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Jan 12 15

Evolution of Montgomery County Corridor Cities Will Be Examined at Speaker Series Event on January 14

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Planners will discuss the challenges associated with the growth of communities near Interstate 270, including Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg.

SILVER SPRING, MD –The Montgomery County Planning Department is hosting the third session in its Winter Speakers Series on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. at the Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md.). This panel discussion, “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.

The January 14 event is part of the speaker series called “A Once and Future County: Lessons on How Planning Politics Shaped Montgomery County and is hosted by Royce Hanson, former chairman of the County’s Planning Board.

“Planning policy in Montgomery County directed growth to occur in four new cities built along the Interstate-270/MD 355 transportation corridor in order to preserve ‘wedges’ of low-density housing and open space,” says Hanson. “The next session will examine the past challenges of developing those new towns as well as current policies aimed at finishing the task of turning them into livable and pleasant communities.”

View the video from the December 10 Session 2 event focused on “Retrofitting the Suburbs.”

A question-and-answer session will conclude the panel discussion among the following experts:

Robert Brewer is a land use and zoning attorney at Lerch Early & Brewer in Bethesda. He specializes in orchestrating major development projects through applications, rezoning, special exceptions, site plans and subdivisions. Mr. Brewer has been heavily involved in key master planning projects within Montgomery County, representing developers working in White Flint, downtown Silver Spring, Germantown and other areas. He is an active leader in many of the county’s community and cultural organizations, including the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, Strathmore Hall Foundation and Bethesda Kiwanis Club.

Marlene Michaelson is a Senior Legislative Analyst with the Montgomery County Council, responsible for advising the Council on various land use plans and policies. She also oversees the work program and budget for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and its parks issues.  For 26 years, Ms. Michaelson has been the lead staff person advising the Council on master plans, including those involving corridor cities.  She has also represented the Council on a number of state and regional task forces and committees.  Prior to working for the Council Ms. Michaelson managed a consulting practice related to the financing of alternative energy projects for a Washington D.C., law firm.

Jennifer Russel is a principal and a team leader of the Planning Studio for Rodgers Consulting, Inc. a planning and engineering firm in Germantown Maryland. With more than 30 years of experience in the public sector, Ms. Russel has overseen land use and development review and approvals, and master planning activities in Montgomery County. She is well versed in ordinance revision, plan review, Smart Growth policies and New Urbanism. As Director of Planning and Code Administration for the City of Gaithersburg for 26 years, she was instrumental in the review, development and approval of Kentlands, one of the nation’s first neo-traditional neighborhoods, as well as its neighboring community Lakelands.

The 90-minute “Trials and Errors of Corridor Cities Planning” event is free to the public and will be streamed online live. It will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Planning Department headquarters at 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Md.

The next session, “Creating and Sustaining the County’s Agricultural Reserve,” will trace the 30-year effort to protect the rural landscape and the working farms of upper Montgomery County. It will be held on February 11 at the same time and place as the January event.

Learn more about the Once and Future County Speakers Series.
Use hashtag: #onceandfuturecounty

Jan 7 15

Urban Design and Planning Expert Noré Winter To Consult with Montgomery County Planning Department on Improving Master Plan Design Guidelines

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Planners seek national perspective on creating higher and clearer standards for next generation of Montgomery County development

Silver Spring, MDThe Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is consulting with nationally recognized urban design and planning expert Noré Winter to upgrade its design guidelines for master plans. This initiative is part of a broader effort to implement design excellence throughout our County. Winter’s work will culminate January 27 to 29 with a series of presentations about the guidelines to the Montgomery Planning Board, Planning staff and the public.

The community is invited to attend the public presentation and discussion on the creation and implementation of effective Design Guidelines at an evening event on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Center (1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring, Md.). The event will consist of a lecture given by Noré Winter and a discussion with developers, planners, architects and the community about how to improve the County’s master plan design guidelines.

RSVP for the lecture and discussion on Tuesday, January 27 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Winter specializes in developing guidelines for communities with distinctive natural settings and traditional neighborhoods at the urban, suburban and rural levels. He is president of Winter & Company in Boulder, Colorado, and has worked on projects in 48 states for both local governments and federal agencies, and from large cities to small private developments.

