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.
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
Montgomery County is one of the most desirable places to live and work in the United States. However, like many other places in the country, we are facing new and different issues and trends. This includes weak wage and job growth, persistent racial and economic inequities, demographic and cultural shifts, technological innovation, and climate change. Some of these issues have been reinforced, or even created, by our past public and private plans and actions.
As we finalize the update to the county’s General Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050, it is important that we reexamine the county’s planning history to become a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient community. Let’s take a walk through the county’s past 245 years:
For more than a year, we have been working on Thrive Montgomery 2050, an update to the General Plan directing the long-term vision and direction for land use and growth in the county. While public attention is understandably more focused on short-term issues, long-term thinking remains critical to guide how we respond to changes in the future.
From the beginning of the Thrive 2050 planning process, we have emphasized that the plan needs to be flexible and adaptable to a future in which change seems to happen more rapidly than in the past. Where to do we want to be as a county in five, 10, 30 years? The framework for the plan identifies three key themes as core … Continue reading