Skip to content
Oct 23 14

Photo Contest Seeks to Capture Most Valuable Places in Montgomery Village

by Bridget Schwiesow

Montgomery Photo Contest 2014_social

Residents Urged to Enter to Help Planners Envision Future Community

SILVER SPRING, MD – What makes Montgomery Village a great place? The Montgomery County Planning Department is seeking to answer that question through a photo contest aimed at capturing the most valuable and striking settings of the community. The top photos will be chosen by a panel of judges and included in the Planning Department’s posters, planning documents and social media. High-resolution images for the contest should be sent to Learn more about the contest including contest rules.

The Planning Department is holding the photo contest as one way to solicit feedback from residents, business owners and stakeholders about the assets of Montgomery Village. These images will help guide the Montgomery Village Master Plan now underway. A kickoff meeting with the community was held on October 1 to introduce the planning process and goals. The next meeting on December 8, 2014 will focus on issues and areas identified during the first meeting, including the community’s discussion of the vision for the future of Montgomery Village. Stay tuned for more details on the next series of community meetings.

About the Montgomery Village Master Plan
Montgomery Village is a planned community that was started in 1965 and now approaching its 50th anniversary. The Village comprises 2,435 acres and 40,000 residents. The Montgomery County Planning Department is initiating a Master Plan for Montgomery Village, which has never been the subject of a discrete, individual planning effort. The current planning process is examining the issues faced by the Village and its residents, including the proposed redevelopment of the golf courses, reinvestment in the Village Center and other neighborhood retail, future of the gateway site and appropriate zoning for the Village. This Master Plan will be developed with the help of residents as well as business and property owners in the area.

Connect with us:
Stay connected with the latest information about the Montgomery Village Master Plan:
-Like us on Facebook:
-Use hashtag #mvp

Oct 22 14

Montgomery Parks Hosts Public Meeting on New Proposed Use of Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building

by Melissa Chotiner

Public meeting scheduled for December 3, 7 – 8 p.m.; Rock Creek Dance Academy to present proposal for park activity building use.


SILVER SPRING, MDMontgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will host a public meeting on Wednesday, December 3 from 7 – 8 p.m. at the Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building to discuss a proposed new use of the building. Rock Creek Dance Academy, LLC, is seeking to lease the building to offer dance classes for people ages 3 – 18 years old. A presentation on the proposed use will be given at the meeting.


Public meeting information:

Montgomery Parks Public Meeting on Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building Reuse
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 7 – 8 p.m.
Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building
5209 Alta Vista Road
Bethesda, MD 20814


Montgomery Parks’ staff evaluated Rock Creek Dance Academy’s proposal to lease the building based on the following criteria:


  • Proposed use and overall approach to the adaptive reuse including compatibility with the community and park and overall benefit to the public;
  • Qualifications and Expertise of the bidder
  • Financial Capacity and Feasibility of the bidder and proposed use;
  • The Business Plan submitted by the bidder.


The Maplewood-Alta Vista Park Activity Building, located in Maplewood-Alta Vista Local Park is one of eleven park activity buildings in Montgomery Parks that was closed in 2011. The buildings were determined to be underutilized and were closed as a cost savings measure, as directed by the Montgomery County Council. Since 2011 Montgomery Parks has been seeking tenants to lease the buildings in a way that is compatible with the community and park and provides an overall benefit to the public.


Montgomery Parks currently leases three park activity buildings to tenants. Eighteen additional park activity buildings are available to the public for birthday parties, reunions, celebrations, and other community events. These buildings are located throughout the county, and can be rented through the Park Permit Office. Visit for more information




About The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks manages more than 36,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 420 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. The M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other parks systems.



# # #


Oct 20 14

Montgomery Parks Cancels 2014 Garden of Lights Show Due to Renovations Underway at Brookside Gardens

by Melissa Chotiner

SILVER SPRING, MDMontgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has made a difficult decision to cancel this year’s Garden of Lights Show at Brookside Gardens due to ongoing construction. The construction to the entrance and parking areas is expected to be complete in June 2015. More details on the work are available at


“We regret having to cancel this year’s Garden of Lights Show. We know how much our visitors love this event,” said Stephanie Oberle, Director of Brookside Gardens. “Consult the Xperience Guide to Programs and Events for other opportunities at the Gardens. You can still enroll in our winter classes, visit the Marylandica Gift Shops and enjoy the Visitors Center Art Exhibitions.  We are pleased that the annual Conservatory Winter Display and Garden Railway Exhibit will be open this year.”


