Goshen Road Project
This long funded county project became a political football this year as the county council looked for additional funding for schools and other projects. It is clear that the project scale will be adjusted when further planning is commenced, possibly in 2020.
The county has already spent over $10 million to design the project over the last four years. The project will remain in the CIP, but no additional funding is expected before 2019 except for $300,000 in FY20 to evaluate possible alternatives to the current project scope.
It is my expectation that they will significantly downscale the project, but include some straightening of the road, intersection improvements and some sidewalk/bike path additions.
Homeowners Association Road Maintenance Reimbursement
Earlier this year, the county council tried to repeal county law that would reimburse HOAs for private road maintenance, but this failed. However, the county council continued not to fund this obligation, arguing a stressed budget and other priorities.
The county will meet its obligation of passing through state funds to assist with road maintenance for HOAs. The "state" program reimburses HOAs for roads eligible to be counted for State Highway User Revenue; the funds associated with these roads are sent to the county and then passed through to the HOAs. Most of the 50-odd miles of eligible roads under this program are in Montgomery Village, but there are a few miles in Olney and Germantown as well.
The "county" program is supposed to reimburse HOAs for eligible roads at roughly the cost that the county spends to maintain its own roads, subject to the availability of appropriations. However, for two decades the county council has limited the reimbursement to around $1,000 per eligible mile, a fraction of the cost of maintaining a county road.
For the FY2010 budget, the county council reduced the appropriation to only about $250 per eligible mile, and for FY2011 through FY2018, they suspended funding for this program altogether. This would be the ninth year with no funding for the "county" program. The good news is that the state continues to meet its obligation. However, if in future years, the county does repeal its reimbursement program, it is likely that the state would follow suit.
Small Cell Tower Legislation
On May 3, the county council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee recommended approval of ZTA 18-02 with a few amendments. ZTA 18-02, Telecommunications Towers – Limited Use as introduced would have changed zoning regulations related to the placement of telecommunications antennas in non-residential zones and the provision for antennas on existing structures in all zones. But at the conclusion of the two-plus-hour hearing, the committee recommended no changes in the residential zones. This retains the current setback and building height standards for antennas on existing facilities in residential zones, and adds provisions that will require compatible antenna enclosures where antennas are allowed. The ZTA would allow more permissive standards for antennas where they are currently allowed as a limited in commercial/residential, industrial and employment zones.
A majority of the committee also recommended lowering the maximum allowable tower heights for new towers that require conditional use approval. The committee recommended approval of ZTA 18-02 with the amendments it suggested. County staff prepared the amendments, which were adopted by the county council on May 15.