Winter is frequently a featured speaker at conferences sponsored by organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service and American Planning Association. From 1992-1996, he served as Chairman of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions.

“Noré Winter understands that design guidelines must be tailored to the specifics of place and region,” says Planning Department Director Gwen Wright. “His expertise will help us develop clearer and stronger guidelines that will foster a higher level of design excellence and a better public realm, while at the same time help communities, developers and different public agencies to better understand and implement design goals for our communities.”

The Planning Department is currently working to emphasize design excellence in all aspects of the planning being done throughout the County so as to assure that Montgomery County can be a showcase for the best in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The Department’s design excellence initiative includes efforts to incentivize and promote great design through a variety of new programs – including outreach and awards to the design community, education and discussion with stakeholders, and a refinement of some regulatory tools.

Improving the Planning Department’s design guidelines, which are developed with each new master plan, will help achieve this design excellence objective. Design guidelines that are a part of future area, sector and master plans for the County are a key component of communicating community vision and goals for implementation.

Jan 7 15

Bethesda Downtown Plan Concepts To Be Presented at January 22 Happy Hour and January 29 Public Meeting

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Planners seek community feedback on ideas for civic spaces, transportation options, building heights and environmental practices.

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, invites stakeholders and residents to learn more about the ongoing Bethesda Downtown Plan at a happy hour on January 22 and a public meeting on January 29. Results from the online questionnaire posted in December 2014, called the “Feedback Loop,” will be presented at both events. This digital survey encouraged the public to offer views on a number of concepts, ranging from bike paths to building heights.

Planners will discuss the latest developments in the Bethesda Downtown Plan at the informal happy hour that is being sponsored by SK&I Architectural Design Group (4600 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD) from 5-8:00 p.m. All residents who want to learn more about the plan and the planning process are welcome to attend. For more on the ideas being proposed, consult the slide presentation, Bethesda Downtown Plan Concepts: Planning Board Briefing 12.11.14, and watch the video of the presentation to the Planning Board.

A more formal public meeting will be held on Thursday, January 29, 2015 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814). At that event, planning staff will present the Bethesda Downtown Plan concepts, comments from the Planning Board meeting on December 11, 2014 and results from the online Feedback Loop. The staff will conclude the meeting by answering questions from the audience.

RSVP for the meeting on Thursday, January 29.

The concepts proposed for the Bethesda Downtown Plan include:
-New civic gathering spaces and green amenities.
-Transportation options, including bike paths and Purple Line access.
-Pedestrian networks and street extensions.
-Proposed allowable building heights.
-Transitional areas next to residential neighborhoods.
-Focal areas of sustainability incorporating best environmental practices.

After the January public events, planners will complete the Staff Draft of the Bethesda Downtown Plan by April 2015. They will present the Staff Draft to the public later in the spring to receive more feedback and fine-tune the plan.

Questions, comments?
Email: bethesdadowntownplan@montgomeryplanning.org

Dec 31 14

Callum Murray Retires from Montgomery County Planning Department

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Scottish-born planner steered complex projects in Potomac, Bethesda, White Flint and other communities and helped protect the Agricultural Reserve

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, announces the retirement of planner Callum Murray on December 31, 2014. Over his 26 years of service, Murray worked as the Master Planner/Supervisor for an area of 375 square miles in Montgomery County, including Potomac, Md. and the 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve.

Among his accomplishments are a significant number of complex master planning and regulatory planning projects. These Master and Sector Plans were often controversial and required Murray’s creative leadership to complete. Most notably, Callum served as project planner for:

-North Bethesda/Garrett Park Master Plan including the Grosvenor, White Flint, Twinbrook, Rock Spring Park, Garrett Park and surrounding residential areas
-Friendship Heights Sector Plan
-Potomac Subregion Master Plan

Callum has always been a tireless advocate for the Agricultural Reserve. He worked collaboratively with farmers to minimize fragmentation of farmland by persuading them to take advantage of easement programs.  When they would not be persuaded, he worked to preclude residential lots from prime agricultural soils and to reduce lot sizes to the minimum possible for well and septic systems.