This year marks the 10th season for the Garden Railway Exhibit in the South Conservatory provided by the Washington, Virginia and Maryland Garden Railway Society. The exhibit will be open November 28 – January 11 (closed on Christmas Day) from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. It features miniature trains and trollies amidst a landscape of town and country scenes with past one-of-a-kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park.


The annual Winter Cheer Display located in the other conservatory at Brookside Gardens features an array of Poinsettias in red, pink and white and many other bold flower displays. It will be open December 6 – January 11 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed on Christmas Day).


Additional holiday events and programs taking place in Montgomery Parks during the 2014 season include:

Christmas on the Farm
December 13 and 14, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Agricultural History Farm Park
18400 Muncaster Road
Derwood, MD 20855

This free annual event features turn-of-the-century decorations, live Christmas music and caroling, hayrides (weather permitting), children’s activities and free hot cider and ginger cookies. Homemade baked goods are available for purchase.


Winter Solstice Celebrations at Montgomery Parks Nature Centers

Meadowside Nature Center Winter Solstice Celebration
Saturday, December 20, 7 – 8 p.m.
Meadowside Nature Center
5100 Meadowside Lane
Rockville, MD 20855
For ages 3 & up, $5 (adults free) (Course #301299)

Participants will enjoy tales of winter, make lanterns and enjoy toasty marshmallow treats


Brookside Nature Center Winter Solstice Celebration
Sunday, December 21, 1 – 5 p.m.
Brookside Nature Center
1400 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902
For ages 3 & up, $5 (Course #303150)

Celebration includes a spiral walk, hot cider by the fire, lantern making and shadow-puppet theater’s presentation of “Shingebiss and the North Wind.” Suitable for ages 3 & up. $5.


Locust Grove Nature Center Winter Solstice Celebration
Sunday, December 21, 4 to 6 p.m.
Locust Grove Nature Center
7777 Democracy Blvd.
Bethesda, MD 20817
For ages 3 & up, $5 (Course #304010)

Make New Year’s wishes, light candles, make treats to share with animals, and roast chestnuts on an open fire.


To learn more about Montgomery Parks’ Winter events, classes and programs visit

#  #   #

About The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks manages more than 36,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 421 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. The M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other

Oct 17 14

Montgomery Planning Speaker Series Examines How Past Decisions Have Shaped The County of Today

by Bridget Schwiesow


Planners, architects and historians reveal how politics and policies shaped the community 

SILVER SPRING, MD – In November, the Montgomery County Planning Department is launching its Winter Speakers Series, titled “A Once and Future County: Lessons on How Planning Politics Shaped Montgomery County.” The five evening sessions will offer presentations by Royce Hanson, former chairman of the County’s Planning Board; panel discussions among regional planning experts; and question-and-answer sessions with attendees. Topics will reflect the subject of Hanson’s soon-to-be published book: Suburb: Planning Politics and the Public Interest in Montgomery County 1910-2010.

Each 90-minute event is free to the public and will be streamed online live. All sessions will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Planning Department headquarters at 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Md.

Learn more about the Once and Future County speakers series.

The first session, “Planners, Politicians and How Montgomery County Got This Way,” will be held on November 12, 2014 from 6 to 7:30 pm. It will focus on development in the county from the end of the First World War to the present day. The presentation will examine the competing interests in approaching development; the strategic decisions of governing regimes; and the evolution of public engagement within the planning process. Panelists include the following experts:

Gus Bauman was Chairman of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission from 1989 to 1993 after serving as its legal counsel in the 1970s. An attorney who focuses on land use and environmental issues, Bauman currently advises on comprehensive planning, project development and natural resource regulation. His writings on land use and wetlands regulations have been cited by the Supreme Court. Before joining the Washington firm of Beveridge & Diamond, he was litigation counsel and legal department director for the National Association of Home Builders.

