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Public Comments on "Zoning Montgomery: Approach & Annotated Outline"

Public Comments on "Zoning Montgomery: Approach & Annotated Outline"

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Published by: M-NCPPC on Dec 06, 2010
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12/06/2010

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pg. 1
Public Comments on
“Zoning Montgomery: Approach & Annotated Outline”
 
The following is an extensive sampling
of the public comments we received on the “Zoning Montgomery:
A
pproach & Annotated Outline” document. To facilitate the use of this document, c
omments have beenorganized into categories:
 
General Comments
 
Project Objectives
 
Layout and Format
 
Annotated Outline-
 
Article 59-A. General Provisions-
 
Article 59-B. Zoning Districts Established-
 
Article 59-C. Use and Use Standards-
 
Article 59-D. District Regulations-
 
Article 59-E. General Development Standards-
 
Article 59-F. Administration and Enforcement
 
Sustainability Audit-
 
Miscellaneous Comments-
 
Buildings and Neighborhoods-
 
Stormwater-
 
Food Production-
 
Parking-
 
Tree Canopy-
 
Water Reuse and Irrigation, Energy, and Waste ReductionThe Zoning rewrite isa rare opportunityto improve the built environment in the County - the draft is anexcellent start and worthy of our support.This is a fantastic approach & shows a lot of intensive/extensive thinking. Not everyone will be pleased butthedraft represents a good compromise on everything. Excellent work.There is a marked blurring of the distinction between Master Plan requirements and zoning and designguidelines which I do not favor.The form based zoning approach, using pictures, graphs and templates is both misleading to the generalpublic and too restrictive to the builder
undermining private design decisions. It curbs innovation and maybe based on a misunderstanding of successful design in other areas of the built environment.Too much control is placed in the hands of the planners and zoning writers and too little in the privatesector.Pleased to note that one of the Key Policy Issues arising from the Zoning Discovery process was the need for
“designing for people.”
As the primary tool for implementing Master Plan visions, we anticipate that thenew zoning code will adhere to this principle.Little meaningful opportunity for citizen input
into design as standard method projects’
base requirementsare expanded (especially true in the CR Zones). Also, moving the design, amenity, and public use decisionsfrom citizens/residents to professional (often non-resident) planners is not desirable.
I see the “Approach” outline as
a very good start on the project of rewriting our unwieldy zoning ordinance,and I heartily endorse the goal of creating a zoning ordinance which, together with the applicable master
GENERAL COMMENTS
 
pg. 2
plan, will tell a property owner and other interested parties what can or cannot be built on a given site witha high degree of certainty.There aremany unanswered questionsas to how this new paradigm for zoning would handle the many highly specific, unusual, site specific parcels that are highly unique, and not susceptible to a cookie cuttertemplate.I just looked over the Montgomery planning website and wish to say I am very impressed with the workbeing done. I am a design professional with an architectural background who became a Maryland resident 3years ago. I like the quality of the planned built environment andappreciate your efforts to make the zoningrequirements easy to understand.The document places excessive reliance on Reducing Our Footprint and Zoning Discovery documents. Both
are ‘inside baseball’ staff 
-generated documents with no official acceptance of the ideas contained withinand a great deal of citizen skepticism and reaction bordering on hostility.The best way to evaluate the code is to test it with buildings/development we like to see if they would bepermitted, and with buildings/development we don't like to see if they would be prevented.The concept of revising zoning code to permithigher density near transit is great. The following additionswould be helpful
o
 
Legislate “vehicle free zones” similar
 
to “no smoking zones” at transit cente
rs. In these areasprovide housing ownership or rental incentives or make eligibility for housing at or near transitcenters conditional on residents not owning a vehicle. In other words,provide incentives tohave people get rid of their cars. 
o
 
Use TDRs or similar concept to increase density at transit centers. Provide density in relation todistance from transit centers and not zone e.g. higher density at the center than ¼ mile awayetc.
o
 
