the use of pesticides; 

(3) Our public is highly divided on this issue, perhaps more so than on any issue that has come before our Council in my nine years. As elected officials, I believe it is our obligation to responsibly lead our community to healthier outcomes by educating, building broad support to the extent possible, and demonstrating on county property the efficacy of alternative approaches before imposing absolute restrictions on private use;

(4) The conclusion from the Attorney General's Office that banning pesticide use on private property is likely to be preempted under state law, while certainly not dispositive, casts serious doubt over the legality of a measure that is deeply divisive and far-reaching;

(5) The nation's leading experts at the National Cancer Institute have told us that the state of the science with respect to the health risks is not "definitive." While I personally believe that the state of the science is sufficient to warrant a much more proactive approach to pesticides, I believe it falls short of justifying a private property ban at this moment in time;

(6) It has been generally acknowledged that the proposed ban would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. To adopt such a restrictive, divisive approach that is so difficult to enforce seems unwise to me; and

(7) While there are examples of situations where organic approaches to lawn care have been successful, there are still significant questions regarding the cost and effectiveness of organic lawn care for the average Montgomery County homeowner.

Our Parks leadership has also told us that they still need to have pesticides within their toolbox to maintain healthy and successful park environments for users. The leadership at the SoccerPlex believe also that to have the type of top-quality turf that attracts players far and wide, they need to have the ability to judiciously use pesticides. 

Despite these concerns, I believe that Montgomery can and should have the strongest pesticide regulations in the country. To that end, I have proposed a series of alternative measures to a ban. 

They are:

• Ban the use of pesticides on county non-park land;

• Require our Parks Department to follow Seattle’s model and create a list that will grow over time of non-playing-field park areas that are designated as pesticide free; require the Parks Department to pilot an organic playing field; require the adoption of protocols that limit the use of pesticides in parkland to the maximum extent possible and create  pesticide-free buffer areas near streams; and to require reporting requirements that make explicit the circumstances under which pesticides are used;

• When a lawn care company proposes the use of pesticides on private property, require residents to sign a document that identifies the reported health risks associated with pesticides, acknowledges that organic alternatives exist, and directs (or not) a lawn care provider to adhere to least-toxic Integrated Pest Management practices that call for a minimum use of pesticides;

• Require that condo associations or homeowners associations hold an affirmative vote of the membership in order to adopt a pesticide regime for the maintenance of common elements;

• Require the Montgomery County Department Environmental Protection to develop a baseline pesticide application level based on most recent Maryland Department of Agriculture data, set a goal of reducing non-agricultural pesticide us 50% by 2020, require the County Executive to propose additional measures should the county not meet the reduction target; and require that the Department not only enforce existing regulations, but conduct a vigorous public education campaign on pesticide use; and

• Require affected individuals be notified in advance of pesticide application in properties where children are frequently present, such as playgrounds and daycare facilities.

In my view, these steps would demonstrate the county government's serious commitment to significantly reducing pesticide exposures; better educate and empower our residents to make healthier choices for themselves and their neighbors; and lay the necessary foundation for further steps if required.                        

I welcome your thoughts on this proposal.  Please email me with your thoughts and suggestions.

Paid Sick Leave Bill Update

A big piece of legislation that is now before the Council is a bill that would require employers in the County to provide earned sick and safe leave.  Many other jurisdictions across the country have adopted similar measures including San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland, Washington DC, as well as Connecticut and California. 

Earlier this year at the public hearing for the bill, we heard stories of mothers afraid to take time off to take care of their children; of those most vulnerable workers who show up sick rather than risk being fired. We also heard from our business community, who expressed their concerns as to the impact it will have on their capacity to run their businesses effectively. 

Last week, the HHS Committee that I sit on held a worksession on the legislation. I believe there is a broad agreement – including from our Chambers of Commerce – that this bill will pass when our Council votes on it on Tuesday, June 23. However, as with many big pieces of legislation, the details are of critical importance, particularly for our small and medium sized businesses that will have to comply with the requirements of this bill.

