Montgomery Seeks Public Input on Small Cell Antenna Zoning

(Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Office of Public Information)

Montgomery County is seeking input from residents on a draft Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) that would address the deployment of small cell antennas on public property, including streetlights and low buildings.

Small cells are wireless antennas that have a smaller footprint and shorter range than macro cells (what you would typically imagine as a large, tall, and free standing cell tower), allowing them to be placed on short poles and existing structures such as streetlights and buildings. The technology is proliferating in part to increase network capacity and coverage as the demand for wireless services has increased.

Additional background from the county’s Office of Public Information:

Because wireless technology is evolving, Montgomery County has recently received an unprecedented number of applications to deploy small cell antennas in residential neighborhoods as well as commercial areas around the County. Federal law is clear that Montgomery County cannot pass zoning laws that would have the effect of prohibiting service throughout the County. Therefore, the proposed ZTA is intended to allow providers to provide service while protecting the character of both our residential neighborhoods and commercial areas by regulating how and where these antennas can be placed, and how they should be screened or camouflaged.

Community meeting information:

  • Date: Monday, October 23, 2017
  • Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Location: Stella B Warner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, 3rd Floor Hearing Room, Rockville, MD 20850

To view the live community meeting remotely:

For more information on the meeting, to view the amendment, and to submit comments visit:

Montgomery County Transition Facilities Coordination Group – Information on Draft ZTA Amendment

 

City Council Member Pushes for Restaurant Health Inspection Transparency

In an attempt to increase transparency over the health inspection reports for the more than 5,700 restaurants in Baltimore City, Council Member Brandon Scott has introduced a bill requiring the establishments to post their most recent inspection results on the outside of their restaurants.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The bill is the latest attempt in what’s been a four-year effort by Scott to let Baltimore customers know more about the cleanliness of the restaurants in which they eat. Unlike previous failed attempts, this version of the bill does not contain a letter grading system.

“This is about being transparent about the health of the citizens of Baltimore,” Scott said, citing restaurant grades in New York and elsewhere.

The article notes that the bill is raising concern restaurant owners who have opposed Scott’s prior legislative attempts to require them to post letter grades of their inspection reports. The current bill takes a different approach to transparency by requiring the full report to be posted. Council Member Scott has also introduced a bill requiring restaurants to offer healthy drink options with kids’ meals.

While his previous inspection transparency bills failed, he was successfully in passing a bill in 2015 that required restaurants that were forced to close due to health code violations to post signs noting why they are closed. Additionally the Baltimore City Health Department has launched an online database providing consumers with information regarding restaurant health inspections.

To learn more:

Baltimore councilman seeks to require restaurants to post health inspection results (The Baltimore Sun)

 

Montgomery Passes Legislation On Short-Term Rentals

Legislation Addresses Short-Term Rental Services Like Airbnb and HomeAway

The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to enact two legislative proposals that address the legal and regulatory status of short-term rentals in the County. The two measures, Zoning Text Amendment 17-03 and Bill 2-16, represent Council Vice President Riemer’s and the Montgomery County Planning Board’s recommendations to balance the substantial economic potential for County residents of short-term residential services like Airbnb with concerns about regulating these services.

According to a press release:

ZTA 17-03 makes bed and breakfasts limited uses in most residential and mixed-use zones. It limits the total number of adult overnight guests in a short-term rental to six, limits the total number of adult overnight guests per bedroom to two, and requires one off-street parking space for each rental contract. These measures put in place a regulatory framework that did not exist before, addressing concerns about the potential for residential housing to be used exclusively as a short-term rental service.

ZTA 17-03 was approved with two revisions: (1) The dwelling unit used as a short-term rental must be the property owner’s or owner-authorized resident’s primary residence, which was an amendment recommended by the PHED Committee and (2) If the property owner or owner-authorized resident is not present in the residence, the property can be used as a short-term residential rental for a maximum of 120 days in a calendar year, which was an amendment recommended by Councilmember Katz.

The Council also enacted Bill 2-16, which requires that several conditions be met to receive short-term residential licensing. Bill 2-16 was introduced by Council Vice President Riemer and cosponsored by Councilmember Rice.

“By bringing all the stakeholders together, we were able to find a balance that works for us here in Montgomery County,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “This legislation will allow residents and visitors to get the value of home-sharing services, while preventing abuse and stopping investors from creating de facto hotels in residential neighborhoods and taking valuable housing stock off the market.”

Useful Links

Montgomery County Council Bill 2-16

Montgomery County Council Zoning Text Amendment 17-03

Betting Sports Betting Makes Legislature’s Agenda

Representatives of Maryland’s casino industry delivered a message to the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight yesterday: authorize sports betting, and move on this now.

The federal Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), passed in 1992, prohibits sports betting in most states, including Maryland. However, a number of states have considered legislation recently to allow or at least evaluate sports betting, including include Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia. Last session in Maryland, Delegate Jason Buckel sponsored House Bill 989, Gaming – Wagering on Sporting Events – Study and Implementation, which would have created the Task Force to Study the Implementation of Sports Gaming, and under certain terms, allowed the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (SLGCC) to issue sports gaming licenses.

