Week Ahead: Small Cell Tower Regulations Head to County Council; School Board To Discuss Updated Budget Proposal

Plus: Planning Board to review Ashburton Elementary expansion plans


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Council to consider zoning amendment for small cell towers

The County Council on Tuesday is scheduled to introduce a zoning change proposed by County Executive Ike Leggett that would establish new regulations for small cell towers in nonresidential zones and commercial areas.

The regulations do not impact exclusively residential areas, according to a memo Leggett sent to the council earlier this month. He wrote that residents have expressed concern about the nearly 40-year-old federal regulations governing cell towers and the possible health effects of radio frequency emissions from antennas near homes. However, he has called for the new regulations in the other areas due to the high volume of requests for new towers the county has received in recent years. A public hearing on the zoning change is scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. March 20.

The council is also continuing discussions this week with several departments about their capital needs as it works through updates to the county’s six-year capital budget.

School board to discuss latest fiscal 2019 operating budget proposal

The Montgomery County Board of Education will take up the latest version of Superintendent Jack Smith’s approximately $2.6 billion fiscal 2019 operating budget proposal during its meeting Tuesday. The budget proposal, which covers school spending from July to June 2019, was recently revised after Gov. Larry Hogan increased state funding for schools by about 3 percent in his latest state budget proposal.

In a memo to the board, Smith estimated this will result in an increase in state funds for Montgomery County of about $16.2 million. In turn, the school system is reducing how much money it’s requesting in county funds—about $22 million less than its initial request. By doing so, the school system’s request for funding above the state-mandated maintenance of effort will drop from about $39 million to $17 million. Maintenance of effort requires the county to keep per-pupil spending at the same or higher level each year. The board is scheduled to discuss the latest budget proposal at noon.

Ashburton Elementary school expansion plans head to the Planning Board

The county’s Planning Board on Thursday will review the school system’s plans to build an eight-classroom addition and install an eight-classroom modular building at Ashburton Elementary School in Bethesda. The new permanent addition would increase the school’s capacity to 770 seats from its current 651. The school currently has an enrollment of 905 students and the modular building will accommodate the remaining students until a new school can be built in the Walter Johnson High School cluster.

The modular building will be attached to the school and enable the school system to remove the eight portable classrooms at the school. Planning department staff recommended the board approve the plan. The board meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Warmer weather coming near the end of the week

The rain is expected to stop Monday afternoon when a high near 45 degrees is predicted, followed by a nighttime low around 26, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday should be mostly sunny with a high near 39 and a low around 32. Starting Wednesday, temperatures will begin to rise into the 50s and get warmer. A partly sunny high near 54 is predicted Wednesday with a 50 percent chance of rain at night. On Thursday, the high is expected to be 66 degrees with a chance of morning showers and a low dropping to around 52 at night. Showers are likely Friday with a high near 60 and a low around 29.

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