Planning Board Gives Thumbs-Up to Proposal for Expediting Corporate Headquarters Projects

County officials say measure would smooth Amazon’s arrival if company decides to move in


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A sample timeline for expedited development review under the new proposal.

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING BOARD

Montgomery County planners have given a ringing endorsement to a new proposal to speed up the development process for large companies that want to move in – such as Amazon, they hope.

“I am 120 percent in favor of this,” Planning Board member Norman Dreyfuss said Thursday before the panel gave the measure its blessing.

The proposed zoning change would roughly halve the time it takes to review projects for a company headquarters with 25,000 or more employees. Last month, County Executive Ike Leggett presented the idea to the County Council as a strategy for persuading Amazon to pick the county for the site of its second headquarters, expected to bring about 50,000 employees. The county is one of 20 jurisdictions that Amazon is considering.

The expedited process—shortening development review from 120 to 60 days or fewer—would only apply for projects that would bring a large, corporate base to a site near a Metro stop, according to a planning staff report.

Moreover, this signature business headquarters designation could buy additional height for buildings included in the project. Height caps could be increased by up to 100 feet for properties with height limits of at least 150 feet. However, even with this provision, no structure could exceed 300 feet in height.

Dreyfuss expressed support for the measure but said the expedited process will require planning and permitting staff to do the same amount of work in a compressed timeframe. He suggested the county also review the process to see if any steps can be streamlined or eliminated.

Carol Rubin, acting deputy planning director, said she’s been in touch with county officials about other ideas for expediting projects that would bring large employers to the area.

Board member Natali Fani-Gonzalez said all eyes are currently on the White Flint area as a possible site for Amazon, but the zoning change could apply elsewhere in the future.

“We’re talking about White Flint now, but what about Glenmont?” she said. “It’s really targeting key areas that need redevelopment. I welcome this, and I hope the County Council will support it, as well.”

County officials have clarified that the proposal, which will now head to the Council for consideration, offers no indication about Amazon’s intentions. The company has said it expects to make a decision about its headquarters location sometime this year.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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