Thursday, June 28, 2012

Montgomery County Commercial Kitchen Legislation Passes!

I'm pleased that the Montgomery County Council has passed, unanimously, a zoning text amendment (ZTA) that will allow churches that are located in residential zones to operate commercial kitchens. Community CKs hold promise as a source of economic opportunity for small, start-up businesses and as a link in the provision of fresh, local food in the community. (CKs will be regulated and inspected by the county health department. An institution wishing to operate a CK will need to submit a parking plan.)

Congratulations to the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church (TPPC), which is behind the community CK initiative, and to Pastor Mark Greiner! And thank you to George Leventhal for introducing the bill and seeing it through to approval and to Valerie Ervin for cosponsoring. Thanks also to at-large Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, Hans Riemer, and Marc Elrich for their support of the bill, and of course to the rest of the county council, which voted 9-0 in favor of the ZTA.

A side note: County legislative attorney Jeff Zyontz explored, at George Leventhal's request, community member David Reiser's suggestion that public notice and comment on the proposed parking plan be required. The county administration could not accommodate this requirement, however.

I have supported efforts by Councilmember Leventhal and by community-kitchen advocates -- Pastor Greiner and TPPC's kitchen committee; Michele Levy, executive director of the Crossroads Community Food Network; community activists Lorig Charkoudian and Tebabu Assefa; and others -- to pass the zoning change while addressing neighborhood concerns. I am very confident that TPPC will minimize impact while maximizing community benefits of the kitchen it plans.

TPPC plans to host start-up businesses with a focus on fresh, local foods, and to provide training in commercial food preparation. These are the sort of community benefits that, I'm sure, won over Marc Elrich and other councilmembers. The church does have a significant planning, fund-raising, and build-out task ahead of it. You'll be hearing more from the church in the next few days. I'm looking forward to hearing more, myself, and to helping however I can. Please do let me know if you'd like to be involved.

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