ROCKVILLE – Two individual Montgomery Council committees met on Jan. 16 to talk about their plans for the upcoming year.
The Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, which consists of Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Andrew Friedson and Will Jawando, met to continue its review of the Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills Sector Plan.
It is the PHED Committee’s third work session on the Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills (FGMH) Sector Plan. The second work session covered the land use and zoning recommendations for the Forest Glen district, while this work session covered the land use and zoning recommendations for the Montgomery Hills and Woodside districts and included property-specific recommendations related to parks and open space.
The updated plan reevaluates land use and transportation strategies as part of the long-term visioning process for the area, including an analysis of existing traffic conditions to help improve transportation conditions.
Specific topics on that were discussed including: traffic congestion standards, intersection improvements at Forest Glen Road and Georgia Avenue, Seminary Road/Columbia Boulevard and Georgia Avenue and 16th Street and George Avenue, extending Woodland Drive, a kiss-and-ride lot at the Forest Glen Medical Center property, access to the Metro Station and the Forest Glen Passageway, public school adequacy and the fiscal impact statement for the plan.
The meeting started out with discussions about retail properties in the Montgomery Hills district, more specifically, the Seminary Place Shopping Center. The shopping center consists of general stores such as CVS, Aldi, Dominos, Shell gas station and a car wash.
However, committee member, Coucilmember Andrew Friedson, is concerned about the balance and flexibility of the Commercial Resident Zones (CRZ).
According to the Montgomery County website, CRZ’s are a family of mixed-use zones that allow a range of densities and heights. These zones are designed to encourage a mix of commercial and residential uses, create interactive streets, provide meaningful public spacesfoster jobs and services where people can live, work, shop and play within a given neighborhood.
Three CRZ classifications define the types of uses and the method of development allowed: CR Neighborhood (CRN), CR Town (CRT) and Commercial Residential (CR).
“There is a lot of neighborhood-serving retail (stores) in these shopping centers that are in need, and I’m worried about giving them the same classification as commercial businesses,” Friedson said.
Gwen Wright, the committee planning director, defended the plans stating, “CR Zones were meant to be mixed zones of residential and commercial and we have done a great job for the most part. There is always going to be a challenge of putting mix-used retail together.”
“I think we need to be cautious of layering in too many barriers,” Councilmember Hans Riemer said. “We need to not focus on drawing the perfect picture on paper but try to provide a path.”
In the end, the committee agreed with the recommendations of a half-acre park if the site agrees to redevelopment, and if less than half agree to redevelopment, the priority would go to consolidating any open space.
The recommendations for all the other cites were agreed on with some slight changes, including the height of buildings among the locations and the agreement of supporting and funding small businesses throughout the process.
As for the other meeting, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee, which consists of Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Andrew Friedson, and Council President Sidney Katz, met to discuss Bill 35-19.
The bill would amend the duty of fair representation for a certified representative of county employees and authorize a certified representative to impose the reasonable costs of filing a grievance or pursuing arbitration on an employee who does not pay membership dues or the equivalent.
It would also require a certified representative to file a grievance or pursue arbitration for an employee who does not pay membership dues or the equivalent only if the employee pays the reasonable costs imposed and generally amend the duty of fair representation of a certified representative of county employees.
The goal of this legislation is to permit a union to receive payment for filing grievances on behalf of an employee who chooses not to pay union dues.
All members favored the bill citing the fairness it brings.
“I think it’s absolutely fair that if someone is not a member of the union, they are not paying the dues, and the people who are paying the dues should not have to pay for a grievance,” said Katz.