Planning Board discusses creating dynamic “Complete Communities” during latest Thrive Montgomery 2050 work session

February 18, 2021

Thrive Montgomery 2050
Board members provide feedback on chapter dedicated to Complete Communities in the draft plan and preview the Conclusion chapter outline scheduled for the ninth work session

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), held their eighth work session on Thursday, February 18 on the update to the county’s General Plan, known as Thrive Montgomery 2050. During the virtual meeting, board members discussed the General Plan’s chapter titled “Complete Communities: mix of uses and forms.” This revised chapter proposes the idea of Complete Communities, which offer a variety of uses including workplaces, diverse housing types, goods and services, public amenities, and active park spaces coupled with complementary infrastructure to support walking, rolling, bicycling and transit.

Because Montgomery County’s land available for development is diminishing, Thrive Montgomery 2050 recommends how to make centers of activity along major roads, highways and railways, also known as transportation corridors, better meet the daily needs of residents and workers. Complete Communities optimize land use with a compact form of development for a mixed use of retail, residential, office space, public services and amenities. This will allow community members to walk, bike, roll, or use transit for most daily trips instead of a car.

“Our neighborhoods and commercial districts have some great qualities, but with preferences growing for more walkable places with access to recreation, shopping, transit, and other amenities we need to fill in gaps and build more complete communities,” said Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. “Demand for infill and redevelopment offer opportunities to channel fresh investment into a more comprehensive combination of features that will help strengthen Montgomery County’s attractiveness to residents and employers while serving a wider variety of needs – and of people.”

The update to the General Plan calls for increasing commercial and residential diversity within neighborhoods. To accomplish this, Thrive Montgomery 2050 recommends creating flexible use, zoning, and development standards that encourage a variety of lot sizes, building types, and building placement. It recommends utilizing infill and redevelopment to improve access to amenities, transit, parks, open spaces, and housing. It also advises retrofitting centers of activity and large-scale single-use developments to include a mixture of uses and housing types.

“We can support diversity in our communities by diversifying our housing options,” said Planning Director Gwen Wright. “Looking beyond single-family housing will help integrate communities with people across the ethnic, racial, social and economic spectrum. It will also allow residents to stay in the same area by accommodating their different needs as they age.”

Montgomery County’s current separation of land uses coupled with its barriers, buffers and transitions has reinforced racial, social, and economic divisions between neighborhoods and parts of the county. Thrive Montgomery 2050’s call for the integration of diverse housing types, such as accessory dwelling units, duplexes, and multi-family buildings within the same community supports a broader range of households and incomes. The mixture of uses, co-location, and adjacency of public services and amenities within Complete Communities are also designed to improve sustainability by cutting down on the use of cars and reducing building footprints, which should reduce energy use.

“Imagine if your trip to work, the grocery store, or your favorite restaurant could be easily accessible by walking, biking or transit,” said Jessica McVary, Mid-County Planning Division supervisor. “This is possible with Complete Communities. Through a mixture of uses and forms, we can promote active lifestyles and reduce our dependence on cars.”

As a follow-up from previous Thrive Montgomery work sessions, Montgomery Planning staff presented revised drafts of the General Plan’s Compact Growth and Design, Arts and Culture chapters that incorporated the Planning Board’s comments.

In preparation for the next Thrive Montgomery work session, Montgomery Planning staff highlighted the February 25 outline for the Conclusion chapter, formerly called the Implementation chapter in the Public Hearing Draft. This revised chapter also includes indicators for the three major outcomes.

The deadline for community members to submit their comments for the next work session is noon on February 24. The last day community members can submit any final comments to the Planning Board on Thrive Montgomery 2050 is noon on Wednesday, March 3. Written comments can be submitted by email at mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org.

View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 February 18, 2021 Planning Board staff report
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Complete Communities chapter
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Complete Communities presentation
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Revised Design, Arts and Culture chapter
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Revised Compact Growth chapter
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Conclusion chapter outline

Thrive Montgomery 2050 Planning Board work session schedule

Below is the remaining schedule for the Planning Board’s review of Thrive Montgomery 2050. Please visit thrivemontgomery.com for updates on the specific topics to be covered in future work sessions; the topic assigned for each work session is tentative and may change. Check the Planning Board’s website for staff reports for these work sessions.

