Montgomery County’s future land use plans up for discussion; recent report says more input needed

The plan for what Montgomery County, Maryland, should look like in 30 years is headed to the county council.

The first of a series of discussions on Thrive Montgomery 2050 is being held after a legislative report called for more citizen input and a greater emphasis on equity in the plan.

The plan, often referred to as “Thrive” in county discussions and documents, aims to lay out the approaches to housing, transportation, and what’s referred to as “compact growth,” placing new development along already-defined corridors to prevent sprawl and to preserve the county’s agricultural reserve.

Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz said in a briefing Monday that Thrive is “a document that’s critical to the future of our county.”

But a recent report from the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight’s (OLO) report concluded that Thrive remains a work in progress.

The report states that Thrive needs to get “meaningful input of residents of color from communities of color and low-income residents,” so that the plan “reflects a consensus of land use policies and practices” aimed at advancing racial equity and social justice.

The OLO also said the report should include a description of “the historic and current drivers of racial inequities in land use, housing, transportation and other policy areas” that Thrive is intended to address.

The county’s work on Thrive began in 2018 and the Montgomery County Planning Department’s outline includes a timeline of work sessions and presentations.

The county council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee held listening sessions on the plan in November and December. Albornoz said the PHED committee had a total of nine work sessions on the topic.

The OLO report also called for improving the readability of the plan.

“We’re going to take as long as we need to,” Albornoz said, “to methodically go through a document that absolutely deserves and demands the full attention of this council, so that we are able to address the concerns that have been raised in a way that is reasonable, but that moves us forward.”

Asked what that analysis would include and whether there would be more formal opportunities for public input, Albornoz said it could take a number of forms — from establishing a work group and discussions with advocacy groups “who are typically not at the table” — but he concluded, “I do think there’s a benefit to ensuring that as many voices that need to be heard are heard.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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