In addition, Murray was a well-rounded planner capable of working in a collaborative manner to implement master plan goals in the review of regulatory cases.  Examples of these regulatory cases include:

-Wisconsin Place in Friendship Heights
-White Flint Crossing in White Flint
-LCOR at the White Flint Metro Station
-Nuclear Regulatory Commission in White Flint
-Montrose Crossing in White Flint
-Strathmore Concert Hall in Grosvenor
-Fortune Park in Potomac
-Quarry Springs on the former Stoneyhurst Quarry
-Barnesville Oaks Cluster in the Agricultural Reserve
-Transportation projects, including Montrose Parkway, Nebel Street, Chapman Avenue, Interstate-270 Interchange at Fernwood Road and Bethesda Trolley Trail/Bikeway across I-270.

For his work on these projects and others, Murray received national and international accolades from the American Planning Association and World Bank. In addition, he earned respect for implementing Montgomery County’s “wedges and corridors plan” by preserving agricultural and rural open space, and working to acquire hundreds of acres of conservation parkland in watersheds draining to the Potomac River. He received local recognition from the American Planning Association for establishing quality development at transit stations, including Friendship Heights in Montgomery County.

At a recent community meeting, the residents of Potomac, Md. summarized his accomplishments by stating the following: “A retiring hero – whatever one likes about Potomac, Callum Murray had something to do with keeping it that way.”

Born in Glasgow and raised on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, Murray graduated from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow with a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.  He also holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Michigan, and is a Registered Landscape Architect, licensed in Maryland.   Murray earned membership in the Royal Town Planning Institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners and the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Prior to joining the Montgomery County Planning Department, Callum was the Chief Planner and Landscape Architect for the City of Farmington Hills, Michigan.  He also worked as a planner in Scotland for 15 years before coming to the United States, two of his notable projects being the restoration of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the World Heritage Village of New Lanark.

Murray has always been known for his keen sense of humor.  As one colleague recently said, “Callum is unable to string two sentences together without a funny anecdote.” With his retirement, the Montgomery County Planning Department will miss an outstanding leader.

Dec 31 14

Montgomery County Planning Department Announces Calendar of January Events

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Residents invited to get involved with special events and community meetings to discuss plans and regulations for the County’s future

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is pleased to announce a very exciting events calendar for January 2015. From a special speakers series to community meetings, there are many ways to engage with the planners and Board members, and get involved with the future of Montgomery County. Review the full list of events below and go online to www.montgomeryplanning.org for more details on projects and plans.

Montgomery Planning January 2015 Events:

January 8: Attend, watch or listen live to the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. View the full agenda.

January 12: The second MV Matters community meeting will be held to discuss the Montgomery Village Master Plan from 7-9 p.m. at the Watkins Mill High School cafeteria (10301 Apple Ridge Rd, Gaithersburg, MD). Anyone who lives, works or has an interest in the future of the Montgomery Village community is invited to attend this MVMatters meeting where planners will provide information on the next steps of the planning process and explain how “what matters to MV” will be used in the master plan.

January 14: The public is invited to the third session in the Planning Department’s Winter Speakers Series, held at 5:30 p.m. at the Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md.). The series is called “A Once and Future County: Lessons on How Planning Politics Shaped Montgomery County and is hosted by Royce Hanson, former chairman of the County’s Planning Board. The free panel discussion, “Trials and Errors of Corridor Cities Planning,” focuses on the planning politics and development in the Rockville-Gaithersburg area, Germantown and Clarksburg.

January 15: Attend, watch or listen live the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. Agendas, which are posted two weeks in advance, can be viewed on the Agendas & Staff Reports page.

January 19: The Planning Department will be closed in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

January 20: The Montgomery County Council will take testimony on the Sandy Spring Rural Village Plan at its public hearing at 7:30 p.m. This Plan reinforces Sandy Spring’s rural and historic character, introduces a mix of land uses, improves connections in the community, and makes recommendations for new, quality open space.

January 21: Attend the community meeting at the Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md.) from 7-9 p.m. to discuss the draft of the new Subdivision Regulations. The first comprehensive rewrite in 50 years, these regulations clarify and streamline the review and approvals process for subdividing property, as well as requirements for adequate public facilities and improvements to lots based on the impact of the subdivision.

