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Montgomery County Planning Board approves Planning Board Draft of Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan

January 10, 2022

Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan
Plan recommends development of key opportunity sites, new parks, improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and vision for sustainable economic growth in downtown 

Wheaton, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), approved the Planning Board Draft of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan during its meeting on January 6. Planners have incorporated comments from the Planning Board into the draft of the plan and will next transmit it to the Montgomery County Council for its review. The transmittal is expected to take place this week.

The approval from the Planning Board comes after a Public Hearing on December 2, 2021, followed by four work sessions held on December 9, 16 and 23, 2021 and on January 6, 2022. The Planning Board Draft, the plan’s appendices, the staff reports and resources for all four work sessions are available on montgomeryplanning.org/silverspringdowntown.

“The draft recommendations in the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan reflect the input we received from the community throughout the planning process,” said Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright. “We have received feedback from residents, community organizations, business and property owners, and others who are committed to a diverse and thriving future for Silver Spring. We continue to welcome the community’s participation as the draft plan moves through the Montgomery County Council.”

Some of the key recommendations in the plan include:

  • Establish a Green Loop to expand and unify access for all residents to green, safe, and inviting sidewalks, bikeways, and parks and open spaces.
  • Create new and enhance existing parks and open spaces, including a major renovation of Jesup Blair Park.
  • Support the expansion of bioscience, technology, and education uses to increase employment opportunities in the plan area.
  • Update the Zoning Code to provide more flexibility of development, increase affordable housing, support small business growth, and realize Sector Plan goals.
  • Encourage the development of diverse housing types in the adjacent communities blocks as recommended by the plan and the ongoing Attainable Housing Strategies
  • Establish the Connectivity and Infrastructure Fund (CIF) to allow all Commercial/Residential (CR) properties to obtain additional density if needed to meet maximum building heights. The fund would support a world-class arrival experience at the transit center, a new bridge connection across the rail tracks, and strategic utility and streetscape infrastructure improvements.
  • Create a Silver Spring Building Height Incentive Zone (BHIZ) to allow properties in the commercial core of the downtown to obtain additional height up to 150 percent of the mapped maximum height for flexibility.
  • Implement a Design Advisory Panel and design review for all Optional Method development projects.
  • Incentivize redevelopment of key opportunity sites to realize the district-specific visions presented in the plan.
  • Increase the minimum Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) requirement from 12.5 percent to 15 percent plan-wide.

The next steps for the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan include a Montgomery County Council Public Hearing where the community will be invited to testify. This will be followed by a series of work sessions at the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) and Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committees and the full County Council as well as a vote on the draft plan by the County Council. The last step is adoption of the final plan by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The draft plan builds upon the success of the 2000 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan to help the area continue to be a regional destination for the next 20 years while supporting sustainable growth and development in the emerging areas of the downtown and adjacent communities. It includes recommendations for land use and zoning, housing, economic growth, urban design, transportation, parks and public spaces, environmental resiliency, community facilities, and historic resources.

As the first Sector Plan to follow the passage of Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, equity is woven throughout the plan and is reflected in the four overarching themes that emerged after engaging with stakeholders. These include diversity, resiliency, connectivity, and community health.

To stay up to date on the progress of this plan, sign up for our eLetter. You can also reach out directly to the project team with any questions or comments about the plan:

Atara Margolies, lead planner
301-495-4558
Atara.margolies@montgomeryplanning.org

About the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan

The 2000 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan  established a planning framework for downtown Silver Spring that envisioned a green, transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly downtown with a strong commercial and residential development market. In the 20 years since the adoption of the downtown Silver Spring Sector Plan, the area has transformed from an area in decline to a vibrant destination for offices, retail, restaurants, and entertainment that is defined by its unique diversity. Montgomery Planning is updating the downtown Silver Spring Sector Plan to guide Silver Spring’s future growth.

Through the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan process, Montgomery Planning will analyze and reevaluate all aspects of the existing plan, consider the recommended changes implemented from the last plan, and assess future needs – all informed by community conversation and input. View the plan’s Scope of Work that the Planning Board approved in June 2020.

About the Equity Agenda for Planning

Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future. While it will take time to fully develop a new methodology for equity in the planning process, we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Efforts to date include:

  • Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning. The Planning Board approved Equity in Master Planning Framework, and staff is working on action items.
  • Prioritizing equity in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050.
  • Focusing on equity in upcoming plans. Equity is a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus.
  • Created an Equity Focus Areas mapping tool and developing a Community Equity Index. Equity Focus Areas in Montgomery County have high concentrations of lower-income people of color, who may also speak English less than very well. Montgomery Planning developed this data-driven tool to identify and map these areas to assess potential racial and social inequities and produce master plans that will foster more equitable outcomes for communities in Montgomery County. The Community Equity Index will expand on the previous Equity Focus Area analysis, creating a more robust, diagnostic tool providing additional detail of critically selected neighborhood characteristics relevant for equity analysis countywide.
  • Viewing management and operations through an equity lens. Our efforts are not limited to the master planning process. Management and operational functions like communications and human resources are developing approaches, tools, plans, and training to ensure that we look at everything through an equity lens.