Planning Board discusses using design, arts and culture to build community and receives briefing on coordination with the draft Climate Action Plan during sixth Thrive Montgomery 2050 work session

February 5, 2021

Thrive Montgomery 2050

Board members provide feedback on the revised Design, Arts and Culture chapter of the draft plan and preview the revised Parks and Recreation chapter outline scheduled for the seventh work session 

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), held their sixth work session on Thursday, February 4 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, “Design, arts and culture: adding value and building community.” This chapter discusses the functional and aesthetics purposes of building and block design along with the role that arts and cultural elements play in creating attractive and welcoming streets and public spaces. Policies proposed under this theme outline approaches and standards for the design of public and private buildings, landscape design of public spaces, and elements of street design. They also identify ways to support arts and cultural institutions and programming to celebrate our diversity and make the county more attractive and interesting.

One of Thrive Montgomery 2050’s most important design recommendations includes replacing ambiguous requirements for development proposals such as “compatibility” and “character” with clear design standards. Design codes based on form, site layout, setbacks, architecture and the location of available parking will help make regulatory decisions on development proposals more objective. They will also discourage amorphous claims about the “incompatibility” of different housing types and neighborhood-serving retail, facilitating the creation of mixed income neighborhoods.

“We need to get away from vague standards like ‘compatibility’ when deciding what kinds of new housing can be built near older housing,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “By adopting clear and objective rules we can raise the quality of design while helping to facilitate infill development and create more equitable communities.”

To prolong the useful life of structures and reduce scrape-and-replace development practices, the General Plan calls for designing buildings and parking with adaptability in mind. It also promotes cost-effective infill and adaptive reuse design strategies to retrofit single-use commercial sites such as retail strips, malls and office parks into mixed use developments. Such design strategies will align with the county’s limited land supply and help achieve the county’s ambitious climate action goals. It will also provide the county with the flexibility to respond to changing market conditions and demographic trends and adapt to disruptive technological and environmental change.

“As Montgomery County’s available land for development shrinks, the quality of the county’s design will become more important,” said Planning Director Gwen Wright. “Thrive Montgomery 2050 will help us effectively use infill and redevelopment to create attractive, safe and sustainable places for community members to live, work and play.”

These policies will ensure that the design of our built environment supports our economic competitiveness. The thoughtful arrangement of attractive buildings, streets and public spaces will create places that become destinations for commerce and social activity and add value to their surroundings.

“Montgomery County has evolved into one of the most diverse jurisdictions in the nation,” said Research Planner Nicholas Holdzkom. “It is important that our future growth effectively captures this culture and history by investing in our artistic community.”

During the work session, Montgomery County Planning Department staff also presented on the connections between Thrive Montgomery 2050 and the county’s draft Climate Action Plan, which aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Staff examined how the longer-term land use planning framework and actions in the General Plan can support the more immediate actions recommended in the Climate Action Plan. The Planning Board also provided comments on the draft Climate Action Plan during an earlier separate briefing by the County Executive’s Office and Department of Environmental Protection in order to provide feedback prior to the draft’s February 28 public comment deadline. The county and Montgomery Planning will continue to coordinate these two plans as they are both implemented.

In preparation for next week, Montgomery Parks staff presented a preview of the February 11 Thrive Montgomery work session on “Parks and recreation for an increasingly urban and diverse community: active and social.” This revised chapter is about adapting our park and recreation facilities and programs to serve a more diverse, urban community in ways that encourage social interaction and vigorous physical activity while continuing to help achieve the county’s environmental goals.

View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 February 4, 2021 Planning Board staff report
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Design, Arts and Culture chapter
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Design, Arts and Culture presentation
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Parks and Recreation chapter Outline
View the Draft Climate Action Plan February 4, 2021 Planning Board staff report

About the Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan, which is set to be finalized in early 2021, is Montgomery County’s roadmap to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and eliminating emissions by 2035. Since release of draft Climate Action Plan, Montgomery Planning staff have coordinated with the county’s Climate Action Plan team, led by the Office of the County Executive. Staff are exploring how the draft Climate Action Plan and the draft Thrive Montgomery 2050 General Plan are connected to identify ways to further integrate and complement both plans and coordinate on implementation after plan completion. 

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 11: Work session #7— Parks and recreation for an increasingly urban and diverse community: active and social. Revised (redlined) drafts of Introduction, Housing, and Transportation chapters.
  • Thursday, February 18: Work session #8 — Complete communities: mix of uses and forms.
  • Thursday, February 25: Work session #9 –- Section 3: How the ideas in this Plan can be implemented. Implementation chapter, Conclusion with indicators for the three major outcomes.
  • Thursday, March 4: Work session #10 –- Planning Board to approve the final recommendations, Revised (redlined) drafts of the remaining chapters, and Actions list as a separate document. Discuss any follow up items from previous work sessions.
  • 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: Implementation

Appendix: consolidated Actions Appendix.

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.