The first wholesale rewrite of Montgomery County’s zoning code in more than 30 years is quickly moving toward a vote by the County Council. While updating County zoning is overdue, the proposed rewrite will have several significant implications for the Town. Notably, the rewrite will permit a new type of nonresidential building (the "general" building) within residential neighborhoods and expands the uses allowed in neighborhoods, while eliminating procedural safeguards for neighboring property owners. The proposed rewrite also changes the zoning for commercial buildings next to homes, and expands the uses for structures adjacent to homes and bordering the Town.
These changes are outlined below:
The proposed rewrite changes the role traditionally played by master plans. Decisions about open space and other public amenities would be made more closely between the County Planning Board and developers, with less opportunity for community input. Master plans currently offer protections for surrounding neighborhoods, and the review process requires community input for projects that reach beyond what the plan specifies.
Under the proposed rewrite, the Town will remain a residential zone (R-60). However, the draft code introduces a new non-residential building type, the "general" building, that can be built anywhere within single-family neighborhoods. Construction would proceed “by right” without notification to neighbors, or allowing them opportunity to comment. These buildings would be permitted to span more than one lot. Activities such as museums, farm-produce stands, and institutional uses including family daycare and residential-care facilities (up to 8 people) would be allowed.Changes are proposed for commercial areas. The changes include incentives for developers to build to maximum allowable densities and height. Commercial areas bordering the Town and in Bethesda will be converted to Commercial- Residential (CR) zones. County officials earlier assured residents that the CR zoning would be applied only when recommended in an approved and adopted master plan, and implemented only by sectional map amendment after approval by the County Council (as the process currently requires). However, when the proposed zoning rewrite becomes law, the County intends to rezone immediately almost all commercial areas to CR zones without amending the relevant master plan. The proposed rewrite also weakens current requirements that commercial zones conform to master plans, diluting the language to “substantially conform.”
The County Council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee will hold public hearings on the zoning rewrite on November 12 and 14. You are invited to express your views by signing up to speak at the hearing(s) by contacting the County Council Office at 240-777-7803 or by submitting your comments by email to email@example.com.
View the Draft Zoning Code
View the proposed conversion to CR zones
General Overview of Proposed Zoning Code Changes
Websites of local civic groups:
Citizens' Coalition for Responsible Growth