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Planning

Apr 16 15

County Planning Board Supports New Maryland Law on Designating Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Areas

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Governor Larry Hogan signs bill requiring timely confirmation by State Highway Administration of areas needing improved bicyclist and pedestrian safety and access.

SILVER SPRING, MD –The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, helped to initiate a new Maryland law requiring the State Highway Administration to act within one year on local designations of Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas. Work on the newly enacted law began with a collaborative effort among County Transportation Planner Larry Cole, Maryland House Delegate Alfred Carr, Jr. and Kelly Blynn of the DC regional Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Maryland Senator James Rosapepe introduced the bill on February 6, 2015 and, on February 12, 2105, the Planning Board voted to support it. The final Senate Bill 371 was signed by Governor Larry Hogan on April 14, 2015: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/sb/sb0371T.pdf

The designation of Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas is intended to ensure that the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians are taken into account during all phases of transportation planning, design, construction or expansion.  The aim is to provide for greater safety and access through bike lanes, paths, sidewalks, crosswalks and other physical road improvements and traffic control devices. Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas have become an integral part of Montgomery County’s recent Master Plans, developed by the Planning Department to promote multi-modal transportation in the more densely developed areas of the County.

The passage of the bill is timely as Planning staff is currently updating the Master Plan of Bikeways, which has not been done for more than a decade and is being renamed as the Bicycle Master Plan. This planning effort will initially focus on developing a high-quality bicycle network that facilitates access to stations planned in the Great Seneca Science Corridor area of the Corridor Cities Transitway, a 15-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) line proposed to run from the COMSAT facility near Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metrorail Station. The first public meeting introducing the Bicycle Master Plan will be held on April 20 from 7-9 p.m. at the Academic and Research Building of the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus (9601 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850).

The White Flint Sector Plan area in North Bethesda was confirmed by the State Highway Administration (SHA) as a Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Area in 2011 and is currently the only one  in the State of Maryland. More than two dozen other areas in Montgomery County, such as the Silver Spring and Bethesda Central Business Districts and the areas around Metrorail and Corridor Cities Transitway stations, are now awaiting SHA approval. The Planning Department looks forward to working with the SHA on the plan of improvements for each of these Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas after confirmation of the designations.

Apr 16 15

Newest Concepts for Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Presented at April 29 Community Meeting

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Residents and business owners invited to provide feedback on planning framework.

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will hold a community meeting to discuss the concepts for the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan on Wednesday, April 29, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Recreation Center (2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, MD).

RSVP for the April 29 Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Community Meeting.

Since the last public meeting on January 21, staff has been refining the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan to reflect community feedback about specific areas and will present those changes as well as a recap of the planning process at the April 29 event. Improved pedestrian and cyclist paths, changes to zoning and density, and affordable housing will be discussed. Participants will have the opportunity to comment on the plan concepts before they are presented to the Planning Board on Thursday, May 7.

Learn more about the latest developments in the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan on our website. Please check out the site for additional details and the meeting agenda.

Apr 13 15

Bicycle Master Plan Preview Kicks Off With April 20 Meeting at JHU Montgomery County Campus

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Community invited to learn about the upcoming Bicycle Master Plan beginning with a special focus on the Corridor Cities Transitway station areas.

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is hosting a community meeting on Monday, April 20 from 7-9 p.m. at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus (9601 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850; Academic and Research Building, Room 106-110) to kick off the update to the Bicycle Master Plan as it relates to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway.

At the April 20 meeting, planners will present their approach to the plan, milestones of the process and provide opportunities to give feedback and engage in person and online. RSVPs are encouraged but not required.

RSVP today for the April 20 meeting.

Planners will work from April 2015 until July 1, 2015 on developing a high-quality bicycle network that facilitates access to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway stations from the surrounding communities and ensures coordination and compatibility with the Life Science Center Loop, an off-road trail currently under design by the Planning Department. The goal is to develop a regional bicycle network plan for the Greater Seneca Science Corridor area to maximize the effectiveness of transportation systems currently being planned, and to coordinate these efforts with the City of Rockville and City of Gaithersburg.

