photo Francoise Carrier at planning board meeting

Zoning Rewrite Project Update

The Montgomery County Council expressed significant support for a proposed new zoning ordinance this week by voting 7-1 in favor of the proposed text in a straw vote taken at the conclusion of their worksessions on the document. The rewrite, if adopted, would be the most comprehensive update to the law that governs land use in the County in more than 30 years.

“I am very pleased with the thoughtful and thorough action of the Council on the Zoning Rewrite,” said Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier. “The document is a big improvement over the current code and we look forward to the official vote by the Council so that everyone can start taking advantage of this more user-friendly zoning code.”

Since the last major update to the zoning code in 1977, the County has grown and changed substantially and many of the zoning laws have become out of date. Piecemeal updates to the code over the last several decades have resulted in a document with more than 1200 pages, more than 120 zones, more than 400 footnotes, and many confusing and sometimes contradictory provisions.

The County Council tasked the Planning Department with undertaking a comprehensive rewrite of the zoning code in 2007 with the following basic goals in mind:

simplify and consolidate;
improve clarity and consistency;
accommodate changing markets and demographics, while protecting established neighborhoods;
reflect more sustainable policy goals; and
provide the tools to shift from greenfield development to infill, mixed-use development.
The Planning Department has been working on the project since that time. After an extensive public review process, the Planning Board approved a draft of the new code and transmitted it to the County Council in May of 2013. The Council’s PHED committee worked extensively over the summer and fall, making numerous recommendations, before sending the document to full Council.

A final vote on the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite will be held at a date to be determined in February. The Council will then turn their attention to the accompanying District Map Amendment, which would apply the new zoning primarily to non-residential properties in the county. The new code would not become effective until the approval of the map.

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