Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Stonestreet Corridor Study draft recommendations to be presented Feb. 22

Rockville planning staff will present their draft recommendations for improvements and redevelopment opportunities in the city's Stonestreet corridor next Thursday, February 22, at 7:00 PM at Glenview Mansion, located at 603 Edmonston Drive. Those recommendations will be based on staff analysis and the input gathered at four previous community meetings.

Planners will be seeking feedback from the public on the proposed recommendations at the meeting. The study area encompasses the east and west sides of North and South Stonestreet avenues, from the northern edge on Westmore Road south, to where South Stonestreet Avenue ends at Veirs Mill Road. In total, the study area contains more than 150 acres of land.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rockville launches Southlawn Industrial Area Study (Photos)

Rockville last night launched a study of an industrial area surrounded by homes, parks and an elementary school in the northeastern part of the city. The Southlawn Industrial Area Feasibility Study will be a nearly year-long process that seeks to reduce existing - and future - negative impacts of the industrial zone on the adjoining community.

The 101-acre study area is roughly bordered by E. Gude Drive, Loftstrand Lane, Dover Road, North Horners Lane, Frederick Avenue, Johnson Drive, Lincoln Avenue/Lincoln Street and 1st Street.

New attention has been turned to the area after a contentious proposal to build a self-storage facility next to Maryvale ES. That battle was resolved after the Mayor and Council passed a zoning amendment which required a larger buffer between such projects and schools in the city.

But many other issues persist, including wandering truck traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and potential redevelopment or reuse of the existing industrial properties.
Map showing the various
zoning categories within
the study area

Representatives of the consulting firm on the study, VHB, were on hand last night to answer questions and take comments. The study will examine "whether industrial land uses are the most appropriate" in various locations, VHB Senior Project Engineer Daniel Lovas said.

Lovas noted that the area has a number of bicycle facilities already in place, such as the popular Millennium Trail. but that there is "not a lot of connectivity" between those facilities. That is another area the study will delve into.
Map of existing bicycle
Ways to get truck traffic back on to the routes they are currently allowed to use will also be considered.
Green routes are those
currently open to trucks

Residents who attended gave suggestions, which were written on large sheets of paper at 4 displays around the room. Several city officials and staff members were in attendance to get feedback from residents, including Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Planning Director Susan Swift.

If you missed the open house, this is just the start of the process. A more formal opportunity for you to give feedback will be on June 25 from 4:00-8:00 PM at the David Scull Community Center. You can also contact the project manager and examine documents online.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


One of my favorite urban legends is, "Kids/teenagers/millenials don't drive anymore." By itself, the Young People Don't Drive canard would merely be humorous and harmless. Unfortunately, the anecdotal "evidence" behind this claim is now being used by urban planners to reduce parking spaces, and cheat on transportation capacity standards.

Certainly, many young people do walk, bike or use transit. It's a commendable choice. When it makes sense to do so, why wouldn't you? Where the problem comes in, is when planning changes are made based on a myth, and then you have a transportation system that can't handle the volumes that exist in reality.

Reality is the key word. You can conveniently forget the new driver's license hurdles created by many states in recent years, and then twist that data to extrapolate that those teens won't drive when they can later. And you can say teens would rather have an iPhone than a car, but only if you weren't out in the real world, where kids not old enough to drive already have the latest smartphones. There must be a special button in Photoshop that allows you to create fake travel photos. There isn't? Gosh, then how are young folks generating all these "road trip!" shots on social media?

Stop by the Rockville campus of Montgomery College around 11:00 AM, and try to convince yourself that young people are giving up the automobile. Google "the cars of GW." Or check out the car clubs of Penn State, the University of Maryland, or the University of Calgary.

My favorite recent story about young auto enthusiasts was in Bloomberg Businessweek. According to the article, Chinese high school and college students have spent $15.5 billion dollars purchasing cars in the United States between 2012-2013. "A little more than half the vehicles bought by Chinese students in the U.S. during the 22-month period [CNW Marketing Research] studied were new, with an average purchase price of $52,796; and 32 percent of buyers paid cash," Businessweek reported.

In Eugene, Oregon (the town supporters of Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County keep referring to us as a model), the University of Oregon has an International Student Auto Club. "While members throw barbecues and help new students navigate the car-buying process," the article notes, "their favorite thing to do is gather in parking lots with their rides." It sounds like California car culture is not only alive and well, but crossing international and political borders.

As top tech and automotive firms refine the technology that will eventually allow autonomous vehicles, the American automobile is far from extinction. That means adequate highway capacity remains a critical necessity in planning. A former DC transportation official was recently quoted saying that we are witnessing the last generation of private automobile ownership. But again, reality is quite different.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I came across a curious invitation for speakers who would like to expound on a "makeover" of suburban Montgomery County. What makes it interesting, is that it is not an open forum to discuss the future direction of the county. Rather, it only invites speakers who subscribe to a particular view, with a preset list of acceptable topics. The language of the announcement is exclusive, rather than inclusive. And it starts what is ostensibly an academic exploration with rigid, ideological conclusions prepositioned firmly in place.

First and foremost among these "consensus" views, is that the suburbs were a 20th Century Mistake. In fact, the suburbs were part of a revolution that created the greatest period of economic mobility and convenience in American history.

But consider the prejudicial language employed by the announcement.

The event itself is called, "Makeover Montgomery." In reality, does a wealthy county, which nearly a million residents have proclaimed a great place to live, need a planning "makeover?"

"Transformation." This noun is defined by Google's dictionary as "a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance." We're not talking about spiffing up the place, then. What's advocated is an upheaval of the current dynamic. Montgomery County currently has two successful edge cities, Bethesda and Silver Spring. They always were downtowns, and have evolved into more densely-developed downtowns. This progress will and should continue. And the bedroom communities around them and north of them have desirable, single-family home neighborhoods, with commercial corridors and shopping centers that provide needed services. In regards to planning, other than the need to address our failure to complete our master plan highway system, and our affordable housing crisis, where is the demand or need to force a "thorough or dramatic change" in Montgomery County's "form or appearance?" From the legion of residents who testified against the radical county zoning rewrite, it's clearly not coming from a majority of the citizenry.

The announcement seeks ideas that will "continue to transform suburbs into exciting, attractive and sustainable communities." Again, this is biased language, suggesting that suburbs are currently not attractive. The population count and diversity of Montgomery County suggest otherwise.

"Taming suburban street design." It's a jungle out there, apparently.

Now, a lot of what's up for discussion at this event is actually worthy of discussion. Improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, the relationship of land use and transportation, and affordable housing are important issues.

But referring to "commuting culture" and suburbs in a negative light is counterproductive. Criticizing people who can't afford to live in Bethesda - but want a nice neighborhood and a backyard for kids to play in - for buying homes further out, and driving in to work because it is convenient, is not academic. It's elitist. And the encroachment of urbanization into suburban neighborhoods - now codified in the pending zoning changes - suggests where that "dramatic change in form" is going. That's one extreme makeover Montgomery County doesn't need.