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Nov 19 14

Montgomery Planning Board Pays Respects to John P. “Jack” Hewitt

by Bridget Schwiesow


John P. “Jack” Hewitt, former Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioner, M-NCPPC Executive Director and first director of the Montgomery County Parks Department, died on October 25. A Silver Spring native and World War II veteran, Jack first worked for M-NCPPC in 1938 as a summer job, was hired permanently after serving in the war, and eventually became Parks Director from 1957 to 1971.  During his tenure, he was responsible for increasing the park system from fewer than 2,000 acres to more than 20,000 acres.  Jack served as M-NCPPC Executive Director from 1971-74 and as a Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioner from 1987 to 1991.  He was past president of the American Park & Recreation Association, past president of the Maryland Recreation & Park Society, and recipient of the Pugsley Medal, a prestigious parks award. A leader even in retirement, Jack was a founding member of M-NCPPC Retirees Association and served on the Board of the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc.

Nov 18 14

Montgomery Parks to Pilot Snow Removal Program on Capital Crescent Trail

by Melissa Chotiner

Trail Users Are Encouraged to Report Conditions Via Twitter Using #CCTSnow


SILVER SPRING, MDMontgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is launching a pilot snow removal program this winter for the Montgomery Parks portion of the Capital Crescent Trail, located in Bethesda. Parks staff will clear snow on three and a half miles of the trail starting at the Bethesda Avenue entrance point to the Montgomery County / Washington D.C. line, as well as along 12 feeder trails. Parks staff will begin clearing the trail within 24 hours from when snow stops falling.

Regular updates on the status of snow removal along the trail will be posted on Montgomery Parks’ website at during and after snow events. Trail users are welcome to contribute updates on the conditions of the trail via Twitter using #CCTSnow.

Funded by the County, the program includes a one-time allocation to purchase special trail clearing equipment, as well as support to cover staff time.

“We recognize that many people rely on the Capital Crescent Trail for commuting and appreciate the county’s support of this pilot program enabling us to respond to the needs of county residents,” said Mike Riley, Director of Montgomery Parks.

The Capital Crescent Trail is a ten-foot wide, 11-mile hiker-biker trail connecting Silver Spring to Georgetown in Washington D.C. It is one of the most heavily used trails in the United States and is a recognized commuter trail by the Maryland Department of Transportation. Montgomery Parks operates and maintains three and a half miles of the trail—the portion which will be cleared as part of the snow removal pilot program.

“Existing data tells us that the Capital Crescent Trail is heavily used, particularly for commuting,” said John Nissel, Deputy Director of Operations for Montgomery Parks. “As part of this pilot program we will be updating the data with newly installed counters to better analyze trail use and guide future operations and maintenance.”

The new automated trail user counters will provide information on weather conditions as well as the total number of trail users traveling in each direction and detect how many are bicyclists.

The snow removal program does not include salting of the trail or ice removal. People are encouraged to stay off the trail until snow is cleared and to use caution when accessing the trail following snow removal.


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About The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks manages more than 36,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 420 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. The M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other

Nov 17 14

Montgomery Parks Foundation to Seek New Director

by Melissa Chotiner

Rankin to Depart After Guiding Revitalization


Montgomery Parks Foundation (Foundation) Board President, Joseph Isaacs, accepted with regret the resignation of its Executive Director, Debbie Rankin, who has held the position since January 2011 and has accepted another opportunity.  He expressed gratitude for Ms. Rankin’s outstanding efforts to revitalize the dormant Foundation and establish needed infrastructure to enable more effective fundraising programs, integration within the Department of Parks, and engagement of community stakeholders and partners.


With the support of the Board of Trustees, the Foundation has become a viable and robust organization with a mission to cultivate financial support and public engagement of county residents and businesses as members, donors, sponsors and advocates.  Mr. Isaacs stated that the Board will move as rapidly as possible to identify the next Executive Director to ensure the Foundation’s continuing momentum and a smooth transition to new leadership.


The Montgomery Parks Foundation had revenue of only $100,000 in the first year of its revitalization and over $660,000 in 2013.  In the current year, the Foundation received a $1 million gift for a Greenhouse at Brookside Gardens and will exceed $1.5 million in total revenue.


