Building a Better Tomorrow: My Testimony on Montgomery County’s Zoning Plan

Last night, I testified before the Montgomery County Planning Department during a hearing on zoning ordinances that the County is rewriting. Our current codes have been in place since the 1970’s, so it’s time to bring Montgomery County up to speed and into our future.

As we move forward, it’s key that we protect and expand the smart policies that you and I believe in – including incentivizing affordable housing, bringing good paying jobs into our towns, and investing in a mass transit infrastructure that is able to serve our rapidly expanding county.

My full testimony is below. As we go forward, it’s important we hold all partners accountable to reduce environmental impact and improve quality of life as our community grows and moves into tomorrow.

Good evening.  My name is Hrant Jamgochian.  I live at 6540 Bradley Blvd in Bethesda, MD and have been commuting downtown for more than a decade.  I am also a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 16.

I applaud the County Council for holding tonight’s hearing, and for its efforts to modernize our zoning ordinances which have not been updated since 1977.  We now know so much more about “transit oriented development,” and need to ensure our zoning standards and development practices reflect our shared priorities, in order for our constituents and community to have an even brighter future.

I am particularly excited by the proposed goal of maintaining a wide range of housing options, including affordable housing, which will open doors for so many people – from young families to elderly seniors to mid-career singles and more.  Many people here tonight probably know someone who has been shut out of our community, because of the lack of affordable housing.  In fact, as I go door-to-door in my district, I continue to hear from countless seniors who worry about being able to stay in their homes, as the cost of living continues to rise along with the lack of affordable alternatives for them.  Young professionals also face the same challenges and often commute from the eastern part of our County to work in the west.

I am hopeful that we can further incentivize the affordable housing options you are exploring to further stimulate our economy.  I know the Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County has been active and involved in this aspect of the zoning rewrite and I wanted to let you know that I also believe it’s imperative that Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) not be counted towards construction density or total project density.  We aren’t a community that turns its back on its neighbors – let’s make sure that everyone has a place here.

One final aspect that I want to recognize, is all of the County Council’s work to reduce our traffic.  I especially appreciate its commitment to increase walkability, bikeability, carpooling and smarter, greener mass transit options like Bus Rapid Transit and the Purple Line, which are going to move our community forward.  By investing in alternatives to cars on the road, we are reducing gridlock, protecting our air quality and taking another step towards improving the quality of life for our residents.

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