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Thrive Montgomery 2050 (or “Thrive” for short) 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 and Vice Mayor Lane's testimony here.
On July 6, the Town Council signed on to a Thrive Montgomery 2050 Neighborhood Coalition letter along with 28 other municipalities and community organizations representing over 213,000 residents in both the eastern and western parts of the county as well as neighborhoods of all sizes and income levels. The letter described seven recommended modifications for Thrive as the County Council's Planning, Housing, & Economic Development (PHED) committee begins to deliberate Thrive. The PHED committee held its first work session on July 14, and two more work sessions are scheduled for July 21 and July 26 before the County Council breaks for summer recess.
County Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative Also Under Discussion
At the same time that the PHED committee will be discussing Thrive, the Planning Staff has delivered to the County Planning Board a set of recommendations for residential zoning changes (called the Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative). These recommendations were requested by the County Council.
The County Planning Staff recommendations, in their current form, call for allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes to be built, by right, in the Town and even higher density along designated growth corridors on lots that face Connecticut Avenue as well as those located on 46th Street, West Avenue, and possibly those abutting the Purple Line. County officials acknowledge that these new housing units will not be “affordable housing” but instead will sell or rent at prevailing market rates. Mayor Rush provided testimony to the Planning Board on June 24 regarding the recommendations.
NEW: On July 15, the Maryland Department of Planning sponsored a webinar from Dan Parolek (who coined the term "missing middle housing") to describe 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 are encouraged to view this interactive discussion in which Dan shares the mistakes, explains why this is a problem, and outlines some potential solutions.
Even though Thrive and the housing recommendations are two initiatives, they are running in parallel and are closely interrelated. Put simply, Thrive is the vision and residential zoning changes are the action.
Residents Encouraged to Comment on Prospect of Building Multi-Family Housing By Right in the Town
Because both initiatives, Thrive and the 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 email@example.com.