Review a map of the Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan CCT Phase 1 Corridor special focus area.

Starting July 1, 2015, the comprehensive update to the Bikeways Master Plan will be launched to consider the County’s complete bicycle networks and recommendations for access and mobility. The planning process will provide ample opportunities for the community to get involved and offer feedback. Check out the Bicycle Planning web page to learn more.

FAQs:
What is the Bicycle Master Plan all about? Why do we need to revise it?
The goal is to develop a high quality, low stress bicycling network in Montgomery County. The Bicycle Master Plan, first created in 1978, has been subsequently revised in area master plans with the last comprehensive update to the Bicycle Master Plan completed in 2005.

The newest changes to the Plan will focus on the Greater Seneca Science Corridor because development is poised to happen soon in that area. By planning for a high quality bike network now, a higher quality of life will be an option for the Montgomery County community. The Bicycle Master Plan aims to make bicycling a viable option for everyone in the County.

What is the Corridor Cities Transitway? How does it relate to bicycling?
The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) is a 15-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) line operating from the COMSAT facility near Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metrorail Station. The first phase of the project is 9 miles from Metropolitan Grove to Shady Grove, and is currently proceeding with engineering and environmental analysis. The second phase would extend from Metropolitan Grove to the COMSAT facility, and will be developed as land uses mature and additional transportation funding becomes available.

The CCT project will provide transit service to communities such as King Farm, Crown Farm and Kentlands; and institutional hubs, including the Life Sciences Center and Universities at Shady Grove. The transitway will connect to the District of Columbia and other regional destinations by way of the MARC Brunswick Line at Metropolitan Grove and the Metrorail Red Line at Shady Grove. A high quality bike network can get more people to the transitway stations, allowing for greater mobility. 

What is the duration of the planning process?
The update to the Bicycle Master Plan is scheduled to be completed by September 2017. Review the full schedule for this plan:

March 31, 2015

Council Review of Work Program
July 1, 2015 Start Work
September 2015 Planning Board Approves Scope of Work
March 2016 Methodology Report to Planning Board
November 2016 Staff Draft
February 2017 Planning Board Work Sessions
April 2017 Planning Board Draft
September 2017 Council Approval

What will be the final product?
A Bicycle Master Plan will be the final product that will look at the network of bikeways and locations for bicycle storage. It will serve as a guide to facility planning studies and the development approval process.

How can I get involved?
Attend meetings, talk to staff, send us your comments. Contact:

David Anspacher
Functional Planning and Policy Division
david.anspacher@montgomeryplanning.org
301-495-2191

Learn more about Bicycle Planning in Montgomery County.

Apr 6 15

Community Meeting on April 22 Will Address Newest Concepts for Westbard Sector Plan

by Bridget Schwiesow

 

Westbard Logo

Community Meeting on April 22 Will Address Newest Concepts for Westbard Sector Plan
Residents and business owners invited to provide feedback on planning framework.

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will hold a community meeting to discuss concepts for the Westbard Sector Plan on Wednesday, April 22, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD). Anyone who lives and works in the area or has an interest in the future of the Westbard community is invited to attend this event.

RSVP for the Westbard Plan Concepts Community Meeting.

The updated Sector Plan seeks to transform part of Westbard from an area focused on older commercial centers and light industrial uses into a more pedestrian-friendly town center that preserves the local services on which the community depends. At the April 22 session, planners will present the newest plan concepts and provide an opportunity for attendees to comment and ask questions. This meeting will serve as a valuable “feedback loop” for planners before they present the Westbard Concept Framework Plan to the Planning Board on April 30, 2015.

The meeting will provide stakeholders with an opportunity to review the evolving development of the plan concepts since the November 2014 charrette, when planners met with state and local agencies, citizen associations, business owners and residents from the Westbard area. Feedback from the weeklong workshops helped to shape preliminary ideas for building density and heights, public facilities, transportation improvements, parks and open space as well as environmental recommendations.

History of Westbard Planning:
The 1982 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. Some of that plan’s recommendations were never realized, including design concepts aimed at improving the public realm, such as:

-Implementing streetscape improvements on River Road and side streets.
-Providing 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.