Use building design to complement building height in determining FAR at transit centers i.e.building design should trump building heightInclude reduction of SOV use as a component of reducing VMT.Increase the efficiency of transit(especially bus service); RideOn and Metro buses are currently runapparently with little regard to scheduling, which discourages ridership.(Walkable communities) In winter require businesses to clear sidewalks, bus shelters, and wheelchair rampsin road ROWs fronting the business, to promote truly walkable communities in all weather.Inconsidering appropriate density, should we identify zones in which there is a minimum lot size of 2 acres?How and where do we accommodate manufactured housing?Text amendments should not be in conflict with Master Plans and should apply to more than one specificproperty.An important area that needs definition is that of a church. Perhaps the code should distinguish between achurch and church complex or provide some size parameters for the zones in which churches are allowed.Clustering is also a term that needs precise definition. When one thinks of clustering in the agriculturalreserve, one is certainly not thinking of town houses.I generally agree with the concepts put forth in the zoning code rewrite. I feel the basic premise for futurecounty development of replacing greenfield development with in-fill development is realistic. The oldconcept of development of M.C. on the basis of the wedges and corridor concept may still have somesmaller consideration.
PROJECT OBJECTIVES
 
pg. 3
The County is not built out -every acre is organized now for some use - the new code is about organizingrenewed use throughout the County. Misstating this fact is unhelpful.Item #7
there is this…”In a vibrant, mixed use area, buildings are pulled up to the street, ground
-floorwindows are transparent, parking is structured or to the rear of the buildings, sidewalks are wide and streets
are narrow.” I am puzzled by the part stating buildings are pulled up to the street and wide sidewalks.
Howare buildings pulled up to the street and there are to be wide sidewalks?The Bethesda Row area appears toa successful model for streetscape development.Part 7, Match Land Use and Development Patterns: The last paragraph of this section discusses theimportance of building form, noting that land use is not i
gnored, but “more loosely regulated.” It seems to
me that more regulation of uses is needed outside our urban centers, where tolerance for mixed uses ismuch lower than in urban areas. In an urban environment, residents should reasonably expect businessuses in close proximity to residential ones, often in the same building. In neighborhoods where single-familydetached homes predominate, many residents would be dismayed by zoning that permits commercial uses,regardless of whether they are housed in residential-style buildings, because of the risk of bringing intrusivelevels of traffic, noise and activity to otherwise quiet residential neighborhoods. Thezoning approach needsto acknowledge and respect the varying needs of our urban, suburban and rural areas. 
“Changing residential growth from greenfields to infill”…is not something the zoning ordinance can do…thezoning ordinance can “better accommodate infill development”
.
“Focus on accommodating the right growth in the right place” is a master plan i
ssue.
I
mproving the quality of development” is ok…if it does not increase
cost of housingon the lower end of themarket.What happened to implementing master plans as a goal? The plans form the vision of guiding growth
 
How about “concise, precise,
 
and decisive” as a goal for the re
-write?Zoning
is a negative power…itcannot “direct growth”…it can prohibit unwanted growth. The market
determines if density is used.
I like the idea of “compatibility determined by standards and typology”
 
'...only 4% of county land is
available for new development.”
Absurd -every parking lot is available for newdevelopment.
“C
omplex, one-of-a-kind zoning districts
- true, except that part of the plan will be to codify specialcharacteristics of planning areas.'Compatibility' is a trap - in a postwar, production formed suburb with large areas of virtually identicalhouses,compatibility too often means identity. The County's huge single use zones need to be enriched by retail, commercial and mixed housing uses - such improvements are unlikely to be seen as compatible withthe existing 'monocultures'.
Projects that emulate the County's vision...
 Emulation implies inability to comply, perhaps too harsh a test.Building types -I'm not sure zoning should attempt to regulate types. Form, and within limits, and use, butmany types may be possible within a given envelope.Optional methods - making default building forms for low-performing developers or attention-seekingarchitects is likely an appropriate objective, but, despite its extortionate techniques, the Optional Methoddoes exact public purpose - art, affordable housing, open space (this frequently misguided) are allreasonable incentivized exactions which shouldn't be lost.Consolidating use tables and plain language are both excellent objectives.

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