A Productive 2024 Legislative Session on Housing

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By Artie Harris, Montgomery County Planning Board Chair

Montgomery County has not been immune to the nation’s housing crisis. Addressing this multi-faceted issue requires interventions at every step — from project review through construction.

The Planning Board has sought to accelerate housing development through a variety of avenues. Among the thousands of bills introduced this legislative session, four bills stand out to us that will help us address the housing crisis.

Accelerating early project stages

Accelerating the development review process is one way to help get new residences built in the county.

Two bills, both sponsored by Delegate Lesley Lopez, HB 0989 Montgomery County Subdivision Plats – Conditions and HB 1003 Montgomery County Clerk of the circuit Court – … Continue reading

Montgomery Planning’s approach to engagement: audience-centric, data driven, and focused on building trust

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By Bridget Broullire, Acting Deputy Director  

Community feedback is foundational to developing successful, sustainable plans. Combined with internal and external expertise and data sources, community feedback significantly informs our planning recommendations. However, stakeholder input has sometimes historically flowed from just a small portion of the community with the time and resources to participate in the process. That often led to communities of color, non-native English speakers, low-income residents, and others being excluded or marginalized from having their voices heard in community planning.

Montgomery Planning’s updated approach leverages a more equitable, transparent, and effective community outreach and engagement process to reverse historical trends and make it easy for all residents, business owners, property owners and leaders to understand and … Continue reading

Progress on Process – An Update on the Development Review Process Workgroup Recommendations

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By Robert Kronenberg, Montgomery Planning Deputy Director

A central focus of Montgomery Planning’s work plan for 2024 is housing. Like many places across the country, Montgomery County’s housing shortage has meant rising rents and housing prices. We’re committed to collaborating with our county and state government partners, the development community, and residents to find ways to expand our housing supply and make the county a more affordable place for everyone to live. A major part of making that happen is streamlining the review and approval process for new development in the county to become a reality quicker.

Last year, under the leadership of Maryland Delegate Lesley Lopez (District 39), representatives from Montgomery Planning, Montgomery Parks, Montgomery County government, developers, … Continue reading

Opportunities and Optimism: A Look Ahead

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As the newly appointed planning director, my new year is defined by two key ideas: opportunity and optimism.

I am humbled by the opportunity to lead a nearly 100-year-old institution as it plans for our county’s future. Building on the work of my predecessors and the ideas codified by the Planning Board and the County Council in Thrive Montgomery 2050, Montgomery Planning  will remain focused on developing plans that advance equity, economic growth, and environmental sustainability.

We will also seek opportunities for meaningful innovation. From policies and urban design practices that emphasize our county’s commitment to affordable housing to our equity-centered community engagement strategies, we will propose and embrace strategies that welcome new residents and improve the quality of … Continue reading

Montgomery Planning: A national and regional industry leader

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By George Lettis

In October 2023, Montgomery Planning showed why we continue to be a thought leader in the Washington, DC region and the nation for our independent, innovative, and inclusive community planning. The American Planning Association (APA) – the largest membership organization of professional planners and planning leaders and experts – consistently recognizes our expertise and work products that exemplify the best in planning principles, creativity, and effectiveness and solidify Montgomery County’s status as Maryland’s economic engine and a national model for enhancing quality of life for current and future generations.

Two cases in point: Montgomery Planning won a prestigious national Award of Excellence from APA’s County Planning Division and the National Association of County Planners (NACP) and was honored to … Continue reading

The Search for Montgomery County’s Lost Burial Grounds

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Searching for Lost Cemeteries

Montgomery Planning maintains the Montgomery County Burial Sites Inventory, a listing of over 300 cemeteries and burial sites around the county dating from before the arrival of Europeans in Maryland to burial grounds still in use today. However, there are 80 burial sites in the inventory that are no longer visible, and historical records only tell us approximately where they were. This may be because the graves were never marked, or the markers have been moved or have deteriorated. We are looking for these lost burial grounds, and we hope to get some help from modern technology – ground penetrating radar (GPR) – to recover this part of the county’s hidden past.

What is GPR? … Continue reading

Walkable City: A call for safer streets

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By Paul Mortensen

Montgomery Planning is working on their new Pedestrian Master Plan to be presented to the Planning Board this spring. One of the greatest books on walkability and the creation of safe streets is Walkable City: How Downtown can Save America One Step at a Time, by Jeff Speck. This entertaining, informative, and most relevant book celebrated its 10th anniversary this past year. To help achieve Montgomery County’s Vision Zero goals of eliminating pedestrian fatalities through safe streets, Speck’s book provides a vision for creating streets that are safe, comfortable to pedestrians, and interesting—the primary criteria that supports walkability.

In our cities, towns, and neighborhood centers, streets occupy between 20% and 45% of the land. In the … Continue reading

A groundbreaking law from the ‘90s needs an update to protect and expand Montgomery County forests

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In the coming months, the Montgomery County Council plans to consider a historic amendment to the county’s Forest Conservation Law – the No Net Loss of Forest initiative. Montgomery Planning proposed the initiative in 2022 in consultation with forest conservation experts and stakeholders, and with Planning Board approval.

What is the History of the Forest Conservation Law and the No Net Loss of Forest Initiative?

Montgomery County is known for its accessible parks, peaceful green spaces, and wooded trails that support a high quality of life for humans and wildlife. Approximately 30% of Montgomery County is covered by forest – a point of pride for residents and visitors who reap its benefits every day. The county’s laws, plans, and … Continue reading

Parking lots to livable spaces: Infill development and its impact on housing in Montgomery County

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By Lisa Govoni and Jason Sartori

One of Montgomery Planning’s mantras of late has been this idea of turning “parking lots to places.” In other words, let’s make better use of underutilized developed land and transform it into something more vibrant with multiple uses for residents and visitors. Inherent in “parking lots to places” is the thought that the “easier” parcels to redevelop – like surface parking lots – will be developed first, given the complexity and time involved in redevelopment of sites with existing uses.

Turning a parking lot into a place is infill development, which takes place on vacant or underutilized developed parcels within an area that have access to existing services. Infill development is beneficial to … Continue reading

New online storymap illustrates the changes in Montgomery County’s racial composition over four decades

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By Archie Chen and Carrie McCarthy

Montgomery County, MD, is known for the diversity of its population, with places like Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, and Germantown regularly showing up on lists of the most diverse cities in the United States. The county is ranked 23rd in the percentage of people of color and 9th in the percentage of foreign-born population of the 49 counties in the United States with populations exceeding 1 million.

Montgomery Planning completed an Esri ArcGIS storymap on racial and ethnic changes in the county since 1990 using the race and Hispanic origin classifications defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The first series of maps looks at changes for individual races and Hispanic ethnicity. The second … Continue reading