Land Use Alert: Review of COVID-19-related Stimulus and other Legislative Updates
Please note: All dates and updates in this newsletter are accurate as of Thursday, April 9, 2020.
COVID-19 Economic Stimulus
Federal and Local Governments, as well as economic development corporations, have begun to roll out initiatives in response to the economic effects of COVID-19. Our firm has been following these efforts closely. Below are some of the key developments that we would like to make sure you are aware of. Of course, we are happy to answer your questions and help you navigate these economic relief packages.
- Federal CARES Emergency Legislation, including SBA Express loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans: https://www.lerchearly.com/news/what-borrowers-and-businesses-need-to-know-about-the-cares-act
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act: https://www.lerchearly.com/news/families-first-coronavirus-response-act-requires-employers-to-provide-expanded-paid-leave
- Faith-Based Organizations are eligible for relief under the CARES Act: On April 3, 2020, the U.S. SBA released new guidance regarding the eligibility of faith-based organizations to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). The guidance was published as a Faith-Based Organizations FAQ (FAQ) and provided much sought-after clarification for faith-based organizations whose eligibility for SBA programs was questionable after the passage of the CARES Act. In addition to clarifying eligibility requirements, the FAQ addresses how religious organizations may use PPP and EIDL funds generally, and within the limitations of federal non-discrimination laws. For more information please contact Patrick O’Neil.
- Montgomery County: The County Council passed Bill 16-20, which provides $20 million in funding for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19. These funds will be distributed through two programs: 1) The Public Health Emergency Grant Program, which grants up to $75,000 per county business or nonprofit with 100 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees that can demonstrate financial losses caused by the public health emergency; and 2) Microgrants, which provide up to $2,500 to cover costs associated with the purchase of teleworking equipment.
- Prince George’s County: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced several resources intended to support local businesses, nonprofits, and residents. Through a coalition of County, and private resources, the County Executive, County Council and the Economic Development Corporation aggregated funds totaling $15 million to create the COVID-19 Business Relief Fund. Small businesses will have access to loans up to $100,000 and grant funding of up to $10,000. The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation will begin taking applications beginning on April 13, through May 13.
Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCDEC): Robby Brewer, Board Chair of the MCEDC, reports that MCEDC is hard at work on a variety of initiatives to provide business assistance, information, and new opportunities. MCEDC has a robust website devoted to information and assistance on various government relief legislation. MCEDC will be assisting the Montgomery County Department of Finance to process applications for available COVID-19 aid (described above) and provide relief as soon as possible.
To meet the surge in demand for personal protection equipment, MCEDC is also collaborating with various businesses (including nonprofits) and County Council members to satisfy PPE demand by helping to create manufacturing capacity in otherwise unrelated business. Plans are still in formation, but prospective manufacturers and buyers of PPE are in active discussions. Additionally, MCEDC is working with bio-health companies to address national demands for more Coronavirus testing capabilities. This represents a near term opportunity for dynamic growth in this industry sector.
Regional Economic Development Organizations: Leaders of the economic development organizations representing six counties (include Anne Arundel, Charles, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties) signed a Joint Statement on Regional Collaboration. For more information, check out the joint statement by clicking here.
Update on Remote Procedures and Virtual Hearings
Prince George’s County Update:
We are pleased to report that the Prince George’s County Planning Department and Planning Board are making every effort to operate “business as usual.”
- The Prince George’s County Planning Board held virtual hearings on March 26 and April 3, and is holding one today, April 9. Lerch Early land use attorney Chris Hatcher has had two virtual Planning Board hearings and reports that both virtually hearings went smoothly. These virtual hearings functioned substantially similar to the Montgomery County Planning Board Hearings described in last week’s newsletter: https://www.lerchearly.com/news/land-use-coronavirus-alert-virtual-hearings-revised-application-procedures-and-legislative-update.
- Additionally, the Prince George’s County Subdivision and Development Review Committee’s (SDRC) has successfully held virtual meetings over the past two weeks.
The Prince George’s County Council has not been meeting regularly at this time. Our firm continues to monitor new developments at the County Council level and will provide updates as the situation evolves. Updates on the County Council’s operating status can be found here: https://pgccouncil.us/769/7067/Council-Meeting-Status?activeLiveTab=widgets.
Montgomery County Update:
- Like the Montgomery County Planning Board, the Montgomery County Board of Appeals has now successfully transitioned its operations to a fully virtual environment. Lerch, Early & Brewer attorneys participated in the Board’s first virtual proceedings on Wednesday and were able to obtain approvals from the Board in a seamless manner, without any notable disruptions. In the minutes before commencing the Board’s proceedings, the Board’s Executive Director worked to identify participants and to ensure that those who intended to speak were able to do so when the Board called their respective items. As the Board called each item, Petitioners then had an opportunity to present (with visual aids, as desired) and answer questions from the Board members, as would be the case in a normal hearing. Thereafter, the Board deliberated and voted before moving on to the next order of business. With this first hearing now completed, the Board has demonstrated that it is prepared to help contribute to Montgomery County’s broader efforts to maintain “business as usual” during the COVID-19 crisis, and we commend the Board for its efforts. For more information, please contact Chris Ruhlen.
On behalf of our clients, we remain in direct contact with pertinent people in each of these agencies and departments to minimize disruptions to existing and proposed projects, and continue to advance matters with them, albeit often at a slower than normal pace. We will keep you informed of operational changes, as they continue to develop and evolve over the coming weeks.
Key Dates, Notices & Insights
- Forest Glen Montgomery Hills Master Plan: On March 31, 2020, the Montgomery County Council unanimously voted to approve the Forest Glen Montgomery Hills Sector Plan. The chief focuses of the Sector Plan are transportation and road improvements, pedestrian and bicycle safety and connectivity, environmental upgrades, affordable housing and land use considerations. More information is available on M-NCPPC’s website: https://montgomeryplanning.org/montgomery-county-council-unanimously-approves-forest-glen-montgomery-hills-sector-plan-on-march-31/.
- City of Rockville Comprehensive Plan: The City of Rockville has been working on an update to its Comprehensive Plan. Unfortunately, the Planning Commission public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan amendment originally scheduled for May 13 and 27 has been postponed to September 9 and 27 as a result of COVID-19 and the City’s concern that the public’s opportunity to be heard may be restricted by a virtual public hearing. As a result, the Mayor and Council’s ultimate adoption of the Comprehensive Plan, originally anticipated for Fall of 2020, will likely be delayed a corresponding four months. However, the Mayor and Council has encouraged the public to submit written comments in the interim.
Previous Editions of this Newsletter
April 1 - Virtual Hearings, Revised Application Procedures and Legislative Update: https://www.lerchearly.com/news/land-use-coronavirus-alert-virtual-hearings-revised-application-procedures-and-legislative-update
March 25 - Helping You Navigate Land Use and Related Issues Amid Coronavirus: Agency Operations & Procedures Update: https://www.lerchearly.com/news/helping-you-navigate-land-use-and-related-issues-amid-coronavirus-agency-operations-procedures-update
To submit a request or suggestion on legislation or any other topics you want covered in this space, please reach out to your Lerch Early Land Use attorney by going to https://www.lerchearly.com/services/land-use-zoning and clicking on the "Find an Attorney" button.
Lerch Early is monitoring the COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on our clients and communities. As part of this effort, we've created the Lerch Early COVID-19 Resource Center to aggregate not only our original content but to share other links that may be important to you and/or your business. Check it out here: https://www.lerchearly.com/news/coronavirus-resource-center-lerch-early.
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