“The Foundation thanks Debbie for her leadership and intends with its next Executive Director to continue to grow for the benefit Montgomery Parks and those that enjoy them,” said Joseph Isaacs, President of the Board of Trustees.


The Foundation Board of Trustees in collaboration with the Director of Parks, Mike Riley, will begin the search process for the next Executive Director in the coming weeks.  The Board has named current Development Program Manager, Raleigh Leichter, as acting Executive Director during the transition.


“I feel confident that the Foundation Board of Trustees will work hard to identify the proper candidate to build on the excellent work Debbie and her talented staff started,” commented Mike Riley.


The Montgomery Parks Foundation is a 501c3 organization that champions Montgomery County Parks.

Nov 3 14

Montgomery Parks Announces Veterans Day Activities, Specials and Operating Hours

by Melissa Chotiner

-Free ice skating and skate rentals at Cabin John and Wheaton Ice for military families.-


SILVER SPRING, MD—In honor of Veterans Day, Montgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is offering free ice skating and skate rentals during public sessions on Sunday, November 9, for all active and retired military personnel and their immediate families at Cabin John and Wheaton Ice. Cabin John Ice will present a special patriotic skating performance midway in the 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. skating sessions that day. Public sessions are scheduled for the following times:

  •  Cabin John Ice: 8:30 – 10 a.m.; 12:30 – 2:30 p.m., 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
  • Wheaton Ice: 11a.m. – 12:45 p.m.; 2:45 – 4:45 p.m.

Montgomery Parks has a variety of fun, affordable activities lined up at various parks and facilities during the Veterans Day holiday weekend. A sampling is listed below. Visit for all offerings.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Visit and enter the course number to register.

    • Beginner Clinic 10:00 -11:00 a.m., (Course #296997)
    • Intermediate  Clinic  9:00 -10:00 a.m., (Course #248449)

Cost is $30 with online pre-registration or $35 day of clinic in person

The South Germantown Driving Range is open Saturday and Sunday, November 8 and 9 from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Monday and Tuesday, November 10 and 11 from 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Hours are dependent upon weather please visit before heading out.

Seniors 65 and older and all military personnel (both active and retired) receive a $2 discount on each bucket of balls, with valid ID.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

  •  Hike to Cabin Branch (Meet at Black Hill Regional Park), 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Enjoy the crisp November air and beautiful views of Little Seneca Lake as we hike through the Cabin Branch watershed. Hike is approximately three miles long. (Course#: 292849) $8

  •  Nature and Art Adventures at Brookside Nature Center, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Simple, nature-inspired arts and crafts activities will be offered for children ages 6 – 12 years old. (Course#: 294926) $6

Test your tennis prowess, meet new people and have fun. Up to three pro sets (8 games per set). No need to bring a partner, players will be matched up with peers of comparable skill. Two skill levels offered. (Course #298513) $10


Tuesday, November 11. 2014

  • Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge Van Trip leaving from Black Hill Visitor Center at 9 a.m. and returning at 8 p.m. The trip to the Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge Center in Delaware will be led by a Montgomery Parks Naturalist. Visit (Course #292850) for more details and to register.


The following Montgomery Parks facilities will be closed on Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11, 2014:

  •  Brookside Gardens Visitors Center

*Conservatories and grounds are open sunrise to sunset.

  • Olney Manor Skate Park

*Olney Manor Skate Park is open Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through November 23. Visit for more information.

  • M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks Offices
  • Montgomery Parks Permits Office
  • Regional / Recreation Athletic Fields at
    • Blair High School
    • Cabin John Regional Park
    • Damascus Recreational Park
    • Fairland Recreational Park
    • Martin Luther King Jr Regional Park
    • Olney Manor Recreational Park
    • Ridge Road Recreational Park
    • South Germantown Recreational Park
    • Wheaton Regional Park


*All other parks and facilities are operating on standard schedules listed on


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Oct 22 14

Montgomery Parks Hosts Public Meeting on New Proposed Use of Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building

by Melissa Chotiner

Public meeting scheduled for December 3, 7 – 8 p.m.; Rock Creek Dance Academy to present proposal for park activity building use.


