Members of the Montgomery County Council were sworn in by the Honorable Barbara Meiklejohn at the 2018 Montgomery County Executive and County Council Inauguration Ceremony on Monday in the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda. PHOTO BY GEORGE P. SMITH

ROCKVILLE – During the weekly Montgomery County Council meeting on Jan. 21, the council introduced multiple bills that included bicycle registration, stipends for members of county boards, committees, and commissions and a zoning measure allowing for larger solar collecting systems in the agricultural reserve.

The meeting opened up with a proclamation recognizing Montgomery County Human Trafficking Awareness Month, by Council Vice President Tom Hucker and Councilmember Craig Rice.

“Human trafficking is a major problem all around the world, and sadly our county is no exception to this global scourge,” said Hucker. “With help from our community partners, we have made great progress raising awareness and fighting this disgrace in our county.”

From there on, the meeting was mostly about the introduction of bills.

The first bill introduced was Bill 2-20, Bicycles – Registration – Amendments. Bill 2-20 would permit voluntary registration of a bicycle owned by a county resident for personal use. Hucker and Councilmembers Will Jawando, Evan Glass and Hans Riemer are the lead sponsors. Council President Sidney Katz and Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Andrew Friedson are cosponsors.

Bill 2-20 also require the registration of a bicycle provided for rent in the county, which would repeal the authority to impound an unregistered bicycle owned by a county resident for personal use, repeal the authority to deposit the proceeds from the sale of an impounded or abandoned bicycle in the Police Relief and Retirement Fund and generally amend the laws governing the use of a bicycle in the county.

The goal of this legislation is to eliminate a regulatory burden on residents who own bicycles.

“Many of us heard complaints from constituents about hardships trying to ride their bicycle,” said  Glass. “I appreciate the collaborative efforts amongst the council to correct an outdated law that requires people to register their bicycles. One of the functions that we serve is not only to update and modernize codes and regulations, so our residents are safe but also spend some time looking at codes that were enacted decades ago a make sure that they are still functional and in this case, they were not.”

Jawando echoed off Glass’ comments and approved of the bill.

“Laws are meant to serve the public interest, and in this case, it didn’t,” said Jawando. “Several of us agreed that this bill made little sense. “I certainly never registered my bicycle when I used to ride around the county.”

He also stressed how older laws similar to this lead to over-policing.

“We have laws on the books that give a wide range of authority and are used on certain communities than others,” said Jawando.

A public hearing on Bill 2-20 is scheduled for Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

The next bill, Bill 3-20, Boards, Committees, and Commissions – Compensation, Reimbursement and Stipends, would make most public members of boards, committees and commissions (BCCs) eligible to receive either reimbursement of expenses or an annual stipend of $1,200.

The purpose of the stipend would be to help defray the member’s childcare, travel and other costs associated with serving on the BCC.

Bill 3-20 would also define terms related to boards, committees and commissions permit a public member of a board, committee or commission to apply for an annual stipend in lieu of reimbursement and alter provisions related to the compensation and reimbursement of members of certain boards, committees and commissions.

“I believe that it is time for us to look at our policy when it comes to all of our boards, committees, and commissions,” Rice said. “They take time out of their day to do these jobs when they can’t afford to.”

A public hearing on Bill 3-20 is scheduled for Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

The last thing on the agenda was the council introducing Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-01, Solar Collection System, which would revise the solar collection system use standards to allow larger facilities in the Agricultural Resource (AR) zone.

Under this amendment, the total amount of collection systems on all parcels would be limited to 1,800 acres. Any collector system constructed under the proposed amendment must be designated pollinator-friendly under the Maryland Pollinator-Friendly Designation Program.

“Montgomery County has declared an environmental emergency which is intended to set the tone on the level of urgency we bring to future discussions, said Councilmember Riemer. “The proposal we have today seeks a targeted approach that is just focused on community solar that would limit the amount of land that could be used to 1,800 acres, which is about 2%. That would be sufficient enough to allow companies to deploy these projects.”

The public hearing on this amendment is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 1:30 p.m.

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