Special Benefits Permits
Sugarloaf Citizens Association, Montgomery Countryside Alliance. and Audubon Naturalist met with the Department of Permitting Services in May of this year on the problems in the Up-County regarding the Special Benefits Permit. SCA had retained the services of Bill Roberts to make improvements to the Special Benefits Permit process that would not require new legislation and some that would. DPS was to review the information and get back to the three organizations involved. Two acting directors later, DPS now has a third new Director of DPS, Diane Schwartz-Jones. On November 28th, 2011 SCA, MCA, and Audubon Naturalist will be meeting with the new Director in hopes of finally getting some improvement in the enforcement of zoning laws in the Agriculture Reserve.
In January 2010 the S.C.A. Board discussed the Performance Benefits Permits that are issued by the county government for all festivals, sporting events and other activities that would not normally be allowed in the Reserve.
Council members Phil Andrews and Marc Elrich joined our examination of the Permits to hear our concerns and to seek common ground on how to invite the public to the Reserve for events but not create hardships for residents, especially the farmers. We all left the meeting feeling we had achieved common ground and more sensible policies and procedures that will allow some public events in the Reserve but with special rules.
We started with an examination of why the Agriculture Reserve was created in the first place. Clearly, county planners almost three decades ago wanted to preserve some land in Montgomery County for agriculture. It was a simple concept. Someday we will want the ability to feed ourselves. As development claims more land and open spaces in other areas of the county, more pressure is put on the Reserve to hold large public events that tax the rural roads, create roadblocks for farm machinery, contribute to noise and light pollution and disrupt the daily lives residents.
The Agriculture Reserve is a treasure for all residents and visitors who enjoy the special beauty of Montgomery County. We believe people will want to protect the food production capacities and the scenic vistas of the Reserve if they spend time here. Our goal is to work with county officials to make these visits safe, respectful, and enjoyable for everyone.
S.C.A. along with other civic organizations will be seeking restrictions and transparent procedures for the Performance Benefits permits for the coming outdoor events.
Click here to read S.C.A.'s attorney, Bill Roberts' Recommendations for Improving the Special Benefits Performance Permit.