The State of New Jersey actually passed laws in 2012 and 2014 meant to allow sports betting at state casinos and racetracks, and over the summer, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill that imposes a 10.5 percent tax on winnings for companies that operate daily fantasy sports leagues. New Jersey’s activities triggered litigation that has arrived before the Supreme Court. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear the New Jersey case challenging the constitutionality of preempting most states from authorizing sports betting. It is expected to hear the case next spring.

But waiting until the Supreme Court makes a decision may be too late, argues the Maryland gaming industry.  The Baltimore Sun reports:

[Joe] Weinberg, chief executive of Cordish Global Gaming, urged members of the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight to take up the issue in 2018 so that a constitutional amendment may be put on next year’s general election ballot. …

Weinberg warned that Maryland’s competitors for casino tax dollars already are lining up to change their laws in case the Supreme Court rules on a pending case to allow more states to offer sports betting.

“If we wait for 100 percent clarity on federal law, we will be two to three years behind the surrounding states,” he said.

The bottom line: if authorized, sports betting could materially affect the State’s – and possibly counties’ – bottom lines. All would welcome the additional tax revenue, we bet.

Free Wednesday Webinar on Cannabis Regulation

Webinar: Regulating Marijuana – Emerging Challenges, Best Practices and Technology Solutions

The new regulatory processes being launched across the country require input from many local departments (licensing, permitting, environmental health, public safety, etc.) and close coordination amongst counties, cities and states. Local government staff are being tasked with delivering new systems under tight deadlines and with high stakes for accuracy and compliance.

Wednesday, September 20
11 a.m. PDT | 2 p.m. EDT

In this webinar, we will discuss:

• Emerging best practices and current challenges for local marijuana regulatory programs
• The key role robust, integrated technology systems play in successfully regulating marijuana
• How pioneers like the City and County of Denver, CO addressed the challenges and opportunities presented by marijuana legalization

The webinar is sponsored by Accela, and follows up on a presentation delivered at the NACo Annual Conference in July of this year.

Register here for the free webinar.

Anirban Basu Delivers Economic Forecast at #MACoCon

In the 2017 MACo Summer Conference session, “Markets, He Wrote: Looking for Clues into the Economy’s Direction“, economist, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group, Inc., Anirban Basu, provided audience members with a local, state, national, and global economic forecast.

Senator Middleton Introduces Economist Anirban Basu.
Senator Middleton Introduces Economist Anirban Basu.

Basu discussed positives such as the state’s overall job growth and economic standing. But tempered that news with recognition that there is regional disparity between Washington and Baltimore metro counties which are experiencing growth, while rural areas in the east and west are experiencing stagnation or decline. Overall, Basu had ominous predictions for the future with threats of a downturn as soon as 2019.

The session was moderated by Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton and held on Friday, August 18, 2017.

The MACo summer conference was  held August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme was “You’re Hired!”.

Frustrated U.S. Senators Press Feds On FBI Headquarters Plan

A month after federal decision-makers scrapped the government’s decade-long plan to close the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s deteriorating headquarters in downtown Washington and replace it with a new building in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, U.S. Senators from both parties yesterday expressed frustration at officials from the General Services Administration. Senators lamented that millions of dollars had been wasted on the failed effort, and complained that they were blindsided by the decision.

The General Services Administration, the government’s landlord, has been working with the FBI for more than a decade on a plan to trade away the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, D.C. to a developer. In return, the developer would be responsible for the majority of the costs to develop a new headquarters on a modern site.

After spending more than $20 million on its plan, which would have relocated the FBI to Landover, Md., Greenbelt, Md., or Springfield, Va., the General Services Administration said it was canceling the project because Congress had not appropriated enough funds.

According to The Washington Post,

No senator appeared more frustrated by the process than Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the state that would be home to two of the proposed sites. Cardin said the GSA had received seven viable development plans from three developers and pointed out that Congress had granted the agency approval to pick a new headquarters location. Congress has already appropriated more than $800 million toward construction and approved the selling of the Hoover Building.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to move this quicker than saying it’s another four, five or six years to get this done,” Cardin said, “because the FBI can’t wait and the taxpayers demand that we be more efficient than this.”

Officials from Maryland and Virginia have competed for years to land the new headquarters. But the rest of Congress had repeatedly expressed concern with the huge price tag.

The project would have had a significant economic impact on Maryland and, more specifically, Prince George’s County, where two potential sites were being considered. The FBI has about 11,000 employees, which would have made it one of Maryland’s largest employers.

State and Prince George’s County officials had spent years trying to convince the FBI to relocate. The University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore planned to launch a joint national security academy. Gov. Larry Hogan pledged $317 million in infrastructure and traffic improvements to accommodate a new headquarters in Greenbelt and $255 million for a Landover site.

Read the full article for more information.

‘Amazon Jobs Day’ Aims to Hire 1,200 New Local Workers

The online retail giant, Amazon is planning to hire 1,200 workers in our region next month. The Seattle-based internet giant will hold a job fair in a dozen U.S. cities — including Baltimore — on Aug. 2 to hire a total of 50,000 new workers.

The Seattle-based company plans to hire a total of 50,000 new workers nationwide.