January 21: Planners will present their concepts for the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan at the Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center (2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, MD) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Results of a recent economic development study of the area, completed by the Washington, DC-based consultant Bolan Smart, will also be discussed. This meeting is a chance for the public to weigh in on the concept framework recommendations before they are presented for approval to the Montgomery County Planning Board in March 2015.

January 22: Planners will discuss the Bethesda Downtown Plan at an informal happy hour from 4-7:30 p.m. that is sponsored by SK&I Architectural Design Group (4600 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD).

January 22: Attend, watch or listen live the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. Agendas, which are posted two weeks in advance, can be viewed on the Agendas & Staff Reports page.

January 26: The third MV Matters community meeting to discuss the Montgomery Village Master Plan will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the Watkins Mill High School cafeteria (10301 Apple Ridge Rd, Gaithersburg, MD). Anyone who lives, works or has an interest in the future of the Montgomery Village community is invited to attend this MVMatters meeting where planners will provide information on the next steps of the planning process and explain how “what matters to MV” will be used in the master plan.

January 27-29: National urban design and planning expert Noré Winter will consult with the Planning Department on developing new design guidelines for master plans. During his visit, Winter will make a public presentation about the value of design guidelines for communities.

January 27: The community is invited to attend the public presentation and discussion on the creation and implementation of effective Design Guidelines at an evening event on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Center(1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring, Md.). The event will consist of a lecture given by Noré Winter and a discussion with developers, planners, architects and the community about how to improve the County’s master plan design guidelines.

RSVP for the lecture and discussion on Tuesday, January 27 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

January 29: A public meeting will be hosted by the Bethesda Downtown Plan team from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814). At that event, planning staff will present the concepts and feedback from the Planning Board meeting on December 11, 2014 and answer questions from the audience.

January 29: Attend, watch or listen live the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. Agendas, which are posted two weeks in advance, can be viewed on the Agendas & Staff Reports page.

Dec 30 14

Film Celebrating Local Farms Will Be Screened at Montgomery County Planning Department

by Bridget Schwiesow

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One of nation’s most successful farm protection efforts showcased in movie produced by the Montgomery Countryside Alliance

Silver Spring, MDThe Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, invites the public to a free screening of “Growing Legacy” on Wednesday, February 4 at noon. The 30-minute film will be shown in the auditorium at the Department’s headquarters (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD), followed by a question-and-answer session with the film’s producers.

The nonprofit Montgomery Countryside Alliance launched the project to share the story of the County’s Agricultural Reserve with local schools and communities so they might better appreciate this 93,000-acre agricultural area in their own backyard. The short documentary profiles the challenges of growing food and cities in harmony through interviews with decision makers, consumers and farmers.

In the late 1950s, small family farms were rapidly disappearing from Montgomery County as Washington, DC grew ever outward. As the loss of farms intensified throughout the 1970s, planners worked with farmers and local politicians to take action and preserve farmland and support farming by creating the Agricultural Reserve in 1980.

Within the Agricultural Reserve, family farms still dominate, with an average farm size of 118 acres. Farm production is diversified, providing county residents with a variety of local products, as well as an important source of income – the average market value of agricultural products sold per farm was $89,520 in 2014.

Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve at a Glance:

  • Encompasses 93,000 acres of farmland and rural landscapes, including about 560 farms and 350 horticultural enterprises.
  • Supports animal population of 10,000 horses, 1,200 beef cows, 650 dairy cows, 650 sheep, nearly 200 hogs and pigs, and more than 4,000 chickens.
  • Provides fresh, local meat and produce to area residents at pick-your-own farms, orchards and farm stands.
  • Supplies locally grown plants and Christmas trees to greenhouses, nurseries and tree farms.
  • Employs 10,000 people and contributes $287 million to the County’s annual economy, including $85 million from the equine industry.
  • Allows nearby residents of densely populated areas to visit and experience a working, agricultural landscape.
  • Supplies food to farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants in nearby cities and suburbs.
  • Permanently protects more than 70,000 acres under farmland preservation easements
  • Serves as an international model of farmland preservation

Learn more about the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve 

Dec 23 14

Results of PlanWestbard Community Charrette Presented to Montgomery County Planning Board

by Bridget Schwiesow

 

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Community feedback and next steps for the Westbard Sector Plan discussed at December 18 meeting

SILVER SPRING, MD – Staff from the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented the results from its weeklong PlanWestbard Community Charrette to the County Planning Board on Thursday, December 18.