SILVER SPRING, MDMontgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will host a public meeting on Wednesday, December 3 from 7 – 8 p.m. at the Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building to discuss a proposed new use of the building. Rock Creek Dance Academy, LLC, is seeking to lease the building to offer dance classes for people ages 3 – 18 years old. A presentation on the proposed use will be given at the meeting.


Public meeting information:

Montgomery Parks Public Meeting on Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building Reuse
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 7 – 8 p.m.
Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building
5209 Alta Vista Road
Bethesda, MD 20814


Montgomery Parks’ staff evaluated Rock Creek Dance Academy’s proposal to lease the building based on the following criteria:


  • Proposed use and overall approach to the adaptive reuse including compatibility with the community and park and overall benefit to the public;
  • Qualifications and Expertise of the bidder
  • Financial Capacity and Feasibility of the bidder and proposed use;
  • The Business Plan submitted by the bidder.


The Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building, located in Maplewood-Alta Vista Local Park is one of eleven park activity buildings in Montgomery Parks that was closed in 2011. The buildings were determined to be underutilized and were closed as a cost savings measure, as directed by the Montgomery County Council. Since 2011 Montgomery Parks has been seeking tenants to lease the buildings in a way that is compatible with the community and park and provides an overall benefit to the public.


Montgomery Parks currently leases three park activity buildings to tenants. Eighteen additional park activity buildings are available to the public for birthday parties, reunions, celebrations, and other community events. These buildings are located throughout the county, and can be rented through the Park Permit Office. Visit for more information




About The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks manages more than 36,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 420 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. The M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other parks systems.



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Oct 20 14

Montgomery Parks Cancels 2014 Garden of Lights Show Due to Renovations Underway at Brookside Gardens

by Melissa Chotiner

SILVER SPRING, MDMontgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has made a difficult decision to cancel this year’s Garden of Lights Show at Brookside Gardens due to ongoing construction. The construction to the entrance and parking areas is expected to be complete in June 2015. More details on the work are available at


“We regret having to cancel this year’s Garden of Lights Show. We know how much our visitors love this event,” said Stephanie Oberle, Director of Brookside Gardens. “Consult the Xperience Guide to Programs and Events for other opportunities at the Gardens. You can still enroll in our winter classes, visit the Marylandica Gift Shops and enjoy the Visitors Center Art Exhibitions.  We are pleased that the annual Conservatory Winter Display and Garden Railway Exhibit will be open this year.”


This year marks the 10th season for the Garden Railway Exhibit in the South Conservatory provided by the Washington, Virginia and Maryland Garden Railway Society. The exhibit will be open November 28 – January 11 (closed on Christmas Day) from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. It features miniature trains and trollies amidst a landscape of town and country scenes with past one-of-a-kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park.


The annual Winter Cheer Display located in the other conservatory at Brookside Gardens features an array of Poinsettias in red, pink and white and many other bold flower displays. It will be open December 6 – January 11 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed on Christmas Day).


Additional holiday events and programs taking place in Montgomery Parks during the 2014 season include:

Christmas on the Farm
December 13 and 14, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Agricultural History Farm Park
18400 Muncaster Road
Derwood, MD 20855

This free annual event features turn-of-the-century decorations, live Christmas music and caroling, hayrides (weather permitting), children’s activities and free hot cider and ginger cookies. Homemade baked goods are available for purchase.


Winter Solstice Celebrations at Montgomery Parks Nature Centers

Meadowside Nature Center Winter Solstice Celebration
Saturday, December 20, 7 – 8 p.m.
Meadowside Nature Center
5100 Meadowside Lane
Rockville, MD 20855
For ages 3 & up, $5 (adults free) (Course #301299)

Participants will enjoy tales of winter, make lanterns and enjoy toasty marshmallow treats


Brookside Nature Center Winter Solstice Celebration
Sunday, December 21, 1 – 5 p.m.
Brookside Nature Center
1400 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902
For ages 3 & up, $5 (Course #303150)

Celebration includes a spiral walk, hot cider by the fire, lantern making and shadow-puppet theater’s presentation of “Shingebiss and the North Wind.” Suitable for ages 3 & up. $5.


