You are on page 1of 3

1000 La Grande Road

Silver Spring, Maryland 20903


240-331-9155 ¬ suepresent@comcast.net

February 24, 2019

President Navarro and members of the Council:


For many years, I have professionally and personally advocated for affordable,
appropriate, safe, and fair housing and neighborhoods. I am requesting that you amend
ZTA 19-01 as I am detailing for you here. But I am also asking that you thoughtfully study
the ramifications of this legislation before taking any affirmative action on it.

As proposed, this ZTA poses deleterious threats. A personal example: My home abuts
three accessory structures that were constructed in violation of the zoning setback
standards, and are practically on my property lines. Under this ZTA, any of those
structures could be converted to an ADU, and that could adversely affect the character
and use of my property and diminish my property value.
Amendments are needed.
• Noncomplying and nonconforming existing accessory structures and those
granted zoning variances, waivers, exemptions, or similar provision within
special exceptions or conditional use permits (for setback, height, lot coverage,
etc.) should not be eligible for conversions to ADUs.

• For off-street parking regulations to be effective, the parking spaces for ADUs
must be directly and independently accessible by the ADU occupants. And,
absence of sidewalks on the confronting streets should be one disqualifier for
off-street parking waivers.

In addition, the Council needs complete and reliable information about the adverse
impacts that would be posed by elimination of the concentration caps and the vastly
weakened restrictions on unit size. Please seek OMB’s production of fiscal and
economic impacts. And table this ZTA until OMB’s impact statements are shared with
the public and evaluated.
2

The sponsor has projected adding a few hundred ADUs per year, and he has identified
the targets for development as being single-family properties in close proximity to
County employment and transit hubs. He speculates that this would be a benign
solution that would supply affordable rental housing. But where is the documentation?

Unfortunately, the Planning Board failed to fully examine and apprise the Council of the
potential adverse impacts associated with ZTA 19-01. But the buck stops with the
Council. The Council should not make its decisions based upon speculation or because
other select jurisdictions may be doing similar things.

Montgomery County owes its taxpayers decisions that are based upon credible
information, including whether ADUs that would be developed in the projected
numbers and concentrations would pose adverse impacts. What would be the impacts
on public facilities? For example:

• Regarding our public water and sewer services:


o Would they be unable to serve all dwellings?
o Would our aging infrastructure be overstressed?
o Would water supplies be insufficient for emergency fire suppression?

• Would our schools have inadequate capacity to accommodate the influx of projected
students?

• Would our streets have inadequate capacity -- size and durability – for:
o Emergency vehicles,
o Personal and public transportation,
o Service vehicles (e.g., refuse and snow removal),
o Multi-modal needs of bicyclists and pedestrians,
o Parking,
o Deliveries?
Keep in mind that recent e-commerce patterns have significantly added to road
congestion, which includes trucks that double-park on local streets while making
frequent deliveries, and ride-share services that block streets while stopping and
idling.
3

Impact analyses should also answer important questions related to rents and taxes:
• Left to market forces, would the ADU rents near employment and transportation
hubs be unaffordable for the sponsor’s target renters without County interventions?
If interventions would be required, how would those interventions increase County
taxes and/or reduce County tax revenues?

• Would the members of doubled-up households in our neighborhoods find ADU


market-rate rents prohibitively costly, and, if so, would the addition of ADUs
exacerbate current neighborhood congestion issues?

• Would neighboring detached homes experience declines in property values? If so,


what would be the drop in County property tax revenues?

At his ZTA Forum, Councilmember Riemer referenced the era in Takoma Park, when
homes that were previously (often illegally) converted into apartments reverted to their
single-family uses. In that era (the late 1980s), I served as the Director of the Takoma
Park Department of Housing Services. My Code Enforcement Division worked with
property owners to retain the rental housing stock, where possible, to bring inadequate
units up to code, and ensure that they were licensed and regularly inspected.
Unfortunately, not all units could enter the legal housing stock. For many in Takoma
Park, this was a distressing experience!
With today’s strong demand for affordable rental housing, and the backdrop of code
violations, I wonder if sufficient resources would be marshalled to prevent unlicensed,
unsafe, and illegal rental units from seeping in unnoticed amongst high concentrations
of ADUs. I am concerned about adverse effects in the short run, and about a later
backlash like that previously experienced in Takoma Park.
Please incorporate my recommended amendments. But until the Council has received
OMB fiscal and economic impact statements that provide reasonable assurances that
the legislation would do no harm, please do not pass this ZTA.
Sincerely,
Sue Present
Sue Present