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Apr 2 15

Planning Department Introduces New Tools to Streamline the Development Review Process

by Bridget Schwiesow


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.

Jan 28 15

Montgomery County Planning Department Announces Calendar of February Events

by Bridget Schwiesow

Calendar of Events Logo

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 its events calendar for February 2015. From a movie screening to a community meeting, these public sessions offer ways to engage with planners and Board members, and help shape the future of Montgomery County. Review the full list of events below and go online to for more details on projects and plans.

Stay connected to us online by following Montgomery Planning Department news and information on Twitter: @montgomeryplans and like us on Facebook:

Montgomery Planning February 2015 Events:

February 4 – Attend the free screening of “Growing Legacy” at noon in the Planning 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 30-minute documentary film profiles the challenges of growing food and cities in harmony through interviews with decision makers, consumers and farmers. Learn more about the “Growing Legacy” free movie screening.

February 5 – Attend, watch or listen live to the Montgomery County Planning Board meeting. View the full agenda.

February 9 – Attend the next MVMatters meeting to discuss the Montgomery Village Master Plan at 7 p.m. at Watkins Mill High School (10301 Apple Ridge Road, Gaithersburg, MD). Planners will update residents on the proposed changes to commercial zoning and other aspects of the plan. MVMatters is a series of outreach events meant to inform the community about specific subject areas, such as urban design, land use, parks, environment and transportation. Through the meetings, planners have received initial feedback from residents on what they view as the most valuable places in the village. View the Montgomery Village Scope of Work.

February 11 – “Creating and Sustaining the County’s Agricultural Reserve” is the topic of the fourth session in the Winter Speakers Series, A Once & Future County, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md.). The discussion will focus on the technical planning, legal and political challenges that had to be overcome to establish the County’s Agricultural Reserve in 1980. Current efforts to sustain the Reserve’s working farms and preserve the integrity of the landscape will also be examined. Learn more about the February 11 Speakers Series event focused on the County’s Agricultural Reserve.

February 12 – Attend, watch or listen live to the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. Agendas, which are posted two weeks in advance, can be viewed on the Agendas & Staff Reports page.

February 19 – Attend, watch or listen live to the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. Agendas, which are posted two weeks in advance, can be viewed on the Agendas & Staff Reports page.

February 25 — The next Montgomery Village Matters meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 25 from 7-9 p.m. at the Watkins Mill High School cafeteria. Topics for discussion at that session will be announced at the February 9 event. Learn more.

February 26 – Attend, watch or listen live to the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting. Agendas, which are posted two weeks in advance, can be viewed on the Agendas & Staff Reports page.

Nov 5 14

Weeklong Community Charrette to Plan Westbard’s Future Starts on Monday, November 10

by Bridget Schwiesow

Community invited to brainstorm, collaborate with planners November 10-18 to capture best ideas for sector plan area

SILVER SPRING, MD – On November 10, 2014, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will launch a weeklong charrette – a series of intensive workshops –to gather ideas and craft a concept framework plan for the Westbard Sector Plan. Residents, property and business owners, and interested citizens are invited to participate in these meetings to offer their ideas about the area.

A full schedule of all the workshops and presentations is posted online at

The community charrette will start on Monday, November 10, with walking tours of Westbard to familiarize participants with the area. The tours will be conducted at 10 a.m. and noon, starting at Westwood II Mall (5110 Ridgefield Rd, Bethesda, MD).

A workshop will also be held on Monday, starting at 9 a.m. at Westwood II and continuing until 5 p.m. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and discuss concepts during these hours. No charrette activities will take place on Tuesday, November 11, in observance of Veterans Day.

On Wednesday, November 12, and Thursday, November 13, business owners and residents are invited to attend the “Sunrise Series” meetings being held from 7-8:30 a.m. at Westwood II. The community workshops will commence on those days and on Friday, November 14, at 9 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m.

Evening presentations will be held during the week at Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd, Bethesda, MD) from 6-9 p.m. The summary of the charrette and its influence on the Concept Plan will be presented on Tuesday, November 18 at Westland Middle School (5511 Massachusetts Ave, Bethesda, MD) from 7-9 p.m.

What is a charrette?
char·rette (SH??ret/)Noun. A meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions together. The idea comes from the School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux Arts) in Paris where students would put their final drawings on a cart (charrette) to turn in for grading by a professor. Students would sometimes hop on the cart to finish their drawings.

The charrette will offer residents and stakeholders an opportunity to drop in and work one-on-one with the staff who will capture the ideas, visions and goals of the Westbard community.

Residents, business owners and property owners are invited to drop-in and meet with planners and representatives from other agencies during the daytime hours. The Sunrise Series was designed to serve those who have to be at work during the hours of 9 – 5. RSVP’s are encouraged but not required:

Charrette Schedule At A Glance:

Monday, November 10 –Walking tours will be conducted in the community at 10 a.m. and noon starting at Westwood II. The Charrette Drop-In hours will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. The evening Visioning Session will be at Walt Whitman High School from 6-9 p.m.

Tuesday, November 11 – Observance of Veterans Day (no charrette activities).

