Montgomery County Planning Board Approves Planning Board Draft of Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan

by MCS Staff
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Plan recommends development of key opportunity sites, new parks, improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and vision for sustainable economic growth in downtown 

Press release from Montgomery Planning:

Wheaton, MD – Montgomery Planning approved the Planning Board Draft of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan during its meeting on January 6. Planners have incorporated comments from the Planning Board into the draft of the plan and will next transmit it to the Montgomery County Council for its review. The transmittal is expected to take place this week.

The approval from the Planning Board comes after a Public Hearing on December 2, 2021, followed by four work sessions held on December 9, 16 and 23, 2021 and on January 6, 2022. The Planning Board Draft, the plan’s appendices, the staff reports and resources for all four work sessions are available on montgomeryplanning.org/silverspringdowntown.

“The draft recommendations in the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan reflect the input we received from the community throughout the planning process,” said Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright. “We have received feedback from residents, community organizations, business and property owners, and others who are committed to a diverse and thriving future for Silver Spring. We continue to welcome the community’s participation as the draft plan moves through the Montgomery County Council.”

Some of the key recommendations in the plan include:

  • Establish a Green Loop to expand and unify access for all residents to green, safe, and inviting sidewalks, bikeways, and parks and open spaces.
  • Create new and enhance existing parks and open spaces, including a major renovation of Jesup Blair Park.
  • Support the expansion of bioscience, technology, and education uses to increase employment opportunities in the plan area.
  • Update the Zoning Code to provide more flexibility of development, increase affordable housing, support small business growth, and realize Sector Plan goals.
  • Encourage the development of diverse housing types in the adjacent communities blocks as recommended by the plan and the ongoing Attainable Housing Strategies
  • Establish the Connectivity and Infrastructure Fund (CIF) to allow all Commercial/Residential (CR) properties to obtain additional density if needed to meet maximum building heights. The fund would support a world-class arrival experience at the transit center, a new bridge connection across the rail tracks, and strategic utility and streetscape infrastructure improvements.
  • Create a Silver Spring Building Height Incentive Zone (BHIZ) to allow properties in the commercial core of the downtown to obtain additional height up to 150 percent of the mapped maximum height for flexibility.
  • Implement a Design Advisory Panel and design review for all Optional Method development projects.
  • Incentivize redevelopment of key opportunity sites to realize the district-specific visions presented in the plan.
  • Increase the minimum Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) requirement from 12.5 percent to 15 percent plan-wide.

The next steps for the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan include a Montgomery County Council Public Hearing where the community will be invited to testify. This will be followed by a series of work sessions at the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) and Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committees and the full County Council as well as a vote on the draft plan by the County Council. The last step is adoption of the final plan by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The draft plan builds upon the success of the 2000 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan to help the area continue to be a regional destination for the next 20 years while supporting sustainable growth and development in the emerging areas of the downtown and adjacent communities. It includes recommendations for land use and zoning, housing, economic growth, urban design, transportation, parks and public spaces, environmental resiliency, community facilities, and historic resources.

As the first Sector Plan to follow the passage of Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, equity is woven throughout the plan and is reflected in the four overarching themes that emerged after engaging with stakeholders. These include diversity, resiliency, connectivity, and community health.

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