Planning Board briefed on progress of Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan

December 3, 2020

Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan
Staff presented updates on community engagement efforts over the past five months, with a preview of the existing conditions analysis framework to be presented to the community and Planning Board early next year

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), provided a briefing on December 3, 2020 to the Montgomery County Planning Board on the progress of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan (SSDAC). Staff briefed the Planning Board on the first phase of community engagement, the “Listening Phase,” and the progress of the planning team since the approval of the Scope of Work in June 2020. The SSDAC Plan is a two- to three-year planning process that will envision the future of Silver Spring’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods for the next 20 years, updating the previous plan that was completed in 2000. To date, Montgomery Planning staff has engaged over 500 stakeholders through virtual Listening Sessions, office hours, an online survey and meetings with many neighborhood groups, businesses, property owners and various community organizations.

View the December 3 Staff Report.
View the December 3 Planning Board presentation.

Staff also briefed the Planning Board about participants in the planning process thus far and shared some of the emerging themes from those discussions, such as: diversity as a strength; an overwhelming concern that Silver Spring will become unaffordable; a desire for more trees and parks in the downtown; as well as prioritizing issues related to transportation and small businesses. View the “What We’ve Heard So Far” webpage for more details on what staff is hearing from the community.

“While it has been encouraging to meet so many committed stakeholders, we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us as we strive to ensure an equitable engagement process,” said Project Manager Atara Margolies. “We are actively seeking to partner with members of the public who can help us connect with all members of the Silver Spring community, particularly those who have never before participated in a Planning process. If we haven’t met you yet, please get in touch!”

At the briefing, staff stressed that they are only at the beginning of the engagement process and that as this phase comes to a close and the team moves into the Visioning phase, community members will have  many more opportunities in the next phases of engagement to participate and provide feedback. The final two 2020 Listening Sessions in the Listening phase are scheduled for December; RSVP below:

Focus on Equity

Named the fourth most culturally diverse location in the United States, Silver Spring is home to residents from all over the world. The Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan team will work to engage all communities, so everyone can fully participate in the sector plan process. As part of our planning framework, equity will be woven through all parts of the Plan.

The SSDAC Plan is the first master plan to be launched after the passage of the County Council’s

Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, which was signed into law in December 2019 to actively address racial disparities within the county. The law instructs the Planning Board to consider racial equity and social justice impacts when preparing a Master Plan. To that end, engagement and outreach activities with the community are being implemented with the lens of equity.

Learn more about equitable engagement for the SSDAC Plan.

Learn more about Montgomery Planning’s Equity Agenda for Planning.

Next Steps for the Plan

  • Wrap up Phase I engagement with December Listening Sessions.
  • Existing Conditions Briefing expected in Early 2021.
  • Visioning Process and Phase II Engagement kickoff expected in February/March 2021. Details TBD.

More on Upcoming Listening Sessions

Community members’ participation in the planning process is vital to reflect the needs of the community, anticipate the changes to come and retain the unique character and diversity that make Silver Spring a great place. Therefore, community members are encouraged to attend either of the two upcoming online listening sessions in December.

These staff-facilitated sessions will include a short presentation about the background of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, leaving the bulk of the session for participants to share their input about the Plan. Staff will ask participants the following questions:

  • What do you like most about living in or near Silver Spring?
  • What do you want to make sure is preserved?
  • What do you think needs improvement in Silver Spring?
  • What do you want to see happen in Silver Spring in the future and why?
  • What is your biggest concern about the future of Silver Spring?
  • What will make this plan a success for you?

To ensure a productive dialogue and secure environment, we are requiring registrations. We will email registrants the link one hour ahead of the start time on the day of the event. Due to the format of the event, facilitators request that participants log in 15 minutes prior to the start of the event and if that is not possible to join within the first 15 minutes of the event.

Tuesday, December 8, 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. – RSVP for the December 8 online listening session.

Monday, December 14, 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. – RSVP for the December 14 online listening session.

Community members who are unable to attend these virtual sessions are encouraged to complete this online survey sharing their thoughts about the future of Silver Spring and their engagement preferences for the Plan.

Contact Montgomery Planning staff with any questions or comments:
Atara Margolies, project manager, via phone 301-495-4558 or email atara.margolies@montgomeryplanning.org
Leslye Howerton, master planning supervisor, DownCounty Planning, via phone 301-495-4566 or email leslye.howerton@montgomeryplanning.org

About the 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.

Currently, Montgomery Planning anticipates a two- to three-year-long planning process, which began with approval of the plan Scope of Work in June 2020. Starting this plan during a global pandemic may impact the methods and timing of community engagement. However, we will extend the plan process timeline as needed to ensure thorough engagement of all who live and work in and around downtown Silver Spring. View the plan’s Scope of Work that the Planning Board approved in June 2020.