Members of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association ended their Oct. 9 meeting with a sigh of relief.
The provisions of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan would not be changed or greatly impacted by proposed changes to the Montgomery County zoning code.
“This was good, it sounds like they are sticking to the Master Plan,” Rockville resident Susanne Lee said at the end of the meeting. “We were worried.”
Planning Coordinator Pamela Dunn and Planning Supervisor Joshua Sloan with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented an overview of changes to the code and answered questions specific to the Potomac community.
“We tried to stay true to the original code,” Dunn said. “We [mostly] consolidated it to make it easier to use.”
According to its website, the citizens’ association represents the area following the Potomac River from the Capital Beltway to Pennyfield Lock and spreads out to include “the one-acre and two-acre zoned areas (RE-2 and RE-1) between the Muddy Branch on the west and the Bucks Branch and Cabin John Creek on the east, along with the quarter-acre zoned areas (R-200) encompassed by those streams.”
The area is a Green Wedge, designated in 1964, as a conservation area protecting the Agricultural Reserve and the region’s water supply, most of which comes from the Potomac River.
Ginny Barnes, association president, said most of the citizens working on the zoning rewrite were from denser communities and it was important to learn how the new code would impact the WMCCA community.
“I feel better,” Barnes said after the meeting.
Still, she would like to have a “second opinion,” a wrap-up of the changes from someone not with the Park and Planning Commission.
“I’d like to hear a discussion [that] involves people who have followed it more closely.”
The zoning code, which controls most aspects of property development in the county, has not been comprehensively rewritten in over 30 years, according the Montgomery County website. The Revised Preliminary Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committee draft of the zoning code text and map is expected to be released on Oct. 11 and posted on the county website.
Dunn said the rewrite was undertaken to modernize the code by consolidating uses and zones, simplifying the document, which over the years has expanded and made more difficult to understand by the addition of footnotes to the original, and clarifying it to make the review process easier to understand. According to the website, the changes are to “accommodate the most ideal future development.”
“As our road, forest conservation, and stormwater rules have evolved, our zoning ordinance has not kept up,” the Montgomery Planning website says. “In basic sustainability terms, our zoning ordinance has rules that not only encourage sprawl into our greenfields and residential neighborhoods, but foster it by not allowing mixed-use, compact development in targeted locations.”
New regulations will help prevent sprawl and encourage a greener county.
On Nov. 12 and 14, the full County Council will hold public hearings to hear feedback on the draft. The hearings will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville.
Citizens wishing to testify at the public hearing should call 240-777-7803 by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11.
“As the county grows, changes have to be made,” Dunn said.