Lucille Harrigan served as the Legislative Information Coordinator for the Montgomery County Council for more than two decades. Before assuming that position in 1977, Harrigan worked as a speechwriter for the US Department of State and a contract writer for the Defense Department and US Information Agency. She has also taught courses in comparative government at Montgomery College. Recently, Harrigan co-wrote a series of papers on urban sprawl and metropolitan growth in the Washington region.

Harry Lerch is one of the most influential land use and zoning attorneys in the region. His law practice, Lerch, Early & Brewer, focuses on eminent domain and condemnation proceedings, zoning, planning, traffic mitigation, historic preservation and legacy open space. Prior to joining the Bethesda firm in 1970, Lerch served as general counsel for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. During his tenure at M-NCPPC, he oversaw the purchase of more than 14,000 acres of park land and was responsible for drafting legislation affecting zoning, subdivision and planning.

The second session on December 10 will address “Retrofitting the Suburbs: From Friendship Heights to White Flint,” tracing the evolution of strategic land use decisions in key areas of the county. Discussion will focus on the influence of residential and commercial interests, the County Planning Board and its staff, County Council and County Executive, and changing approaches to planning.  Panelists include the following experts:

Julie Davis is a retired partner of Caplin & Drysdale, a Washington law firm specializing in national and international tax issues. However, for over 40 years, she has represented Montgomery County communities and civic associations on a pro bono basis in planning and zoning matters. She has also served on the Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by the Montgomery County Planning Board for the Friendship Heights Sector Plan, on the Planning Board’s Transportation Policy Review (“TPR”) group, its Centers and Boulevards study group, and most recently its Zoning Advisory Panel. In addition, Davis has been a member of the Montgomery County Charter Review Commission, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, and the Friendship Heights Transportation Management District Advisory Committee.

Douglas Duncan served as Montgomery County Executive from 1994 to 2006. While serving three terms, Duncan pushed for the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring and construction of the Music Center at Strathmore. He focused on improving educational excellence, strengthening environmental protections and positioning Montgomery County as an international biotechnology leader. After leaving the office, Duncan joined the University of Maryland at College Park where he served as vice president for administrative affairs. In September 2014, he was appointed chief executive of Leadership Greater Washington, a community organization that fosters communication and cooperation among area leaders.

Evan Goldman is Vice President of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust. He is responsible for managing the transformation of Rockville’s Mid-Pike Plaza Shopping Center into a mixed-use project and is an active participant in the White Flint Partnership, an advocacy organization of commercial property owners. Goldman led the grassroots community campaign to secure the passage of the White Flint Sector Plan by the Montgomery County Council in 2010. Prior to joining Federal Realty in 2008, he was a partner at the Holladay Corporation, a development company in Washington, D.C., where he began his involvement with the White Flint Partnership.

Session three on January 14, 2015, “Trials and Errors of Corridor Cities Planning,” focuses on the planning politics and development in the Rockville-Gaithersburg area; the challenges of a new town in Germantown; and the planning and development of Clarksburg.

Session four on February 11, 2015, “Creating and Sustaining the County’s Agricultural Reserve,” traces the 30-year effort to protect the rural landscape and the working farms of upper Montgomery County. The technical planning, legal and political challenges that were overcome to establish the Agricultural Reserve in 1980 and sustain a working landscape against continuing efforts to compromise its integrity will be discussed.

On March 11, 2015, the final session, “Hunting the Snark: Growth Policy and the Public Interest,” evaluates the effects of the 40-year evolution of county growth policy on development patterns. It will discuss the institutional structure of planning in Montgomery County for effective and democratically accountable land use policy.

Learn more:
Use hashtag: #onceandfuturecounty

Oct 16 14

Natali Fani-González Sworn In As Newest Planning Board Member

by Bridget Schwiesow

NFG w-4000_swear1

First Millennial and Latino Board member will serve four-year term.

SILVER SPRING, MD – On Thursday, October 16, Natali Fani-González was sworn in as the newest member of the Montgomery County Planning Board. The Montgomery County Clerk of the Court, Loretta Knight, officiated at the ceremony held at the Planning Department’s headquarters in Silver Spring. After the brief ceremony, Fani-González took her seat behind the dais to preside with her colleagues over her first Planning Board meeting.

