Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Moratorium Proposed in Town of Chevy Chase

The Town of Chevy Chase will consider a new emergency building moratorium on Wednesday evening during its 7-9pm meeting. The purpose of the proposed moratorium is to stop new construction (except of additions of under 500 sq. ft.) until the Town can adopt the ordinance proposed by the Town's Land Use Committee designed to promote construction compatible with existing homes in the Town.

The crux of the proposed new ordinance is a new limit on floor-to-area ratio (F.A.R.) which allows larger homes on larger lots. The ordinance would also include new height and lot coverage restrictions beyond those already imposed by Montgomery County. The proposed ordinance also contains incentives in the form of permitting a higher F.A.R. for additions to existing homes (rather than teardowns) and for construction that meets certain environmental standards.

I favor both the moratorium and the concept behind the new ordinance. The new ordinance is complex and the Council will need time to consider it carefully and to hold public hearings on it before adoption. At the same time, I hope the Council moves expeditiously to move the process forward and enact the ordinance.

Even if the Council acts quickly on the ordinance, the moratorium is needed because the Town may continue to lose existing homes due to this delay and because the new ordinance has taken longer to enact than expected. If no new construction occurs, then no one is injured by the moratorium but Town residents will feel reassured. Supporters of the new moratorium plan to present a petition in support of it at tomorrow night's Council meeting.

The Town Council can feel safe enacting the moratorium on an emergency basis because of the long-established record in hearings and elections of support for measures like moratorium and the ordinance. This new ordinance represents the culmination of a process begun with the first moratorium.