One important detail that I sought to address in our Committee worksession was the matter of whether to exempt small businesses from being required to provide paid sick leave to their employees. While I believe there are many other critical details that we as a Council will work through when we take up the bill, I think this particular issue is illustrative of the balance we need to strike as we move forward with progressive legislation of this nature. 

Our county is not operating on a blank slate here. Almost every jurisdiction that has dealt with this issue (other than California) has exempted very small businesses. Some, like Philadelphia and Oregon, set the exemption level at 9 or less employees. Others, like Seattle, Portland, and New York City, picked 4-5. The bill that was pending before the Maryland General Assembly last session, but not enacted, would have required businesses of 10 or more employees to provide paid sick leave.  I have concluded that 5 employees is a more appropriate number.

When the bill comes up next week before our Council, I will be asking my colleagues to use the New York City model, one that I believe fairly balances the goal of protecting employees and the needs of very small businesses. 

Department of Economic Development Reorganization: Why Everyone Should Care

For a long time now, I have been a strong advocate of shifting some of our county’s economic development efforts to the private sector. Why?  Because the core function of any economic development department is attracting, recruiting, and even retaining businesses. Bringing good, high paying jobs that meet the needs of our residents and the industries located here is paramount – to keep Montgomery County residents employed, maintain a thriving economy, and to generate the revenue needed for government to provide the high quality of services we have all come to expect. Local governments cannot print money. Our school system, our libraries, and our recreational, public safety, transportation and social services rely on tax revenue to operate. That is why everyone needs to care about this issue. A strong economy benefits us all. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement.

Furthermore, I keep going back to this fundamental question: Who knows business better? Government or the business community? In other words, when trying to attract business which would be more effective, a dot-gov organization or a dot-com? I have determined that it’s the dot-com, which is why I am a strong supporter of the County’s Executive’s proposal to reorganize our current Department of Economic Development and create a non-profit corporation designated as the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) via Bill 25-15. Should this bill receive support of the Council, Montgomery County will follow in the footsteps of Howard, Fairfax, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s Counties the District of Columbia and Baltimore City, all of whom have non-governmental economic development organizations. While no structure is perfect, these jurisdictions have found this model to offer many benefits so we would not be creating the wheel with the proposed approach.

We live in an increasingly competitive local and global economy and cannot be complacent. To build and maintain a strong economy we must be nimble, adaptable, able to respond to changing market demands, and maintain strong relationships with the private sector. We must also have a clear, concise, forward –thinking strategic plan for economic development which is why, along with Councilmember Hans Riemer, I sponsored and passed a bill to require the executive to create and transmit a comprehensive economic development strategic plan for our county’s future. That plan is expected to be transmitted to the Council in September. A public/private model will provide the framework for success in this regard. 

The County Executive’s proposal will also establish a non-profit corporation as the workforce development arm of the county. This entity will coordinate with non-profits, businesses, industry leaders and Montgomery College and Universities at Shady Grove to ensure that our county’s workforce is prepared for today’s market and future market trends. 

Not all current economic development functions will be privatized. The reorganization of the current department will leave agricultural services and many small governmental-interfacing small business functions within County Government. Current agricultural services will be consolidated into an Office of Agricultural Services and I view this as a positive development. It is important to our agricultural economy and our agricultural community that this new Office receive the necessary resources to continue providing the same level of services that exist today.

The County also offers several services that aid our county’s business owners and it will be important to make sure those services remain easily accessible during what will be a complex transition if Bill 25-15 passes. Current DED staff such as the Small Business Navigator help with startup assistance, assist with small business financing, procurement, permitting, health department issues, referrals to resource partners, and much more. For that reason, I have come to the conclusion that our county’s small and mid-sized owners need a unified, one-stop place to interface with government and have recommended that we create an Office of Business Services (see page 117 in the link) as part of the reorganization. Such an office would not require new staff or resources, simply a consolidation of existing staff functions. Furthermore, there is no reason that this Office would compete or overlap with the new non–profit corporation (MCEDC) whose core mission will be attraction, recruitment, and retention of businesses. I am hoping for the support of my colleagues on this measure that I believe will greatly strengthen this initiative.

