Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Project Moving Forward
Montgomery County planners recently updated developers, engineers and other real estate professionals on the progress of Montgomery County’s Zoning Ordinance rewrite project. At a seminar hosted by Lerch Early & Brewer’s land use group, an audience of approximately 100 people listened to Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier, Project Manager for the Zoning Code Rewrite Pamela Dunn, and Area 2 Division Supervisor Joshua Sloan as they gave an overview and answered questions about the latest draft of the rewrite and some of the proposed changes. The County last updated its Zoning Ordinance in 1977, and the current Ordinance has ballooned to over 1,000 pages and 120 zones.
Goal of New Ordinance is to Modernize Zoning
Four years ago, the Planning Board set out to make the Zoning Ordinance more user-friendly by looking at organization, format, clarity of language, and elimination of inconsistencies and redundancies. The Planning Board also carefully examined the number of zones, the flexibility within them, and certain standards within the Ordinance. The planning staff unveiled a “Consolidated Review Draft” late last summer, which the Planning Board currently is reviewing. While numerous issues remain to be resolved (for example, how existing projects and developments will be grandfathered), the draft attempts to modernize, simplify, and clarify the Ordinance.
“Limited Uses” Fill the Gap Between Permitted and Special Exception Uses
The current draft reduces the number of zones, simplifies some of the tables, and removes many of the footnotes, integrating them instead into the basic text, mostly within the definitions. New families of floating zones are proposed along with various changes to the C/R (Commercial/Residential) zone. The current draft also proposes updated parking standards, open space standards, and buffering and screening requirements. Notably, the draft also adds an entirely new category of uses – limited uses – that fill the gap between permitted-by-right uses and special exception uses, which will now be called conditional uses. Limited uses, uses with certain set and identified standards, will be allowed in particular zones provided that certain standards are met that are shy of the onerous requirements of the special exception process.
The current draft has whittled the Ordinance down to fewer than 400 pages and about 40 zones. The Planning Board is now conducting work sessions to hear from the public and to discuss the draft. The Planning Board will continue this review during the fall, and plans to forward an updated draft to the Montgomery County Council for its review at the beginning of 2013.
For the latest draft, visit http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/development/zoning/documents.shtm
Stuart Barr is a land use and zoning attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland who represents a wide range of clients before the Montgomery County Planning Board and County Council and other agency departments and commissions throughout Montgomery County. For more information about the new zoning ordinance, contact Stuart at (301) 961-6095 or email@example.com.