Photo Nancy Floreen

PHED Committee Meets on July 30

The Montgomery County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, at 2:15 p.m. on July 30, will continue its extensive review of the first proposed major changes in the County Zoning Ordinance since 1978.

At the worksession, among the items to be discussed are a proposed reduction in the number of parking spaces required for certain restaurants and the number of times a message can change on an electric variable message outdoor sign. Currently, messages are allowed to change only once a day on those signs.

 The PHED Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, has been meeting regularly since June to review the changes in the zoning ordinance that have been suggested by the County’s Planning Board. The committee will use the worksessions to make recommendations to the full Council, which will eventually decide what changes will be implemented. The next worksessions are scheduled for Sept. 13 and 20.

The PHED Committee will meet in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The worksession 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 through the county’s web site at

Detailed information about the zoning rewrite can be found at a new site that is part of the Council home page at: .

The Planning Board has recommended a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for certain restaurants, believing the current requirements sometimes force restaurants to devote more space on their property for parking than is reasonably needed.

Another subject for discussion will be electronic variable message signs. Current County law does not allow signs—either electronic or those that must be changed manually—to be altered more than once a day. This includes a sign that gives the appearance or illusion of movement for a written printed message. The original intent of the limitation in changing messages was to avoid excessively distracting drivers.

Electronic signs, such as those at high school outdoor fields, are not subject to County zoning laws and may change continually. New county facilities, which are also exempt from zoning, are adding variable message signs. The properties of many volunteer fire houses also have electronic sign boards and are subject to the current laws. White Flint and Montgomery Mall, however, have electronic sign boards that are not covered by the laws because they were erected before the laws were established, allowing them to be grandfathered in without limitations.

County Council staff is recommending that the Council consider allowing sign boards to change, but not more often than once per minute.


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