Some of these ideas are being addressed in the updated Westbard Sector Plan and will be discussed at the April 22 meeting.

Apr 6 15

Planners Will Present Newest Concepts for Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan at Community Meeting on April 29

by Bridget Schwiesow

Brand Only
Residents and business owners invited to provide feedback on planning framework.

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will hold a community meeting to discuss the concepts for the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan on Wednesday, April 29, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Recreation Center (2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, MD).

RSVP for the April 29 Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Community Meeting.

Since the last public meeting on January 21, staff has been refining the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan to reflect community feedback about specific areas and will present those changes as well as a recap of the planning process at the April 29 event. Participants will have the opportunity to comment and make suggestions about the proposals before the plan concepts are presented to the Planning Board on Thursday, May 7.

Learn more about the latest developments in the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan on our website.

Apr 3 15

Bicycle Master Plan Kicks Off With April 20 Meeting at Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus

by Bridget Schwiesow

Cycle Track 032

Community invited to learn about the upcoming Bicycle Master Plan beginning with in the vicinity of the planned Corridor Cities Transitway on Monday, April 20 from 7 – 9 p.m.

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), is hosting a community meeting on Monday, April 20 from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus (9601 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850: Academic and Research Building, Room 106-110) to kick off the Bicycle Master Plan.  This meeting will provide an overview of the coutywide planning effort while focusing specifically on bikeways in the vicinity of the planned Corridor Cities Transitway.

At the April 20 meeting, planners will present their approach to the plan and milestones of the process while providing opportunities to give feedback and engage in person. RSVP’s are encouraged but not required. RSVP for the April 20 community meeting.

From April through July, planners will be working on developing a high-quality bicycle network that facilitates access to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway stations from the surrounding communities and ensure coordination and compatibility with the Life Science Center Loop, an off-road trail currently under design by the Planning Department.

Review a map of the Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan Corridor Cities Transitway focus area.

Starting July 1, 2015, staff will begin working on a comprehensive update to the Master Plan of Bikeways, initiating a two-year process to comprehensively review and update the County’s bicycling network.  There will be ample opportunities for the community to get involved in the planning process. Check out the Bicycle Planning webpage to learn more.

The Master Plan of Bikeways, approved in 1978, has been amended over the years by area master plans, with a comprehensive update focused on “countywide” bikeways in 2005.

FAQ’s:

What is the Bicycle Master Plan all about? Why do we need to revise it?
The goal of the plan is to develop a high-quality, low-stress bicycling network in Montgomery County. Changes in planning over the past decade provide an opportunity to rethink and improve our bicycle network and design.

What is the Corridor Cities Transitway? How does it relate to bicycling?
The Corridor Cities Transitway is a planned bus rapid transit (BRT) project that will ultimately connect Shady Grove to Clarksburg via the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center and Germantown. A high quality bike network will expand access to the stations.

What is the duration of the planning process?

The Bicycle Master Plan is scheduled to be completed September 2017. Review the full schedule for this plan:

March 31, 2015 Council Review of Work Program
July 1, 2015 Start Work
Sept 2015 Planning Board Approves Scope of Work
March 2016 Methodology Report to Planning Board
Nov 2016 Staff Draft
February 2017 Planning Board Worksessions
April 2017 Planning Board Draft
Sept 2017 Council Approval

What will be the final product?
An updated countywide Bicycle Master Plan that lays out a coordinated network of bikeways and locations for bicycle storage. It will guide future facility planning studies and aid in the development approval process.

How can I get involved?
Attend meetings, talk to staff, send us your comments! Contact:

David Anspacher
Functional Planning and Policy Division
david.anspacher@montgomeryplanning.org
301-495-2191

Learn more about Bicycle Planning in Montgomery County.

 

Apr 2 15

Planning Department Introduces New Tools to Streamline the Development Review Process

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Real-time Tracker and new Forest Conservation Plan exemption application aim to make the review and approvals process more efficient and transparent

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, continues to come up with new ways to improve the development review process. One initiative greatly simplifies the application required for certain  forest conservation exemptions while the other lets developers, their consultants and the public see exactly where an application is in the review process and how long each step of the process is taking.

