Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alert on Rewrite of the Housing Element (Chapter) of the General Plan

I am passing this (below) on from Jim Humphrey, of the Montgomery County Civic Federation
Paula Bienenfeld
Education Committee Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation

Your action needed to help protect Montgomery County's residential neighborhoods

The County Council's PHED (Planning, Housing, and Economic Development) Committee has scheduled worksessions for March 7 and 14 to consider a draft revision of the Housing Element of the General Plan. The draft revision would remove strategies that currently exist in the Housing Element which are designed to preserve and protect residential neighborhoods in the county, and the draft would recommend allowing accessory apartments in residential zones by-right (rather than by current Special Exception process which lets neighbors and community groups weigh-in).

Please send an email right away to PHED Committee members (no later than Friday, March 11) -- subject: "Draft Revision of the Housing Element of the General Plan" -- and urge them to:
 - retain the neighborhood protection strategies currently in the Housing Element of the General Plan (i.e.; channel through traffic away from residential streets, discourage spill-over parking from non-residential areas, plan uses at the edges of high-density centers that are compatible with existing neighborhoods); and,
- keep accessory apartments by Special Exception.
The email addresses for the 3 PHED Committee members are: (she is Chair of the Committee)

It would be best if we can influence the PHED Committee to recommend changes to the draft Housing Element revision in order to retain the objective of preserving and protecting residential neighborhoods, since the other six members of Council usually go along with the Committee recommendation. But -- if PHED recommends the full Council adopt the new Housing Element as drafted, we will have to mount an effort to persuade the six other members of Council to keep neighborhood protections in the Housing Element.

The last time the General Plan--the overall master plan for the entire county--was revised was in 1993. In mid-2009 the Planning Board transmitted a draft revision of the Housing Element (chapter) of the General Plan to the Council, the body with authority to approve master plan revisions. The Council held its public hearing on the Housing Element draft revision on December 1, 2009. The issue has not yet come up for a Council vote, but now the PHED Committee has restarted work on it with the intention of making a recommendation.

The General Plan is used as a blueprint for all community master and sector plans. If neighborhood protection strategies remain in the General Plan, then that objective must be addressed in all community master plans, too. So it is critical that the objective of preserving and protecting residential neighborhoods is retained in the General Plan Housing Element!

The existing Housing Element from the 1993 General Plan, and the draft revision being considered by Council, can be found via the "Current Issues--Planning and Land Use Committee" page on the Montgomery County Civic Federation website here:

Thank you for taking the time to email your concerns to the members of the Council's PHED Committee. Please forward this message to your friends, neighbors, and local listserv members.

Jim Humphrey
Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation (MCCF) Planning and Land Use Committee

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