Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Council Will Interview Five for Planning Board

We will interview five applicants for the Planning Board on Tuesday, September 23. Here is the entire press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 16, 2014—The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 23, will interview five applicants for a vacant position on the Montgomery County Planning Board. The position is a four-year term. 

The Council received letters of interest from 25 applicants. The Council selected the following five applicants to interview for the position: Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Dennis Kamber, Charles Kauffman, Mohammad Siddique and Victor Weissberg. 

The interviews will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The times of the interviews will be announced later this week.

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, Sept. 26, as part of a rebroadcast of the Council’s activities on Sept. 23, 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://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/BCC/Planningboardapplicantsresumes9-15-14.pdf.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Watershed Restoration Grants Available

Non-profit organizations, community associations, service and civic groups, and faith-based organizations--apply now for watershed restoration grant funding. Here's the full press release:

Montgomery County and the Chesapeake Bay Trust today announced a new grant program to support watershed restoration and outreach throughout the County. The goal of the Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach program is to reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants through community-based restoration, including RainScapes practices, as well as to implement projects focused on public involvement through education, outreach and stewardship.

“This innovative program encourages on-the-ground restoration projects as well as outreach and engagement activities that reduce stormflow and pollutants and engage Montgomery County residents,” said Fariba Kassiri, acting director of Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection. “We are pleased to work with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to administer these grants that will help restore and protect the local rivers and streams in the County.”

Non-profit organizations, including local watershed groups, community associations, service and civic groups, and faith-based organizations, are eligible to apply for funding. Grants up to $50,000 are available (with larger awards possible with prior approval), and all projects must take place in Montgomery County, outside the municipalities of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park.

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust administers hundreds of grants each year that engage individuals in projects and programs that support watershed restoration and the improvement of local streams and rivers,” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “This partnership is an excellent opportunity to educate local residents about watershed restoration opportunities while also providing valuable resources to implement low impact development stormwater techniques.”

Funding is available for three types of efforts: public outreach and stewardship projects, community-based stormwater runoff and water quality improvement practices, and RainScapes Neighborhood projects. 

Suggested projects include small-scale stormwater practice installations such as those supported through the RainScapes program (including rain gardens, native trees and conservation landscaping); bioretention cells, rain gardens, streamside forest buffers and green roofs; pet waste management and litter prevention and reduction efforts. Before applying, interested persons should contact the Chesapeake Bay Trust to discuss project ideas and partnerships.

“Montgomery County has a responsibility to meet regulatory watershed restoration and water quality improvement goals. However, significant effort is needed from individuals and community-based groups as well, since the amount of privately owned land far exceeds the amount of County-owned land,” said Kassiri. “We look forward to working with Montgomery County residents and the Chesapeake Bay Trust as we all do our part to restore and protect our vital natural resources.”

Applications are due on December 4, 2014 by 5 p.m..

To learn more and review the request for proposals, visit www.cbtrust.org/montcountywatershedgrant or contact Sadie Drescher at 410-974-2941, x103.

About Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection

The mission of the Department of Environmental Protection is to: 1) Protect and enhance the quality of life in our community through the conservation, preservation, and restoration of our environment, guided by the principles of science, resource management, sustainability, and stewardship. 2) Provide solid waste management services, including recycling, in an environmentally progressive and economically sound manner.

About the Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is a nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to improving the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers through environmental education, community outreach, and local watershed restoration. Since 1985, the Trust has awarded $65 million in grants and engaged hundreds of thousands of citizen stewards in projects that have a measurable impact on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Maryland Treasure the Chesapeake license plate, donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form, donations from individuals and corporations, and partnerships with private foundations and federal and state agencies.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remember to Stay Vigilant and Review Signs of Terrorism

As we mark the 13th anniversary of September 11 attacks, Montgomery County asks residents to remain vigilant and review the seven signs of terrorism. Here is the full statement:

September is National Preparedness Month. As we prepare to observe the thirteenth anniversary of the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and the Montgomery County Police Department recommend that community members review the seven signs of terrorism, to help them become more knowledgeable about the types of suspicious behaviors that might precede a terrorist attack. 

At this time, there is no specific intelligence to suggest that a threat to the National Capital Region, and specifically Montgomery County, is imminent during this anniversary. However, our best defense is concerned community members who understand what kinds of persons, things, and situations should be considered suspicious, and then alert police to those concerns.  It is critical for those who live and work in Montgomery County to partner with their law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for suspicious persons, vehicles, and activities in their areas.

The Seven Signs of Terrorism are:

1.  Surveillance: Someone recording or monitoring activities. This could include the use of cameras (cell phone, still or video), note taking, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps, or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices. 

2.  Elicitation/Gathering information: People or organizations attempting to gain information about military operations, capabilities, or people. Elicitation attempts may be made by email, mail, fax, telephone, or in person.

3.  Tests of security: Any attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures in order to assess strengths and weaknesses.

4.  Acquiring supplies: Purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons, ammunition, etc. This also includes acquiring military uniforms, decals, flight manuals, passes or badges (or the equipment to manufacture such items) or any other controlled items. Activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the timing of traffic lights and flow.

5.  Suspicious people: This includes people who don’t seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment or anywhere else.  Factors such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation alone are not suspicious. 

6.  Trial run/Rehearsal: Putting people into position and moving them around according to their plan without actually committing the terrorist act. This is especially true when planning a kidnapping, but it can also pertain to bombings. An element of this activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the times of traffic lights and flow.

7.  Deploying assets: People and supplies getting into position to commit the act. This is a person’s last chance to alert authorities before a terrorist act occurs. 

Reminders to the public include:  If something just doesn’t seem or feel right, don’t second guess your instincts.  If the suspicious activity of a person is right in front of you, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.  For those who are in the state of Maryland, and are aware of an on-going situation that seems suspicious, calls can be made to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center at 1-800-492-TIPS (8477).

Remember, “If you See Something, Say Something” to the appropriate authorities.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

County Libraries to Expand Hours

Good news. Beginning Monday, October 5, Montgomery County Public Libraries will be open longer, with added service hours totaling 106 hours, 9.4 percent more than in fiscal year 2014. Sixteen branches will have expanded hours, joining the five branches whose hours were increased in FY13. The expanded hours at the Silver Spring branch will go into effect when the new library opens later in this fiscal year. In addition, four more branches (Aspen Hill, Damascus, Quince Orchard, and White Oak) will be open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. bringing the total number with Sunday hours to 13. Find branches and new hours on the interactive map.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tips on Testifying

When the Council returns next week, we will take up some important topics ranging from budgeting to land use to our local economy. We have public hearings on a variety of issues scheduled nearly every week, and we want to know your views. For newcomers as well as seasoned veterans, here are a few tips to make the most of your testimony:

  • Keep it simple. Put your request or main point at the beginning of your testimony. Use plain language and put technical points at the end.
  • Keep it short. The Council adheres to the three-minute limit, so make sure your points come across in that time frame. You don't have to use the entire allotted time, though. Sometimes good things come in small packages.
  • Bring 15 copies of your testimony with your name, contact information and main points clearly identified.
  • Let your personality shine through. Levity or a personal anecdote can help you stand out in the crowd.
  • Relax. Don't be afraid of the formal setting or the television cameras. Just be yourself.
I understand public speaking isn't for everyone, so you can also call or e-mail. To have your written correspondence included in the public record, send it to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov or Council President, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. To sign up to speak at a public hearing, call 240-777-7803.

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.