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growth policy

Jul 17 09

Montgomery County Planning Board Approves Two Master Plans, Growth Blueprint, New Zone

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – In one of the most decision-filled meetings in Planning Board history, the  panel yesterday approved visions for two communities – Gaithersburg West and White Flint – as well as the 2009-2011 draft Growth Policy and a new family of zones combining commercial and residential uses.

All of the initiatives will go to the County Council for consideration later this summer or fall.

The Gaithersburg West Master Plan articulates a vision for the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center and surrounding areas. With the county’s largest concentration of advanced technology companies and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Johns Hopkins University-Montgomery campus, and the Universities at Shady Grove, the area represents a thriving employment area. The plan acknowledges the county’s commitment to the life sciences and provides a blueprint for the institutions to expand apace with the market. It also guides future development into a more compact community of mixed uses including housing.

The Life Sciences Center remains a sprawling, single-use, auto-oriented area. The draft plan features recommendations to make the area more vibrant, dynamic and walkable, with growth tied to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway – a rapid bus or light rail transit project.

The White Flint Sector Plan, which covers north Bethesda along both sides of Rockville Pike, recommends ways to urbanize one of the few remaining locations in the County where excellent public transportation options and the potential to redevelop coincide. With the area dominated by surface parking lots, planners say much can be done to improve the landscape and environmental quality. The plan envisions a diverse mixed use center near the White Flint station and transforming Rockville Pike into a landscaped boulevard accompanied by a grid of new streets.

The Board also approved the 2009-2011 Growth Policy, the latest in a series of biennial reports  determining how development should be analyzed for school and road capacity. This version of the growth policy addresses whether county officials should try to reduce congestion by building away from trafficked areas or instead influence traffic demand.  The Planning Board adopted the staff recommendation addressing the second approach.

A key tenet of the Growth Policy is to work toward reducing travel by vehicles driven by one person, called vehicle miles traveled in planning terminology, when the Board is considering new development applications. Another important focus of the proposed Growth Policy is connecting societal values like environmental protection – encouraging mixed uses near transit, lowering the carbon output of new buildings and potentially creating energy on site – to new building projects.

 The County Council will consider and eventually approve its version of the growth policy this fall, then it will be implemented through the county’s Adequate Public Facility Ordinance.

The Planning Board also voted to advance a commercial-residential (CR) zone that would encourage new development that includes a mix of commercial and residential uses at varying densities. As with the growth policy proposal, the new zone encourages development near transit, particularly daily-use-oriented commercial shops and green building elements. The proximity of services would save people time, increase a sense of community, and decrease congestion.

While the two master plans and the growth policy will be transmitted to the County Council for final action in the coming weeks, the CR zone will return to the Planning Board after Council review for additional refinement.

Yesterday’s decisions represent a landmark for the Planning Board. Together, the planning initiatives encourage strategic growth, infill development and new housing near services and jobs, all intended to improve the quality of place in the county.

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Jun 9 09

Planning Board Places Moratorium on Development in Three School Clusters

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – After receiving the results of the annual school test – which compares projected student enrollment against projected classroom capacity – the Planning Board yesterday established a development moratorium for three school clusters: Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Clarksburg and Seneca Valley.

The school test, created as part of the biennial Growth Policy and administered through the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), is prepared by Montgomery County Public Schools staff. The school test compares projected 2014 enrollment figures against classroom capacity for each of the county’s 25 school clusters at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

The 2009 school test results show that number of students expected in 2014 in certain clusters would exceed a 120 percent cap specified in the 2007 APFO. The moratorium limits residential subdivision approvals in overcrowded clusters in an effort to ensure that students generated by newly approved housing units do not exceed the remaining school capacity for students at any grade level. Starting July 1, the Board will not approve residential subdivisions in those three areas unless they are communities for retirees or subdivisions of three or fewer units.

The school test also forecasts overcrowding in 2014 by more than 105 percent in nine school clusters. For those clusters – Walter Johnson, Northwest, Northwood, Paint Branch, Quince Orchard, Rockville, Wheaton, Whitman and Richard Montgomery – developers wishing to get subdivision approval would be required to pay a school facility fee.

Given that the school test is conducted annually, the moratorium is likely to be in place for the next fiscal year. To move out of moratorium, the cluster would need to show a projected drop in enrollment or a projected increase in capacity. Enrollment figures come from school data and projected birth rates. Capacity can increase through the county’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP), which funds public projects like school expansion.

The Montgomery County Council, which decides on the CIP each year, may consider school expansion projects this fall through MCPS recommendations.

The school test is part of the 2009-2011 Growth Policy that the Planning Board will consider this summer. The draft Growth Policy recommends only minimal changes to the school test.

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Feb 13 09

State Environmental Regulator to Discuss Stormwater Management as Part of Planning Board Speaker Series

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING, MD – A state stormwater management expert will join the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday, February 19 to discuss new strategies to reduce stormwater runoff and water pollution.

