Thrive 2050 and Housing

The County’s General Plan

Issue:  How will the Montgomery County General Plan for 2050 [aka Thrive Montgomery 2050] affect Parkwood and its residents? Also, because of its potential impact on Parkwood, the issues of housing and possible changes in the zoning regulations are given particular attention in this section of the Community Issues.

Latest Update:

  • 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.

Outcomes:

  • 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.

Core themes

  • 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

Earlier Updates: 

  • 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.

More Information: 

updated 06/16/2021