During this series of intensive workshops held in mid-November, planners met extensively with state and local agencies, citizen associations, property and business owners and individual residents from the Westbard area. They held visioning and feedback sessions on plan concepts and ideas produced through interaction among the planning team, community and other stakeholders. On Tuesday evening, November 18, at the Westland Middle School, the Westbard planning team presented the planning concepts that resulted from the Community Charrette.

View PlanWestbard December 18 Planning Board briefing documents.

The feedback from the weeklong workshops helped to shape the preliminary Westbard Concept Framework Plan, which identifies preliminary ideas for an enhanced Westbard – including building density and heights, public facilities, transportation improvements, parks and open space as well as environmental considerations. The Plan seeks to transform the Westbard area from a community that is focused on older commercial centers and light industrial uses into a more pedestrian-friendly, suburban town center that preserves the local services on which the community depends.

In addressing community concerns about the planning effort, the PlanWestbard Team shares its responses to the top 10 questions related to the Westbard Sector Plan as follows:

Top 10 Community Questions/Concerns:

Concern #1: Who is creating this plan?
The PlanWestbard team consists of employees of the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The Planning Department takes direction from the Montgomery County Planning Board and implements a work program that is set out by the Montgomery County Council. A major responsibility of the Planning Department is to work with all stakeholders to create master plans for neighborhoods throughout Montgomery County. No private group or entity is creating this plan.

Concern #2: Why update the plan now?
It is important to update the Westbard Plan at this time for a number of reasons, which include:

The Westbard Sector Plan is old and out of date;
-It is 32 years old. Most plans in Montgomery County are updated every 20 years.
-Many of the suggestions in the 1982 plan have not been implemented, such as pedestrian improvements to River Road, the creation of a local urban park and improvements to the Willett Branch Stream.
-The Westbard Sector Plan has been on the Planning Department’s work program schedule for the past six to seven years.

The Westbard commercial area is showing its age;
-The buildings are antiquated and need updating.
-There are limited choices – for example, few full-service restaurants.
-The public realm – sidewalks, especially – is inadequate for a high-quality suburban area.

The natural environment is being damaged by the existing development in Westbard;
-Existing surface parking lots and most of the buildings have no stormwater management, meaning that all polluted run-off is flowing directly into the stream system.
-Tree canopy is limited, creating a heat island.
-Willett Branch Stream is completely channelized and functions as an area for invasive species and dumping of trash.

There has been little movement in recent years toward improving Westbard or realizing the recommendations in the 1982 Plan. However, Equity One, the owner of the Westwood Shopping Center on Westbard Avenue, has expressed an interest in making improvements to its property. Given the potential for some reinvestment in the area, it is an appropriate time to update the plan.

Concern #3: Why is the entire Westbard Sector Plan area being proposed for redevelopment?
When the Planning Department looks at updating a plan, it doesn’t just consider one or two properties.  Looking at only a very small area would be counter to the goal of coordinated and comprehensive planning. The area being reviewed as part of the PlanWestbard effort is the same area that was considered in the 1982 plan – the boundaries of the planning area have not changed.

The goal is to consider the long-term (20 years or more) vision for the whole of the Westbard planning area. In looking at this long-term vision, it is necessary to consider future ideas for each property in the planning area, even if these ideas may not be implemented in the near term – especially if current owners have no plans for changes. It is very unlikely that all the areas indicated for potential change in the Concept Framework Plan will be completely redeveloped. There are several areas in the plan that are not being considered for change –publicly owned sites like the Westland Middle School, some of the light industrial areas, the Washington Episcopal School site, and Capital Crescent Trail and associated parkland.

Concern #4: Why are the planners proposing a “second” Bethesda?
Planning staff clearly recognizes that Westbard is not like Bethesda – it is not near Metrorail, it is not a regional destination and it is primarily a suburban neighborhood center. These points were made during the charrette process and Planning Department staff heard the input and agrees with it.

