Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Council delays vote on zoning changes for Fenton Village - Gazette

by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer

A Montgomery County Council committee postponed a vote Thursday on two zoning text amendments targeting the Silver Spring neighborhood of Fenton Village, saying that the county should pursue revisions to the area’s sector plan as a way to achieve the objectives of the community and developers.

The County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee also wanted to wait until after a scheduled housing discussion later this month to return to the topic, since one of the amendments involved the county’s work-force housing code.

The first proposed amendment, from County Executive Isiah Leggett’s (D) office, would allow developers incorporating work-force housing in their plans to construct buildings up to 143 feet high. The current maximum within Fenton Village, which falls between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street, is 90 feet for buildings that are at least 33 percent residential.

The second amendment, introduced by County Council members Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring and Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, would allow hotel developers to build up to 60 feet high along the east side of Fenton Street. The current maximum is 45 feet for developments that do not provide housing.

Elrich argued that the first amendment was ‘‘totally unacceptable,” and ignored the master plan for the area, while the second was more compatible in an area where building up to 60 feet was already allowed.

The Montgomery County Planning Board split its recommendations on the two amendments last month, rejecting Leggett’s proposal and voting to support the second amendment if hotel developers incorporated housing into their plans.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson, who voted against both of the amendments, told council members Thursday that forcing staff to prepare recommendations for debates on zoning text amendments shifted resources and staff time from fixing the bigger problem: a zoning code that needed revising.

‘‘If you want to change this situation, you’ve got to start changing it,” Hanson said.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said the county’s confusion over the issue was the county’s fault. She called master plans ‘‘overwritten” and ‘‘written for the people at that table, at that moment in time.”

The zoning text amendments are expected to appear again before the County Council within the last two weeks of July.

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