The County’s General Plan
Issue: Thrive 2050 is the Montgomery County General Plan for 2050 adopted unanimously by the County Council in October 2022. How will this plan, which covers housing, economic development, social justice, the environment, and the quality of our parks affect Parkwood and its residents? One issue that has drawn particular attention from many citizens is housing – the need for more of it in the county, the high cost of much of it, the lack of enough affordable places, and inequities in access. Thrive could result in zoning changes that would, among other things, allow multiplex houses in single family communities. At the same time, some worry that the plan doesn’t do enough to address affordable housing and racial equity.
The Council and the Planning Board will also begin implementing the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan, an update to the county’s general master plan that is expected to guide development for the next 30 years. Council Members can implement the goals of Thrive through zoning text amendments, economic development legislation and policies, and other methods in the coming year.
But first they must appoint new permanent members to the Planning Board. The council intends to appoint successors for three temporary board members before Feb. 28. The council is expected to appoint the remaining two positions, including the chair, by June 14. State Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Dist. 19) has proposed two state bills that would establish a task force that would examine shifting some planning power to the executive branch. The majority of the County Council voted against recommending that Montgomery County’s state delegation should support those bills. The bills will be reviewed by the General Assembly. Updated January 14, 2023
- 25 October: The Council unanimously adopted Thrive 2050
- 22 October: The Council is expected to pass Thrive 2050 on October 25.
- Draft of the final version is here;
- Draft of the resolution is here.
- CE Elrich’s statement about why Thrive should not pass at this time is here;
- Statement by Council President Albornoz opposing CE Elrich and saying why Thrive should pass is here.
- 3 October 2022: The County Council plans to review Thrive 2050 on October 4, take a straw vote on October 11, and will likely hold a final vote on October 25. In addition to proposed changes to the current draft of the plan, the staff report for the meeting includes statements from those who favor and those who oppose adoption of Thrive. The current version of the plan the Council is reviewing can be seen here.
- According to the Bethesda Beat, Council President Albornoz acknowledged that the proposed plan isn’t supported by everyone. But he added that the current council should vote on it before the Nov. 8 general election. “I do think it’s important for this council to vote on it … starting from scratch would not be advisable. We are never going to come to a perfect document, but sensible people can agree that there is more agreement than disagreement on what’s in the document.”
- The Council appears ready to proceed despite objections from County Executive Elrich, who said that his office and the public deserve an opportunity to evaluate the consultants’ recommended changes, specifically, those about preventing displacement in areas of naturally occurring affordable housing, providing more parks in communities of minorities, and more low-income housing.
- 05/2022: The County Council has extended the time for it to review and act on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan from May 19 to July 18, 2022. It is possible that a final decision by the Council will go beyond that date. Based on a study of Thrive by the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO), the Council is hiring a consultant to conduct a further analysis of the draft with respect to racial equity and social justice. However, because the County limited its original RFP for a racial and social equity analysis to in-county consultants and didn’t get any proposals, it has re-solicited a broader group.
- 03/01/2022: The Council extended the time for it to review and act on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan from March 20 to May 19, 2022.
- 02/15/2022: After receiving a racial equity and social justice analysis on Thrive, the Council has until March 20 to approve, deny, amend, or grant a 60-day extension for consideration of the plan, as long as at least two thirds of the council agree to do so. County law dictates that the Council must act within 180 days after the county executive submits a fiscal impact statement on the master plan. Since the council received that statement on Sep. 21, 2021, the deadline is Mar 20. According to Planning Board chair Casey Anderson, the council cannot vote on any plan after October 31, until the new council is seated after the November election.
- See this analysis entitled “Thrive 2050” beginning on page 16 of the February 2022 MCCF newsletter by Karen Cordrey, secretary of the MCCF.
- See this article entitled “Thriving Together”, by David Lublin, Professor of Government in the School of Public Affairs at American University and the former Mayor of the Town of Chevy Chase.