Locust Grove Nature Center Winter Solstice Celebration
Sunday, December 21, 4 to 6 p.m.
Locust Grove Nature Center
7777 Democracy Blvd.
Bethesda, MD 20817
For ages 3 & up, $5 (Course #304010)

Make New Year’s wishes, light candles, make treats to share with animals, and roast chestnuts on an open fire.


To learn more about Montgomery Parks’ Winter events, classes and programs visit

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About The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks manages more than 36,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 421 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. The M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other

Oct 9 14

Montgomery Parks and Planning Present Newest Achievements to County Council

by Bridget Schwiesow

Semi Annual report fall 2014

New Zoning Ordinance, affordable housing, urban parks and deer management are highlighted in Fall 2014 Semi-Annual Report

SILVER SPRING, MD – Montgomery Parks and Planning, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented its Fall 2014 Semi Annual Report to the Montgomery County Council on October 7. The report features accomplishments from the past six months as well as work that will be completed over the next six months. Some of the key initiatives for the Planning Department include implementation of the county’s new zoning ordinance and revamping the development review process to be more efficient. The Parks Department highlighted their urban parks initiative and expansion plans for park trails. The 36- page Fall 2014 Semi-Annual Report is available online for review.

This progress report is the first to be submitted by Chair of the Planning Board Casey Anderson, who was appointed to his current position by the County Council in July 2014. Anderson outlined several initiatives aimed at meeting the county’s demand for housing and jobs in close proximity to retail and public transit, as well as the creation of recreational spaces and protection of natural resources.

In addition, the report focuses on both Department’s major goals for the coming months, including the following:

-The Planning Department is providing extensive training to staff, citizens, developers, and others as it begins to  implement the county’s new Zoning Ordinance, which takes effect October 30. The revised code provides more understandable and coherent regulations that are easier to use and to enforce. It offers a better organization of uses and zones, greater certainty to the approval process, and incorporates modern principles of planning and design.  As part of this effort, non-residential areas of the county were remapped to enable more mixed use zones..  The new official zoning map, which also takes effect on October 30, will be digital for the first time.

-In line with the stringent new processing times required by the new Zoning Ordinance, the Department is working to revamp the development review process in order to make doing business in Montgomery County more predictable.  A specific, written schedule for each development project will allow review of the project to be accomplished in 120 days. A voluntary concept plan process will allow plans to be reviewed at a very early stage so that major concerns can be identified early so as to not slow down the review process.

-One of the county’s toughest problems, the lack of affordable housing, is being addressed by the Planning Department in a study of rental units. This report will examine the factors contributing to increasing housing costs and recommend potential changes to current policies and programs to guarantee long-term affordability of rental housing.

-Better forecasting of traffic conditions is being advanced through new performance metrics that will evaluate transportation adequacy in existing and emerging transit-oriented developments.

-More comprehensive design guidelines are being developed to improve streetscapes, amenities and public spaces through the Planning Department’s Design Excellence Initiative. As part of this effort, a Director’s Advisory Panel on design issues, similar to the current panel for reviewing public art, is being considered.

-County planners are experimenting with new ways to reach out to community members who do not typically participate in the planning process. Social media, participation in happy hours and interactive presentation tools are being used to improve the quality and quantity of public engagement, making participation in the planning process more informative, interesting and meaningful for citizens.

Master planning efforts highlighted in the Fall 2014 Semi-Annual Report include:

-The White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, approved by the County Council in July, reflects policies aimed at the investment and job creation in the life sciences.

-The Clarksburg Master Plan Limited Amendment, adopted in April for the protection of the Ten Mile Creek watershed, reinforces the county’s commitment to preservation of natural resources and environmental health.

-The Aspen Hill Minor Master Plan Amendment, presented to the Planning Board in July, demonstrates a willingness to adapt to the county’s changing local office and retail market.

-The Sandy Spring Rural Village Plan public hearing draft, approved in July by the Planning Board, shows an appreciation for mixing land uses in a rural village setting while preserving the area’s cultural history.

