By Casey Anderson and Jai Cole
Parks, recreation, and open space are the motherhood and apple pie of land-use planning and local government, with just about everyone agreeing on their value and appeal. But if you’ve ever been to a public meeting about a dog park or skateboard facility (or even a soccer field) you know that the consensus starts to break down when decisions are made about how parks and public spaces will be used and where the amenities to support them will be located.
Montgomery County has long been a leader in adopting forward-thinking policies to preserve land for parks, recreation, agriculture, and resource conservation. Thrive Montgomery 2050 builds on this legacy, partly by recommitting to state-of-the-practice … Continue reading
Written by Casey Anderson and Lisa Govoni
The basic problem with housing in Montgomery County is easy to summarize: We haven’t been building enough of it for quite some time.
We’re building less and less over time
In every succeeding decade since the 1980s, the number of residential building permits issued here has steadily declined, both in absolute terms and relative to the rest of the region. Home construction has fallen well short of the 4,200 units per year that the Council of Governments (COG) estimates that the county needs to keep up, even with relatively modest population and job growth.
Here’s a chart that shows what we’re talking about:
Montgomery County Building Permits
Limited new construction creates supply … Continue reading
Even the most forward-thinking land use policies will fail if they are not supported by transportation infrastructure and services that reinforce – or at least don’t undermine – their objectives. As the Wedges and Corridors plan recognized more than half a century ago:
“An efficient system of transportation must include rapid transit designed to meet a major part of the critical rush-hour need. Without rapid transit, highways and parking garages will consume the downtown areas; the advantages of central locations will decrease, the city will become fragmented and unworkable. The mental frustrations of congested highway travel will take its toll, not to mention the extra costs of second cars and soaring insurance rate. In Los Angeles where an … Continue reading
Written by Casey Anderson and Nicholas Holdzkom
Design of the built environment strongly influences our quality of life. The pattern of development across a city, county, and region; the configuration of neighborhoods and districts; and the architecture of individual buildings collectively shape our perception of places and influence how we choose to travel, recreate, and socialize.
This series has explained how Thrive Montgomery 2050 addresses design at each of these scales. The post on compact growth outlined a countywide framework for concentrating development along corridors. The post on complete communities addressed design at the level of neighborhoods and districts, describing how a mix of uses and amenities can be built – literally and figuratively – on the foundation … Continue reading
Written by Casey Anderson and Jessica McVary
A compact form of development – discussed in this post on corridor-focused growth – is necessary but not sufficient to ensure the emergence of great places, because a tight development footprint is only the first step. The combination of uses and activities in each of these communities must add up to a cohesive whole, allowing people who live and work there to meet as many of their needs as possible without the need to drive long distances. This combination, which Thrive Montgomery calls, “complete communities,” not only helps to reduce the need for driving but makes these centers of activity more diverse, interesting, and appealing.
Wedges and Corridors and the separation … Continue reading
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
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
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
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