Image of Rose Kranow, who was appointed Interim Planning Director for Montgomery County

PHED Committee to Review Zoning Ordinance

The Montgomery County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee will begin a formal process on April 5 that could lead to the county’s first major rewrite of its Zoning Ordinance in 36 years.

The rewrite could lead to significant changes for properties in commercial and mixed-use zonings, but lesser changes for residential zones. For residential zones, testimony is expected on subjects such as allowing chickens to be raised in backyards and rules on selling vegetables.

The PHED Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, will meet in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting 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 Web site at

On Friday, the Planning Board will brief the PHED Committee on major aspects of the draft of the zoning ordinance rewrite. The current code of more than 1,200 pages is viewed as antiquated and difficult to use. The number of zones has nearly tripled since the last rewrite, from 41 in 1977 to the current 120.

The Planning Board is in the final stages of considering the rewrite.

When the proposal to rewrite the ordinance was started in Fiscal Year 2008, the former planning director listed the goals of the project as:

• Streamline the Ordinance—all aspects of the document, from the number of districts to the number of processes outlined in various sections.
• Simplify all aspects of the document.
• Improve the organization of the document.
• Rationalize/update provisions to reflect the changing development climate with a greater emphasis on infill development.
• Create predictability in the standards as well as the format.
• Promote “green” land use policies.

The Council did not object to a scope of work that included substantive changes to the ordinance. The current draft completely restructures the code, recommending fewer zones than the current ordinance and transforming very particular land use categories (such as newspaper stands, flower shops, etc.) into more general categories (such as retail/service).

The draft reflects the dramatic changes in some aspects of county life since the last major rewrite was completed in 1977. Among the suggested changes in the draft are standards for the number of on-site parking are often reduced and design standards are added. The amount of open space required in mixed-use and employment zones is generally reduced. Mixed-use and commercial zones are defined differently in the proposed rewrite.

The draft does not suggest changes to one-family residential zones or the development standards. During the public hearings that will be scheduled over the next few months, it is expected the desirability or undesirability of uses, such as raising chickens and selling vegetables, as allowed in the rewrite draft but prohibited in the current ordinance, are expected to be the subject of testimony by residents.

The PHED Committee will devote many Friday meetings over the next few months to the proposed rewrite.

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