September 13th, 2021
Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker
Council Office Building
100 Maryland Avenue, 6th Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
cc Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz, Andrew Friedson, Evan Glass, Will Jawano, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice, Hans Riemer
Dear Council President Hucker,
We Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) write in support of the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan and its vision for the county, including land use, housing, transportation, parks and open space, and environmental protection. Montgomery County is an excellent place to live but it can and should be improved, and this plan will improve the quality of life for everyone. Below are several aspects of the plan that are especially worthy of your support.
Over the past fifty years Montgomery County has grown tremendously; the 2020 census showed that our county now has over a million people and has grown significantly more urban. The county also has major employment centers, lots of residential neighborhoods, and rural areas. Past and present racial discrimination means that many people still lack opportunities and good services.
Thrive Montgomery seeks to use land more efficiently and anticipates that Montgomery County will become more urban, more diverse, and more interconnected. It recognizes that compact development is valuable and so is diverse use and building types. The plan further promotes better public transportation that focuses on moving people, not just cars. MCYD supports all these objectives.
In order to accommodate Montgomery County’s growing population, promote economic growth, and encourage new businesses, we need more housing and more affordable. Traditionally plans have focused just on single family homes and promoted them as the county’s ideal; single family homes are important, but so are duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, small apartments, and high rise apartments and condominiums. Thrive Montgomery calls for focusing growth in a limited number of locations rather than dispersing it. This has several advantages: 1) it avoids sprawl that is environmentally unfriendly, separates people, and makes them more reliant on cars, 2) encourages a variety of different uses such as retail, housing, and office space, which ensures that people of diverse incomes and backgrounds can live and work closely together, and 3) emphasizes the importance of walking, biking, and public transportation, which reduces pollution and climate change.
Concentrating development in urban areas has the added benefit of preserving agriculture, and even suburbs and rural areas benefit from a mixture of uses and housing types to suit their needs. Improved public transportation will bring additional advantages to Montgomery County, which already has serious traffic problems. Many neighborhoods were constructed just for cars, and it is difficult for residents without them to get around. Low-income residents may also find it difficult to afford cars, which are expensive and require constant maintenance in order to function well. Improved buses, more missing middle housing, denser neighborhoods, and the construction of the Purple Line will make the county a better place to live.
MCYD additionally supports corridor-focused development, which is also included in the plan. Denser buildings and housing should be constructed next to Metro stations, major roads and bus stops, and future Purple Line stations. Following these proposals will reduce traffic congestion and easily connect people across the county and beyond. The Thrive Montgomery plan further states that the county will “amend land use, design, and zoning regulations, including the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations, to remove regulatory barriers and permit corridor-focused compact development.” MCYD applauds these suggestions and believes that single family zoning, which restricts development to only allow single-family homes, is often unsuited for various neighborhoods and contributes to systemic racism. Allowing development of different buildings will expand opportunity for residents and help reduce discrimination.
Finally, Thrive Montgomery 2050 commits to sharing the benefits of growth with everyone, no matter their neighborhood, class, or race. Montgomery County is often portrayed as a place where everyone is well off. While there are wealthy areas in our county, such as Bethesda and Chevy Chase, that is far from the truth. Eastern Montgomery County is home to more low-income families and has received significantly less resources and services, and fast growing cities like Gaithersburg and Clarksburg also need more attention and investment. Thrive Montgomery will encourage all these changes.
MCYD strongly supports Thrive Montgomery and its ambitions to improve Montgomery County for all its residents. We ask the County Council to support this plan as well.
Thank you very much, and please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
The Montgomery County Young Democrats