by David Humpton, EVP
I-270 at Watkins Mill Interchange Update
The State Highway Administration (SHA) has selected a contractor to move forward from design into construction, with the notice to proceed date for the contractor scheduled for Monday, July 31. With the transition from design to construction, SHA’s District 3 construction office will take over the project management. The project is expected to take close to two years to complete. This is part of a larger package of improvements to I-270 that the state announced earlier this year.
Small Cell Towers
For about a year, the Montgomery County Council has been trying to redevelop its process for approving cell phone towers, especially with regard to sitting new shorter towers in residential areas. The county has received many applications for “small” cell towers, to the dismay of residents who are concerned about the aesthetic and health impacts in their neighborhoods.
These were the issues raised at a spirited meeting with council members in October 2016 in Gaithersburg. The same issues were raised at a meeting in Rockville on June 14, hosted by the County Executive’s Office. Recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) statutes and regulations prohibit the county from enacting laws that have the effect of prohibiting wireless service, and require the county act on applications much more quickly than the current process takes. At the meeting, County Council Member Hans
Reimer said that the county needs to move forward quickly with any changes it plans to the process to avoid action by the FCC to pre-empt legislative changes.
The executive’s office will be working over the summer to develop a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) that preserves community input into the process, and that offers applicants specific guidance on designs and location criteria that would streamline the approval process. Residents believe that this is particularly important in neighborhoods with underground utilities, which have fewer existing utility poles to use.
The goal is to avoid a “one size fits all” standard that does not allow for individual community differences and preferences. Staff hopes to announce the ZTA by the end of July, with a public hearing by the council in September. The focus on siting the new towers is on existing county rights of way.
Montgomery Village communities, because they own many of their own streets and rights of way, may be able to require more cooperation from wireless service providers. MVF will continue to monitor this issue and seek input from the MVF Board and the Presidents’ Council once the draft ZTA is released.
2017 MVF Board Retreat
The MVF Board held its strategic planning retreat on Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 in the North Creek Board Room. The Friday night session included a financial overview by CFO Snellings, which detailed 2017 YTD revenues and express and a discussion of CCF revenue. Mr. Snellings also provided 2018 budget assumptions, which had been previously reviewed by the Personnel Committee. Lastly, there was a discussion about the 5-year plan assumptions, and it was noted that new unit assessment revenue would be coming in later than originally projected because of slower approvals by Montgomery County for various new development projects.
Saturday’s session included discussions about the future of communications activities to reach more residents and more effectively market recreation programs, special events and community meetings. This involved a discussion of the frequency of Village News, expanded use of social media and changing advertising revenues.
Transportation priorities, a new development project update, parking challenges in the Village, encouraging broader resident participation on Village boards and committees, youth presentation (non-voting) on the MVF Board and internship opportunities for high school students were also discussed. There was a presentation on the status of the MVF 2017 Strategic Goals as well.
Department heads, with their respective staffs input, are preparing their departmental 2018 budgets. The EVP and CFO will be compiling the budget, including capital and reserve projects, for review by the Audit Committee and MVF Board at their joint meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24 at the North Creek Community Center, 20125 Arrowhead Road.