Sustainable, efficient, equitable land use is core to a healthy future and ensuring a high quality of life for everyone. For nearly two years, Montgomery County has been working on a new general land use plan called Thrive 2050, a blueprint for how and where the county will grow over the next 30+ years.
We strongly support the Planning Board’s draft of Thrive 2050, although we urge you to further strengthen certain areas. Thrive creates a vital blueprint for a county that is more affordable, walkable, prosperous, resilient, and racially and economically integrated, and recognizes that the best way to achieve that vision is through embracing the principles of inclusive smart growth, urbanism, and equitable transit-oriented development.
The decisions you will make in this document will have generational implications for how we live, work, and play. The world in 2050 will be very different no matter what — the question is whether we allow our communities to evolve in order to preserve what we value the most: diversity, sustainability, affordability, prosperity, equity, and social mobility.
August 12th, 2020
Dear Montgomery Planning Board,
The coalition of organizations and individuals undersigned request additional outreach activities for the upcoming release of the working draft plan of Thrive Montgomery 2050. Many of our organizations have worked with the planning staff and have seen their diligent and innovative ways of conducting outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, community leaders and organizations working with highly impacted communities see an interest and a need to take additional action in order to fully engage all communities. The communities of color that have been the most affected by COVID-19 in our county are the same communities where more Thrive 2050 outreach is needed, and comments are missing.
It is our understanding that the Montgomery Planning Department intends to release the working draft plan of Thrive Montgomery 2050 on September 24th, hold a Planning Board review meeting on October 1st, hold a public hearing on November 19th, and maybe allow the public to submit comments until two weeks after the public hearing.1 We propose the following extensions, recommendations, and additional outreach strategies.
• A working draft in both English and Spanish least 30 days before the November public hearing.
• We ask for a second public hearing that is scheduled 30 to 45 days after the working draft plan has been released in Spanish.
• Create more live multi-bilingual / bilingual outreach opportunities to have bilingual discussions between community members and planners on all sections of the working draft plan.
• Conduct in-person outreach that is safe, outdoors, and physically distant, such as at food distribution centers/ hubs and at parks across the county.
• Create and simultaneously release one-page multilingual informational fact sheets that highlight key sections and points of the working draft plan. Additionally work closely with community organizers to disseminate information and conduct community outreach on the working draft plan.
We appreciate and thank the Planning Board for the opportunity to provide feedback on the working draft plan. We look forward to continuing to be partners in the Thrive 2050 conversation and find new and innovative ways to conduct outreach.
1 Thrive 2050 Public Comment Timeline. (Last Updated on August 4th, 2020). Available from: https://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/master-plan-list/general-plans/thrive-montgomery-2050/
Maryland Conservation Advocate
Audubon Naturalist Society
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, August 10, 2020
CONTACT: Jane Lyons, Coalition for Smarter Growth
email@example.com | (410) 474-0741
Courageous Conversations discuss the history of racial segregation in Montgomery County
Montgomery County, Md. — This Saturday, the Coalition for Smarter Growth will host the first in a series of three Courageous Conversations on Housing, Land Use, and Racism, about the history of redlining and racial segregation in Montgomery County. Over 150 community members are expected to attend and participate in facilitated group discussions.
Each workshop will feature a presentation on the history of discriminatory federal housing policy and an explanation of the local housing and land use history in one of three areas of the county: East County (8/15), Bethesda-Chevy Chase (8/22), and Upcounty (8/29). The workshops are sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and will be facilitated by Challenging Racism.
After the presentations and small group discussions, Montgomery County residents will share their personal experiences of how racial segregation impacted their lives.
Robert Stubblefield, a poet and local activist, will share his story about growing up Black in eastern Montgomery County. “One of the things I hope comes out of this is that the past is never past. It is always present. What we experience when we are younger plays a role and influences us every day,” he said.
The discussion will also cover how residential segregation impacts schools and student experiences. “In Montgomery County, three quarters of our Black and Hispanic students attend our highest poverty public schools, excluding them from myriad opportunities available to lower poverty school students,” said Jill Ortman-Fouse, a former school board member.
Councilmembers Tom Hucker, Andrew Friedson, and Hans Riemer will also share their perspectives on the policy changes that have been made to create a more inclusive county, and what still needs to happen.
Finally, Jane Lyons, the Maryland Advocacy Manager at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, will discuss how residents can continue a dialogue about these issues, including by getting involved with the county’s new general plan update and local organizations advocating for racial justice in land use and housing.
“Many people don’t know the history of how government policy intentionally segregated our neighborhoods, and that legacy continues today,” said Lyons. “In order to plan for the future, we have to understand the history that got us here.”
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington, DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish.
April 15, 2020
Montgomery Planning Board
8787 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Re: Montgomery Thrive 2050 Draft Vision and Goals
Dear Chair Anderson and Planning Commisioners:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide written comments on the draft vision and goals for Thrive Montgomery 2050. We understand that this is a challenging time due to the coronavirus crisis. The Planning Department’s quick shift to virtual meetings, community engagement, and public testimony is commendable, and we are pleased to see the department’s work plan continue on. We hope that this is an opportunity for the department to experiment with more inclusive, transparent community engagement strategies, which can then be incorporated into outreach going forward.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth strongly supports the draft vision and goals. The concept – a web of complete, mixed-use communities connected by vibrant transit and green corridors – is strong and builds off of the revolutionary “wedges and corridors” idea. We especially support the strong language around housing, including on ensuring affordability, diversifying the housing stock, and considering housing a right. We are also pleased with the vision of a county no longer developed around the automobile.