Moving Forward on Reforming Our Taxicab Regulations

For the past six months, our Council has been working on legislation to reform our taxicab regulations in Montgomery County. By the end of this month, the Transportation and Environment Committee will pass legislation that will loosen certain regulations for cab companies, improve working conditions for drivers, and get more vehicles on the road to better serve consumers – particularly disabled consumers. 

Previously, our Committee was considering instituting regulations for companies like Uber and Lyft, known as transportation networking companies, or TNCs. However, on the last day of session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a comprehensive law on TNCs. The one thing that was left to the county was the ability to impose a surcharge on TNCs to support transportation service in the county, a provision I fought hard to secure. I intend to introduce legislation on June 23 that will create this surcharge. This surcharge will go to support service for our disabled and wheelchair-bound residents, service that Uber and Lyft currently do not provide.

The legislation before us now will significantly alter the taxicab market in Montgomery County. We will modernize our laws, giving taxicabs new ways to innovate in a changing market. We will also empower our taxicab drivers. I have come to believe that our taxicab drivers are some of the most dis-empowered workers in our community. I believe that, for taxicab service to improve, we need drivers to have better working conditions, and for taxicab companies to compete for their services. Our legislation is set to do exactly that.

Affordable Housing Website Bill

Montgomery County has long been a national leader on the issue of affordable housing. And this is something that we and past Councils can take great pride in. In the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, our Council approved $44.66 million for our county’s Housing Initiative Fund. Those dollars will go a long way to worthwhile projects and initiatives aimed to help those who need housing assistance. 

However, despite our Council’s actions, we all know much more work remains to be done to expand and preserve our county's stock of affordable housing. And we can all also appreciate during these tight fiscal times, resources for more affordable housing - or a multitude of other worthy issues - are scarce. Because of that, I believe we should look at ways we can move the needle on this issue that would not cost us large sums of money. One such way I believe we can achieve that would be to assist in streamlining the search process for residents in need of affordable housing. 

To that end, I recently introduced legislation to create a "one-stop" website that would list all of the income-restricted units in the county, both for rent and for purchase. The website would serve as a clearinghouse for those looking for affordable housing by providing information regarding eligibility requirements, as well as unit listings, locations, and contact information. 

With long wait lists and information on affordable housing currently scattered over various websites, I feel that the least we could do for individuals and families looking for affordable housing many who work several jobs and have families to care for and/or maybe new to the county and unfamiliar with all of its various affordable housing programs – is to simplify the search process in a consumer friendly way. When I personally went on the DHCA's website for affordable rental units, the information listed was often years out of date. I shared both the legislation and my thoughts about needing a better website with our Director of DHCA, who readily agreed that it could and should be much better.

The next step in the legislative process will be for the PHED Committee to have a worksession on the bill, which is tentatively scheduled for July 27. For more information about that or if you wish to comment on the bill, please contact Warren Hansen of my staff.

Friend of Glen Echo Park & CSG Awards

Over the past eight plus years, I have had the privilege of devoting my personal energy to many aspects of our county life. Two of those aspects of which I am most passionate are implementing smart growth principles and supporting our extraordinary arts and humanities community. And two organizations that embody those causes were so very kind in recognizing those efforts in late May.

On May 16, I was humbled to join a great group of people (including Catherine Leggett, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen) who have received the Friend of the Park Award by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture. Glen Echo has been part of the fabric of my life – and the lives of so many others – since my children were exposed to the wonders of Adventure Theater. Its richness as a cultural institution is extraordinary. And the breadth of their offerings is unparalleled – art galleries, dance, theater, glass blowing, jewelry making, photography, puppetry, and more. It is also one of those rare public-private partnerships that have worked. Just put me down as a big fan of this wonderful place. I am privileged to have supported it and so honored they gave me this award. In receiving this award, I was pleased to be introduced by Town of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin and CBS News Correspondent Julianna Goldman (to my right in above photo). 

