Wednesday night, planners held a community workshop and guided about 25 residents in using visual building blocks to express the characteristics they’d like to see in their community. The future Purple Line stations will change the neighborhood’s character and opportunities. This workshop and upcoming workshops are a chance for the community to define its future.
They began with maps, markers, and photos—the visual building blocks—and after talking about what they want their community to be—a place where you can walk to a hardware store or ride your bike to the park, they started to put their ideas on paper.
Planners Kathy Reilly and John Marcolin said the people here know their community and all its issues, an even though … Continue reading
Do you know where your food comes from? Probably not from Montgomery County, even if you shop at one of the County’s 14 farm markets, and even though nearly one third of the County’s land is in the Agricultural Reserve.
At last night’s 3rd Rethink event, the panel of two longtime farmers, Wade Butler and Ben Allnut; the County’s Agricultural Services Division Manager, Jeremy Criss; and community garden activist, Gordon Clark, discussed the difficulty of farming in Montgomery County.
Soil health is a challenge, but one that an experienced farmer will learn to deal with. More challenging are the regulations that require an expensive special exception for facilities that allow on-farm food processing. So, local meat and dairy are … Continue reading
As mentioned in the first Rethink event, the blogger panel, FAR (never pronounced far, but each letter: f-a-r, standing for floor area ratio) is one of the more obscure bits of planner patois.
FAR determines a site’s allowed development as a ratio of building area over lot area. For example, an FAR of 1 would allow a one-story building that covers the entire lot or a two story building that covers half the lot or a three-story building that covers a third of the lot. Regardless of a site’s size, it will have the same allotment of building density as its neighbors.
In urban areas, FARs tend to be high, around 6 or 7 in downtown Washington and around … Continue reading
At the second event of the Rethink speaker’s series, Casey Anderson of WABA and Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space talked about making (or trying to make) the suburbs more bike friendly for cyclists, both commuters and recreational riders.
Anderson has interviewed 10,000 federal employees about their attitudes and experiences and found some not surprising stats—potential riders are afraid of car traffic, and some surprising ones—even those who would never consider riding a bike think it’s worthwhile to invest in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Anderson says the take-away for policy-makers and politicians is that this is not flaky, the community will support this investment.
Layman is seeking to make cycling “irresistible,” and emphasized that a bike-friendly … Continue reading
Tina Schneider, who works in Park and Planning’s Environmental Division, was talking with Planning Director Rollin Stanley about ways to “green” our site. They came up with a number of ideas, which will become our sustainable landscape plan, that include a few bee hives on the roof (starting in mid-May) and turning our flower beds into a vegetable garden rather than planting and replanting them with annuals through the season. About a dozen employees (from neophytes to experts) have volunteered to help design, plant, maintain, and harvest the garden.
Today, Mohammed Turay’s crew of the Parks Department generously got us started by removing the mulch, tilling the soil, and adding some amendments. We’ll have the soil tested this week … Continue reading
The Coalition for Smarter Growth came out today with its Cool Communities report, that is, places that are mixed use and walkable, generating fewer auto trips and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The report has found a way to quantify diversity and local design, characteristics that are essential to community function and character, but often overlooked in more technical discussions.
Based on recommendations in the executive summary, Montgomery County seems to be doing a few things right—focusing development at Metro stations and making infill development and infill transit top priorities.
Another recommendation is to “create urban street grids” that support “walk and bicycle access to transit.” In Montgomery, all projects in most urban and suburban area include sidewalks, and outside urban … Continue reading
Straight Line Blog Post
The Planning Department’s Rethink effort started last night with a blogger panel featuring David Alpert of Greater, Greater Washington; Dan Reed of Just Up the Pike; Barnaby Zall of Friends of White Flint; Cynthia Cotte Griffiths of RockvilleCentral.com; and Eric Robbins of ThayerAvenue.com.
Two ideas in the discussion struck me. The first was Dan Reed’s passion for his community and the sense of justice that prompted him to start blogging. His reporting recounted Maryam Balbed’s some success in connecting the Silver Spring skater kids to the planning process through his blog. This is the kind of outreach planners know that must do to create a valid plan, but don’t always achieve.
Connecting to a larger … Continue reading
Where do you park your car? Of course, in front of your house. What would your neighbors say if you parked in front of their house?
How quickly do you shovel your sidewalk after it snows? Do you shovel your steps and the elderly lady’s next door?
If there is garbage on your street, do you pick it up, even if it’s not yours, even if it’s not in front of your house?
Remember why the big fat Greek wedding family was embarrassing? Not because they cooked a lamb on a spit (though that’s a little weird), but because they cooked it in the front yard. They broke the unwritten rule of suburbia, cookouts happen in the backyard!
The … Continue reading
Here’s some inside baseball for you—planners love maps. Mention letraset and T-squares to older planners and they’ll start squirting tears for the good old days and bemoaning the cold computer line.
Maps, no matter how they’re made, have tremendous expressive potential and we planners argue long and hard about their content and style. Everyone has a different idea about land use colors, boundary lines, and north arrows.
Here’s someone else who cares about maps and I think two of them are of particular interest to planning in Montgomery County.
Entry 441 is a map of San Francisco’s privately-owned public open spaces (POPOS). Montgomery County has its share of these and master plans recommend more. Will these public amenities, negotiated … Continue reading
As I do every year, I took off my birthday yesterday (38 Special!). This year I drove up to Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties and Fishtown neighborhoods to check out some architecture. A developer called “Onion Flats” has been putting up some cool contemporary constructions, and I went to investigate. What I found was that MANY developers are working on smaller and larger sections of these older residential communities, where the module is overwhelmingly the brick rowhouse, and every other block seemed to feature a new intervention.
Enter Liberties Walk, Tower Investment‘s mixed-use development designed by local architect Erdy McHenry, features a pedestrian-only walkway that runs for 3+ blocks. According to Plan Philly, the 4-acre site accommodates 25 galleries, restaurants, and shops … Continue reading