- 27 Jan 2022: To get additional, diverse input on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan, the Council requested the County’s five Citizen Advisory Boards (CABs) host their members and communities for a discussion of the Plan at their January meetings. The last of these meetings was held on Jan 27 2022.
- 10 Jan 2022: Decisions must be made soon by the County Council and County Executive regarding implementation of the Thrive 2050 general plan. There continues to be considerable discussion and disagreement about whether and how the plan will affect local zoning regulations. See for example the statements by Councilmembers Riemer and Friedson below and this opposing statement by the Citizens Coordinating Committee of Friendship Heights.
- 30 Nov 2021: The Montgomery County Council will hold a community listening session to hear from residents about Thrive Montgomery 2050. It will be hosted virtually via Zoom on Nov. 30, 2021, starting at 7 p.m. The Council is seeking community feedback on the draft plan in one of two ways: 1) Pre-register here to sign up to speak at the Nov. 30, 7 p.m. listening session by Nov. 28 at 5 p.m.; OR 2) Submit written feedback here for Council consideration.
- 17 Nov 2021: Councilmember Riemer made the following statement regarding Thrive
- The Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter has issued a statement in support of Thrive.
- 16 Nov 2021: The Bethesda Beat reported that a majority of the Council has expressed support for Thrive.
- 16 Nov 2021: The Citizens Coordinating Committee for Friendship Heights has made a number of specific suggestions to the Council for improving Thrive.
- 16 Nov 2021: The County Council held a briefing on the changes made by the PHED Committee to Thrive 2050 on Nov. 16 at 9:35 a.m. The recording of the meeting can be seen here beginning at about minute 30:25. The committee draft can be downloaded at Thrive Montgomery 2050 Draft Plan
- Councilmember Friedson has made the following statement about Thrive.
- In October the Planning Board published its rebuttal to many of the criticisms that the Thrive 2050 plan has received.
- During September and October, the County Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee [PHED] is holding public work sessions on the draft version of Thrive completed in April. It is possible that the full Council will consider Thrive in November.
- Cost estimates: From the Bethesda Beat,September 28, 2021: Montgomery County’s proposed general master plan update could cost roughly $220 million a year for capital projects, County Council members heard at a work session on September 27. But that rough estimate is too speculative to treat as concrete, council members said. Supporters of the plan state that its outlook on zoning and position on creating more transit and housing of all types is vital to support a growing population. Opponents say the plan does not focus enough on addressing current infrastructure needs and that well-established neighborhoods, particularly with single-family housing, would suffer. The county’s Office of Management and Budget determined in a draft fiscal impact statement that, at the lowest cost scenarios, Thrive Montgomery 2050 would increase the county’s capital costs by about $6.4 billion over roughly 29 years, or about $220 million annually. The analysis and corresponding memo, however, noted that because Thrive Montgomery 2050 is a broad, conceptual plan, cost estimates are based on many assumptions.
Background: Thrive Montgomery 2050 is a general plan for the county with a 30-year horizon. It has been drafted by the Montgomery County Planning Board and each of its recommendations must be approved by the County Council. The plan sets a vision for the county and encompasses broad, county-wide policy recommendations for land use, zoning, housing, the economy, equity, transportation, parks and open space, the environment, and historic resources. These recommendations provide guidance for future master plans, county and state capital improvement processes, and other public and private initiatives that influence land use and planning in the county. It includes a vision and desired outcomes; core themes; and goals, actions, and policies for each of the core themes.
The issue of the lack of housing affordability and/or attainability in the face of the county’s growing population is highlighted here as well. [See this informative presentation to the Town of Chevy Chase on this issue.]Thrive Montgomery 2050 addresses this in general. Some Councilmembers have introduced Zoning Text Amendments [ZTAs] to deal with the housing challenge. It is anticipated that these ZTAs will be considered by the Council in conjunction with its consideration of the proposals in Thrive 2050. In addition, the staff of the Planning Board are currently working on a plan called Attainable Housing Strategies [AHS] that will include proposed zoning text amendments.
