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The group got together last week to lay out the garden and quickly realized it was bigger than we thought and gets less than ideal sun. Nonetheless, we are planning on carrots, lots of chili peppers, some dwarf tomatoes, and a few central trellises of beans and cucumbers. And we are counting on that garden-workhorse, zucchini, to do its part.

Laying out a garden always makes me think of urban deisgner, Kevin Lynch, who taught at MIT for 30 years and was the author of the still influential book, Image of the City. In it, he coined the word “wayfinding” to describe how people identify the paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks in their communities to navigate the places … Continue reading

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Funny thing, the number of project plan applications in Silver Spring peaked right before the requirement for workforce housing became effective. The now voluntary program would have required affordable housing for any projects over a certain residential density threshold. The fact that we had a rush of applications to beat that deadline was bad news for those of us in the “workforce” that need affordable housing, but it turned out to be good news for those of us who love art in public places.

Three examples, originally approved in 2005, have recently been installed around the Silver Spring area. Each uses various metals in significantly different ways and achieves distinct effects. Generally, they add a touch of contemporary style … Continue reading

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LOCAL

Thayer Avenue: Date Night 8407 Thayer Avenue hits up 8407 Kitchen Bar and calls it: “Awesome. Possibly the best restaurant right now in Silver Spring.”

Thayer Avenue: Suck It Up and Pay for Saturday Thayer also thinks that Silver Springers should grin and bear the Saturday metering, and he’s not afraid to tell you.

DCist: First Look: Sidebar Rave reviews all around for Sidebar, Jackie Greenbaum’s latest creation in Silver Spring. We’re a little late on the link – Sidebar opened in early April – but further investigation will be conducted soon.

Just Up The Pike: Putting the Brakes on Food Trucks What to do with all those vacant lots in Silver Spring? Park some foods … Continue reading

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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

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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

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Ever feel like you’re being watched by the Green Police? Have a loved-one who thinks that tossing a newspaper in the trash is the equivalent of clubbing a baby seal? Tired of transparent marketing campaigns for products with dubious environmental benefits? You’re certainly not alone.

In this video from TED Talks, Catherine Mohr rightly calls out the insanity of nitpicking over every paper towel or coat of paint, and identifies the real elephant in the room: embodied energy. Embodied energy is the total amount of energy necessary for an entire product lifecycle, including everything from transportation to installation to decomposition. When used as a metric to evaluate sustainable construction construction practices, it can reveal the real opportunities for … Continue reading

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Guest Post: Matt Johnson Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washingtion

Zoning, the main tool to enact land use plans, is perhaps the most important part of planning. By specifying what, where and how new structures can be built, zoning gets things done.

In Montgomery County, a three-year project seeks to greatly simplify an unwieldy, outdated code and achieve strategic growth in a largely built-out county. The zoning rewrite won’t dramatically rezone the county to change the land use patterns, but the zoning code could improve the quality of development in Montgomery County by encouraging more sustainable and compact development and better public amenities.

Noon today, at the Rockville Library, the Planning Department will shed light on the rewrite project to … Continue reading

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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

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Pedestrians can have it hard enough getting from place to place, building access to the wrong dimensions shouldn’t exacerbate the problem. The set of steps I used to take from the Metro/Marc station in Silver Spring – from 2nd Ave up to Fidler Lane, next to the McDonalds – are a prime example of bad design. The details of such things shouldn’t be overlooked: you can’t build steps to fit grade, you need to fit human scale. Well, you can, but then you haven’t designed anything, you’ve conceded to expediency.

Steps should follow a simple couple of rules: twice the riser height plus the tread should equal about 26 inches; landings should match this stride length – but … Continue reading

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For all of the beauty of downtown DC’s Metro stations, subway culture in DC has always felt a bit austere. The rare mural or artwork feel forced, intended not to offend rather than uplift or enliven stations. Street buskers aren’t plentiful either, though I’m not sure it would matter. When the Washington Post had world famous violinist Joshua Bell play during rush hour at the L’Enfant Plaza station, seven people stopped to listen. Only one recognized him. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup. All of this seems to suggest that we treat our stations as through-puts rather than informal cultural venues, or momentary sites of entertainment. Yet their potential is immense.

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