County Councilmembers Discuss Bills That Address Housing, Safety

Council Vice President Kate Stewart highlighted three new bills during the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board meeting Monday evening, which separately aim to address affordable housing, tenant protections and late-night business hours.

Stewart began the meeting with the Facilitating Affordable Inclusive Transformational Housing bill (PDF), also known as FAITH. This zoning text amendment, previously introduced in January, allows faith institutions and private schools to build multifamily buildings on their properties.

“Our zoning laws can sometimes get in the way of us building affordable housing,” Stewart said. “This is really our effort to make it easier for [faith communities] to do so.”

Next on Stewart’s agenda was the Tenant Protection and Notification Bill, which will be introduced in early March. This bill protects tenants from the dangers of faulty air conditioning units, ensures clarity of renters’ insurance in leases, requires landlords to disclose fire prevention information and specifies emergencies in which the landlord must contact residents. Stewart said two serious events last year – the fire at the Arrive apartments last February and a power outage at The Grand apartments in North Bethesda last August – proved the need for such legislation.

Finally, Stewart discussed a bill, which was introduced Tuesday, that will require all late-night businesses to close at either 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. The current law in Montgomery County allows tobacco, vape or hookah shops to stay open all night.

Stewart said that in recent years, calls for service from the police department have increased between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. This has led to issues with the county budget because of the need for more police officers during these hours. Stewart said the county has spent upwards of $70,000 in just a month on police overtime.

Another key topic of the meeting was adding cameras to parking garages. Stewart said the county has provided money to pay for cameras in parking garages. However, cameras will not be installed for a while.

“What will most likely take the longest to install are the cameras in the stairwells,” police Capt. James Reed said. “This project is a priority for both police and the county, and I’m hopeful that the project will be done quickly.”

Reed added that in the meantime, law enforcement is working to add more officers to patrol garages. He is hopeful this step will provide a sense of safety for residents and visitors of Silver Spring until the cameras are installed.

Attendees also questioned board members about what was being done to manage the unhoused population. Stewart said they are meeting with providers to address the situation and get the unhoused into housing.

For those interested in the proposed legislation, public hearings are coming up. The hearing for the FAITH bill will be Feb. 27 and the hearing for the bill on late-night business hours will be March 5. Both will be in the third-floor hearing room of the Council Office Building on 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. However, the sessions will also be held on Zoom.

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