The official swearing-in ceremony follows the Montgomery County Council’s unanimous vote on October 7 to appoint Fani-González to the vacant seat on the Planning Board.

“I’m honored to be appointed to the Montgomery County Planning Board and I’m excited to get started to continue to plan for a great future for Montgomery County,” said Fani-González.

Born in Venezuela, Fani-González, 33, is the founder and principal of the Rockville-based public relations firm, The Matea Group. She is the first Latino and millennial to serve on the five-member Planning Board, which reviews master plans and policies governing growth and development throughout Montgomery County.

In her letter requesting appointment, Fani-González promoted her skills saying, “I will bring a pragmatic vision with a strong social conscience amplified by the use of technology.”

A human and civil rights activist and entrepreneur, Fani-González has been recognized as a 2013 “Leading Women” honoree by The Daily Record for her numerous contributions to Maryland. She started her career as a lobbyist for CASA de Maryland, the largest Latino and immigrant organization in the state, and then joined the communications team of the Service Employee International Union Local 32BJ before starting her own public relations firm.

Fani-González graduated from Goucher College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations. She lives with her husband and their two children in Kensington.

Fani-González was one of 25 applicants for the planning board vacancy and one of four interviewed for the position.

The vacancy now filled by Fani-González was created when Planning Board Chair Françoise Carrier decided not to seek a second term. Casey Anderson, who was already serving on the board, was designated as the new chair in July 2014. Fani-González will serve a four-year term.

Learn more about the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Oct 15 14

Attend the Westbard Sector Plan Scope of Work Meeting – Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m.

by Bridget Schwiesow

Westbard 5x8 Mailer - front
Meet with planners and learn about the next steps of the planning process

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will hold a Scope of Work community meeting on the Westbard Sector Plan on Tuesday, October 21, from 7-9 p.m. at the Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD). Anyone who lives, works or has an interest in the future of the Westbard community is invited to attend the PlanWestbard Scope of Work meeting where planners will report feedback, provide information on the next steps of the planning process and explain how the Scope of Work will be used.

What is the Scope of Work?
The scope of work will present the context of a sector plan, review the existing planning framework and set the geographic boundaries of the plan area and the larger study area. In addition, it provides a description of the outreach efforts, sets forth the vision and associated goals for the Sector Plan update and reviews the projected timeline.

The meeting will consist of a presentation of the Scope of Work, a discussion of next steps and a preview of the charrette process (community workshop) scheduled for the week of November 10. Staff will present their recommended Scope to the Montgomery County Planning Board for action on October 30.

Why is a new plan being developed for Westbard?
The existing Westbard Sector Plan is one of the oldest plans still in use in Montgomery County, having last been revised in 1982. It is now being updated at the direction of the Montgomery County Council to keep pace with the times and changes in the area.

Before attending the October 21 meeting, the community is invited to review the Westbard Sector Plan Briefing Book summarizing the existing conditions of the Sector Plan area. This book is intended to be used as a reference for the community throughout the planning process.

Also, the community is invited to save the date for the PlanWestbard Community Charrette happening the week of November 10. The PlanWestbard team is excited about the opportunity to conduct a charrette starting November 10 and concluding on November 18; dates and times will be posted online. Events will be held at the Westwood II Shopping Center and Walt Whitman High School. The charrette is an intensive weeklong planning workshop and will offer stakeholders an opportunity to drop in and work one-on-one with staff as they capture the ideas, visions and goals of the Westbard community. RSVP at

This week-long series of studio hours at the Westwood II shopping center as well as evening presentations at Walt Whitman High School is open to the community to give feedback and ideas on what the Westbard community could be for the next twenty years.

Check out the PlanWestbard site for all of the latest details.

