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Posted on: May 25, 2021

Update on Thrive Montgomery 2050 and Attainable Housing Proposals

Thrive Montgomery 2050 Update 

NEW: During July, the County Council's Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committee held three work sessions on Thrive Montgomery 2050 (Thrive).  The first two meetings focused on the content of Thrive as compared with the current general plan and plans from other jurisdictions across the county; the third meeting focused on the contents of the introductory chapter.  The PHED committee also discussed the need for additional community outreach.  The PHED committee's next work sessions on Thrive will be held on September 20 and 27 and October 4 and 11.  The full County Council may begin its review in late October. 

Thrive is Montgomery County’s general plan update - the first major update since 1964.  At its essence, Thrive promotes compact growth or urbanism, which means increased residential housing in 32 designated “activity centers” and along designated “growth corridors.”  The Town is near both an "activity center" (Bethesda) and located along designated "growth corridors" (Connecticut & Wisconsin Avenues).  The County Council held public hearings on Thrive on June 17 and June 29.  You can review Mayor Rush's testimony here, Vice Mayor Lane's testimony here, and the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Neighborhood Coalition letter (signed by 29 communities representing over 213,000 residents across the county) here

Planning Board Decisions Thus Far on Attainable Housing  

NEW: Before its August recess, the Planning Board began its review of the Planning staff's recommendations for residential zoning changes (also known as the Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative). Thus far, two decisions have been made that will impact residential buildings within the Town (if adopted by the County Council). 

  1. Establishing "Priority Housing Districts" for larger multi-family housing types.  The entire Town would be in a Priority Housing District, defined as an area within 1 mile "as the crow flies" of a Metro or Purple Line station and/or within 500 feet of major roads (which include Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues).
  2. Allowing "house-scaled" duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes to be built by-right on all lots in the Town. 

The Planning Staff is proposing four additional changes that are of particular interest to the Town.  These changes, which will be reviewed by the Planning Board in September, include: 

  1. Allowing quadplexes to be bigger than "house-scale" if they contain an affordable dwelling unit.
  2. Reducing on-site parking requirements from 2 parking spaces per dwelling unit to ½ per dwelling unit.
  3. Creating a new optional method of development that would allow townhouses and small apartment buildings (and possibly larger buildings) to be built on properties within 500 feet of Connecticut Avenue or "adjacent" to properties zoned for commercial development (this could affect properties in the Town along 46th Street and West Avenue, and those on Elm Street, Lynn Drive, and Oakridge Lane that abut the Purple Line) or properties that are within 300 feet of properties zoned for commercial development. 
  4. Allowing the division of existing lots into smaller pieces to permit ownership of individual dwelling units and the land they are on.

While the Town does not have the zoning authority to regulate the types of residential buildings that can be built within the Town or the subdivision of lots, it does have the authority to regulate setbacks (front, rear, and side), building height, mass, lot coverage, impervious surface, parking, water drainage, and tree canopy. 

Residents are encouraged to read Mayor Rush's testimony to the Planning Board on June 24 regarding the Attainable Housing recommendations and view a July 15 webinar from Dan Parolek (who coined the term "missing middle housing"), which describes the top 5 implementation mistakes made by well-intentioned planning officials whose communities are facing housing shortages.  Dan calls out mistakes including allowing the building of multi-family housing types that are not attainable, disincentivizing the delivery of smaller units, and not ensuring "house-scale" units.  

Residents Encouraged to Comment on Prospect of Building Multi-Family Housing By Right in the Town 

Because both initiatives, Thrive and the Attainable Housing recommendations, will be voted on by the County Council this fall, the Town Council will continue to formulate its position over the summer.  Residents are encouraged to email their questions, concerns, and suggestions to townoffice@townofchevychase.org.

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