Four days later, on May 20, the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG), a terrific organization, had its annual event and awards ceremony. CSG has been such a positive and instrumental force in framing and advocating for a better quality of life for our county and the region by its devotion to first class transit and multimodal transportation options as well as vibrant, enlivened urban nodes. But you can’t just have a vision, even the right one. You need people who will work hard to bring it about – and CSG has brought that quality to the table as well. And it is as much a result of their work as mine or anyone else that our county has embraced this path to our future. So it was particularly gratifying to receive the Frederick and Diana Prince Livable Communities Leadership Award from Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of CSG (photo above).

To see my remarks from the Glen Echo Park event, click here

Earth Day Art Contest Awards Reception

As Chairman of our Council’s Environment Committee, Earth Day is one of my favorite holidays of the year. We are fortunate in Montgomery County to have many forward thinking environmental leaders who work tirelessly to preserve the quality of life we are fortunate to enjoy for our children and grandchildren. 

In this spirit of finding the next generation of environmentalists, I invited MCPS students in grades 3 through 8 to celebrate Earth Day by participating in my office’s First Ever Earth Day Art competition. The theme was Making A Difference. We got many submissions, showing the immense artistic abilities and environmental stewardship we have amongst our County's students. Below are the winners and runner-ups as well as links to their artwork: 

Winners:
Hannah Riley, 5th Grade, Sligo Creek ES 
Alex Leonard, 6th Grade, Rosa Parks MS
Kelsey Parchment, 6th Grade, North Chevy Chase ES
Yujin Chang, 6th Grade, Kingsview MS
Yashwanth Byreddy, 6th Grade, Kingsview MS

Runner-Ups:
Taylor Sophia Pyle, 3rd Grade, Bannockburn ES
Emma Grospierre, 3rd Grade, Pine Crest ES
Lauren Riley, 5th, Pine Crest ES

To celebrate all eight of these individuals, I held an awards ceremony at the Council Office Building. To see footage from the ceremony, click here.

Refreshing Our County's Master Plan of Bikeways

I am a big supporter of strong bicycle infrastructure. Bicycles can offer not only tremendous recreation opportunities, but also are great commuting tools. And more and more of our residents are commuting by bicycle every single day. This past winter, I heard from many in our community that our decision to plow the Capital Crescent Trail for the first time had made their commute possible. 

More of our residents are riding bicycles throughout the county, and now our bicycling plan needs to catch up with the reality on the ground. Luckily, our county's planners are doing exactly that, and are engaging in a comprehensive update of the Master Plan of Bikeways for the first time since 2005. Beginning in July, they will be reaching out to the community to better understand how our residents would like to see the bike infrastructure grow.

Perhaps the most valuable thing that this plan will do will be to establish a network of "low-stress" bicycle routes in our county. Currently, surveys suggest that 60 percent of residents are interested in biking, but concerned for their safety. If we are to unleash the full potential of bike ridership, then we need to tap into this group of potential riders. And the only way to do that is by creating infrastructure, like cycle tracks, that makes for safe and comfortable riding experiences.

To follow this effort, please visit here.  I look forward to considering the final recommendations of the Planning Board when they come before the Council in Fall 2017. 

Out & About 

Montgomery County is blessed to have a variety of diverse communities that add so much to our quality of life. Each one of these communities has a tremendous desire to engage civically and help make the County a great place to live, work, and achieve their dreams. As a Councilmember, a key component of my work is to reach out to these communities, understand the role they play, and address issues of importance to them. The month of May was a wonderful period to interact with, recognize, and celebrate the things that some of these communities are bringing to our County. 

On May 3, I attended the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation (MCMF)’s Annual Community Cookout. This event recognized the tireless hours of passion and devotion that MCMF volunteers put into organizing events such as its Annual Food Drive, and it was truly heartening to witness the sheer numbers of volunteers involved in this great work. It almost goes without saying that MCMF’s commitment to assisting the most vulnerable in our County year after year has touched the lives of so many individuals and families.

