Single Family Home Zoning Under Siege in Montgomery County
By Gail Weiss
Predictably, but disappointingly, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed ZTA 19-01, regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on July 23rd, 2019. This will be remembered as the day single family home (SFH) zoning died in Montgomery County.
While this ZTA considered minor things such as ceiling heights and set backs, these can only be assumed to have been ‘cover’ for the actual agenda which created a sweeping change - being able to build a second house (“accessory dwelling unit”) on a SFH lot – on lot sizes as small as 6,000 square feet (which is LESS THAN 1/14thof an acre. Previously, detached ADUs have been allowed only on lots of one acre or larger.)
The ZTA as approved ensures that*:
- In order for an ADU to be built or maintained, the property must be owner occupied. [HOW are they going to inspect and enforce this?]
- No more than two unrelated individuals can reside in an ADU. [HOW are they going to inspect and enforce this??]
- The ADU must be inspected and licensed. The FY20 budget includes funding for the county to hire additional housing inspectors. [Currently there are 400+ ADUs and UNKNOWN number of illegal ADUs. HOW are they going to enforce this when they already have a record of failure to do so?]
- Each property is limited to having one ADU.
- An ADU cannot be a short-term rental (no AirBnB rentals). [HOW are they going to inspect and enforce this??]
So now what? What can be done at this point?
- Supporting legislation, Bill 22-19, is tentatively scheduled for a hearing on September 10that 1:30 pm. Sign up to testify, follow the updates to the bill, tell council members what you think. Contact all four At-Large Council members (At-Large member Hans Reimer is the sponsor of this ZTA) as well as your district’s council member and Nancy Navarro who is the current president of the council. Let them know your thoughts. Among other things, consider asking them:
- HOW can they assure us that they can and will inspect and enforce owner-occupancy, no AirBNBs and illegal ADU construction?
- Since there is no limit on the occupancy number of children, WHO will track the impact this will have on schools and what will they do about it?
- How will they gauge the effectiveness of this ZTA to create affordable housing since that was the reason provided for this in the first place? Also, County Executive Elrich’s Executive Order has officially made Montgomery County a sanctuary by prohibiting all county employees from inquiring on immigration status, so no one from the county will be able to inquire about immigration status if they are applying to rent an ADU even if taxpayers’ subsidies end up being involved.
- Go to change.org to sign the "opposed ZTA" petition Click Here [but DO NOT DONATE when the page opens, the donations at this page do not go to any effort fighting the ZTA bill -- JUST SIGN THE PETITION] that now has over 1,400 signatures - “Protect Single Family Home Zoning in Montgomery County, MD.” Add your name, because the Councilmembers keep claiming that there are more in support of this than are opposed.
- You can try to create an HOA if your home is not already in one. And if you are in an HOA, you can make sure a second house aka “detached accessory dwelling unit” is disallowed. Supposedly, the council specifically agreed to require absolute approval in writing from an HOA before issuing any building permit for a detached ADU.
- Lastly, it would be a good idea to either get involved in one or more of the above ways or look for more sane places to move to. Howmoneywalks shows the movement of the tax base all across the country. Even without that website, we can see where Montgomery County is headed, as evidenced by the very sad closing this month of the National Philharmonic. Those with disposable income are the ones who can afford to support the Arts and they are also the ones who can afford to vote with their feet. Clearly, they are doing so in droves. Welcome to Atlas Shrugged.