This past May, I had the pleasure of traveling through Portugal on a greatly anticipated summer, post-COVID trip. What a beautiful country and what a perfect example of concentrated, walkable mixed-use communities, which are found in all its small, medium and larger cities and towns. Portugal, as well as a large portion of Europe shows us impressive examples of how to save energy and resources through the concentration of buildings and then connects those communities with simple, easy to use transit systems consisting of trains, trams, buses, cars, bikes, carts and scooters. It is walkable concentrated development linked by multimodal transportation at its best! I strongly suggest you visit Portugal if you can. The urbanism, … Continue reading
When it comes to environmental resilience, it’s in there!
By Casey Anderson and Steve Findley
What does Thrive Montgomery 2050 say about the environment? To quote from an old ad for a popular brand of spaghetti sauce, “It’s in there!” From climate change to improving air and water quality, preserving habitats and improving biological diversity, managing stormwater and protecting watersheds, the environmental goals and guidance in Thrive Montgomery 2050 are woven throughout the Plan.
As outlined in our last blog post, the wedges and corridors land use pattern retained from Montgomery County’s first General Plan provides two critical components that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create resilience: compact growth and natural resource preservation. These components are linked: the … Continue reading
Thrive Montgomery 2050 builds on the ideas laid out in the Wedges and Corridors plan to reinforce anti-sprawl policies and incorporate new insights about sustainability and development. This post explains the environmental benefits of the compact growth footprint established by the Wedges and Corridors plan and updated by Thrive Montgomery 2050 – and why any alternative path would chew up more land, cut down more trees, and undercut efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change.
Reaffirming and updating the Wedges and Corridors commitment to compact form
The Wedges and Corridors plan laid the groundwork – no pun intended – … Continue reading
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.
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
I’m interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming (explaining Thrive Montgomery 2050) to share some fresh data on public engagement with our agency during COVID-19 along with some thoughts about the use of technology as a tool for participation in government.
Thanks to our crack IT staff, we have continued holding hearings on development applications throughout the pandemic – in fact, we have not cancelled a single Planning Board meeting, delayed any master plans, or stopped any other project.
This chart shows the number of people who participated in Planning Board meetings remotely over the course of the year when COVID-19 restrictions on in-person public gatherings have been in effect and the number who participated in person over the previous twelve months:
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.
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
THE THIRD PLACE
In planning, the third place is the social realm separate from home and the workplace.
It provides an inclusive forum for dialogue crucial for civic engagement and community building.