Thursday, August 28, 2014

Labor Day Activities

Opportunities abound this Labor Day, according to Visit Montgomery. Here are their highlights. Also, check my blog for Montgomery County's holiday schedule.

Town of Brookeville
U.S. Capital for a Day
August 30, 10:00-7:00
Sunday, August 31, 12:00-6:00

Join the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 as Brookeville commemorates U.S. Capital for a Day. The Town of Brookeville will recreate the life and spirit of August 1814 with living historians playing the roles of local scientists, engineers, teachers, tradesmen and craftspeople. Costumed volunteers and horses will re-enact the extraordinary events, including the arrival of President Madison guarded by 20 mounted militiamen.

Labor Day Art Show at Glen Echo Park
August 30-September 1, 12:00-6:00

Visit the Labor Day Art Show in the Spanish Ballroom Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The exhibition will feature the work of more than 250 artists from the mid-Atlantic region. The show will include works in a wide range of artistic media, such as sculpture, painting and drawing, ceramics, glass, jewelry, fiber arts, photography, furniture and works on paper. Also check out the Irish Music and Dance Showcase in the Bumper Car Pavilion Saturday, August 30 through Monday, September 1 from 1:00 to 5:00 each day.

Gaithersburg Labor Day Parade
September 1, 1:00

The City of Gaithersburg celebrates the unofficial end of summer with its annual Labor Day Parade. Participants in this year's parade include an assortment of fire engines, high school marching bands, giant balloons, horses, clowns and more. This year's parade is dedicated to the law enforcement community in honor and celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Gaithersburg Police Department.

Kensington Labor Day Parade
September 1, 10:00-3:00

Celebrate Labor Day with a parade and festival. The Kensington Parade begins at St. Paul's St. and Plyers Mill. The festival is located along Howard and Armory Avenues. Enjoy a day of family entertainment with a parade, live music, arts and crafts, food and kids activities.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Holiday Schedule for Labor Day

Here's the holiday schedule for Labor Day on Monday, September 1:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County liquor stores – open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Recreation – outdoor aquatic facilities will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Olney Indoor Swim Center will be open normal hours, all other indoor aquatic facilities will be closed. Administrative offices, senior centers and community centers are closed.
  • Montgomery Parks – for operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On – Sunday schedule
  • Metrobus – Sunday schedule
  • Metrorail – Sunday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – closed
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices & courts – closed

    *Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Friday, August 22, 2014

County's Message for a Safe School Year

Montgomery County Public Schools will be back in session on Monday, August 25, and now is the time to review some important back-to-school safety tips.

On January 2, 2014, Montgomery County began implementation of an automated school bus camera enforcement program. Every driver should know that when approaching a stopped school bus with activated stop sign and flashing red lights, Maryland law requires that all traffic from both directions must stop and remain stopped until the stop sign and lights are de-activated. That includes when driving on a two-lane roadway, a two-lane roadway with a center turning lane and a four-lane roadway without a median separation. The only exception is for a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation. The lanes of traffic separated by the median and going in the opposite direction from the bus do not have to stop. Traffic going in the same direction of the bus, does of course, have to stop.

The automated school bus camera enforcement program continues to expand and is designed to allow the cameras to be moved throughout the county as needed. These violations are reviewed by the police department’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit (ATEU) and citations are mailed to the registered owner. The fine from the automated enforcement is $125.00. No points are associated with a citation issued through this program. If a driver is stopped by a police officer for passing a stopped school bus with flashing lights, the fine is $570 and 3 points.

Montgomery County Police remind drivers that it is very important to obey the posted speed limit and pay close attention to their surroundings at all times.

