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guest post: Valerie Berton

July 29 will be the last meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board until September 16. The Board, which meets weekly on Thursdays, typically takes a recess every August. This year, the Board will stay on break through the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and reconvene in mid-September.

As you might expect, the Board’s agenda is packed on this last day before a six-week recess. On tap:

A mandatory referral review of the proposed Travilah Fire Station, on 5½ acres at Darnestown and Shady Grove roads in Shady Grove. The proposed station is expected to serve Travilah, Traville, Fallsgrove and western Rockville. The Planning Board will provide comments to the county’s Department of General Services … Continue reading

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With low-cost, long-distance options like Vamoose, bus travel is on the ascendancy, especially when they can offer high-tech services like Wi-Fi. If we could apply some of that high-tech thinking to congestion  management, they could really move.

A new COG survey has found an increase in telecommuting and a decrease in driving alone in the Washington metro region. Transit use is part of that equation–more than eight in ten respondents who live in inner ring communities live less than one half mile from a bus stop. But can they walk there easily and once they get there are they perched on the curb, rather than sitting under cover?

And if you can’t be green at least look green.

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In March, one of our planners, Claudia Kousoulas, showed the difference in scale between urban development and the infrastructure underlying suburban development by overlaying the I-270/I-370 interchange on top of Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle area.

The amount of space we devote to moving cars is almost surreal at times. At Montrose Road, Interstate 270 is a whopping 14 lanes wide. At that rate, it seems we’re trying to rival places like Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But what is even more amazing is the amount of space we devote to storing cars. When people think of the automobile, it is invariably involved in going somewhere. But cars spend the vast majority of their time parked.

In Montgomery County, we devote about … Continue reading

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guest post: Ben Gruswitz

I’ve been thinking less about good community design and more about a good process to get there—particularly augmenting the community’s role in that process. Community participation is a critical element of good community design, and we are always looking for better ways of engaging the community.

More and more this is happening through the web. The Straight Line and now our Director’s blog are just two examples of community engagement through the web. Friends of White Flint’s FLOG played a key role in promoting community participation in the White Flint Master Plan. And increasingly local bloggers are getting the word out about upcoming public meetings and doing follow-ups for people who missed them.

But beyond … Continue reading

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Some interesting articles about transportation this week, none of them having to do with cars. Say bye bye to the little deuce coup.

Slate magazine has been running a series on “Nimble Cities” and here is their estimation of the three best ideas for urban transportation.

New York Magazine explores ways to make buses work as well as the subways.

And The Washington Post reports on a sight-impaired Montgomery County resident who identifies walking hazards that effect us all.

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Yesterday, I discussed the potential zone restructuring in the Montgomery County zoning rewrite. The series continues today with an overview of our thoughts on the mixed-use and commercial areas of the county.

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This week, we continue the series looking at Montgomery County’s zoning code rewrite. Montgomery has 120 zones, more than double the number of any other county in the region, and creating an untenable situation.

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guest post: Mary Dolan

The hot and humid weather has brought on a problem for the cucumbers and squash vines in the garden. Powdery Mildew, a common problem in this area, has attacked the plants causing the leaves to whiten and die. Some gardeners simply do not plant squash any more due to the heartbreak this disease can cause.

Since we are trying to solve these problems organically, we searched for an answer to our problem and found milk. Yes, spraying a 1 part skim milk to 9 parts water on all leaf surfaces once a week (after removing all infected leaves) is supposed to retard the spreadof the disease. Also, increasing air circulation by removing leaves and/or staking the plants should help.

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The MRO vegetable garden is thriving, despite record high heat and a watering restriction.

We’ve had a small harvest of herbs and greens and are watching the potatoes, beets, and peppers stretch out.

The garden also has a web page where you can see a video of staff gardeners talking about their goals for the garden.

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A landscape or city is legible when it conveys information about itself. A place is most legible when it conveys information without the obvious devices of communication. Legibility is a kind of follow-your-nose sense that allows you to understand a place from both macro and micro signals.

Manhattan is legible though a grid punctuated by landmarks.

Miami Beach is ever-oriented between ocean and bay.

Most Greek villages run from a port, up the hill to a fort or church that takes the high ground.

The ebb and flow of commercial activity and social life in these places can be anticipated. You can figure out where the main shopping streets are and where people go to relax.

Legibility works in different dimensions–from an … Continue reading