Council Rejects Moratorium

Council Rejects Moratorium

Montgomery County Council rejected moratorium on subdivision approvals, but new growth policy is in the works that will emphasize restrained growth in the county.

Developers in Montgomery can rest easier now that a proposed moratorium of subdivision approvals has been rejected by the Montgomery County Council.

The Council voted instead to advise those who have submitted preliminary plans for subdivision approval to the Montgomery County Planning Board that a new set of rules will apply. The Council is working with the Planning Board to develop a new growth policy that will affect future developments in the county.

The move replaces the proposed plan that would have put a halt to 72 projects currently under consideration by county planners, including 5,100 housing units in the county.

A new phase at Fortune Parc, a growing subdivision at the intersection of Seven Locks and Montrose roads in Potomac, could have been affected by the moratorium. The proposed project will add 600 residential units and 8,500 square feet of commercial space to the ongoing development, said Karl Moritz, Chief of the Research & Technology Center at the planning board, but that plan would have stalled if the moratorium had been approved.

“I thought it was problematic to apply new rules to parties that played honestly by the old rules,” said Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of his opposition to the moratorium. Berliner was persuaded by remarks that Royce Hanson, the chairman of the Planning Board, had made indicating that he felt the measure was not necessary and would be largely symbolic.

“I give great deference to our top professional planner,” Berliner said. “There’s a reason why we put him in that position.”

The County Council is expected to adopt a new growth policy that will take greater account of the strain new developments put on the infrastructure of the county.

“We need to make sure that we have the schools and the infrastructure in place to handle development we’re about to approve,” Berliner said.

"The big question before the Council is where and how the county is going to grow," said Laura Olson of Solutions Not Sprawl, a citizen action group that advocates controlled growth. Olson said the county needs to enhance access to public transporation and facilitate pedestrian and bike access throughout the county.

The Planning Board met Thursday to discuss the goals of the new growth policy that is currently being designed by the Planning Board staff.

“We’re looking at the impacts of growth much more broadly than we have in the past,” said Moritz. Moritz is overseeing a team of Planning Board staff that he said is studying similar growth plans from around the country for fresh ideas.

“We need to see as many new ideas and policies as we can,” said Hanson. He said that whatever plan the staff develops does not need to completely discard the current growth plan but should not be a knock-off of what is already in place.

The Planning Board will pass its recommendations on to the County Council by late May, Hanson said. The Council is expected to finalize the new growth policy by Aug. 15.