May was also Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and I was pleased to celebrate it at the Montgomery County Council with members and leaders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Our County has the largest Asian-Pacific American population in the State, with nearly 15% of our citizens belonging to these communities. On May 12, it was my honor to present our county’s AAPI communities with a proclamation recognizing their dedication, perseverance, and passion and their continued contributions to our County. 

I have had a firsthand experience of the wonderful values of the AAPI communities, as I accompanied some of my colleagues and AAPI community leaders to a trip to China in 2013 as a part of the County’s Sister Cities Program. 

The AAPI and Muslim communities have helped to position our County today as a symbol of true diversity – one that embraces the vast cultural experiences that exist in its communities. I look forward to seeing future contributions from them, particularly those efforts that help individuals in need. 

Nonprofit of the Month: Leveling the Playing Field 

 For this edition’s installment of “Nonprofit of the Month,” with summer vacation in full swing, I wanted to highlight Leveling the Playing Field, a nonprofit working every day to improve the opportunity for athletic involvement among underserved youth in Montgomery County. Nationwide, underserved youth are three times less likely to participate in athletics than their peers. Why is that? Studies show that one in five undeserved families are not getting their kids involved in youth sports because of the price of equipment. In Montgomery County, the primary way to play youth sports is through a private sports league. These leagues can be expensive and do not provide equipment to the kids, leaving a large population of kids on the sidelines. 

In order to fulfill this growing demand for youth sports programming – youth programs, after school programs, neighborhood community centers, and volunteer-based youth development organizations have begun offering athletics as part of their program. The problem is that in order to raise the funds to provide equipment for their teams (the kids cannot afford their own), they have been forced to change high registration fees. This is a systematic issue that must be addressed.

That is where Leveling the Playing Field comes in. They collect equipment from colleges, grade schools, private leagues, manufacturers, and hundreds of families locally. They then distribute donations every week to charter schools, youth centers, after school programs, and whoever else needs equipment in order to make their youth sports program more accessible and affordable. In just over two years, Leveling the Playing Field has donated 70,000 pieces of equipment impacting over 80,000 kids locally. Most importantly, their donations have saved programs over $750,000 in equipment expenses, allowing about 75% of their beneficiaries to either directly lower registration fees or allot funds into other aspects of their program in order to make it more accessible. 

As we are here in the midst of summer vacation season, I hope you think of Leveling the Playing Field when you are cleaning out your garage and find unused equipment. To drop off equipment, donors can visit their warehouse during regular business hours at 9170 Brookville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

You can also schedule house calls to pick up the equipment. If you are interested in running a collection drive for Leveling the Playing Field or would like to volunteer at their warehouse, either visit their website at www.levelingtheplayingfield.org or email info@levelingtheplayingfield.org.

 

Infrastructure & Growth Forum Survey

On March 7, I hosted a forum entitled Infrastructure and Growth: Are We Keeping Pace?” If you have a few minutes, I would be grateful for your feedback (even if you didn’t attend) by filling out a short survey which is based exclusively on feedback received at the forum.  

This survey is not at all meant to be a scientific survey – just an attempt to further refine some of the ideas formulated at the forum and get a better sense of your priorities that I can then share with my colleagues on the Council, at MCPS, in the Executive Branch and our Planning Department, and the public on my office website. It is one small tool intended to keep our conversation going.

To see highlights from the March 7 Forum, please visit my office website

Montgomery County By The Numbers

Did you know?...The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the April unemployment for the County – 3.7%.  This was the first time the unemployment rate was below 4.0% since December 2008.  Good news!

Notice Of Property Tax Scam

Have you recently received a letter in the mail from the “Maryland Property Review Board?” If so, read more here, as it is part of a scam.

Predatory Towing Legislation: Let Your Voice Be Heard

I have introduced legislation (Bill 17-15) to combat the practice of predatory towing. This unscrupulous business practice is the all-too-often occurrence in our county of towing companies removing people's vehicles from a lot improperly or overly aggressively. All eight of my Council colleagues have co-sponsored my legislation. There will be two Transportation and Environment committee worksessions on this bill, scheduled for June 29 and July 16.