“Improving the development review process is a top priority for us,” says Planning Director Gwen Wright. “We have recently launched new tools on our website to streamline the process and make it more transparent so doing business in the County is easier and more predictable.”

Real Time Tracker
The new County Zoning Ordinance that went into effect on October 30, 2014 requires a 120 day review schedule for site plans. This tool allows applicants to check on the progress of a site plan application that was submitted after the October effective date.  It also shows whether delays that are identified are being caused by the applicant or by staff

The Tracker is now part of the Development Finder website, launched on October 7, 2014. That site offers an interactive map of the County and allows users to put in an address to see what projects are happening nearby or  to enter a simple term like “Wheaton” to learn about current projects in that entire area. From this window, users can access the Development Activity Information Center (DAIC), which allows the viewer to see all the plans, staff reports, and other documents associated with the review of a plan. Clicking on the Real Time Tracker icon on this web page takes you to a timeline that shows everything from the accepted date of the application to the Planning Board’s decision on the project.

Forest Conservation Plan Exemption
Projects submitted to the Planning Department for review need either a forest conservation plan or a forest conservation exemption. Although an exemption can usually be approved fairly quickly, documentation to support a forest conservation exemption has been long and cumbersome. Under the new process, if a project is being changed in a way that requires no land disturbance (e.g. restriping parking spaces to increase or reduce the number provided) or there are no specimen trees or forest on the property, a simplified application is available.

Applicants who qualify will complete a newly created, one-page form attesting that their project qualifies for the exemption. No application fee will be charged for filling out this form. Applicants will make the exemption request at the same time they submit a development plan application or a special exception application to the Department. Planning staff will review and approve the forest conservation plan exemption request as the same time as they review the entire development application for consistency with the submission requirements.

Learn more about the Montgomery Planning Development Review Process.

Apr 2 15

Planning Board Public Hearing on the Revised Subdivision Regulations Scheduled for April 30

by Bridget Schwiesow

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Community invited to give feedback on a comprehensive rewrite of Chapter 50 of the Montgomery County Code

Silver Spring, MD – The changes being proposed to Chapter 50 of the  Montgomery County Code that govern the subdivision of County land, will be the subject of a public hearing before the Montgomery County Planning Board Thursday, April 30. Board members previously discussed the draft on March 19 and approved its release with refinements for public comment.

At the April 30 meeting, they will receive feedback about the newly revised Subdivision Regulations Amendment from interested stakeholders. View the draft of the Subdivision Regulations Amendment.

This amendment 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 subdivisions and ensure that the regulations conform to those set forth in the newly adopted Zoning Ordinance. 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. 

What is a subdivision?
A subdivision is the division or assemblage of a piece or pieces of land for the purpose of sale or development. It is the process by which proposed lot and road layouts are determined by the Planning Board prior to the submission of a record plat.

What is the 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. 

Why are the subdivision regulations being revised?
The updated Subdivision Regulations Amendment aims to provide a more organized, user-friendly document and a simplified process for certain types of subdivision plans that will no longer have to be presented to the Planning Board. In addition, review times for subdivision applications will conform to the Zoning Ordinance time frame of 120 days for development review and approval. A 90-day time limit is proposed for the review of a record plat application.

What is the schedule for approving the new regulations?
The first draft of the amendment was released in November 2014 for technical review by Planning staff and staff from the Executive Branch. An updated draft was released to the public in December 2014, and a community meeting was held in January 2015 to present and discuss the revisions.  A subsequent draft of the regulations was released in February 2015 and presented to the Planning Board in March.