Westbard Sector Plan Scope of Work Community Meeting
Tuesday, October 21, 7 – 9 p.m.
Walt Whitman High School Cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD)
RSVP for the Scope of Work meeting

Stay Connected:
Sign up: for the PlanWestbard-E-Newsletter
Call: the PlanWestbard Hotline for updates on upcoming planning events: 301-495-4567
Follow: updates on Twitter: @planwestbard
Learn More:
Use: #PlanWestbard


Oct 10 14

Community Invited to Participate In Next Steps for Montgomery Village Plan

by Bridget Schwiesow


Montgomery Village logo vert

Community invited to participate in photo contest to pinpoint most valuable places in Montgomery Village

SILVER SPRING, MDThe Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, held a public meeting to begin a community dialogue about the Montgomery Village Master Plan on Wednesday, October 1 from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Watkins Mill High School cafeteria (10301 Apple Ridge Road, Gaithersburg, MD). Montgomery Village was included as part of the 1985 Gaithersburg Vicinity Plan and now it will have its own master plan for the first time.

Planners kicked off the event with an overview of their schedule, noting that Staff will work on  developing the Montgomery Village Master Plan through March of 2015 before presenting their draft plan for review by the County Planning Board in April 2015. They explained the purpose of a master plan and provided current statistics about demographics, employment and retail and office markets within the Village planning area.

Attendees and residents are urged to enter a photo contest, aimed at documenting the most valuable places in Montgomery Village. These images will help planners understand the priorities of residents and business owners as they develop concepts for various areas of the Village. Interested shutter bugs can send their pics to

Check out all of the details on the MVP Photo Contest.

The community is invited to interact with planners at the Montgomery Village Great Pumpkin Race happening Saturday, October 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the North Creek Community Center, 20125 Arrowhead Road, Montgomery Village. Race a pumpkin and talk with staff about what you want in your Village!

The next meeting – Monday, December 8, 2014 in the evening – will focus on areas and issues identified at the first master plan meeting, and will include a discussion about the community’s vision for the future of Montgomery Village. Stay tuned for more details on the next series of community meetings.

Master Plan Background:
Montgomery Village has not been reviewed since the 1985 Gaithersburg Vicinity Master Plan, nor has it been the subject of a discrete County master plan in the past. Although Montgomery Village was within the boundaries of both the 1971 Gaithersburg Vicinity Master Plan and the 1985 Master Plan, neither plan contains recommendations or guidance for this community. When the Planning Department initiated an update to the Gaithersburg Master Plan in 2007, Montgomery Village was originally included within its boundaries. However, with large swaths of land on both sides of I-270 presenting different planning issues and challenges, the Department realized the area was too big to be analyzed effectively.

In 2008, the Department divided the large Gaithersburg Master Plan area into two planning efforts – one for the west side of I-270, which became the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan (GSSC) – and one for the east side of I-270 – Gaithersburg East. In 2014, the County Council directed the Planning Department to further refine the Gaithersburg East plan to have one plan for Montgomery Village and one plan for the remainder of Gaithersburg East. The Council also directed the Planning Director to work efficiently on the Montgomery Village Plan, with the goal of having a draft plan transmitted to the Council within 12 months of the plan start date.

Oct 9 14

Montgomery Parks and Planning Present Newest Achievements to County Council

by Bridget Schwiesow

Semi Annual report fall 2014

New Zoning Ordinance, affordable housing, urban parks and deer management are highlighted in Fall 2014 Semi-Annual Report

SILVER SPRING, MD – Montgomery Parks and Planning, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented its Fall 2014 Semi Annual Report to the Montgomery County Council on October 7. The report features accomplishments from the past six months as well as work that will be completed over the next six months. Some of the key initiatives for the Planning Department include implementation of the county’s new zoning ordinance and revamping the development review process to be more efficient. The Parks Department highlighted their urban parks initiative and expansion plans for park trails. The 36- page Fall 2014 Semi-Annual Report is available online for review.

This progress report is the first to be submitted by Chair of the Planning Board Casey Anderson, who was appointed to his current position by the County Council in July 2014. Anderson outlined several initiatives aimed at meeting the county’s demand for housing and jobs in close proximity to retail and public transit, as well as the creation of recreational spaces and protection of natural resources.

In addition, the report focuses on both Department’s major goals for the coming months, including the following:

-The Planning Department is providing extensive training to staff, citizens, developers, and others as it begins to  implement the county’s new Zoning Ordinance, which takes effect October 30. The revised code provides more understandable and coherent regulations that are easier to use and to enforce. It offers a better organization of uses and zones, greater certainty to the approval process, and incorporates modern principles of planning and design.  As part of this effort, non-residential areas of the county were remapped to enable more mixed use zones..  The new official zoning map, which also takes effect on October 30, will be digital for the first time.