One significant critique of the draft is the language used in reference to transportation. We need to be firm about our commitment to public transit, walking, and biking as the future of transportation in Montgomery County. In recent years, the term “multi-modal” has come to be used as an excuse for continuing car-centric planning standards. If we’re going to significantly alter mode share over the next 30 years, it’s not enough to be multi-modal – we must be transit first.
As a component of our advocacy for Thrive, we have worked with the community to organize Montgomery for All, a grassroots group committed to ensuring that Thrive paves the way for an equitable, sustainable, prosperous future grounded in the principles of smart growth. We have created a platform with ten goals that we would like to see fully included and built upon in Thrive. Many of our goals are included in this draft, but could be stated more explicitly and expanded upon. Please see our specific feedback below, which addresses these concerns:
Thrive 2050 Vision:
• Convenient: We urge you to be stronger and more specific in the goals. “Most” or “many” does not create a bold vision for the future and can be ignored.
• Healthy: If we can set a goal that every resident lives within a 15 minute walk to a park, then we should also be able to set the same goal for the other components of complete communities, especially healthy food and frequent transit.
1. Complete Communities:
• Goal #1: The idea that makes the concept of “complete communities” work is a time constraint on how long it takes to access certain amenities without a car. This has been done by all other communities which have adopted this planning goal, including Paris (15 minutes), Portland (20 minutes), and Copenhagen (5 minutes). We recommend that Thrive adopt 20 minutes as a goal for accessing the required amenities of a complete community. This should become a guiding principle for all future master plans.
• Goal #4: Equal treatment does not necessarily mean equal outcomes or opportunity. The focus should be on equal outcomes, such as socioeconomic mobility and quality of life measurements, rather than on equal treatment.
• Goal #2: We commend the goal of making government planning and decision-making processes accessible, transparent, and easy for all to understand and participate in. In addition, we’d like to see this goal explicitly state the importance of government actively going out into the community for engagement on major actions, rather than expecting the community to come to government.
3. Diverse Economies:
• Goal #5: One of Montgomery for All’s goals is to minimize the displacement of small businesses. Thus, we would like this goal to include the protection of small businesses in addition to identifying and removing barriers to establishment and expansion.
4. Safe and Efficient Travel:
o The vision should state that in 2050 heavy reliance on private vehicle “has shifted” rather than “is shifting.” It is essential to shift well before 2050 if the county is to meet its net-zero greenhouse gas emission goals by 2035.
o The frequency of transit is not mentioned in this vision. We know that the two major factors that drive transit use are frequency and reliability.
o We would like to see more about how to county envisions micromobility, autonomous vehicles, and ridesharing playing into the transportation system in 2050. These technologies, especially autonomous vehicles, have both potential positive and negative impacts. Thrive is the place to start thinking through how the county will manage those impacts.
o We urge that the vision include language stating that no new highways will be built, especially during our climate emergency or in the current and likely longer-term challenging budgetary environment.
o Goal #1: In addition to shifting mode share, we should also establish goals to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Both goals should be specific and measurable.
o Goal #4: “Multiple travel options” is often repeated throughout this document. However, we would argue that this vision is no different that our current transportation system. Residents may have the option to choose between a private vehicle and local bus service, but because of planning and policy decisions, the private vehicle options is much more attractive than Ride On. Well before 2050, public transit, walking, and biking not only need to be a competitive choices, but also need to be the modes of choice.
5. Affordability and Attainability:
• Goal #1: The safety of housing should also be a goal, in addition to type, size, affordability, and location.
• Goal #2: We would like to see stronger language than “most new housing,” and not only should new housing be in mixed-use locations, but locations that are complete communities.
• Goal #3: If the county is going to consider housing a right, then we need to set bolder goals than continuing our existing programs. Housing as a right should fundamentally alter how the county approaches housing.
6. Healthy and Sustainable Environment:
o By 2050, all vehicles owned and operated by the county should be zero-emissions. Similarly, biking, walking, and public transit should be the most common modes of travel.
o We would like to see more about net-zero energy buildings in the vision statement. Will all new buildings be net-zero? Were we able to retrofit existing buildings in an equitable way?
• Goals: We believe that more than three goals are necessary, given the complexity, ambition, and number of topics addressed in the vision statement.
7. Diverse and Adaptable Growth:
• Vision: We support the vision that regulatory mechanisms to support development should be nimble, focused on design excellence, and achieve measurable, equitable outcomes. However, we’d like to see equity in diverse and adaptable growth explored further and defined in this context.
• Goal #3: We strongly support this goal and ask that the adequate public facilities ordinance, capital improvements program, taxes and fees, and review and permitting processes all be reviewed and considered when developing policies and actions for Thrive.
8. Culture and Design: No comments.
Maryland Advocacy Manager
Coalition for Smarter Growth