Vision: The plan establishes the following vision for the County:
In 2050, Montgomery County is a vibrant and welcoming place where all people thrive with equitable access to attainable housing, healthy food, opportunities for physical activity, parks and open spaces, employment, education, services and a variety of travel options. No longer a suburban bedroom community, Montgomery County has diversity in population, in living and working experiences, in modes of travel, and in natural and built resources. People from all over the world choose to live, work, grow and age here.
- Economic health: a vibrant, strong and competitive economy attracting and maintaining major employers, continuing to enhance our federal campuses, supporting small businesses and innovation, and attracting and retaining a high-quality, diverse workforce.
- Equity: a place where all residents have equal access to attainable housing, healthy foods, employment, transportation, education and more.
- Environmental resilience: Use of the best strategies to fight climate change and mitigate the impact of both planned changes and unexpected events and continue to preserve our natural resources.
- Compact form of development/urbanism
- Corridors are the place for new growth.
- Stop planning for cars.
- Eradicate greenhouse gas emissions.
- Attainable housing for all income levels.
- Evolution of single-family neighborhoods near transit.
- A diverse county.
- Champion the importance of place.
- Regional solutions and strategies.
Examples of recommendations
- Allow small retail/service uses in single-family neighborhoods (part of complete communities, improve walkability, connectedness, reduce auto travel)
- Allow diverse housing types in single-family neighborhoods (to create equity, to allow options for retirees to stay in the neighborhood, to create more diverse communities)
- Adopt compact development pattern for all new growth and infill development
- Need to rethink planning for public facilities (more, smaller facilities spread out around the County to be more walkable instead of fewer, larger facilities)
- Direct growth to transit corridors―single-family areas along transit corridors will experience change
- Need to think differently about transportation―move away from auto travel as the predominant mode, prioritize pedestrians and bicycles over cars
- New and innovative financial tools to increase housing production
- New and innovative financial tools to achieve sustainability and address climate change
- Achieve diversity, equity at the neighborhood level
- 05/25/2021: The Montgomery County Council will hold public hearings on the Planning Board Draft [April 2021] of the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan on June 17, 2021 and on June 29 at 7:00 p.m. Anyone interested in testifying at the hearing should call 240-777-7803 or sign up at this link. Written comments or recommendation may also be submitted via the same link no later than July 9, 2021. The Council states that written testimony is given the same attention as oral testimony.
- 04/19/2021: Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson has created a blog called “Thrive Explained.” In each post, Chair Anderson covers the plan’s key recommendations around housing, transportation, parks and recreation, and complete communities.
- 04/08/2021: The Planning Board completed its draft plan and sent it to the County Council for action. See this list of the 156 recommendations and references. The Council is expected to hold public hearing on the plan in the summer of 2021.
- See also this opinion by the Recording Secretary of the Montgomery County Civic Federation [MCCF] published in the MCCF June newsletter beginning on page 25.
- This PRA listserve posting describes an informative and balanced presentation by the Montgomery Planning Housing Commission.
- See this link and also this link that express concerns about the proposed zoning changes and raises specific concerns about the impact of such changes on possible developments on the land currently occupied by the 4-H on Connecticut, which has now been sold to a developer.
- See this opinion article in favor of changes to zoning regulations to address the “Missing Middle Housing” challenge. The pro and con comments that follow the article are also informative.
- See this presentation to the Town of Chevy Chase for information helpful for understanding the potential impact of some of the proposals to address the housing shortage.
- For the latest version of the plan and the most current information about its status, see the Planning Board’s website.
- Pro and con statements about the plan will also be posted here. See, for example, this 18-page letter sent to the Planning Board on November 18, 2020 by the Community Coalition. This group consists of representatives of many incorporated municipalities and community organizations.
- Our neighbors in Chevy Chase View have prepared an informative summary of the issues