However, a high-quality suburban neighborhood center does not necessarily mean one-story buildings and large surface parking lots. All around the country and the metropolitan Washington region, new suburban centers are being created that look and function differently from those built in the 1950s and 1960s. These newer centers include a mix of uses with integration of some residential options, enhanced connectivity with better sidewalks and bike paths, community gathering spaces and plazas, and more compact retail square footage.

In fact, the Citizens Coordinating Committee of Friendship Heights commissioned a planning study of Westbard in 2008 from The Catholic University of America School of Architecture. That study introduced the idea of a new type of suburban center and emphasized “a concept based upon environmental sustainability, safety, and economic viability. This proposal sets forth guidelines and a vision for future growth, enhancements and land use for this Bethesda community.” Many of the building heights and illustrations of potential new buildings in this study commissioned by the community are similar or identical to ideas that came out of the recent PlanWestbard Community Charrette process.

As the Planning Department team moves forward on the Westbard Plan in collaboration with the community, the building densities and heights, land use mix and traffic impacts will be updated and side-by-side comparisons to what exists in Westbard and downtown Bethesda today will be provided.

Concern #5: New development in Westbard will overload the capacity of the local public schools.
Planning staff is working closely with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) as the agency plans for future growth that may result from plan updates. MCPS must consider whether development options identified in plans are likely to really occur before they program funds for school improvements or expansions. This is why a more detailed school projection analysis is typically done by MCPS at the time that a development is actually proposed through the regulatory process, rather than at the time of the more conceptual planning process. The high-end range of development in any plan is unlikely to happen all at once and may never be fully built.

With all of this in mind, MCPS staff and Planning Department staff are nonetheless working closely to look at options for school capacity in the Westbard area and these choices will be an important part of the final plan.

Concern #6: Traffic congestion will increase.
Planning Department staff understands that traffic is a very big concern. Unfortunately, stopping all change in Westbard will not improve the traffic situation. Very little new development has happened in Westbard over the past 30 years; however, the traffic congestion has increased. The benefit of undertaking a plan that calls for some change is that this process presents an opportunity to look at how traffic congestion can be mitigated. If the PlanWestbard team members forward recommendations that increase traffic, they will also propose remedies, especially other modes of transportation, to facilitate circulation for the increased congestion that may result.

Concern #7: Tall buildings will dwarf their surroundings.
Westbard is already home to several buildings that are over 100 feet in height. Planning staff heard clearly during the Westbard Community Charrette that building height is a major community concern. Staff has not proposed buildings that are similar in scale to the existing tall buildings in Westbard.

The tallest buildings currently shown in the Concept Framework Plan for the Westbard area are up to 80 feet in two locations and much of the area is shown as having a height limit of 50 feet. While some residents have asked that heights be limited to 45 feet or lower, many participants at the Westbard Community Charrette indicated that 6-8-story buildings on River Road and 5-6 stories on Westbard Avenue would be acceptable. Planning staff will continue to work with the community to find the right balance of heights.

Concern #8: Driving and parking will be limited.
Residents will still be able to drive their cars throughout Westbard and pick up groceries. The Concept Framework Plan simply offers more options than currently available – both for walking and driving. Transportation demands will be fully studied and recommendations made for improvements before the Sector Plan update is sent to the Planning Board for review. Any new project must meet stringent parking requirements before being approved by the development review section of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Concern #9: Why is a new library planned for the Equity One site?
One idea that came from the participants in the PlanWestbard Community Charrette was the idea of moving the library into the center of the new village center.  This location had the benefit of making the library more accessible to the community – including people who may want to walk, enlivening the village center, and opening up some options for school expansion or construction.

After the Community Charrette, some residents have questioned the idea of moving the Little Falls Library from its current site, but many still applaud the idea of a new library on the Equity One site. Staff will continue to analyze the feasibility of this proposal as part of the process.

Concern #10: Why is there a proposed green public space on Westbard Avenue?
A major goal of the 1982 Westbard Plan and the 2008 Catholic University Plan has been to increase the amount of green space in Westbard. This landscape is important from an environmental perspective, but also as part of providing community gathering and recreational spaces.

Based on this goal, Planning Department staff has identified the potential for a green space on Westbard Avenue that could be an open space of a half-acre in size at a minimum.

