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Development Review Workgroup Provides Recommendations to Improve Development Processes to Montgomery County Government and Planning Department

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 28, 2023

After nine public meetings throughout the summer and three public listening sessions, Montgomery County’s Development Review Workgroup this week ended its months-long deliberations on ways to streamline the process that determines how development flows in the County. The group voted on a series of recommendations, approved by a supermajority of members, on steps forward. The recommendations include changes to review, permitting and administrative procedures and improved notification and inclusion of the County’s diverse communities.

Chief among the consensus recommendations are:

  • At the State level, enact legislation to speed the approval of plats and reduce the timeline for State Highway Administration review.
  • Reduce conflicts between Executive Branch agencies and Planning Department by clarifying agency roles in an updated Lead Agency Memorandum of Understanding.
  • Establish a Citizens’ Education Academy, with a priority focus on regions of the County and population groups historically under-represented in the zoning, planning and permitting processes.

“I am appreciative of Delegate Lopez and members of the workgroup for their work and the progress that has been made for our County’s residents and economic development,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “At the same time, I am disappointed by the consistent refusal to address larger systemic issues, which leaves some major issues unaddressed.”

While there were several items that the workgroup was unable to reach consensus on, the two most prominent included:

  • A recommendation to establish a People’s Counsel that would assist residents in better understanding the planning process, providing assistance in managing the process, with a particular focus to historically underrepresented communities.
  • A recommendation to contract with an independent third-party consultant to conduct a professional, comparative study of the County’s development process to competitive counties throughout the region.

“This workgroup created a positive start in addressing key issues, and I am intent on not letting the momentum to make this County’s processes more hospitable to go to waste,” said County Executive Elrich. “The addition of a People’s Counsel would serve as a valuable resource to the many County residents who would like to be more engaged in proposed projects but need assistance to better engage. Moreover, an outside neutral consultant could have provided valuable insight for policymakers, members of the public and developers on ways to streamline our processes, create more certainty and improve our economic competitiveness. While this workgroup failed to move forward on these two significant initiatives, I look forward to working on bringing these to fruition.”

The Development Review Workgroup was created following residential and commercial developers’ concerns over delays in process, potential duplicative issues and other concerns. While residents have raised concerns as to insufficient notice of proposed projects, inadequate attention to their issues and concerns of an opaque process makes it difficult for resident participation.

In response to this, and several proposed bills during the 2023 Maryland General Assembly session to improve the process, the Montgomery County House Delegation referred the issues to an interim study group chaired by State Delegate Lesley Lopez. She, together with an agreement from the County Executive and the Montgomery Planning Board chair, established the Development Review Workgroup. The workgroup, consisting of representatives of the Executive Branch departments, Montgomery Planning, the County Council, the County Executive, private developers, residents and other partners reviewed the process and received testimony on concerns.

Including this week’s meeting, the workgroup held nine public meetings and three public listening sessions to receive comments and concerns from residents and developers.  All meetings of the workgroup were streamed. Videos and documents are available at this link.

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Release ID: 23-430
Media Contact: Barry Hudson 240-300-7348