Montgomery Planning Reflects on its 2019 Work

December 23, 2019

2019 Year In Review

From Vision Zero to Thrive Montgomery 2050, initiatives over the past year are improving the quality of life in Montgomery County

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), is pleased to present its 2019 Year in Review. This list represents Montgomery Planning’s most significant achievements over the past year.

“I’m energized by the work of Planning staff and the community to tackle these consequential issues that impact our quality of life now and in the future,” said Planning Director Gwen Wright. “Many of our projects are just getting started and will continue into 2020 with many opportunities for the Montgomery County community to share their ideas that will shape our communities.”

Thrive Montgomery 2050
In the summer, Montgomery Planning kicked off the update to the county’s General Plan called Thrive Montgomery 2050. Starting with Thrive Week in June, planners began gathering input from Montgomery County’s diverse population about their hopes and concerns for their communities over the next 30 years. Outreach events and new, innovative communication tools, like the Thrive 2050 Quiz and the Meeting-in-a-box, are collecting that input on a variety of issues.  In December, Montgomery Planning briefed and got feedback from the Planning Board on the major issues that the new General Plan will address. This Issues Report, to be finalized in February 2020, will serve as the framework for policy recommendations to be delivered to the County Council in Spring 2021.

Continued Commitment to Vision Zero
Through the County Council’s 2016 resolution and the County Executive’s 2017 two-year action plan for Vision Zero, Montgomery County committed to creating an environment that eliminates all traffic fatalities and severe injuries by the year 2030. The Montgomery County Planning Department has been a leader when it comes to creating policy and design guidance in support of transportation safety. Building on the success of the 2018 Bicycle Master Plan, the Planning Department began work on the Pedestrian Master Plan. The Pedestrian Master Plan seeks to make recommendations on how to improve pedestrian conditions countywide – for those who walk or roll. The Planning Department is partnering with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to develop a Complete Streets Design Guide. When complete, the guide will provide policy and design guidance to governmental agencies, consultants, private developers, and community groups on the planning, design, and operation of roadways that are safe, comfortable, and accessible for all users.

Additionally, master plans and studies along the Veirs Mill Corridor, the Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills section of Georgia Avenue, and the Aspen Hill area make transformative recommendations towards Vision Zero goals that will make these areas of the county more walkable and safe for all.

Planning Board Appointments and Reappointments
The Montgomery County Council reappointed Casey Anderson in June as the Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. Also, in June, the County Council appointed Partap Verma as a Planning Board Commissioner (replacing Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss who retired after 10 years on the board). Commissioner Natali Fani-Gonzalez was selected to serve as Planning Board Vice Chair, making her the first Latinx and millennial to become Vice Chair.

Placemaking Efforts
Building off of the 2018 White Flint Placemaking effort, Planning Department staff continued work to transform parking lots into places by completing successful placemaking festivals in Burtonsville and Long Branch. Both placemaking projects included the close collaboration of staff with the community to reimagine an area of their community to create a vibrant public space.

Preserving County Resources
In the spring, the Planning Board approved the Burial Sites Inventory and Guidelines after the County Council directed that the board create a way to preserve and protect identified burial sites during the preliminary plan of subdivision review and approval process. The Planning Department created an inventory of current burial sites in Montgomery County. The department also partnered with the Montgomery Countryside Alliance and hired staff to coordinate tree planting programs and forest conservation programs.

Increasing interest in agricultural education, tourism and entertainment in Montgomery County has prompted discussion about ways to support the evolving nature of farming in the county’s award-winning Agricultural Reserve. The 2019 Agritourism study, which was presented to the Planning Board in December, examined issues agricultural stakeholders raised and developed a comprehensive approach to promote agricultural tourism while preserving the agricultural functions and rural character of the county’s Agricultural Reserve.

Raising the Bar on Design in the County
The 2019 Design Excellence Awards recognized high-quality design in the county with the top awards going to the Glenstone Museum in Potomac and the Pearl multi-family residential development in Silver Spring. The award ceremony also highlighted the transformation of the Wisconsin Avenue corridor in Bethesda. Design guidelines were approved by the Planning Board for the streetscapes of downtown Silver Spring and the White Flint 2 and Rock Spring plans.

Collaborative Approach to Regulatory Review
A multi-agency collaboration by Montgomery Planning with the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (MCDPS), the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) produced the Fire Department Performance-Based Design Guide. This guide, issued by the MCDPS, was formally approved by all four agencies in August.  It provides alternatives to the design of sidewalks and roadways to meet the county’s Vision Zero goals while still operating within the county’s fire code.