After the Planning Board hearing on April 30, the Planning Board will hold worksessions before submitting the document to the Montgomery County Council. The Council will schedule one or more public hearings and work sessions 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

Apr 1 15

Montgomery Parks and Montgomery County Planning Department Present Newest Achievements and Future Projects to County Council

by Bridget Schwiesow

PowerPoint Cover Semi Annual Spring 2015

Streamlined development review process, housing and transportation tools, urban parks, athletic fields and more are highlighted in Spring 2015 Semi-Annual Report

SILVER SPRING, MD – Montgomery Parks and Montgomery County Planning, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented the Departments’ Spring 2015 Semi-Annual Report to the Montgomery County Council on March 31, 2015. The 47-page report, available online for review, summarizes key projects and plans from the past six months and work that will be completed over the next six months.

Review the Spring 2015 Semi-Annual Report.

This progress report is the second to be submitted by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, who assumed his current position in July 2014. Anderson outlines several initiatives aimed at meeting County 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.

The Planning Department’s initiatives for the next six months include:
-Streamlining the development review process to meet the 120-day, acceptance-to-approval time frame required by the new County Zoning Ordinance.
-Studying rental housing and transportation tools to improve the assessment of County infrastructure.
-Advancing the Design Excellence Initiative to improve the quality of new developments, buildings and public spaces in the County.
-Expanding community outreach and staff training efforts to increase community participation in the planning process.

The Spring 2015 Semi-Annual Report highlights recent efforts by Montgomery Parks to improve parks in dense areas of the County, including:
-Launching a program to activate urban parks in Silver Spring, White Flint and Germantown.
-Designing the County’s first urban dog park at Ellsworth Urban Park in Silver Spring.
-Developing new plans for improving and maintaining the County’s 290 athletic fields.

The report focuses on ongoing master planning efforts, including:
-The Bethesda Downtown Plan, which is building on the success of the area’s vibrant, walkable district. Scenarios for several areas were advanced through feedback from a wide range of stakeholders in Bethesda that was obtained through new outreach techniques. 

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

-The Montgomery Village Master Plan is the first discrete master plan for the planned community of Montgomery Village. The plan’s initial strategies were approved by the Planning Board in December 2014. Planners have worked on innovative community outreach efforts through the MV Matters series that focused on how best to rezone the entire Village since the Town Sector zone is no longer available.

-The Westbard Sector Plan, which was advanced through weeklong public workshops in 2014. Planners are currently analyzing the potential impact of increased density in the Westbard area as the result of proposed commercial buildings and housing units, and will discuss the findings at a public meeting this spring.

In addition, the Spring 2015 Semi-Annual Report reveals major park projects now underway, including:
-Development of a comprehensive plan to provide a trail experience within three miles of every County resident by the year 2030.
-Construction of three new parks: Laytonia Recreational Park in Derwood, Greenbriar Local Park in Potomac and Germantown Town Center Urban Park.
-New history-based programming at historic and archeological sites, including the Agricultural History Farm Park.
-Expansion of the Community Gardens program, including new plots in Germantown.

Mar 27 15

Planning Department Offers Green Web App to Measure the County’s Tree Canopy

by Bridget Schwiesow

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New digital tool allows County residents to determine need for tree planting in their neighborhoods

SILVER SPRING, MDThe Montgomery Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, now offers a Tree Canopy Explorer web application to determine the extent of tree canopy in communities throughout the County. This tool enables users to view the  layer of leaves and branches shading the ground, which ultimately contributes to improving the local climate of urban and suburban areas.

The new Tree Canopy Explorer allows residents to measure the tree canopy around their homes or businesses by identifying the street address, zooming in on the location and using a tool to calculate the percentage of cover. An update to the existing canopy data will soon make it possible to determine the loss in canopy experienced due to storms and recent tree trimming efforts. By understanding the extent of the canopy, property owners can take steps to plant more trees and create healthier, greener communities. The more shade from trees, the less energy required for cooling homes and cars. Also, trees clean the air we breathe and the runoff from storms.

The digital tool was developed by planners using a 2009 Countywide analysis of trees done with high-resolution aerial imagery. That study revealed that much of the County contains a high level of tree canopy, but that most urbanized areas lack adequate shade, particularly over hard surfaces that can become superheated during the summer.

County planner Katherine Nelson will make a presentation about the Tree Canopy Explorer at the Montgomery County Greenfest on Saturday, March 28. The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus of Montgomery College (7995 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring).