Montgomery council members get testy over lack of action -- Gazette.Net


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A bill designed to encourage more affordable housing stalled Tuesday, prompting a heated exchange among usually collegial Montgomery County Council members.

“I just got to say, ‘Fine, be who you are,’ but I think it’s outrageous that my colleagues will not take any action on this,” Councilwoman Nancy M. Floreen said.

Talking over his colleagues, Councilman George L. Leventhal asked for council parliamentarian Michael Faden to rule other members out of order. Faden refused.

“I am uncertain as to what topic is being debated now,” Faden said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Proposed in 2011 by Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, the bill sought to provide developers with tax incentive to build more affording housing.

Apartment buildings with at least 25 percent affordable units would be exempt from paying transportation and school impact taxes. Staff estimated a 175-unit apartment building taking advantage of the incentive would cost the county $2.1 million in lost impact taxes. The county requires at least 12.5 percent of units in a new development to be affordable.

The council was to take action on the bill Tuesday.

But as the council discussed an amendment to place a sunset provision on the bill, Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda suggested the council needed more time to make a decision and moved to table the bill.

He said he felt the council was rushing without larger context of how the incentive would function among existing affordable housing incentives, such as those that trade density for more affordable housing units.

“I am one who supports affordable housing, and I want to make sure that we spend the resources in the most effective way,” he said. “And I’m just not convinced, on the basis of what I’ve heard, that we’re doing so.”

Berliner’s move raised the ire of the bill’s sponsors.

“This is the sort of thing that makes me very angry,” Floreen said. “This has been before us for a year and a half, so to suggest that we are rushing to judgment is breathtaking.

“I’m sitting here with eight other colleagues, who time and time again, in every other context that involves not making a decision says they’re all for affordable housing, but when it comes time to actually do something we can come up with reasons,” she said.

Councilman Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown — also a sponsor of the bill — said the council was making a mistake.

“We’ve got to take a stand at some point, bite the bullet and say, ‘You know what? We’re going try,’” he said. “If we don’t try, then what is the point?”

A vote of five council members is required to revive the issue from the table, but Floreen said she is not optimistic her bill will return.

kalexander@gazette.net