Update on Recent Meetings

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Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board

This board, which is appointed by the county executive, has a number of Montgomery Village residents on it including the board’s Chair, Linda Moore, who had previously served a three-year term on the MVF Board of Directors. The other Montgomery Village residents serving on the Upcounty board include Dennis Barnes and Tiffany Kennedy.

The October 21 meeting included a presentation from At-Large County Councilmember Evan Glass, who provided a general overview of the current legislative work of the county council, but then focused on a bill that he has recently introduced called the “Housing Impact Fairness Act.” Glass noted that the legislation closes a loophole in the collection of impact fees by the county, so that all new housing structures would contribute to schools and affordable housing needs. Glass said the impact tax would only apply to homes that were demolished and rebuilt to a greater square footage.

The next presentation was from representatives of Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) divisions, including highway maintenance, transit services, Ride On operations and transportation planning. It was announced that County Executive Marc Elrich will nominate current MCDOT Deputy Director Chris Conklin to be the next department director. Al Roshdieh announced his retirement from the county after 30 years of service.

The final presentation was from Robert Eisinger, a county developer who is an advocate for developing a monorail system on I-270 from Frederick to Shady Grove, with six stations along the way. State leaders have agreed to study the monorail proposal as part of the overall study to make improvements to I-270. Eisinger argues that it will be more cost effective than other proposals that are on the table.

Upcounty Transportation Town Hall Forum

Senator Nancy King, along with several other upcounty state leaders, joined with a number of county council members to discuss the status of important transportation projects serving upper Montgomery County and beyond. There was a lot of discussion about Governor Hogan’s decision not to fund the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), which has been in the county’s master plan for years. The governor shocked many when he announced that the project would no longer receive state funding.

County Executive Marc Elrich, who attended the forum, noted the CCT’s importance not only to congestion relief, but to economic development, especially with regard to the development of the John’s Hopkins Science City project on the old Banks Farm in the Gaithersburg area. Councilmember Sidney Katz raised the issue of building M-83, indicating the importance of both transit and road projects in reducing congestion. Many in attendance at the meeting applauded building the road, but some disagreed. County Executive Marc Elrich, and all but council members Katz and Rice, oppose M-83. County Councilmember Wil Jawando questioned the cost of building M-83 and the amount of congestion relief it would yield.

There was also discussion of the P3 (Public Private Partnership) to implement improvements to both I-270 and I-495. Governor Hogan would like to build express toll lanes connecting to Virginia, but County Executive Elrich remarked during the meeting that he is in favor of studying reversing traffic flow during morning and evening rush hours or adding lanes within the current roadway boundaries.

Another major topic was the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along MD Route 355, which recently received additional county funding to accelerate detailed planning.

Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC)

I recently attended a meeting of the county’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee to listen to a briefing on the work by both CCOC and the department that is responsible for enforcing county law regulating common ownership communities, of which Montgomery Village is one of the largest.

It is interesting to note that over 1/3 of Montgomery County residents live in communities governed by homeowners or condominium associations. A major function of the commission is to provide a dispute resolution mechanism to hear and resolve disputes between homeowner and condominium associations and homeowners and residents. The commission also provides training to boards and is working on expanding opportunities for board members and community managers.

In FY19, the CCOC worked to resolve 70 cases, most of which dealt with architectural and maintenance issues of associations.

An important issue that was discussed was the involvement of representatives from CCOC on the County’s Distressed Community Taskforce. The taskforce is expected to focus on issues related to financially stressed condominiums and homeowner associations. There was no time frame set for the taskforce to report out, but it is expected sometime in 2020. Several of the county council members in attendance were interested in developing “assistance programs” to try and assist these associations. For more information, go to the Montgomery County CCOC website.

FY’21 County Budget Forum

I attended the FY’21 County Budget Forum hosted by County Executive Elrich on November 7 at the Blackrock Center for the Arts in Germantown. The annual forum, which is held in multiple locations around the county, allows for the county executive to explain the budget process and highlight important goals for the coming year.

The current year budget totals $5.8B, with the largest expenditures for Montgomery County Public Schools at over $2.6B, Public Safety at over $600M and Debt Service at $439M. Montgomery College is funded at over $300M and Libraries and Recreation receive under $100M.

Elrich mentioned that he was working with the county council on having a two-year budget cycle, which a number of larger jurisdictions have implemented. He said the county is in good financial shape, with adequate reserves, and maintains a AAA bond rating, which is very important for the county to secure financing for capital projects at a low interest rate. There was no discussion of a tax increase in the budget, probably because it is so early in the FY’20 budget year to make those projections.

About 20 speakers, many of whom were representatives from a particular nonprofit, requested that the county maintain or add funding in the FY’21 operating budget. Elrich noted his budget priorities included funding for early childhood education, affordable housing, etc. Elrich will be announcing his recommended operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year on Monday, March 16, 2020.