County Council Approves Streamlined Process for New, Expanding County Biohealth Facilities

The County Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a zoning text amendment that would streamline the approval process for biohealth facilities in the county.

The Zoning Text Amendment 21-09, Office and Professional – Biohealth Priority Campus would “create a new definition for Biohealth Priority Campus that includes Life Sciences, Research and Development, or Medical/Scientific Manufacturing and Production,” according to the council staff report.

It would allow the faster process for new biohealth facilities that are least 150,000 square feet or larger. It also would be allowed for existing county biohealth facilities, such as Silver Spring’s United Therapeutics, that expand by 50,000 square feet or more.

UT recently bought the Homewood Suites location next to its headquarters and is evaluating how it will use the property.

A BPC would be allowed in commercial/residential, employment office, and life sciences center zones, as well as for developments within or adjacent to a red policy area (near a Metro station), within an opportunity zone (such as that in the east county), or within 1⁄2 mile of a planned or existing Bus Rapid Transit route, according to the report.

One of the principal changes made to the process by this ZTA is that a sketch plan and a site plan would not be required for a BPC.

Rather, the applicant would submit a BPC plan, which would include many of the elements of a site plan and would have to conform to the zoning requirements for that location. Planning Board would review the plan prior to scheduling a public hearing and would then approve the plan at the close of the public hearing record.

Lead sponsor Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D-District 3), speaking at a press conference hosted by UT yesterday, called the ZTA “an absolute game changer for our biohealth industry in Montgomery County, one of our most important and most strategic industries that is changing lives and creating opportunities.”

“The ZTA that was passed [Tuesday] can take the approval time for new construction from 600+ days to around 180 days, making Montgomery County much more competitive for biotech companies considering moving to or expanding in the county,” Dewey Steadman, UT’s director of investor relations, told the Source in an email.

The ZTA will become effective 20 days after council approval.

David Lay photo

 

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