Have you been a victim of predatory towing?
Yes
No
Click to open 

Bethesda Downtown Plan Update

As you may be aware, the Planning Department Staff released their staff draft recommendations for the Downtown Bethesda Plan in May. The Planning Board will hold public hearings on this draft on Wednesday, June 24th from 2–5:30 pm and from 7-9:30 pm at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center. You can sign up to testify here.

After the Planning Board reviews the Plan and makes their recommendations to the Council sometime this fall, the Council will then hold another public hearing. This hearing is not scheduled yet, but is expected to occur in early 2016. After the Council’s public hearing, the Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic development Committee will review the Plan and eventually make recommendations to the full Council. It may be spring or even summer of 2016 before the full Council votes on the Bethesda Plan.

I share this with you to emphasize lengthy process still ahead for those of us interested in this Plan. Given correspondence I have received and conversations with residents, I would say there is a fair amount of excitement about the Plan, but also some concerns about the overall amount of new density it will recommend, what will happen around the edges, the impact on schools, and what public amenities that will be included. These are all very legitimate concerns and I urge you to share them with the Planning Board on June 24 or by writing to them if you can’t attend. Your input is important and can have a real impact on the Planning Board’s recommendations to us.

In my own initial review of the staff draft, I was pleased to see the creation or expansion of ten new parks, a recommendation for one hundred fifty new acres of tree canopy, three new acres of public open space, and four new miles of bikeways. It is clear that the Planning Department has been working hard to create a plan that will make Bethesda more livable, walkable and bikeable. Despite the extra density that is almost certain to be part of Bethesda’s future.

When this plan comes before me in 2016, I will certainly be fully engaged in the review process and will be paying particular attention to school capacity issues, recommended public amenities and especially public gathering spaces, ways to improve traffic flow, and accommodations for adjacent residential communities.

Senior Transportation Services

As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee and chair of the Transportation Committee, I am very focused on improving transportation offerings that benefit our most vulnerable residents. That is why I worked hard for ways to improve taxicab service for the disabled as part of the Uber and Lyft discussion. 

And that is why I want to highlight The Senior Connection, a Montgomery County nonprofit based out of Silver Spring that for years has used volunteers to provide rides for seniors in our community, to the tune of 12,500 rides per year. This service helps seniors retain their mobility in their old age and makes sure they can access the grocery store, the doctor's office, and other places they may need to go. 

One of their current major initiatives is to better coordinate the services of the several organizations in our community that provide rides for seniors. With many nonprofits in our community, one of the best things our nonprofits can do is work together and coordinate on shared initiatives. In the end, that not only helps nonprofits better focus their efforts (as the demand for services keeps growing), but it also better services those looking to access services.

To learn more about The Senior Connection, please visit their website.

Road Work Updates 

It's summer again, and that means that it's road work season. Because of our aging infrastructure, and some increased county and state funds, there is a lot of work going on now. Below I've provided some updates and some helpful links about work that's going on. If you see something in your neighborhood and don't see it on these links, please feel free to contact us!

Project Highlights:  The closure of Hillendale Road in Bethesda has ended, and Montgomery County Highway Services is now completing some final repairs before opening the path again...Newbridge Drive in Potomac is closed once again, until the July 4 weekend, as Highway Services and WSSC work to replace a water main that could not be replaced during the original closure...SHA is continuing its culvert work at the intersection of 355 and Cedar Lane and will be beginning intersection improvements at Old Georgetown Road and Cedar shortly...SHA has also announced that they have found resources to finish the North Bethesda Trolley Trail along Old Georgetown Road, and work should be finished by summer 2016.

Helpful Links:  To find out about road resurfacing on county roads, visit here. Click on the Bethesda, Gaithersburg West or Poolesville Depot pages for information about projects in District 1.

To follow WSSC projects in the community, visit the 'WSSC In Your Neighborhood' site. Soon, we should see all projects on the county on a similar site.