Safety Tips for Parents, Motorists, and Children

  • Expect delays near schools.  Know your route, start early, and drive the posted speed limit.
  • Motorists not involved in dropping off or picking up students should consider adjusting their route or schedule in order to avoid arrival and dismissal traffic in front of schools.
  • Park only in lawful areas. Parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk is against the law and can obstruct visibility for both pedestrians and motorists.
  • Unload school children onto the sidewalk or the right side of the vehicle.  Unloading school children into a traffic lane could put a child in harm’s way.
  • Always obey the directions given by an adult school crossing guard and a student safety patrol.
  • Instruct children to remain alert and look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.
  • Students should walk on a sidewalk if available or if one is not available, walk facing the traffic
  • Pedestrians should not use cell phones to talk or text or wear headphones when crossing the street.
  • Students riding bikes to school must follow all traffic rules and signs, i.e. stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Ride on the right side of the road and come to a compete stop before crossing a street.
  • By law, all children under the age of 18 must wear a bicycle helmet (positioned level on the head to cover the forehead) when riding or being carried on a bicycle while riding on a public street, right-of-way, or on a bicycle path.
  • The start of school is also a good time to remind children of basic safe practices.  Children should not speak to strangers and, once they are home, they should not open or answer a knock at the door if an adult is not present without first determining who is there. Children should have a list of parents’, neighbors’, and/or relatives’ phone numbers that they can call for assistance. Children should also know when it is appropriate to call 9-1-1 and 301-279-8000, the police non-emergency number.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

School Bus Safety

Everyone knows you have to stop behind a school bus with its lights flashing. But do you have to stop if you approach the bus from the front? What if there is a median strip? And what's the fine for those who fail to stop? Get the answers to these questions as well as school bus safety tips in this new public service announcement from County Cable Montgomery. As the video reminds us, kids can be unpredictable, so we have to be extra cautious.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Apply Now to Police Citizen Academy

The Montgomery County Police Department is currently accepting applications for future sessions of the Citizen Academy.  The program is free, but participants must be 18 years of age or older and either live or work in Montgomery County.

Participants who are selected for the program are required to attend 14 of the 18 classes to be eligible for graduation. Some of the topics covered include:  firearm safety, Maryland traffic law, investigating major crimes, drug identification, scams and fraud, prostitution, forensics/crime lab, physical/sexual child abuse, a canine demonstration, DUI/underage drinking, and the procedures of the Emergency Response Team. Academy members also have the option of touring the Montgomery County Detention Center and participating in a ride-along with a police officer.

The first Citizen Academy was held in January of 1994.  It was developed as an extension of the Department’s community policing efforts.  Community members who went through the program came out with a greater awareness of the functions of the police department, the various roles of police officers, and a better understanding of why and how officers do their jobs.

Each year two sessions (spring and fall) of the Citizen Academy are held at the Public Safety Training Academy located at 9710 Great Seneca Highway in Rockville. Classes are offered on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for 18 consecutive weeks.

The 2014 fall session of the Citizen Academy is scheduled to begin on September 16 and run through February 3. Applications from those wishing to enroll in the fall session must be received by August 15.  Once the fall session is full, all other applications will be held for potential enrollment in future Citizen Academy classes.  The 2015 spring session of the Citizen Academy will begin in March. To learn more about the Citizen Academy or to download an application, please visit our Citizen’s Academy page.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Agricultural Fair August 8-16

Mark your calendar for the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair August 8-16. This showcase of farm life in Montgomery County features live animals, carnival rides, a variety of entertainment, food and fun activities for all ages. Kids especially enjoy the opportunity to see all kinds of farm animals up close, including prize-winning goats, sheep, pigs, dairy cattle and horses. Live entertainment includes monster trucks, demolition derby, pro wrestling and much more. You can also purchase quilting, clothing, canned goods, baked goods and vegetables from local farmers and enjoy arts and crafts exhibits of local youth.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Council Approves White Oak Master Plan

The Council approved the much-anticipated White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan transforming the area on the east side of the County around the Route 29 corridor and the Food and Drug Administration into a community of vibrant mixed-use centers. With the passage of this plan, we are realizing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create the opportunity for robust employment and amenities in the eastern part of the County after a generation of moratoria.

The plan, which covers approximately 3,000 acres, amends portions of the approved and adopted 1997 Fairland Master Plan and portions of the approved and adopted 1997 White Oak: Master Plan. The White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan area is bounded by the Capital Beltway on the south, Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park on the west, U.S. Route 29 and Cherry Hill Road on the north and Prince George’s County on the east.

The plan recommends rezoning commercial areas to the Commercial/Residential (CR) zones, which allow a broad range of commercial uses, including general offices, technology and biotechnology, research and development, hospitals, educational institutions, some manufacturing and production. It also allows multi-family residential and supportive retail services to create a complete community.