-Work on the Bethesda Downtown Plan is building on the success of the area’s vibrant, walkable district. Scenarios for several areas were advanced through feedback from happy hours attended by millennials at several local restaurants.

-The Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan is considering ways of preserving the village character of the area while upgrading the transportation network and residential neighborhoods. Innovative engagement efforts, including events aimed at business owners and families, helped guide the planning efforts.

-Technical assistance provided by the Department of Planning for the Purple Line and the inclusion of pedestrian-oriented streetscapes in area master plans are improving the quality of the public realm while offering new transportation options.

Parks initiatives over the past six months include:
-The Urban Parks Initiative is being implemented to plan, construct, renovate and activate public parks in Bethesda, Germantown and other county communities.

-New revenue sources to support renovations at Brookside Gardens and educational components at Josiah Henson Park are being created through the Montgomery Parks Foundation.

-Responding to the need for urban parks and new amenities in the county, a dog park abutting downtown Silver Spring was approved and the Carroll Knolls Neighborhood Park was opened.

-Multi-use trails for walking and biking were expanded, renovated for sustainability and improved with signage to better connect people to nature.

-The county’s deer management plan was advanced through deer population surveys, with new programs proposed at Cabin John Regional Park and other locations.

Major park projects now underway include:

-Nearly $425,000 in private donations were raised for the transformation of the Brookside Gardens Visitors Center, now in the planning stages. Also, a $1 million dollar donation was secured to help construct a new growing greenhouse at Brookside Gardens.

-Renovation of the historic stone barn at the Woodlawn Visitor Center at Woodlawn Park in Sandy Spring has begun and is expected to open in spring 2015.

-Construction of Potomac’s Greenbrier Local Park, a recreational area with a soccer field and basketball and volleyball courts, will be completed in spring 2015.

-Renovation and expansion of North Four Corners Local Park is underway and expected to be completed in winter 2015.

Oct 9 14

Interactive Map Reveals Current Development Projects Throughout Montgomery County

by Bridget Schwiesow


New Planning Department online map application allows the public to pinpoint locations and details of plans for neighborhoods.

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, now offers an easy way for the public to find detailed information about development projects throughout the county. The Development Finder website, launched on October 7, offers an interactive map of the county and surrounding areas. Users can search by the address or location of the development or enter a simple term like “Wheaton” and be presented with the current projects in that area. Clicking on a specific community on the map also reveals numbered locations of developments that have been approved for construction or are pending approval. A sidebar summarizes the count and list of projects in that area.

A link from the map reveals the basics of each plan, including location, project name, use and square footage. From this window, users can access the Development Activity Information Center (DAIC), a display of more detailed, up-to-date information on the project. Included in the DAIC display are the names of the owner, architect, engineer and development contact, along with the current status of the project in connection with county Planning Board actions. A link provided for each plan leads to more detailed information about a project, including actual plan documents and resolution letters.

All the information is automatically updated by the Planning Department’s new eplans system to display developments that are pending approval and plans that have been approved over the past year. The service is free and its features are clearly demonstrated in a short video.

Oct 9 14

New Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance Takes Effect October 30, 2014

by Bridget Schwiesow

zoning gfx
Updated code improves usability, simplifies development process  

Montgomery County has taken a giant step forward in improving the planning and development process and making the county a more desirable place to live. After years of community meetings, stakeholder discussions, work sessions and redrafting, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has completed a new zoning ordinance and a new comprehensive zoning map for the county, both of which were approved by the Montgomery County Council.

The new law takes effect on October 30, 2014. It is the most comprehensive update to the County’s land use regulations since they were last revised in 1977. Piecemeal updates to the code over the past several decades resulted in a document with more than 1,200 pages, more than 120 zones, more than 400 uses, hundreds of footnotes and many confusing and sometimes contradictory provisions. The new Zoning Ordinance is a vast improvement over the former code in being more user-friendly and up-to-date. It embraces the most current planning concepts and offers new tools to achieve the goals of the county’s master plans. The zoning ordinance encourages better development, enhances sustainability, and enables more mixed use zoning.