History of Westbard Planning:
The existing Westbard Sector Plan is now being updated at the direction of the Montgomery County Council to keep pace with the times and changes in the area.

In updating the Westbard Sector Plan, staff reviewed the proposed land use and zoning to determine how the previous plan performed. Some of the recommendations of the 1982 Westbard Sector Plan were never realized. They focused on design concepts aimed at improving the public realm, such as:

-Streetscape improvements on River Road and side streets
-Gateway features into Westbard
-Improving the existing Willett Branch stream valley that runs through the Sector Plan area
-Creating an urban park at the corner of Westbard Avenue and Ridgefield Road
-Creating a major commercial/retail development on Westbard Avenue
-Improving environmental features of the Westwood Shopping Center.

Next Steps in Westbard Plan:

Developing the Westbard Sector Plan relies on a community process. It provides an opportunity for the community to voice their concerns about existing conditions, request needed improvements and be a part of the process.

The December 18 presentation to the Planning Board was a preliminary step in the ongoing planning process for Westbard. There is still quite a bit to review and study to do before the Planning Department staff presents its preliminary recommendations to the Planning Board for review in spring 2015. Staff welcomes additional suggestions and comments from the community as it develops the final concepts for the Sector Plan.

Dec 23 14

Draft of Subdivision Regulations Rewrite Available for Review

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Community invited to give feedback on first draft of comprehensive rewrite of Chapter 50 of the Montgomery County code

Silver Spring, MDThe Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is inviting community members and developers to review the newly released draft of Chapter 50 of the Montgomery County Code that governs the subdivision of land in the county.

View the draft of the Subdivision Regulations Amendment.

This draft represents the most comprehensive rewrite of the Subdivision Regulations in 50 years and was undertaken at the direction of the Montgomery County Council. It responds to the county’s newly released Zoning Ordinance and seeks to clarify and streamline the review and approvals process for new subdivisions.

The Subdivision Regulations include the application requirements for subdividing property, as well as requirements for adequate public facilities and improvements to lots based on the impact of subdivision.

Highlights of the rewrite include:
-A more organized, user-friendly document|
-A simplified process for certain types of subdivision plans that do not have to be presented to the Planning Board for review
-Consistent review times that conform to the Zoning Ordinance timeframes
-90-day time limit for the complete review of a record plat application.

Next steps for the regulatory process include a public meeting to present the key changes in the draft document, a comment period for the community, and a presentation to the Planning Board, followed by a public hearing and work sessions that will be held in April and May of 2015.  In May of 2015, the regulations will be submitted to the Montgomery County Council who will also hold a public hearing and worksessions as needed before voting on the new document.

Give feedback on the draft of the Subdivision Regulations Amendment. Email at: subdivisionregs@montgomeryplanning.org

Learn more about the Subdivision Regulations Rewrite on the Planning Department website.

For questions or more information, contact Cathy Conlon, Supervisor of Development Applications and Regulatory Coordination (DARC) Catherine.conlon@montgomeryplanning.org
phone: 301.495.4542
fax: 301.495.1306

Purpose of Chapter 50 (Subdivision Regulations) of the Montgomery County Code:
Chapter 50 provides for the legal division and subsequent transfer of land. It requires the coordination of new transportation facilities with other existing and planned facilities, a determination of adequate public facilities, and land for public use. The intent of this Chapter is to protect natural resources and sensitive environmental features; promote the health, safety, and welfare of the present and future inhabitants of the Maryland-Washington Regional District within Montgomery County under the General Plan; and any other purpose enumerated in the Land Use Article.

Dec 23 14

Montgomery County Planning Department’s Year in Review

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Zoning Ordinance launch and leadership changes top 10 achievements of 2014

Silver Spring, Md. – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission presents its 2014 Year in Review. This list represents the most significant accomplishments for the year.

Montgomery Planning 2014 Year in Review:

1. New Zoning Ordinance
Montgomery County took a giant step forward in 2014 by enacting a new zoning ordinance in October to encourage more vibrant, mixed-use and walkable communities. The new law is the most comprehensive update to the county’s land use regulations since they were last reviewed in 1977.

