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Council Agenda: Budget Hearing, Sign Ordinance

Green building tax credits, economic development bonds and adequate public facilities also on deck.

A public hearing on the fiscal 2013 city budget and changes to the city’s sign ordinance are on the Rockville City Council’s agenda for Monday.

The council also is scheduled to discuss creating a green building tax credit, a policy on economic development bonds, and a request for an Attorney General’s opinion on the city’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

The at . The meeting will be broadcast live on Rockville 11.

Budget hearing

The council will hold the second of three public hearings on the city’s proposed fiscal 2013 operating and capital budgets.

City staff at the March 26 council meeting. The proposed operating budget is $107 million. The proposed capital budget is $75.1 million.

There are three council work sessions on the budget scheduled in April:

  • April 9: Police, City Manager's Office, Information Technology, and Mayor and Council/City Clerk Departments
  • April 16: Recreation & Parks (operating and CIP), City Attorney, Human Resources, and Finance Departments.
  • April 30: Public Works (operating and CIP) and Community Planning and Development Services Departments.

A fourth work session will be held, if needed, on May 14.

A third and final public hearing is scheduled for May 7. Staff is recommending that the public record remain open for written testimony until May 17.

The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on May 21.

Proposed sign ordinance changes

The council is scheduled to discuss changes to the city’s zoning ordinance governing signs.

The changes have been in the works since late 2010, when the raised issues with sign regulations with the council.

Among nine proposed changes are the following:

  • Signs identifying the owner or leasing agent of a property with contact information would be allowed without counting against the total sign area permitted.
  • Signs mounted inside a building and visible from the outside would not be regulated except that they could not exceed 20 percent of the window area.
  • Up to 20 percent of the allowable sign area would be used for corporate trademarks or other logos with approval from the owner or leasing agent.
  • In addition to the principal color of a sign’s lettering, up to two additional accent colors would be allowed.
  • If a building has more than 50 linear feet of frontage, the permitted sign area for temporary signs would increase from 32 square feet to 48 square feet.
  • In all of the mixed-use zones, one small (four square feet in area) sandwich board sign would be allowed per tenant if placed directly in front of a main entrance. Currently, these signs are only allowed in certain mixed-use zones.

The proposal also is noteworthy for what it does not address:

  • The use of electronic message boards, flashing LED signs with multiple advertisements.
  • Regulation of “sign spinners” as opposed to “sign walkers.”
  • The size and location of freestanding signs.
  • Spacing of street trees so as not to screen business signs from passing vehicles.

“These items should be a part of a broader comprehensive review of the sign regulations,” according to a report by city staff.

The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to review the proposed changes May 9. The council would hold a public hearing on the changes in June.

Green building tax credit

Monday’s meeting also will include a discussion of a proposed green building tax credit that was postponed from the March 26 meeting.

City staff is recommending that the council pass an ordinance establishing the program. The council would have to set money aside in the fiscal 2013 budget to begin offering the credits.

If city dollars were available, the credit program would be piloted over five years, beginning in July with $60,000 in tax credits in the fiscal 2013 budget. Credits would go to commercial properties that make their buildings more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. The credits would increase to $300,000 in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017.

Like the sign regulation changes, the credit is a priority for .  The chamber worked with the city Environment Commission and city staff to develop the proposed credit program.

Economic development bonds

The council is scheduled to vote on a policy establishing criteria for the city to issue Economic Development Revenue Bonds on behalf of nonprofit organizations.

On Jan. 9, the on behalf of the & Village at Rockville Inc., despite having no criteria in place regarding issuance of economic development bonds on behalf of nonprofits.

A policy drafted by city staff would limit eligibility for the bonds to 501(c)(3) nonprofits financing non-speculative projects costing more than $10 million. It would require information to assess the feasibility of the proposed project and the financial stability of the organization requesting the bond issuance.

At issue is a proposed requirement of a feasibility analysis by an independent financial advisor, to be hired by the city and paid for by the organization requesting the bond.

“It is staff's understanding that by requiring the borrower to pay for a second and separate analysis by a financial advisor will likely result in no organizations seeking Economic Development Revenue Bonds from the City as organizations can get the same assistance from Montgomery County and Montgomery County Revenue Authority without the additional cost and time consideration,” the staff report states.

Opinion on the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance

The council will consider whether to pose four questions to the state’s Attorney General about a city ordinance that seeks to ensure that transportation infrastructure, public schools, fire and emergency service and water and sewer service, can sufficiently handle the impact of new development.

Councilman Tom Moore proposed the questions in a March 4 email to the mayor and council. They are:

  1. Does a local jurisdiction have the authority to enact and enforce an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that restricts development based on a public facility the jurisdiction does not plan, stage or provide?
  2. If so, must the standards in that ordinance be substantially similar to the standards of the jurisdiction that does plan, stage, or provide the public facility?
  3. When a jurisdictions APFO restricts development based on a public facility that it does not plan, stage, or provide must it provide a means of mitigation?
  4. What does the phrase "substantially similar" mean in the APFO context? For example, are the school standards in Rockville's APFO substantially similar to those in Montgomery County's?
Sean R. Sedam April 02, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Tonight's meeting is underway. Councilman John Hall is out sick, Councilman Tom Moore reports. With Hall's absence, the council has decided to table discussions of the economic development bond policy and of an Attorney General opinion on the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.
Sean R. Sedam April 02, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Acting city manager Jennifer Kimball announced Monday that country music star Easton Corbin will headline Sunday's main stage of this year's Hometown Holidays street festival. Corbin is known for No. 1 hits "Roll With It" and "A Little More Country Than That." Learn more about Easton Corbin here: http://www.eastoncorbin.com/
Theresa Defino April 03, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Well, that was nice. Let's hope the others show the same courtesy if Tom or Mark misses a meeting.

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