County Council Approves Amendment to Moratorium Policy

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday gave unanimous approval to an amendment to the county’s moratorium policy that allows certain developments to move forward despite a residential building freeze.

As 12% of the county — four school clusters and 13 individual schools — is set to be placed in a moratorium beginning next week, the council agreed that some projects could be approved by the Planning Board if they are projected to yield fewer than 10 new students and either replace a condemned structure in or adjacent to a state-designated “opportunity zone” or if more than half of the residences are designated as affordable housing.

About three projects would qualify, according to estimates, and the county Planning Department supported the amendment.

Montgomery County has 14 opportunity zones which allow investors to receive tax incentives for projects in the area.

Council member Hans Riemer, co-sponsor of the amendment, said it’s important to balance school capacity and housing needs, and said the amendment was designed to target “very specific proposals” and ensure there is limited negative impact on nearby schools.

“The council has been very aggressive about adding funding for school projects to the capital budget, but nevertheless … those areas (in moratorium) are areas where people want to live and development wants to happen,” Riemer said. “This amendment was intended to at least provide a way forward for a few projects.”

Council member Craig Rice, co-sponsor of the amendment and chair of the council’s Education & Culture Committee, said he, too, understands the impact of school crowding, but said condemned buildings hurt nearby homes’ property values and a lack of affordable housing makes it impossible for some families to live in certain areas of the county.

“I’m incredibly sensitive to ensuring we’re not overburdening our schools and classrooms and teachers,” Rice said. “There are folks who still suffer not only for the challenge of affordable housing options, but for areas that are blighted and create issues when it comes to the overall aesthetics of communities. .. We want investment in all of our communities.”