According to The Baltimore Business Journal,

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has a 1-million-square-foot distribution center in the city alongside a smaller center and is preparing to open a third center, 1.15 million-square-foot facility, in Cecil County by the end of the year with 700 new jobs promised.

The upcoming “Amazon Jobs Day” are set to take place in 12 cities where Amazon has established distribution facilities. Those cities include Fall River, Massachusetts, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hebron, Kentucky, Etna, Ohio and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In Baltimore, the job fair will be held at the large distribution center located at 2010 Broening Highway, a southeast corner of the city near Dundalk. The jobs available, according to an Amazon employment website, are part-time seasonal sortation associate, part-time seasonal shipping and receiving associate and full-time fulfillment associate.

The 2017 Summer Conference – “You’re Hired!” – will focus on Maryland’s new jobs growth and the wealth of opportunities in industries such as technology, the military, clean energy, the environment, agriculture, and education. Counties play a vital role in creating, maintaining, and growing the jobs in our state. Conference sessions will discuss trending data, best practices, and partnership opportunities to help counties attract and benefit from new jobs and keep our economy on an upward climb.The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland.

The 2017 MACo summer conference is August 16-19 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Wicomico Council to Review Animal Ordinances

The Wicomico County Council has agreed to review changes to the county’s animal ordinance proposed by the director of the local Humane Society and member of the county’s Animal Ordinance Committee. The recommendations are being proposed in an effort to improve animal rights and welfare.

As reported on Delmarva Now:

Aaron Balsamo, director of the Humane Society of Wicomico County, and members of the Animal Ordinance Committee presented the proposed revisions at Tuesday morning’s council meeting, saying the changes are needed.

“Some of our laws are very antiquated,” Balsamo said.

In March, Balsamo said in an email to county staff that areas he wants to see addressed by the committee are shelters, proper tethering of dogs and a prohibition of dogs left outside in extreme weather conditions.

The proposed changes follow the discovery last year of 310 dogs living in deplorable conditions at an Eden property.

The county’s Animal Ordinance Committee was first formed in 2007 after a Willards teenager was attacked by two dogs while riding his bike on New Hope Road. Jarritt Sybert, 14, received 40 puncture marks on his body from a pit bull mix and a German shepherd mix, according to a news report at the time.

From 2007 to 2008, the committee’s focus was on how to protect the public from dangerous dogs, but now it has shifted to how to protect animals.

For more information visit Delmarva Now.

Congressional Amendment May Imperil Maryland Offshore Wind Project

A proposal that was approved by a U.S. House committee calls for Maryland’s two offshore wind projects to inch farther away from the coast, a move one of the developers said would jeopardize the entire effort.

The Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a measure, sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican whose district includes the Eastern Shore, that requires the towering turbines to be located at least 24 miles from shore.

According to Delmarvanow,

The legislation comes after Ocean City officials protested that views of the turbines from its beaches and coastal condominiums would spoil the resort’s tourism industry.

“This will make it so when you go to Ocean City, Maryland, you don’t have red blinking lights on the horizon,” Harris told the committee. He cited a North Carolina State University survey in which 54 percent of respondents said they would be unwilling to stay wherever turbines are visible.

The Harris amendment bars federal funding from being spent on government reviews of wind projects built within 24 miles of Maryland’s shoreline. Any construction that takes place farther out to sea would be unaffected.

Harris said the measure would delay, not kill, the projects. The congressman pointed to a project off Virginia Beach that is going up 27 miles off the coast.

But one of the developers in Maryland promptly disagreed with that assessment.

Since its lease area is shaped like a triangle, U.S. Wind Inc. would be left with only enough room for one turbine, said Paul Rich, the company’s director for project development, in an interview.

“This is not helpful,” Rich said. “This stops a process before it’s even begun. It’s totally at odds with his constituency.”

U.S. Wind, Inc. has received enough renewable energy credits to build 62 turbines, which would rise 17 miles offshore. The company, a subsidiary of the Italian constructing firm Toto Holdings SpA, had moved the site back from 12 miles in response to Ocean City’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Skipjack Offshore Energy LLC is looking to construct 15 turbines in an area 17-21 miles off the coast at a cost of $720 million.

A representative of the Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC firm couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The amendment drew a rebuke from unlikely allies: manufacturing businesses and environmentalists.

Together, the projects are expected to generate more than $1.8 billion of in-state spending as well as 9,700 new direct and indirect jobs, the Maryland Public Service Commission estimates. The amendment imperils that potential economic boost, said Mike Dunn, president and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.

“We think there are enormous economic development and job opportunities for the Lower Shore via the offshore wind,” Dunn said.

For her part, Anne Havemann, general counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said she was “very frustrated” by the amendment. The legislation “tries to circumvent” six years of public hearings and government reviews that have gone into the effort, she said.

Individually, the projects are larger than the only offshore U.S. wind farm currently in operation: a five-turbine facility off Rhode Island, also developed by Deepwater.

U.S. Wind plans to construct future phases at the Maryland offshore site, raising the number of turbines to up to 187. That would produce enough power for more than 500,000 homes, the company said.

Read the full article for more information.