-In line with the stringent new processing times required by the new Zoning Ordinance, the Department is working to revamp the development review process in order to make doing business in Montgomery County more predictable.  A specific, written schedule for each development project will allow review of the project to be accomplished in 120 days. A voluntary concept plan process will allow plans to be reviewed at a very early stage so that major concerns can be identified early so as to not slow down the review process.

-One of the county’s toughest problems, the lack of affordable housing, is being addressed by the Planning Department in a study of rental units. This report will examine the factors contributing to increasing housing costs and recommend potential changes to current policies and programs to guarantee long-term affordability of rental housing.

-Better forecasting of traffic conditions is being advanced through new performance metrics that will evaluate transportation adequacy in existing and emerging transit-oriented developments.

-More comprehensive design guidelines are being developed to improve streetscapes, amenities and public spaces through the Planning Department’s Design Excellence Initiative. As part of this effort, a Director’s Advisory Panel on design issues, similar to the current panel for reviewing public art, is being considered.

-County planners are experimenting with new ways to reach out to community members who do not typically participate in the planning process. Social media, participation in happy hours and interactive presentation tools are being used to improve the quality and quantity of public engagement, making participation in the planning process more informative, interesting and meaningful for citizens.

Master planning efforts highlighted in the Fall 2014 Semi-Annual Report include:

-The White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, approved by the County Council in July, reflects policies aimed at the investment and job creation in the life sciences.

-The Clarksburg Master Plan Limited Amendment, adopted in April for the protection of the Ten Mile Creek watershed, reinforces the county’s commitment to preservation of natural resources and environmental health.

-The Aspen Hill Minor Master Plan Amendment, presented to the Planning Board in July, demonstrates a willingness to adapt to the county’s changing local office and retail market.

-The Sandy Spring Rural Village Plan public hearing draft, approved in July by the Planning Board, shows an appreciation for mixing land uses in a rural village setting while preserving the area’s cultural history.

-Work on the Bethesda Downtown Plan is building on the success of the area’s vibrant, walkable district. Scenarios for several areas were advanced through feedback from happy hours attended by millennials at several local restaurants.

-The Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan is considering ways of preserving the village character of the area while upgrading the transportation network and residential neighborhoods. Innovative engagement efforts, including events aimed at business owners and families, helped guide the planning efforts.

-Technical assistance provided by the Department of Planning for the Purple Line and the inclusion of pedestrian-oriented streetscapes in area master plans are improving the quality of the public realm while offering new transportation options.

Parks initiatives over the past six months include:
-The Urban Parks Initiative is being implemented to plan, construct, renovate and activate public parks in Bethesda, Germantown and other county communities.

-New revenue sources to support renovations at Brookside Gardens and educational components at Josiah Henson Park are being created through the Montgomery Parks Foundation.

-Responding to the need for urban parks and new amenities in the county, a dog park abutting downtown Silver Spring was approved and the Carroll Knolls Neighborhood Park was opened.

-Multi-use trails for walking and biking were expanded, renovated for sustainability and improved with signage to better connect people to nature.

-The county’s deer management plan was advanced through deer population surveys, with new programs proposed at Cabin John Regional Park and other locations.

Major park projects now underway include:

-Nearly $425,000 in private donations were raised for the transformation of the Brookside Gardens Visitors Center, now in the planning stages. Also, a $1 million dollar donation was secured to help construct a new growing greenhouse at Brookside Gardens.

-Renovation of the historic stone barn at the Woodlawn Visitor Center at Woodlawn Park in Sandy Spring has begun and is expected to open in spring 2015.

-Construction of Potomac’s Greenbrier Local Park, a recreational area with a soccer field and basketball and volleyball courts, will be completed in spring 2015.

-Renovation and expansion of North Four Corners Local Park is underway and expected to be completed in winter 2015.

Oct 9 14

Interactive Map Reveals Current Development Projects Throughout Montgomery County

by Bridget Schwiesow


New Planning Department online map application allows the public to pinpoint locations and details of plans for neighborhoods.

