Wednesday, July 9, 2008

City to extend affordable housing exemption

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City officials moved Monday to extend the city’s affordable housing requirements for Olde Towne business development to any enterprise zone established by state law — and to rezone several acres of land to be included in the central business district.

The issues arose during a June 16 policy discussion of the mayor and council, where city leaders considered rezoning new development anticipated at Water Street and Diamond Avenue, where 52 affordable housing garden apartments will be razed.

A majority of the City Council members said they supported rezoning the properties into the Olde Towne Central Business District to allow greater density, but opposed exempting the properties from affordable housing requirements.

The Olde Towne CBD effectively has an exemption from city affordable housing requirements by requiring a $1 fee per unit in lieu of building the required affordable housing units.

‘‘The effect of passing this ordinance would be properties newly annexed into the central business district would not be exempt from building the city’s normal affordable housing requirements because new CBD properties are not part of the enterprise zone,” said Assistant City Manager Fred Felton.

Public record remains open with the Planning Commission until noon on Friday. The commission will make a recommendation on July 16. The City Council public record remains open until 5 p.m. on July 17. Anticipated policy discussion and final action is expected July 21.

Maggie Gilford, a Gaithersburg resident and representative of Gaithersburg Housing Coalition, thanked city leaders Monday for not allowing developers to create workforce housing instead.

‘‘We’re really glad that you’re keeping this in mind and not just grandfathering in projects into the CBD,” she said. She suggested that developers could get a financial break if city leaders change the city’s parking ordinance to demand fewer spaces for affordable housing units than the 2.2. spaces per unit typically required.

Olde Towne’s central business district and partial environs – about 300 acres — recently received enterprise zone designation. To qualify, 70 percent of the population of an area must earn less than 80 percent of the median income.

Patriotic appeal

Councilman Jud Ashman made an appeal to residents on Friday, while continuing to plug the benefits of the Alert Gaithersburg.

At the city’s Independence Day celebration, Ashman told visitors that he was reminded of ‘‘the famous moment in the Spring of 1775 when word got out in Boston that the Redcoats were on the march toward Lexington and Concord, and Paul Revere set out on his famous midnight ride to warn his fellow colonists that the British were coming.”

Then he took advantage.

‘‘Now there’s not always a Paul Revere around when there’s an urgent message to deliver, but we have the next best thing,” Ashman said. ‘‘While it’s unlikely we’ll ever receive a message that says ‘The British are coming!’ we all know that things can happen.”

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MML election

Gaithersburg Assistant City Manager Fred Felton was elected on May 14 to serve as secretary to the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League for 2008-2009. Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin was elected president and Rockville Mayor Susan Hoffmann was elected vice president.

Surplus land hearing

Gaithersburg’s mayor and council will hold a surplus land public hearing on July 21 at City Hall, located at 31 S. Summit Ave. The hearing will be held during the mayor and council’s regular meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m.

At issue is the Washingtonian North Land Exchange, a land swap approved by the city’s Planning Commission in 2000. The swap was proposed to preserve specimen trees north of the Rio at Washingtonian Center for land belonging to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Agreements signed in 2000 allow an equal exchange of parkland and city property. Since then, site plans for infrastructure, an office building and parking garage have been approved, according to a June 25 memo by Trudy M. Schwarz, the city’s community planning director.

The infrastructure site plan requires that the exchange occur prior to approving a clearing or forest conservation plan. The city’s planning and environmental affairs staff has been working with developers to define the area of the exchange and protect a large stand of specimen trees, Schwarz wrote. The exchange will mean the parking garage can be shifted back from Sam Eig Highway.

Employee awards

Mayor Sidney A. Katz and Acting City Manager Jim Arnoult presented Employee of the Quarter and Team of the Quarter awards for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008 at Monday’s mayor and council meeting at City Hall.

Kevin Helms, a network specialist with the city’s Information Technology department, won a quarterly employee award for his work with the Criminal Intelligence Analysis Training, a multi-agency class sponsored by the Gaithersburg Police Department and attended by 39 participants from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and New York. Helms set up and broke down 39 laptops, two workstations daily, while providing Internet access so visitors could keep in touch with their jobs.

Larry Ellis of the city’s public works department won for his work as acting supervisor for the city’s Park Maintenance crew.

Edwin Alvarez, Joe Crum, Billy Gilbert, James R. Smith and Mark R. Smith of the public works department won the Team of the Quarter award. They installed pond liner at the Miniature Golf Course at Bohrer Park.