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A walk around Silver Spring reveals the need to make streets and sidewalks easier to navigate for people with mobility challenges

What if you had to experience a mobility challenge? Maybe you suddenly become injured and must use crutches or a cane or perhaps you have a life-long mobility challenge where rolling is the only option instead of walking. If that happens, you may start to notice that those sidewalks and crossings you took for granted are not so accessible. Places you could comfortably travel to are now a challenge or even impossible to reach.

You might be familiar with the Standards for Accessible Design, made enforceable by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), that are required for all … Continue reading

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An independent panel of five experts chose the winners of the 2019 Design Excellence Awards competition

For the fourth time, the Design Excellence Awards will celebrate the best of the best in design throughout Montgomery County. Selections of the 2019 winners were made in July by an independent jury of highly skilled, nationally recognized design professionals from across various creative fields.

This year’s five judges come from all different facets of design and have worked on notable projects across our region, from the Wharf in Southwest DC to new hotel and office towers in downtown Bethesda. The jurors were selected by Montgomery Planning, but made their decisions independently of the agency.

This year’s Design Excellence winners will be … Continue reading

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Thrive Week kicked off Thrive Montgomery 2050 with five events held over five days, asking community members how they imagine the future of the county

 

What does your future look like? And how does the community where you live, work and play support your vision for tomorrow?

Continuing social, environmental, technological, demographic and economic changes over the next few decades necessitate revisions to Montgomery County’s guiding framework for growth, called the General Plan.

As Montgomery Planning begins work on this plan update, we’re asking for the community’s help to ensure that the county remains a vibrant, verdant and welcoming place — with an innovative economy — where all can thrive. The first stage of this effort to update … Continue reading

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The 2019 awards will honor multifamily housing along with top-quality buildings, public spaces and landscapes in the county

Design excellence requires balancing the functional goals and artistic vision of a building, a space or a landscape to serve and inspire people. In Montgomery County, design excellence is about elevating architecture and urban design to make the mundane more compelling and create streetscapes and spaces that enhance human interaction in rural, suburban and urban settings.

Design excellence is becoming increasingly important in Montgomery County as available land for development is shrinking, densities in our centers are increasing and the need for attractive buildings, parks and public spaces. Quality design is now more urgent as competition for the best and brightest … Continue reading

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Five sessions at the American Planning Association’s national conference highlight county plans for parks, bikes, traffic safety, placemaking and community resilience

“Planning Connects Us” was the theme of the American Planning Association’s national conference, held from April 13 through April 16, 2019 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. At the event, Montgomery Planning staff connected with planners from across the country in discussing shared concerns over equity, placemaking, traffic safety and other hot topics.

We continue to be out front on many important issues, as revealed in our five sessions at the conference. Staff received great feedback from many of the attendees who traveled to the City on the Bay to learn about the planning profession’s latest trends … Continue reading

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By Paul Mortensen and Njillan Sarre

Called backyard cottages or granny flats, accessory dwelling units can help remedy our housing shortage

The Montgomery County Council is in the process of considering changes to the existing laws that allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These secondary housing units are located on the same lot as an owner-occupied single-family home. They are significantly smaller than the main house and can be a stand-alone structure in the backyard, a basement apartment, an addition or an apartment over the garage. ADUs go by many names, such as accessory apartments, backyard cottages or granny flats, among others.

Under current law, homeowners in Montgomery County who want to have an ADU face several restrictions. A detached … Continue reading

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In previous posts, I documented six Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) clusters at risk of entering a development moratorium due to overcrowding. Enrollment in these clusters grew by 4,157 students between 2011 and 2015, yet only 184 of these students are living in the new multifamily residential buildings and townhomes constructed within the clusters during this period. That statistic means that new development was responsible for only about four percent of enrollment growth in these clusters, while the vast majority of the enrollment growth is coming from neighborhood turnover – that is to say, families with children moving into housing previously occupied by families without children.

I can’t say with certainty why these six clusters have experienced such … Continue reading

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When schools are overcrowded, it doesn’t much matter to children (and their parents) whether developers are paying their share of the cost of adding capacity, because kids need space in classrooms (along with gymnasiums and cafeterias) in order to learn and thrive. That’s why the county’s growth rules, known as the Subdivision Staging Policy or SSP, prohibit new residential development in any school cluster where the schools are at 120 percent of capacity.

The “annual school test,” which determines whether a school cluster goes into a residential development moratorium, is applied in July of each year. The impact of a development moratorium is felt as new residential projects in an area are put on hold and, in some cases, … Continue reading

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I often hear claims that the school impact tax rates charged to developers are based on faulty assumptions about the number of children who live in new housing units. While no one can predict exactly how many kids will live in a specific dwelling in the future, the methodology used to produce the generation rates used in school impact tax calculations is far more sophisticated and comprehensive than most people realize.

Every other year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides the Planning Department with a dataset that includes the address and grade of every MCPS student (with all other identifying information scrubbed from the dataset). The Planning Department then cross-references this information with parcel data that identifies the type … Continue reading

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Few topics in local government generate as much controversy and misunderstanding as the relationships among population growth, real estate development, school enrollment and impact tax revenue. I want to provide the data and background information needed to understand how – and how much – new development contributes toward the cost of providing classroom seats for schoolchildren.

I often hear people say that new residential development “doesn’t pay for itself,” by which I take them to mean that the cost of providing capacity for additional students coming from new development exceeds the revenue raised through school impact taxes.

In Montgomery County, school impact taxes are calculated to cover 120 percent of the cost of each additional seat generated by a new … Continue reading