Friday, December 7, 2012

I talk about zoning, silver spring on montgomery plans TV show

Me on Montgomery Plans
That's me, talking about zoning.

This month, you can see me on Montgomery Plans, the Montgomery County Planning Department's cable show that covers local land use and planning issues. Host Valerie Berton and I talk about how the county's ongoing zoning rewrite project can improve neighborhoods like South Silver Spring, which has lots of new residents but very little retail.

I'm about 6 minutes in, but you should definitely watch the rest of the segment. Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier discusses how the new zoning code can help protect well-loved neighborhoods like Woodside in Silver Spring.

Meanwhile, board member Casey Anderson shows how it will reduce the amount of parking required in commercial areas, allowing currently empty parking lots to be used for other things. Also, architect and Takoma Park resident Carl Elefante talks about how the new zoning code will encourage different kinds of housing, so people in all stages of life can find a place in the county.

Zoning is one of the least sexy parts of the planning process, filled with legal jargon and data tables that can make even the most passionate planner's eyes glaze over. However, it's also one of the most important tools we have to shape our communities.

While doing research for the Flower Theatre Project, I found out the current zoning code makes it hard, if not impossible to reopen the Flower Theatre simply because it requires more parking spaces than there are on the property today. Parking certainly isn't the only reason the theatre is closed, but it's a major impediment to revitalizing Long Branch and other commercial districts across the county.

Montgomery's zoning rewrite aims to make the current code simpler and easier to use. It seeks to preserve the things people like about the county while encouraging more of the things that people want, including a greater variety of housing choices, more places to eat, shop and hang out, and more ways to get around.

If that's not enough to convince you, fast forward to about 7 minutes in and you can hear me say "bidnesses." That wasn't intentional, but I talk fast when I get excited. And I'm about as excited as one can get about the zoning rewrite and the potential it has to make the county's neighborhoods better.

The Planning Board encourages residents to offer their thoughts on the zoning rewrite at a series of public hearings which began earlier this fall and will run through next week. If you'd like to learn more about the zoning rewrite, you can visit their website. You can also watch Montgomery Plans on County Cable Montgomery or on the show's website.


jjj said...

How about small comerical area inside existing neighborhoods where people would have to walk a mile or more to get to one...when i say commerical im saying something along the lines of a small grocery market...laundry...ect..theres one inside licoln park in rockville for those who know what im talking about to get a feel for what im saying...more and more people have no cars and more and more people rent rooms in these single family neighborhoods

Robert said...

Turning existing single family homes into multi-family dwellings, as mentioned in the video, doesn't sound like an improvement or saving neighborhoods like Woodside to me. People buy in those neighborhoods and often greatly improve the old houses because they like them and the current protections that give some assurance that the characteristics of the neighborhood that they like will remain. A zoning proposal which would increase density in existing single family neighborhoods is a sell-out to speculators and developers.

More density isn't the answer to all our problems. More density is always touted as a way to bring in more tax revenue, but I have never seen any evidence that it has ever brought in enough additional revenue to pay for the additional services the higher density requires.

Concerning the idea of having small grocery markets in the middle of single family neighborhoods... I grew up in a neighborhood that had two such stores in the neighborhood. Over time they went out of business because not enough people patronized them. Their prices weren't competitive with supermarkets, and neither were there selections. The result was two empty stores in small buildings that deteriorated and became eyesores over the years.

Dan Reed said...


One of the reasons why those small grocery stores may have failed is because there weren't enough people to patronize them. As I've written before, households are smaller than they once were. Thus, a grocery store could thrive in a neighborhood of single-family houses built for large families, but as those households turn over and are replaced by, say smaller families or childless couples, the store has to close.

Now, I've read your history of Woodside Park and all of the "threats" from townhouse developments over the years, but let's be real: Montgomery County is an expensive place to live and made more so by attempts to keep change out.

Providing more housing - for instance, by allowing single-family homes to accommodate the number of people they were built for - means people like me (young, limited-income) and others can afford to stay in the county. And we can do it in a way that's sensitive to the history and design of older single-family neighborhoods. Saying that "density is a sellout to developers" ignores all of the people who can actually benefit from it, and eliminates the opportunity to do it right.

djb said...


Jesse Patrick Campos killed in White Oak shooting

Read more:

You need to report news like happened in East County, the kid was only 22