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.
My part starts at 6:10 on the video, but it’s worth watching the whole segment. Planning Board Chair Françoise 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.