Zoning codes might not be as sexy as bike lanes or streetcars, but they lie at the core of development and impact the rate and type of growth. With that in mind, Montgomery County Planning is reworking its zoning codes, last updated in 1977, to get rid of outdated terms and rules and to include tools for today's development world, like sustainable building and metro-oriented development. Since 2008, the planning staff has been meeting with stakeholders, doing a little self-assessment and working with consultants to identify changes and additions. On April 20th and 21st the community will have the opportunity to participate in the Zoning Code Rewrite project.
At a Planning Department information session for the media today, planners were quick to make clear that only 2.6% of the County would actually see substantive zoning change; the majority of changes will take place in current commercial, mixed use or industrial zones (i.e. don't worry your single-family residential heads). As one planner said, only 4% of the County is really left to develop, so changing zoning will help contain and sustain growth. Another goal of the rewrite is to consolidate and simplify land use. At present, the code still has designations for foundries and abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and has two separate codes for mini golf ("Golf Courses, Miniature" and "Miniature Golf"). The plan is to reduce the number of allowed uses from 433 specific uses to 120 broad categories.
Additional changes would allow the incorporation of sustainable practices in Montgomery County development by wording codes in ways that are more inclusive. The staff is seeking public input on potential sustainable practices and how they can be tied into growth policies. Along the same vein, but a goal of its own, is a proposed re-evaluation of parking requirements - where, how much, and incorporating bicycles.
The department plans to begin drafting the new code in May after taking into account public input. After a year of writing the code and working through related policy issues, the team hopes to have a complete code ready for public review some time between July and September 2011.
Montgomery County, MD real estate development news