The Food and Drug Administration, which will bring thousands of employees and visitors to the White Oak area, will serve as a catalyst for additional growth. The County is pursuing development of a major life sciences center on its 115-acre property known as Site 2 and has partnered with Percontee, owners of the adjacent 185-acre site, to create the potential for a 300-acre mixed-use development. Adjacent to both of these parcels is a nearly 50-acre property for the planned relocation of Washington Adventist Hospital.

The plan recommends a prominent civic promenade be part of the project. Mixed use zoning will encourage a combination of commercial, residential and retail uses within the compact, walkable center.

OLO Report on Procurement Process for Local, Small or Minority Business

The Office of Legislative Oversight recently released two reports that looked at issues affecting economic development.

One looks at the County’s procurement process for local, small or minority businesses. The report, titled “Procurement and Small, Minority, Female, Disabled and Locally-Owned Businesses,” summarizes survey data collected from approximately 1,200 businesses about the County’s procurement process and the Local Small Business Reserve and the Minority, Female and Disabled-Owned Business programs. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 29, 2014—The Montgomery County Council released a report today from the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) regarding the County’s procurement process for local, small or minority businesses. The report, titled “Procurement and Small, Minority, Female, Disabled and Locally-Owned Businesses,” summarizes survey data collected from approximately 1,200 businesses about the County’s procurement process and the Local Small Business Reserve (LSBRP) and the Minority, Female and Disabled-Owned Business (MFD) programs.

The report summarizes the experiences of local small businesses with the County procurement process, including a look at the steps involved in the application process and the County’s interaction with businesses. 

While survey respondents reported mixed experiences with County procurement, OLO found a strong interest among the business community to provide goods and services to County Government. 

Based on the survey results, OLO recommended in its report that the County Government strengthen current procurement outreach efforts and develop consistent follow-up for bid submissions.   

The report is available at the OLO web site at:  
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/olo/reports.


OLO Report on Project Approval Timeframes

The Office of Legislative Oversight recently released two reports that looked at issues affecting economic development.

One examines the review and approval timeframes for preliminary plans, site plans and record plats for development projects in Montgomery County. The report found that certain projects that are required to go through all stages of the review process could take more than three years to gain approval. It also states that the median processing timeframes for new preliminary plans, new site plans and record plats exceed the limited timeframe guidelines or assumptions that exist in County law or are published in agency documents. Here is the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 29, 2014—The Montgomery County Council today released a report from the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) that examines the review and approval timeframes for preliminary plans, site plans and record plats for development projects in Montgomery County. The report found that certain projects that are required to go through all stages of the review process could take more than three years to gain approval. It also states that the median processing timeframes for new preliminary plans, new site plans and record plats exceed the limited timeframe guidelines or assumptions that exist in County law or are published in agency documents

The OLO report responds to the County Council’s request for a better understanding of how long it takes to receive certain types of approvals and some of the factors that influence the predictability of the County’s regulatory land use processes. A regulatory land use approval is a structured administrative review that achieves compliance with multiple sets of codified development standards.

OLO compiled a dataset of 415 preliminary and site plan applications (both new applications and amendments to existing approvals) completed between Fiscal Year 2010 and mid-year FY14. It also examined a dataset of 284 record plats approved by the Planning Board and the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) during FY12 and FY13 and subsequently recorded.  Key findings from the report include: 

  • Median review and approval timeframes of approximately 15 months for a new preliminary plan; 12 months for a new site plan and 9-to-10 months for a record plat. Approvals for a project that requires all three reviews could take more than three years.  Additionally, each review process has a large range of approval times, indicating a more variable and less predictable process. Approval timeframes ranged from 119 to 3,128 days for new preliminary plans; 151 to 3,128 days for new site plans; and 65 to 2,383 days for record plats.
  • Median processing timeframes for new preliminary plans, new site plans and record plats exceed the limited timeframe guidelines or assumptions that exist in County law or are published in agency documents. However, total review time data combines active agency review time with applicant response time, indicating some shared accountability for review timeframes.
  • OLO also analyzed data to determine how much of the total review timeframe is attributable to agency staff (i.e., the amount of time an application is with staff either awaiting or undergoing review) compared how much is attributable to applicant response time (i.e., the amount of time it takes the applicant to make requested revisions and formally resubmit an application after agency review).  For new site plans, OLO found that approximately 71 percent of the time is for staff review and 29 percent for applicant response. For new preliminary plans, OLO found that approximately 44 percent of the time was for staff review time and 56 percent was due to applicant response time. An analysis of 19 record plat case studies indicates a high degree of variability within the amount of time the application is with reviewing agencies versus the applicant.

