Zoning Ordinance Update

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, March 4, is expected to formally adopt the first major changes in the County Zoning Ordinance since 1978. The Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee held numerous worksessions over a six-month period in 2013 and then the full Council held worksessions in January on revisions that were recommended by the County’s Planning Board.

The Council held two public hearings on the proposed changes. In a straw vote on Jan. 15, the Council tentatively agreed to revisions in Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 13-04. The Council has not yet taken action on District Map Amendment (DMA) G-956.

The revised version of the Zoning Ordinance, with all changes, will be viewable at www.zoningmontgomery.org .

There may be a future need for clarifications or corrections to the code being approved. In addition, the Council has pending zoning text amendments that may change the code before it becomes effective on Oct. 30, 2014. Any future zoning text amendments approved by the Council before Oct. 30 may only affect the new code or may affect both the new code and the current code.

The essential themes of the PHED Committee’s recommended amendments can be characterized as:

  • Neighborhood protection. Revision to development standards, land use, the treatment of current binding elements and floating zone limitations.
  • Commercial/Residential (CR) Zones revised. For developments that provide more than 12.5 percent of total dwelling units as MPDUs, increased public benefit points allowed and more relaxed development standards.
  • Public Benefit point changes. Deleted public benefit point categories and reducing the number of benefit points that could be awarded for various categories of public benefits
  • Grandfathering provisions. Revised a landowner’s ability to expand a building under the current code, increasing the time limit to amend plans under the current code to 25 years, and retaining the binding elements of current development plans.

For the most part, the Council agreed with the recommendations of the PHED Committee. The Council made the following revisions to the committee’s recommendations:

  • Added a provision for site plan approval (Section 8.3.4) to require the Planning Board to take into consideration the availability of ground floor retail space in any redevelopment.
  • A provision in the definition for farming in Section 3.2.6 addressing education and tourism as an accessory use to farming, limiting the amount of structures that can be constructed primarily for the use of education and tourism, and deleting the provision for agricultural education and tourism as a separate land use.
  • A provision to allow composting under Section 3.2.6 as an accessory use to a farm and allowing up to 20 percent of the materials used in accessory processing to come from off-site sources.
  • A modification to the provisions for Urban Farming to allow beekeeping in all zones by providing that the limited use standard requiring a 2,500 square foot property does not apply to the keeping of bees, and allowing beekeeping in the IH zone.
  • A revision to Section 3.2.12.A.2 to allow farm stands requiring frontage on a 2-lane road and not a 4-lane road.
  • Amendments to Division 6.6 to retain the public benefit points as they currently exist in the Code for the CR zone, with the PHED Committee’s recommended amendments for Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) and the benefit points for Transferable Development Rights (TDRs).
  • Revised the provisions for major public facility public benefit points for Section 6.6.3 to clarify the Planning Board’s discretion to approve major facilities that are not specifically recommended by a master plan.
  • Added a definition of height and open space in Chapter 1.
  • Required Planning Department meetings and a hearing date for both sketch plans and site plans to be within 120 day review cycles.
  • Clarified language regarding grandfathering provision in Section 8.7.1; allow at least all current grandfathered rights.
  • Reorganized the proposed code (Articles 2, 4, and 6) so they are zone-centric and not function-centric.
  • Allowed staff to make additional editorial changes to the code (plain English, grammar, and punctuation).


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