ROCKVILLE—The Montgomery County Council discussed items on its consent calendar during their meeting on Oct. 29, like the decision to support efforts to create more affordable housing and financing more activities for seniors living in the area.
The consent calendar expedites county meetings by grouping together topics that only need a minimal amount of discussion as opposed to a full briefing and debate.
During that session, the council discussed their resolution to support the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (MWCOG) housing goals.
The MWCOG brings together local elected officials and experts to discuss challenges facing the region as a whole. The organization has members from jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
Earlier this month, MWCOG compiled a report indicating the area’s critical affordable housing shortage.
“This housing shortage, or ‘shortfall’ has created a dynamic where, according to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) at COG, more than 325,000 workers are commuting to jobs in the region each day from communities located beyond its footprint,” wrote the MWCOG in its report. “This situation affects the area’s affordability, potentially undercuts its appeal to new companies and talent, strains the transportation system, and impacts the environment and quality of life for the region’s residents.
For some, this means not only long commutes to work but also tricky choices between paying rent or affording other basic necessities such as food or medicine.”
During the council meeting, County Council President Nancy Navarro explained that the process of studying MWCOG’s proposal took many hours of discussion.
“After all those meetings, we actually had a retreat with the rest of the members of (MWCOG) to have a conversation regarding the region truly,” she said. “It’s not an easy thing to have elected leadership from throughout the region because we all know that the Metropolitan Washington region is not just urban centers, but it also includes rural areas.”
Navarro went on to note that reaching a consensus among the group of elected officials took a lot of back and forth discussion.
“(But) even though different elected officials have different interests, different mandates, different characteristics of their jurisdictions, lo and behold we were able to come together during that retreat and agree,” Navarro said. “It was a lot of back and forth, but we were able to achieve that particular consensus.”
The council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to support MWCOG’s recommendations for the region.
In the coming months, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED) within the county council will explore ways to meet MWCOG’s goals.
The council also discussed a special appropriation to the Fiscal Year (FY) 20 operating budget to include $203,484 in funding for programs geared towards senior citizens at the Wheaton Community Recreation Center.
According to the council, the money would fund staffing, equipment, and operating expenses to provide meals during the workweek along with health and fitness activities specifically for senior citizens.
If allocated to the community center, the money would be available in December.
Councilmember Gabe Albornoz explained that the results of renovating the Wheaton Library and collocating it alongside the community center have made it a very popular place for the community.
“It (has become) an unbelievable facility, it has exceeded expectations and its averaging 2,500 visits per day and so the unique nature of the library combined with the recreation center provides the perfect backdrop for senior citizens in the county,” he said.
Albornoz explained that the redesign of the facility had kept in mind bringing the aging population together.
“That was why the walking track was added in particular to ensure that it provides a wide variety of options and programs and services to residents,” he said.
He went on to say that the funding is a minimal investment when one considers the amount of public health programs that contribute to a healthier and more connected public.
Councilmember Craig Rice also weighed in on the discussion of when he noted that centers in the up county could also use more senior programming.
“I would really like us, and I hope that the county executive takes a more robust approach this year when it comes to senior programming throughout the county. Places like North Potomac and Damascus, to name a few, can certainly benefit from that additional look at what more we can do,” he said.
A public hearing on the funding is scheduled for Nov. 5.