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As I explained in the previous post, a compact form of development is a pillar of urbanism and Thrive Montgomery’s approach to land use. Now I want to show how Thrive Montgomery applies this idea and how this aspect of urbanist thinking represents continuity with – not a departure from – the Wedges and Corridors plan and the map that gave that plan its name.

Polycentric urbanism and the original Wedges and Corridors map

The Wedges and Corridors map specifies where growth should be focused and what kinds of development should be allowed in different places. It has gone through a series of “refinements” – I’ll discuss some of these changes and why they matter – but here’s the … Continue reading

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I’m interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming (explaining Thrive Montgomery 2050) to share some fresh data on public engagement with our agency during COVID-19 along with some thoughts about the use of technology as a tool for participation in government.

Thanks to our crack IT staff, we have continued holding hearings on development applications throughout the pandemic – in fact, we have not cancelled a single Planning Board meeting, delayed any master plans, or stopped any other project.

This chart shows the number of people who participated in Planning Board meetings remotely over the course of the year when COVID-19 restrictions on in-person public gatherings have been in effect and the number who participated in person over the previous twelve months:

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Thrive Montgomery includes dozens of recommendations touching on land use, transportation and many more topics. In the following posts I will describe what I see as the most interesting and important concepts in the plan, but first I want to outline the general approach that informs this plan’s specific proposals – an approach that can be summarized as “urbanism.”

The plan applies the principles of urbanism – a term used as shorthand for a set of ideas about what makes human settlements successful – to frame recommendations about the location, form, and design of development; policies on transportation and housing; and the kinds of parks, recreational facilities, and public spaces we need in the future.

What we mean … Continue reading

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Montgomery County’s first General Plan, the “Wedges and Corridors” plan, helped make this one of the most desirable places to live and work in the United States. We built excellent parks and schools, preserved land for farming, facilitated the growth of urban centers and construction of mass transit, and shaped the development of attractive suburban subdivisions.

Today, however, our residents are older, more diverse, and less likely to live in traditional family arrangements. We have evolved from a bedroom community to a complex jurisdiction with urban hubs, mature residential neighborhoods, and rural landscapes. Competition for talent, jobs, and economic opportunities is much more intense. Technology is changing how we work, shop, and live, influencing planning and real estate … Continue reading

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Today the Planning Board finalized its draft of “Thrive Montgomery 2050,” a proposed framework for the physical development of the county over the next three decades. Thrive Montgomery is the first complete overhaul of our community’s comprehensive plan since 1964, so it represents a chance to reconsider fundamental assumptions not simply about the regulation of development but about the nature of planning and what its objectives should be.

This series of posts will outline Thrive Montgomery’s recommendations for the future of land use, transportation and public amenities such as parks, but first I will explain what our proposal is trying – and not trying – to do. Thrive Montgomery is about how ideas that have proven successful in building … Continue reading

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On February 17, 2021, Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) received word that the new 14-story Wheaton Headquarters building at 2425 Reedie Drive had officially obtained a LEED Platinum certification, the highest environmental status available from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It is the first LEED Platinum government office building in the state of Maryland and will set a very high bar for sustainable development and stewardship throughout Montgomery County.

This building is a manifestation of Montgomery Planning’s goal of promoting design excellence and transit-oriented development with the most efficient and well-designed mixed-use buildings. We did not want “just a glass office building” but one reflective of our goals of inclusive public planning, nature, and parks … Continue reading

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Montgomery County is one of the most desirable places to live and work in the United States. However, like many other places in the country, we are facing new and different issues and trends. This includes weak wage and job growth, persistent racial and economic inequities, demographic and cultural shifts, technological innovation, and climate change. Some of these issues have been reinforced, or even created, by our past public and private plans and actions.

As we finalize the update to the county’s General Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050, it is important that we reexamine the county’s planning history to become a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient community. Let’s take a walk through the county’s past 245 years:

Montgomery County was … Continue reading

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Painful chapters of Montgomery County’s history played out at the Poor Farm and its associated cemetery south of Rockville along I-270. The Poor Farm was an almshouse surrounded by farm fields in use for nearly 200 years from as early as 1789 until the 1980s. Our county’s history is often difficult with regards to our historically vulnerable populations, like those that lived at the Poor Farm. Reading about these stories can be hard, but the Historic Preservation Program works to preserve and interpret these as part of our work to support a more equitable future for all of us. This work will be important with the expansion of I-270 around this historic site.

The Poor Farm’s difficult history

The … Continue reading

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The first and second entries of this series on the future of Montgomery County’s office market examined how widespread telework will change the value of office space and explored various scenarios for future office demand. In this third and final part of the series, let’s dive further into what will be needed to convince office users to continue to rent physical space in Montgomery County as we enter an era in which employers can more readily work from home at substantially lower cost. The competitiveness of our more than 74 million square feet of office space is a significant factor contributing to the $1.8 billion in property taxes Montgomery County collects (from both commercial and residential properties), the largest … Continue reading

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Here at the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Montgomery Planning Board, we all share a very strong commitment to continuing our important work of enhancing and building great communities in Montgomery County. Even in the middle of all the struggle of COVID-19, I was touched and inspired to see so many of our staff, both those who serve as essential employees and come into the office as well as the large group we have working from home, rise to the challenge and demonstrate heroic commitment to continuing their important work. Looking back at this very tough year as director of the Montgomery County Planning Department, I have witnessed so much dedication amongst our staff and I want to … Continue reading