 Feedback from agency staff and representatives of the building/development community identified several factors that can impact the timeframes for preliminary plans, site plans and record plats, and a review of processing data confirms many of these observations.

The report states that surrounding jurisdictions have varied approaches to development review timeframe goals and requirements, and multiple approaches exist for ongoing reporting of development review performance metrics.

In the report, OLO recommended that the Council create an online system of benchmarks and processing time metrics to strengthen its oversight of regulatory land use approvals and shorten approval timeframes. Specific recommendations include: 

  • Establish pre-set development approval timeframes and targets for record plat, preliminary plan and site plan approval processes—including metrics for review cycles, phases, and periods within each process.
  • Establish a data system that captures and reports accurate agency and applicant review times.
  • Create a regular reporting structure to the Council and the public to enhance transparency of and accountability for the development review processing data.
  • Request that DPS and the Planning Department jointly improve communication and information delivery processes for record plats, including a coordinated online presence.

 The complete report is available at the OLO web site at:
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/olo/reports/2008.html.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Farm Tour and Harvest Sale This Weekend

Celebrate our agricultural heritage, visit local farms and indulge in seasonally fresh food at Montgomery County's Annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale the weekend of July 26-27. Spend a day or two in the country petting farm animals or having lunch by a scenic pond. Purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants and more. It's an educational experience and a great family outing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Apply Now to Planning Board

Now that current Planning Board member Casey Anderson has been selected as chair, we are looking to fill the vacancy he leaves. Get your resume in by September 3. Here's the full announcement:

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 15, 2014—The Montgomery County Council is re-advertising for applicants to fill a vacant position on the Montgomery County Planning Board.  Casey Anderson (Democrat), who has served on the Planning Board since June of 2011, was designated by the Council today to replace Fran├žoise Carrier as chair.  Since the Council designated a sitting board member, the current vacancy on the board remains. The term currently occupied by Ms. Carrier and soon to be vacant will expire on June 14, 2018.  

During the recruitment for board chair, the Council received 19 applications. The Council has decided to readvertise for the board member vacancy, but all previous applicants who were not appointed as chair will be considered for this vacancy if they remain interested in serving.

Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 3.

No more than three members of the Planning Board may be from the same political party, and each member must be a resident and registered voter of Montgomery County when appointed.  Members serve four-year terms and are limited to two full terms. The position can be filled by a Democrat, a Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party or a member of another party officially recognized by the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

In addition to Mr. Anderson (D), current board members are Norman Dreyfuss (R), Amy Presley (R) and Marye Wells-Harley (D). Annual compensation for board members is currently $30,000.  
The Planning Board serves as the Council’s principal adviser on land use planning and community planning.  Planning Board members also serve as commissioners of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The Planning Board’s responsibilities with regard to planning include preparation and amendment of the County General Plan; preparation and amendment of master plans and functional plans; formulation of subdivision regulations; preparation of or recommendations on text amendments to the County Zoning Code; implementation of the subdivision process by reviewing and approving all preliminary plans, site plans and other plans for development; advice on the planning implications of capital facilities and programs of the County government, Montgomery College, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Montgomery County Public Schools; commenting, under its mandatory referral authority, on plans for public facilities of local, state and federal agencies; and approval of the work program and the annual operating budget for the Planning Department and the Commission’s bi-county offices.

The Planning Board sits as the Park Commission and approves the annual Parks Department operating budget and Capital Improvements Program (CIP); land acquisition contracts and major development contracts for parks; development plans for individual park facilities; policies for park operations; and park user fees.  

The Planning Board meets all day every Thursday and often meets one other evening a week. The entire Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission meets the third Wednesday of every month.  On average, a Planning Board member can expect to spend at least two full days a week in scheduled and informal meetings.  Additionally, substantial time is required for preparatory work and other activities related to Planning Board responsibilities.

Letters of application expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, should be addressed to: Council President Craig Rice, County Council Office, Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Applications can also be submitted via email to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 3. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the Sept. 3 closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and select applicants for interviews to be held soon thereafter.

Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process, and are available for public review. The interviews are conducted in public and may be televised. A resume of professional and civic experience should be included with each letter of application. A financial disclosure statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required to be filed by each applicant.  Only the ultimate appointee will be required to make the financial disclosure statement available to the public.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Council Names New Planning Board Chair

Congratulations to new Planning Board Chair, Casey Anderson. Casey brings a very strong background to his new position and I look forward to working with him. Here's the press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 15, 2014—The Montgomery County Council today named Casey Anderson as the new chair of the County Planning Board. He follows Chair Francoise Carrier, whose term expired on June 14. She did not apply for reappointment.

Mr. Anderson, who is currently a member of the Planning Board, was appointed by an 8-1 vote. Council President Craig Rice, Vice President George Leventhal and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Cherri Branson, Nancy Floreen, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer voted in favor of his appointment. Councilmember Marc Elrich was opposed.

The Council received letters of interest from 18 applicants to fill the vacancy. Eight applied for chair only, two applied for board member only and eight applied for either chair or member. Council President Rice said today the Council will soon announce that it will be accepting applications to fill Mr. Anderson’s position on the Planning Board.

The Council today also set a salary of $200,000 for the position of chair.

Mr. Anderson is a Silver Spring resident. An attorney and community activist, he was appointed to the Planning Board in June 2011. Previously, Mr. Anderson served on the boards of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the Citizens League of Montgomery County and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Committee for Montgomery.

Mr. Anderson is a former vice president of the Woodside Civic Association and executive vice chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University and a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Questions for Planning Board Applicants

Tomorrow we will interview Casey Anderson, Norman Dreyfuss, Mike Knapp, Rose Krasnow and Meredith Wellington for the position of Planning Board Chair. Here are the questions which have been provided to the applicants in advance:

  1. Why do you want to be chair of the Planning Board and what in your background qualifies you for this role?
  2. What do you feel are the most important issues facing the Planning Board, and what would be your top three priorities as chair?
  3. What is your understanding of the role of chair as it relates to other members of the Board and to the Council?
  4. How do you think we should deal with future development and redevelopment issues, and what is the Planning Board’s role in supporting existing communities?
  5. Many of the Council’s land use decisions require balancing the community’s desires for further economic development, neighborhood protection, and enhanced environmental protection. What factors would you look at in trying to achieve a reasonable balance in individual cases?
  6. What is your view of the Planning Board’s overall responsibility for our park system, and what do you see as the chair’s role?
  7. As you know, this position carries with it obligations for attending meetings, making appearances and other activities that include some nights and weekends.  Will you make the time commitments required to fulfill these elements of the role?  Have you engaged in community outreach activities?  If so, what were they?
  8. Are there any potential conflicts-of-interest of which we should be aware?
  9. Are there other points about your interest in the chair that you would like to call to the Council’s attention?
The interviews will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The public is invited to attend the interviews, which will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed at: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/ondemand/index.html.

The interviews will be rebroadcast on Friday, July 11, as part of a rebroadcast of the Council’s complete activities on July 8, including its morning general session. The rebroadcast will begin at 9 p.m. Friday and will be available before that time on demand.

The resume of each applicant to be interviewed is available as part of the information packet on the interview process. That information can be viewed at:
http://montgomerycountymd.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=6&event_id=1678&meta_id=67608.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fireworks on the Fourth

Montgomery County will again host two fireworks displays on July 4--Germantown Glory at the SoccerPlex in the South Germantown Recreational Park, 18041 Central Park Circle, Boyds and Mid-County Sparkles at Albert Einstein High School, 11135 Newport Road, Kensington. Both fireworks displays will begin at approximately 9:15 p.m.

In addition to these two displays, several municipalities are hosting celebrations and fireworks. Check out the Conference and Visitors Bureau for a full list.

To find out what's open and what’s closed as well as parking and trash pick-up information for the County, see the holiday schedule for the Fourth of July on my blog.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Holiday Schedule for Independence Day

Here's our holiday schedule for Independence Day:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed (also closed on 5th and 6th)
  • County liquor stores – open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Recreation – all indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities will be open; Germantown Indoor Swim Center will close at 3 p.m., all other aquatic facilities will close at 6 p.m.; swim lessons will meet in morning – afternoon/evening lessons and classes cancelled; administrative offices, senior centers and community recreation centers will be closed
  • Montgomery Parks – for operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On – Saturday schedule
  • Metrobus – Saturday schedule
  • Metrorail – Holiday special service
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – closed
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices & courts – closed
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).