2. New Leadership
Recently appointed Chair Casey Anderson and Natali Fani-González, the first Latino board member, are making the most of their new roles on the Montgomery County Planning Board. The five-member Planning Board advises the County Council on land use and community planning issues.

3. Streamlined Development Review
New steps have been put in place to streamline the review process for approving new development and make it more efficient. In order to complete the review of projects in 120 days, the development review committee now meets every other week and every effort is made to resolve complex issues early in the process. An interactive map allows the public to pinpoint and review developments proposed for their neighborhoods.

4. Planning Great Communities
A record number of Master Plans were completed in 2014, including Chevy Chase Lake, Long Branch, Glenmont, Bethesda Purple Line Station, Clarksburg Ten Mile Creek, White Oak Science Gateway and Countywide Transit Corridors. Work continues on finer-grained plans for Bethesda Downtown, Aspen Hill, Sandy Spring, Greater Lyttonsville and Westbard.

5. Broader Public Outreach
County planners are finding success with new ways to reach out to residents who do not typically participate in the planning process. Strategic social media, happy hours, videos, Spanish-language presentations and interactive tools improved the quality and quantity of public engagement throughout 2014. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube!

6. Purple Line Advocacy

Staff undertook a detailed analysis of the proposed Purple Line light rail line through the Mandatory Referral process in order to enhance station designs and pedestrian and bicycle connections. Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson co-wrote a letter to Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan in support of the Purple Line, emphasizing the project’s future economic benefits for the state.

7. Design Excellence Initiative
As the amount of available land for development is shrinking and density is increasing, the design quality of buildings, landscapes and streetscapes is becoming increasingly important in the County. In 2014, the Planning Department launched a Design Excellence initiative focused on improving community guidelines and tools to ensure higher design standards.

8. Planning Trends Conference
In May 2014, the Planning Department co-sponsored with the University of Maryland a major conference on planning trends. “MM2: Moving Forward Montgomery” drew more than 300 people to discuss topics ranging from urban agriculture to affordable housing. The event demonstrated that the Department is a leader in planning, not only within the region but nationwide

9. Lessons on Planning Politics
Planning policies and politics are the subjects of the speaker series, A Once & Future County, initiated by the Planning Department in November 2014. Undertaken in partnership with former Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson, the public presentations by planning experts address relevant topics, from suburban retrofits to corridor cities.

10. Honoring the Recent Past
The Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Office launched the Montgomery Modern initiative in 2013 to increase appreciation of midcentury modern architecture in the County through tours, publications and public programs. After a successful bus tour of mid-century landmarks, the outreach program switched to two wheels for a bike tour of neighborhoods in October 2014.

Learn more about the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Dec 22 14

Community Meeting on January 21 Provides Opportunity for Feedback on Concepts for Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan

by Bridget Schwiesow

Brand Only

Planners seek suggestions from local residents and business owners on proposed building densities and potential economic development for Lyttonsville.

Silver Spring, MDThe Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is inviting interested residents and business owners of the Greater Lyttonsville community to a meeting on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at the Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center (2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, MD) from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to discuss the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan.

Planners will present their concepts for the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan and the results of a recent economic development study completed by the Washington, DC-based consultant Bolan Smart. This meeting is a chance for the public to weigh in on the concept framework recommendations before they are presented for approval to the Montgomery County Planning Board in March 2015. We are looking for your feedback on different planning scenarios for the community, including low, medium and high-density development options.

RSVP for the Greater Lyttonsville January 21 Community Meeting.

This meeting is a follow-up to the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop, held on September 29 at the Montgomery County Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Avenue). At that event, staff presented recent community feedback about six areas within Greater Lyttonsville and maps of existing conditions, opportunities and constraints for each of these activity centers. The workshop included an interactive exercise to explore community character as it relates to open spaces, streetscapes, environmental elements, land uses, buildings and community facilities.

To learn more about the progress on the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, view these videos below:

-The on-demand video recording of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop from September 29.

-The GreaterLP recap video from the July 15 community workshop

-Check out this video segmen with planners Erin Banks and Melissa Williams and learn how to get involved with the future of shaping the #greaterLP area.

-Watch the GreaterLP Needs You short promotional video.

Learn about the progress of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan and how to get involved with shaping the future of this community.