  • Thursday, February 25: Work session #9 – Conclusion, how the ideas in this Plan can be implemented.
  • Thursday, March 4: Work session #10 – Recommended Actions List (to be published as a separate document). Revised (redlined) drafts of the Complete Communities and Parks and Recreation chapters.
  • Thursday, April 8: Planning Board scheduled to approve Planning Board Draft of Thrive Montgomery 2050 for transmittal to the County Executive and County Council.

For more information, visit thrivemontgomery.com or sign up for our e-letter for updates.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 Outline

At the December 17, 2020 meeting, the Planning Board approved a new outline for the Thrive Montgomery 2050 General Plan document consisting of the following chapters:

Section 1

  • Why do we need a new comprehensive plan for the county?
  • Three overarching objectives
    • Economic performance & competitiveness
    • Racial & Social Equity & Inclusion
    • Environmental resilience & sustainability
  • Other important goals:
    • Elevating design and role of arts and culture
    • Public health and active lifestyles
    • Better access to amenities for high quality of life

Section 2: Thrive Montgomery 2050 Themes

  • Compact Growth: Corridor-Focused Development
  • Complete Communities: Mix of Uses and Forms
  • Transportation and Communication Networks: Connecting People, Places and Ideas
  • Affordable and Attainable Housing: More of Everything
  • Design, Arts and Culture: Adding Value and Building Community
  • Parks and Recreation for an Increasingly Urban and Diverse Community: Active and Social

Section 3: Conclusion

Appendices:
Appendix A: Planning history: how we got here
Appendix B: A plan based on community input
Appendix C: Compliance with the State law requirements
Appendix D: Glossary

A revised list of Actions will be published as a separate document.

Community participation and next steps

Community members can continue to provide comments on the draft Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan for the Planning Board’s review while they conduct work sessions in January and February 2021. After the Planning Board votes to transmit the Planning Board Draft Plan to the County Council in early April, the County Council will hold their own public hearing, work sessions and final approval.

Members of the public may submit written comments to Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. The mailing address is 2425 Reedie Drive, Wheaton, Maryland 20902; the e-mail address is mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org; the fax number is (301) 495-1320. Individuals or groups may send comments at any time; comments received by noon of the day prior to each work session will be sent to the Planning Board for review at that work session.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 resources

Below are links to the Public Hearing Draft Plan, Outreach Appendix and at-a-glance information on the plan in English as well as in multiple languages.

Community Engagement

Over the summer, Montgomery Planning hosted several virtual community engagement sessions— even during this time of social distancing—on the initial Thrive Montgomery 2050 Policies and Actions Draft released in June to obtain feedback that was included in the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Working Draft Plan that was published in September.

Montgomery Planning held the Ask Me Anything virtual townhalls that Planning Director Wright hosted in May. Planning staff then invited the community to participate in the June Thrive Montgomery 2050 Virtual Community Chats. Each chat offered community members a chance to converse online with Planning staff about policy recommendations related to planning for the future of the county’s housing, transportation, economy, environment and more. View all of the distance engagement events for Thrive Montgomery 2050.

About Thrive Montgomery 2050

During summer 2019, the Montgomery County Planning Department launched the update of Montgomery County’s General Plan, the county’s long-term framework for land use and development. This effort, called Thrive Montgomery 2050, will result in new countywide policies to help Montgomery County thrive in the decades to come by addressing challenges and opportunities. A lot has changed in the county since the General Plan was originally approved in 1964. Thrive Montgomery 2050 will guide future growth in response to the demographic shifts, technological innovations, changing lifestyles and economic disruptions that have taken place in recent decades. The new General Plan will consider many issues framed by three pillars: economic health, environmental resilience and equity. This framework will help guide the recommendations of the plan with input from the community.