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2009-2011 Growth Policy

Jun 8 09

Planners Release Recommendations to Better Manage Future Development as First Step to Producing Countywide Growth Policy

by Valerie Berton

Public hearing scheduled for June 22

SILVER SPRING – Montgomery County’s future growth, with a population expected to increase by 195,000 by 2030, should occur near transit and on surface parking lots, planners say in a draft 2009-2011 Growth Policy report going to the Planning Board Thursday.

With less than 4 percent of the county left to develop, county planners have drafted a Growth Policy that sets forth more strategic and sustainable strategies to accommodate that growth.

While the draft Growth Policy, a biennial report, continues to weigh development proposals against school and road capacity, the proposed 2009-2011 edition also recommends how to build smarter. Its recommendations include encouraging mixed uses, using less energy and even generating energy on site. Smarter growth leads to better health as people walk and cycle to get around, less congestion and pollution thanks to fewer cars on the road, better use of existing infrastructure, and less land consumption, planners say.

Planners will present their recommendations to the Planning Board on June 11.The Board has scheduled a June 22 public hearing to solicit input on the report. The Board will review the Growth Policy draft in summer work sessions and then send it to the Montgomery County Council for consideration and eventual adoption. Once adopted, the Growth Policy is implemented through the county’s Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO).

View the draft 2009-2011 Growth Policy.

Since 1990, the county grew by 195,000 residents, some of them children born to Montgomery County families. Most of that growth – housing, jobs and services – sprawled onto vacant or agricultural land. Planners estimate 40,000 acres of land were developed in the last 20 years.

Given the Agricultural Reserve, which protects 93,000 acres for farming, and 33,000 acres of parkland, Montgomery County’s development envelope has shrunk. Planners calculate there are just 29,000 acres in the county to develop, including some overlap between 14,000 acres of vacant land, 8,000 acres of surface parking, and 10,500 acres in and around transit and strip malls.

The draft Growth Policy guides development to where services – such public transportation, schools, stores, health clinics and more – are in place.

In a departure from previous Growth Policies, the 2009-2011 recommendations include replacing some of the commercial and office uses with housing, bringing people closer to jobs and reducing congestion. The majority of the new housing should be multi-family units in higher densities, planners say, given the need to consume less land.

Bringing people closer to where they work and shop generates fewer vehicle trips than commercial development and generates far fewer carbon emissions than the single-family home development pattern that has characterized growth in the county for decades. The average condominium or apartment uses about 40 percent of the energy of a typical single-family house.

In its “greenest” twist, the draft policy suggests reducing transportation improvements sometimes required of developers if they build smart – providing additional affordable housing, or within a half-mile of transit, or close to basic services, such as grocery stores, libraries, fire stations and parks. Providing incentives to builders to develop in urban areas preserves established neighborhoods while reducing sprawl and energy use.

The 2009-2011 Growth Policy does not recommend changes to the formulas planers use to evaluate the capacity of school districts to accommodate the students of new households. Current school capacity tests can place growth moratoriums if school populations are calculated to exceed 120 percent.  The Planning Board is now assessing the moratorium areas.

The proposed Growth Policy is one of a number of planning strategies – including new community master plans and a major rewrite of the county Zoning Ordinance among them – to bring about more sustainable growth in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Planning Board

What / When:   
Growth Policy staff draft – approximately 1 p.m. June 11
Growth Policy public hearing – 7:30 p.m. June 22

Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

May 5 09

Planners Schedule Growth Policy Listening Sessions May 11 and May 18

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – To help form recommendations on the 2009-2011 Growth Policy, Montgomery County planners will host two public meetings designed to gain feedback from county residents. Residents and others interested in how Montgomery County should grow are invited to public meetings scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Monday, May 11 in Silver Spring and 7-9 p.m. Monday, May 18 in Rockville.

The growth policy is a biennial county mandate to manage growth. It requires the Planning Board to match new growth to the availability of public services, such as adequate road and school capacity. The Planning Board is working with staff on a draft of the next growth policy that it will send to the County Council for consideration in August.

Planners drafting the 2009-2011 Growth Policy are considering ways to better measure quality of life. They have discussed strategies to improve connections – to schools, stores, public transit and parks – as well as boost environmental quality through better designed buildings that pollute less and lessen dependence on cars. Planners also want the growth policy to encompass diversity in homes, jobs and public places to suit people of all ages, incomes and cultures.

Planners have organized listening sessions – the public will talk, the planners will mostly listen – in an open-house format built around three stations featuring information about:

•    Planning for growth. Where are we growing and where will demand for growth continue? What mechanisms guide growth in the county?

•    Adequacy of public facilities. How do we measure the adequacy of transportation and schools? What options are being considered to encourage traveling by other means than in single-occupancy vehicles?

•    Growing Smarter. How we can be more environmentally sound in building and renovation? How can we provide diverse housing options for people of all incomes? How might we provide incentives for building near transit or other basic services? How might we encourage building with increased energy efficiency or on-site energy production, and that is compact in design, maximizing the use of existing infrastructure?

Montgomery County planners

Growth policy listening sessions

7 p.m. Monday, May 11
7 p.m. Monday, May 18

May 11: Park and Planning Headquarters auditorium, 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, 20910
May 18: Shady Grove Training Center, 16641 Crabbs Branch Way, Rockville, 20855

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