White Flint 2 Sector Plan Launch

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is launching the White Flint 2 Sector Plan on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 7 p.m. at an open house to be held at the Luxmanor Elementary School (6201 Tilden Lane, North Bethesda, MD).

Community residents and business owners are invited to hear about the goals of the Sector Plan, and learn about existing conditions and challenges. County planners will discuss the scope of the Plan and answer questions from participants. Community feedback on the initial ideas for the Plan will be recorded on a “graffiti wall” at the event. RSVPs are encouraged but not required.


Background on the White Flint 2 Sector Plan 

The White Flint 2 Plan aims to fill in the gaps between the areas covered by the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, the Twinbrook Sector Plan and the pending City of Rockville plan for Rockville Pike (MD 355). Its land use, zoning, and transportation recommendations will apply to properties in a bow-tie-shaped area between the boundaries of these already established Plans. White Flint 2 will help link those elements that are common to all of the Plan areas, including Rockville Pike and the proposed network of bike lanes and public open spaces.

Planners will consider parcels along Executive Boulevard, west of Old Georgetown Road; east of the CSX rail tracks, between Randolph Road and Nicholson Lane; and north of Montrose Parkway along Rockville Pike to the city limits of Rockville. Nicholson Court, of which only a portion was part of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, will also be included in the proposed White Flint 2 Plan area.

Issues confronting the White Flint 2 planners include: 

• How should plans for Rockville Pike, which runs through both the City and County, be coordinated and designed?

• What transportation policies should be introduced or amended?
• How can uses on both sides of the MARC station and CSX tracks be integrated?
• Should light-industrial-zoned properties be retained?
• What are the school capacity impacts from significant amounts of new residential development?
• What is the potential for creating walkable, mixed-use development in this area?
• How can bicycle and pedestrian connectivity be encouraged?

For more information about the White Flint 2 Plan and June 25 open house, contact:
Nkosi Yearwood via email or tel. 301.495.1332, or contact Andrea Gilles, via email or tel. 301.495.4541.

Stay connected with the latest information about the WF2 Sector Plan
 
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Westbard Sector Plan Update

I have received a great deal of mail on the Westbard Sector Plan despite the fact that the Planning Department has not even made its initial recommendations! This is a sure sign that the surrounding community is very engaged in the Westbard planning process and that is a good thing!

To give you a sense of the schedule for this Plan moving forward, I will share the following:

Planning Department Staff Draft: Summer 2015 (tentative)
Planning Board Public Hearing: Fall 2015 (tentative)
Planning Board Draft to Council: December 2015 (tentative)
Council Public hearing: March 2016 (tentative)
PHED Committee Review: Spring or Summer 2016 (tentative)
Full Council Review: Summer or Fall 2016 (tentative)

While I am always glad to hear from residents, until the Planning Board makes its recommendations to the Council, I would urge you to share your thoughts and opinions regarding the Plan with the planning Staff and Planning Board. They are the decision makers until the Plan gets sent over to the Council this winter.

You can find a great deal of information about the Westbard Sector Plan on the Planning Department website, including power point presentations and summaries of public meetings, staff contacts, and an area for public comment.

Interages Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

On Wednesday, May 27, I had the privilege of attending the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon for the Jewish Council for the Aging’s Interages Program

The Interages program was started 29 years ago by my good friend Austin Heyman (whom I am talking with in the above photo), who had the vision to bring together government and our school system to improve our collective efforts in establishing intergenerational programs.

Over the history of the Interages program, thousands of children from hundreds of schools and hundreds of isolated older adults from senior facilities have benefited from participation in the program. And over that same time period, hundreds of dedicated and caring older adult volunteers, who are the heart of Interages, have made a significant difference in the lives of these children and adults.

Just in Fiscal Year 2014 alone, Interages benefited 1,014 students, 264 active older adult volunteers that mentor and tutor in the schools, and 387 frail elderly citizens participating from senior facilities. In total, over 6,600 volunteer hours were provided by active older adults.

I was pleased to be a part in this luncheon, as all of this wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and passion of Interages’ volunteers. Thank you to each volunteer for what you do in making Montgomery County truly a community for a lifetime.

New Tenant Wanted For Darby Store 

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to lease the recently rehabilitated Darby Store which is located in the Beallsville, MD Historic District. 

Located at the intersection of Routes 28 and 109, this beautiful rehabilitated country store offers a generous 3,500+ square feet of combined retail, office and storage space. It also includes a new parking lot, HVAC, plumbing and electric systems, and an ADA accessible front entrance. The property is zoned Neighborhood Retail (NR).

M-NCPPC is looking for a tenant who will have creative ideas for this special building that may include but are not limited to:
• Handicraft, music, book, gift, art, variety store
• Antiques, furniture or furnishings shop
• Garden supply, hardware center
• Charitable / philanthropic institution, museum
• Office space
For general information about Darby Store and the proposal please contact Julie Mueller at 301-650-4390.

For a copy of the RFP documents contact Jana Harris.

The deadline to apply is July 7 before 11:30 am.

Sign Up for Our Legislative Updates

If you wish to stay up to date on all the action here at the Council, please sign up for our Legislative Alerts which are emailed once a week on Wednesdays. New legislation and Council Agendas are updated each week.

Improvements Coming to Potomac and Ayrlawn Parks

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) Montgomery Parks and the Montgomery County Department of Recreation are constantly working to improve the accessibility of recreation facilities, programs, and services throughout the County.

Two parks in District 1 are slated for such work this summer: Potomac Community Neighborhood Park and Ayrlawn Local Park.

The improvements to Potomac Community Neighborhood Park will provide better accessibility to the tennis courts, basketball courts and playground. Park access may be temporarily affected by the construction. Improvements will provide better access for those with disabilities. Construction is expected to be completed by August. 

At Ayrlawn Local Park, Montgomery Parks will be making several improvements to enhance circulation to and through the park. All upgrades will conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Please visit www.ParkProjects.org for more information. Visit the Accessibility Information for Montgomery Parks webpage for additional information on other ADA projects.

Commissions and Committees Vacancies

Three county commissions and committees are looking for applicants to fill vacancies. Each of these commissions and committee have a July 1 application deadline. 

1) There are currently 13 vacancies on the Commission on Children and Youth, for three agency representatives, three parent representatives, and seven youth (under the age of 21) representatives. Two agency representatives, three parent representatives, and four youth representatives are eligible to apply for reappointment.
The 27-member Commission advises the County Executive, County Council, Department of Health and Human Services, and Board of Education on policies, programs and services which support children, youth and their families.

2) There are six vacancies on the Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee. Individuals with either an air quality or energy background are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be Montgomery County residents.
The committee is particularly interested in individuals with professional experience, education and knowledge in the fields of energy (especially energy efficiency and clean energy) and air quality issues.

3) There are six vacancies on the Commission for Women. Three vacancies are for applicants that must be nominated and recommended by an organization within the County whose interests relate to the status of women, and this endorsement should be included with the application. Three vacancies are for individuals applying on their own behalf. Five incumbents are eligible to apply for reappointment.

The primary responsibility of the 15-member Commission is to advise residents, the County Executive, the County Council, and agencies of the county, state, and federal governments on issues of concern to women.

To apply for any of these three or other commissions or committees, visit here.

Last Newsletter

Did you miss the previous 2015 edition of The Berliner Brief? Click here for the browser version.

My Office

As always, my staff and I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you at community events.

Cindy Gibson is my Chief of Staff and handles land use issues for me; Drew Morrison works on transportation, environment, and energy issues; Warren Hansen assists with education, health and human services, and parks and recreation issues; Zac Trupp handles public safety issues, constituent service, manages my busy calendar, and is the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when you call our office; and Vikrum Mathur works on government operations matters, fiscal policy, cable and technology issues as well as helps with outreach efforts. All of them will try to facilitate your interaction with County government in any way that they can.

 

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