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, now offers an easy way for the public to find detailed information about development projects throughout the county. The Development Finder website, launched on October 7, offers an interactive map of the county and surrounding areas. Users can search by the address or location of the development or enter a simple term like “Wheaton” and be presented with the current projects in that area. Clicking on a specific community on the map also reveals numbered locations of developments that have been approved for construction or are pending approval. A sidebar summarizes the count and list of projects in that area.

A link from the map reveals the basics of each plan, including location, project name, use and square footage. From this window, users can access the Development Activity Information Center (DAIC), a display of more detailed, up-to-date information on the project. Included in the DAIC display are the names of the owner, architect, engineer and development contact, along with the current status of the project in connection with county Planning Board actions. A link provided for each plan leads to more detailed information about a project, including actual plan documents and resolution letters.

All the information is automatically updated by the Planning Department’s new eplans system to display developments that are pending approval and plans that have been approved over the past year. The service is free and its features are clearly demonstrated in a short video.

Oct 9 14

New Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance Takes Effect October 30, 2014

by Bridget Schwiesow

zoning gfx
Updated code improves usability, simplifies development process  

Montgomery County has taken a giant step forward in improving the planning and development process and making the county a more desirable place to live. After years of community meetings, stakeholder discussions, work sessions and redrafting, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has completed a new zoning ordinance and a new comprehensive zoning map for the county, both of which were approved by the Montgomery County Council.

The new law takes effect on October 30, 2014. It is the most comprehensive update to the County’s land use regulations since they were last revised in 1977. Piecemeal updates to the code over the past several decades resulted in a document with more than 1,200 pages, more than 120 zones, more than 400 uses, hundreds of footnotes and many confusing and sometimes contradictory provisions. The new Zoning Ordinance is a vast improvement over the former code in being more user-friendly and up-to-date. It embraces the most current planning concepts and offers new tools to achieve the goals of the county’s master plans. The zoning ordinance encourages better development, enhances sustainability, and enables more mixed use zoning.

The new Zoning Code seeks to bring more vibrancy to Montgomery County by encouraging mixed-use, walkable communities. The law allows flexibility for more housing in and around commercial centers and encourages more pedestrian-friendly, sustainable developments while providing greater protections from new and infill development for existing residential neighborhoods. In addition, it improves the efficiency of the development review process by allowing more consolidated plan reviews, reducing redundant requirements and codifying review deadlines.

History and Goals of the New Zoning Ordinance
Since the last major update to the zoning code in 1977, the County has grown and changed substantially, and many of the zoning laws have become outdated. The County Council tasked the Planning Department with undertaking a comprehensive rewrite of the zoning code in 2007 with the following goals in mind:

-simplify and consolidate the regulations;

-improve their clarity and consistency;

-accommodate the county’s changing markets and demographics, while protecting established neighborhoods;

-reflect more sustainable policy goals;

-provide the tools to shift from greenfield development to infill, mixed-use development.

After an extensive public review process, the Planning Board approved a draft of the new code and presented it to the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee of the County Council in May 2013. Numerous open houses, community meetings and discussions in local neighborhoods provided feedback from residents and property owners on the code and associated zoning map. In March 2014, after 15 work sessions at the PHED and Council, the Council adopted the text of the new zoning ordinance.

In July 2014, following months of public outreach, the Council approved a District Map Amendment to implement the new code.

Implementing Change through Development Review and Outreach
The rewritten zoning ordinance includes a provision requiring specific time frames for each major step of the development review process. Department staff is currently working to implement these time frames. A specific, written schedule for each development project will allow the review of project, sketch and site plans to be accomplished in 120 days, as required in the new Zoning Ordinance.

A voluntary concept plan process will allow plans to be reviewed by staff at a very early stage so that major concerns can be identified and hopefully resolved without slowing down the review process. The goal of this revamped review process is to make doing business in Montgomery County more predictable.

In addition, the Planning Department is conducting staff and public training sessions to ensure a smooth transition to the new zoning ordinance. On October 7, the Department held an evening event for the Montgomery County community that included a presentation of the zoning changes and a question and answer segment. The event drew 70 people.

View the video of the community training on the Zoning Ordinance held on Tuesday, October 7 at the Planning Department Headquarters.