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Montgomery County officials trying to attract youth to county

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Local,DC,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Arlington,Montgomery County

Montgomery County officials are working to lure more young adults to the county, which has a smaller youth population than several of its neighbors.

County Councilman Hans Riemer, D-at large, is working on a nighttime economic initiative to boost after-hours amenities, and County Executive Ike Leggett has created a task force to determine how the county's younger population can be better served.

Residents between the age of 20 and 34 make up about 19 percent of Montgomery County's population, according to census data. But in D.C. that number is almost double -- about 31 percent -- and it's even higher in Arlington, with about 36 percent.

At a Montgomery County Young Democrats meeting Tuesday night, about 70 people showed up to discuss what can be done to make the county more youth-friendly -- chiefly making more transit available and creating more affordable housing in urban cores.

Montgomery County Young Democrats spokeswoman Nik Sushka said development in the county is creating high-priced units young professionals can't afford. She pointed specifically to areas such as Silver Spring, where young people are finding themselves paying half of their income on just rent, and where rent keeps rising as buildings are being erected and remodeled.

"We want to stay here, but it has to become more affordable," she said. "Otherwise, we're going to be priced out of Montgomery County."

Riemer said he and other county staff learned a lot from meeting about the needs and wants of young people. Transportation is a huge issue, he said, and he sees the appeal of the District and Northern Virginia for young residents who don't own cars and rely solely on public transportation.

He encouraged attendees to be vocal about county projects that affect them and to participate in the planning process of developments and transportation networks to address the concerns of young professionals.

"Having people participate and be a voice in our planning process is enormously valuable," he said. "I'm pretty optimistic that's just going to keep getting better."

Dan Reed, author of the blog Just Up the Pike, spoke at the event, and said many discussed stringent liquor laws that make it difficult for bars to open in areas populated by young adults, such as Bethesda or Silver Spring.

He said if county officials took a second look at the liquor laws, more establishments might be able to open and attract a younger crowd.

"We can lay the groundwork for a creative and business environment that allows a generation of local culture to happen," Reed said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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