Ken Pensyl, administrator of the Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program at the Maryland Department of the Environment, will discuss stormwater management trends that foster a new way of thinking about how to improve water quality. Pensyl is the second of a series of speakers who will address the board this year as part of the Growing Smarter Speaker Series.

With presentations to be scheduled roughly once a month, the series provides an opportunity for the board, planners and the general public to hear from experts on thought-provoking sustainable growth topics as the board tackles the next iteration of the county Growth Policy.

Pensyl will describe how developers and landowners can handle stormwater to create better results for the environment and the people who live and work there. Among the strategies Pensyl will outline are creating well-thought-out site designs, and considering the design and placement of buildings, parking areas, roads and other best management practices. Moreover, developers may consider vegetative rooftops and rain gardens – all strategies that can be combined to reduce and treat stormwater runoff at the source.

Pensyl also will provide an update on the state’s draft Environment Site Design regulations that will require such strategies.

In his role as a stormwater administrator, Pensyl oversees a variety of programs including those that focus on slowing, infiltrating, and treating stormwater discharge to help protect surface waters from pollutants and recharge groundwater. Among his duties is managing the state program that issues municipal permits for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Continuing education credits are pending for AICP members.
Learn more about the speaker series.

Who:
Montgomery County Planning Board

What:
Ken Pensyl
Growing Smarter Speaker Series

When: 
7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 19

Where:
Park and Planning Headquarters auditorium
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

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Feb 5 09

Local Architect Specializing in Environmentally Sensitive Design to Kick Off 2009 Planning Board Speaker Series

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING, MD – Many developers embrace the idea of building green and using strategies to minimize construction’s impact on the environment. But how far are they willing to go to earn their green label?

Carl Elefante, AIA, a local architect who has specialized in historic preservation and sustainable design for decades, will preview emerging green construction practices during a February 12 presentation to the Montgomery County Planning Board. Elefante is the first in a series of speakers who will address the board this year as part of the Growing Smarter Speaker Series.

With presentations to be scheduled roughly once a month, the series provides an opportunity for the board, planners and the general public to hear from experts on thought-provoking sustainable growth topics as the board tackles the next iteration of the county Growth Policy.

In his February 12 talk, Elefante will make a case that most commonly accepted green building practices rarely go beyond what is proven profitable or already required. Using green materials and designing buildings to capture natural light, for example, have become industry standards.

Elefante will look beyond those basics to architectural innovations, such as functioning rooftop gardens, advanced solar energy technologies, and innovative heating and cooling systems, including geothermal.

As director of sustainable design at Quinn Evans Architects, which has offices in Washington D.C., and Ann Arbor, Michigan, Elefante leads a broad spectrum of projects and lectures nationally on sustainable design.
Elefante is president of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and a founding board member of the National Capital Region Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. He serves on the Montgomery County Sustainability Working Group.

The Growing Smarter Speaker series is connected to the 2009-2011 Growth Policy. Planners working on a preliminary draft of the policy are rethinking how to manage growth, looking beyond basing it just on congestion relief and school capacity. Instead, they hope to focus on ways to enhance quality of place in our communities. Quality of place includes respecting the natural environment in the design of buildings, spaces and streets.
Continuing education credits available for self-reporting by AIA members.

Learn more about the speaker series.

Who:
Montgomery County Planning Board

What:
Carl Elefante, architect, AIA
Growing Smarter Speaker Series

When: 
7:30 p.m. February 12

Where:
Park and Planning Headquarters auditorium
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

Oct 23 08

What Do Montgomery County Residents Value Most? Planners Seek Public Input on Growth Strategies

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – As Montgomery County planners start to develop recommendations for a countywide growth strategy, they are seeking to learn what residents value most about their communities.

Armed with that input, planners will craft the 2009-2011 Growth Policy, which guides development for two years. The biennial process is required by the County Council to synchronize future development with essential public facilities.

Planners invite residents to four community meetings throughout November and early December to participate in focused discussions on what should be part of the next Growth Policy. A Growth Policy survey posted online at www.GrowingSmarterMontgomery.org provides another opportunity for residents to voice an opinion.

In the 2009-2011 Growth Policy, planners are looking to broaden their traditional scope beyond traffic relief and adequate school capacity to include other public values, such as air and water quality. The next Growth Policy will build upon the 2007-2009 version that, for the first time, highlighted environmental sustainability and design of public spaces as important contributors to our quality of life. Understanding that the county will see an increase in population and jobs, planners are looking to devise measures that will help ensure our communities feature what is most valued by residents.

At the meetings, participating will rotate among stations to discuss what they would like to see within four topic areas: connections, environment, design and diversity.

Who:
Montgomery County Planning Department

What:   
Growth Policy Community meetings

When/Where:   
7 – 9 p.m. Monday, November 3: Marilyn J. Praisner Library, Burtonsville
2 – 4 p.m. Saturday, November 8: Germantown Library, Germantown
7 – 9 p.m. Monday, November 10: Quince Orchard Library, Gaithersburg
10 a.m.-noon Saturday, December 6: Park and Planning Headquarters, Silver Spring