Wednesday, November 12- A “Sunrise Series” meeting will be held for business owners and residents from 7-8:30 a.m. at Westwood II. Charrette Drop-In hours will be held from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Westwood II. The Framework Concept will be presented at Walt Whitman High School from 6-9 p.m.

Thursday, November 13- A “Sunrise Series” meeting will be held for all stakeholders from 7-8:30 a.m. at Westwood II. Charrette Drop-In hours will be held from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Westwood II. The community will be asked to give feedback on the preferred options for the Framework Concept at Walt Whitman High School from 6-9 p.m.

Friday, November 14- The community is invited to drop in at Westwood II during the day from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. to talk with Montgomery Planning Department staff as they refine the concept plan.

Monday, November 17- Planners will be working on the results of the charrette in preparation for Tuesday’s evening presentation of the completed Concept Plan (no Charrette Drop-in hours).

Tuesday, November 18- Planners will summarize the results of the charrette and its influence on the plan at Westland Middle School from 7-9 p.m.

Register for the PlanWestbard Community Charrette activities.

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

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

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

Learn more about the Westbard Sector Plan and how to get involved:

Westbard Background:
Westbard lies in the southwestern part of Montgomery County, approximately one mile from the DC boundary line. It is less than two miles from the commercial areas of Friendship Heights and Bethesda. The Westbard area is served by two major northwest to southeast highways: River Road and Massachusetts Avenue and is surrounded by well-established single-family neighborhoods. Over a period of years, the residential uses were built around the commercial/industrial areas, which extend along River Road and Westbard Avenue. The popular regional Capital Crescent Trail runs the length of Westbard.

Oct 9 14

Montgomery Parks and Planning Present Newest Achievements to County Council

by Bridget Schwiesow

Semi Annual report fall 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major park projects now underway include:

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

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

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

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

Apr 8 14

Park and Planning Spring 2014 Semi-Annual Report Now Available

by Bridget Schwiesow

Planning Board Chair and Department Heads present before Montgomery County Council

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Council considered the Park and Planning Spring 2014 Semi-Annual Report on Tuesday, April 1. The biannual report gives a recap of the work from the past six months and highlights the work program for FY15.

The full report is available online on the Montgomery Planning Department website. The video of the Council discussion of the Semi-Annual report is available on the Montgomery County Council website.

The Planning Department is focused on the following themes for FY15:
-Moving towards “finer-grained” planning and a focus on design excellence
-Continuous improvement of the Development Review process
-A focus on innovative housing ideas, new approaches to transportation modeling, and creative use of public assets through colocation
-New ways of using technology for both analysis and communication.

This is the last Semi-Annual presented by Planning Board Chair Françoise Carrier since she has announced she will not seek a second. This is also the last Semi-Annual for Parks Department Director Mary Bradford who is retiring after serving an eight year tenure.

Learn more about the Spring 2014 Semi-Annual Report.

Feb 18 10

County Planners Launch Blog Focusing on Community Design

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING, MD – Buildings, streets and spaces don’t just happen, they are created by our laws and lifestyles. And to really understand them, we need to take a closer look.

Join our planners in observing community design – the look of buildings, streets and spaces – in our new design blog, The Straight Line

The blog examines building form, sustainability, energy use, public art, and the interaction of people and places. Our planners and architects will contribute their thoughts every few weeks on what’s been built, what should be built and what could have been built better.

Initial posts cover public art uncovered in Silver Spring, food trucks, pedestrian challenges, a green apartment building in Portland, Oregon, and architecture along Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. From the specific – an energy-efficient mixed-use building with a distinctively colored exterior – to the general – how hard it is to be a pedestrian in much of Montgomery County – the posts will get people thinking. Accompanying our missives are plenty of photos and related links.

Visit The Straight Line frequently to express your views.

Apr 8 08

MEDIA ADVISORY: Planning Board Takes a Break from Business to Celebrate Trees

by Kelli Holsendolph

SILVER SPRING, MD—During its regular weekly meeting Thursday, April 10, the Montgomery County Planning Board will take a break from business to celebrate trees as an early commemoration of the upcoming Montgomery Parks Arbor Day celebration.

Planning Board members will plant three Weeping Higan Cherry trees (Prunus subhirtella) next to the playground area at Fairview Urban Park, a short walk from Park and Planning Headquarters. The board, which recently recommended changes to strengthen the county’s Forest Conservation Law, will be accompanied by the Department of Parks’ signature tree mascot, “Woody the Tree.” 

A few weeks ago, the Department of Parks launched a countywide “Where’s Woody?” search to find its most recognizable costumed character in time for the annual Montgomery Parks Arbor Day celebration, Sunday, April 27, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood. Woody is expected to make several appearances at other park events this month.


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Montgomery County Planning Board
Montgomery County Department of Parks
“Woody the Tree”

Montgomery Parks Arbor Day Tree Planting Ceremony

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at approximately 11:30 am

Fairview Road Urban Park
8900 Fairview Road, Silver Spring

Montgomery County Planning Board, Director of Parks and costumed character “Woody the Tree” plant trees with golden shovels for Arbor Day.

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Kelli Holsendolph
Media Relations Manager
Montgomery County Department of Parks