The new Zoning Code seeks to bring more vibrancy to Montgomery County by encouraging mixed-use, walkable communities. The law allows flexibility for more housing in and around commercial centers and encourages more pedestrian-friendly, sustainable developments while providing greater protections from new and infill development for existing residential neighborhoods. In addition, it improves the efficiency of the development review process by allowing more consolidated plan reviews, reducing redundant requirements and codifying review deadlines.

History and Goals of the New Zoning Ordinance
Since the last major update to the zoning code in 1977, the County has grown and changed substantially, and many of the zoning laws have become outdated. The County Council tasked the Planning Department with undertaking a comprehensive rewrite of the zoning code in 2007 with the following goals in mind:

-simplify and consolidate the regulations;

-improve their clarity and consistency;

-accommodate the county’s changing markets and demographics, while protecting established neighborhoods;

-reflect more sustainable policy goals;

-provide the tools to shift from greenfield development to infill, mixed-use development.

After an extensive public review process, the Planning Board approved a draft of the new code and presented it to the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee of the County Council in May 2013. Numerous open houses, community meetings and discussions in local neighborhoods provided feedback from residents and property owners on the code and associated zoning map. In March 2014, after 15 work sessions at the PHED and Council, the Council adopted the text of the new zoning ordinance.

In July 2014, following months of public outreach, the Council approved a District Map Amendment to implement the new code.

Implementing Change through Development Review and Outreach
The rewritten zoning ordinance includes a provision requiring specific time frames for each major step of the development review process. Department staff is currently working to implement these time frames. A specific, written schedule for each development project will allow the review of project, sketch and site plans to be accomplished in 120 days, as required in the new Zoning Ordinance.

A voluntary concept plan process will allow plans to be reviewed by staff at a very early stage so that major concerns can be identified and hopefully resolved without slowing down the review process. The goal of this revamped review process is to make doing business in Montgomery County more predictable.

In addition, the Planning Department is conducting staff and public training sessions to ensure a smooth transition to the new zoning ordinance. On October 7, the Department held an evening event for the Montgomery County community that included a presentation of the zoning changes and a question and answer segment. The event drew 70 people.

View the video of the community training on the Zoning Ordinance held on Tuesday, October 7 at the Planning Department Headquarters.

Oct 8 14

Natali Fani-Gonzalez Appointed As New Planning Board Member

by Bridget Schwiesow

fani_gonzalez photo

The Montgomery County Council votes unanimously

The Montgomery County Planning Board is pleased to welcome Natali Fani-Gonzalez as the newest member of the Planning Board. On Tuesday, October 7, the Montgomery County Council unanimously voted to appoint Natali Fani-Gonzalez to the vacant seat.

Born in Venezuela, Fani-Gonzalez, 33, is the founder and principal of the Rockville-based public relations firm, The Matea Group. She is the first Latino and first millennial to serve on the five-member Planning Board, which reviews master plans and policies governing growth and development throughout Montgomery County. Fani-Gonzalez will serve a term through mid-2018 in a part-time position that pays $30,000 annually.

In her letter requesting appointment, Fani-Gonzalez promoted her skills saying, “I will bring a pragmatic vision with a strong social conscience amplified by the use of technology.”

“I am pleased that Natali was selected to serve as the newest member of the Board,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “I am excited for the energy and creativity that Natali brings to the job as I know she will help keep Montgomery County moving forward.”

A human and civil rights activist and entrepreneur, Fani-Gonzalez has been recognized as a 2013 “Leading Women” honoree by The Daily Record for her numerous contributions to Maryland. She started her career as a lobbyist for CASA de Maryland, the largest Latino and immigrant organization in the state, and then joined the communications team of the Service Employee International Union Local 32BJ before starting her own public relations firm.

Fani-Gonzalez graduated from Goucher College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations. She lives with her husband and their two children in Kensington.

Fani-Gonzalez was one of 25 applicants for the planning board vacancy and one of four interviewed for the position.

The vacancy now filled by Fani-Gonzalez was created when Planning Board Chair Françoise Carrier decided not to seek a second term. Casey Anderson, who was already serving on the board, was designated as the new chair in July 2014. Fani-Gonzalez will serve a four-year term.

Learn more about the Montgomery County Planning Board.