ROCKVILLE—In a regular meeting, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan.
The plan focuses on improved safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit and cars along with creating compatible land use, potential redevelopment and improved connectivity with surrounding areas. The plan would extend the corridor about four miles from the City of Rockville to Wheaton Central Business District.
The approval and implementation of the Veirs Mill Master Plan is a substantive step forward in the county’s work on Vision Zero initiatives.
The county’s Vision Zero plans aim to eliminate traffic related deaths and severe injuries by redesigning roads and traffic layouts. This often means making changes like lowering speed limits, redesigning the physical layout of a road or adding sidewalks or more noticeable crosswalks to increase the visibility of pedestrians.
The county has a goal to reach zero traffic related deaths and injuries by 2030, according to the Montgomery County Planning Department.
“This is our first plan to address Montgomery County’s Vision Zero policy with recommendations for improving safety along one of the busiest roads in the county,” said Director of the Planning Department Gwen Wright. “In addition to influencing the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan, the Vision Zero policy is playing a significant role in developing several other plans and studies now underway.”
The county has also recently conducted Vision Zero studies in the Aspen Hill neighborhood.
According to the Montgomery County Planning Department, the Veirs Mill Master Plan will help to move towards Vision Zero through short-term and long-term projects. The plan redefines what is currently a busy Veirs Mill Road into an important component of the surrounding neighborhoods that serves as a safe and comfortable channel for different kinds of transit.
Work on the master plan for Veirs Mill included a public hearing where members of the community were able to voice their concerns and let county officials know what outcomes they would like to see out of the project.
“This plan should serve as the framework for how the council reviews future master plans and engages with our constituents,” said County Council President Nancy Navarro. “I’m particularly proud of our efforts to strengthen, promote and facilitate the civic participation of the Latino and immigrant community through my office’s Latino Civic Project. The Veirs Mill Master Plan public hearing’s attendance was truly reflective of the Veirs Mill Community.”
According to the Planning Department, feedback from the community during the public hearing stage and other engagement activities was helpful in defining the recommendations for the project. Community input was also important in developing recommendations for safety improvements in the neighborhoods that surround the corridor.
The strategies employed in the community engagement phase of the master plan, in fact, won the 2018 Harold Foster Award for Distinction in Community Outreach awarded by the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association.
“I’m very proud of this plan, which responds to the concerns we heard from the community about the safety of Veirs Mill Road and the need to keep the area affordable,” said Councilmember Hans Reimer who serves as chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.
The plan also includes an outline to maintain affordable housing while still allowing for development.
“We are pioneering a new approach to allowing redevelopment while preserving affordability,” said Reimer. “If fully built out over the next 20-30 years the plan would result in many more affordable units than exist today and calls for a sufficient number of new units that conform to the county’s moderately priced dwelling unit policy to more than offset the loss of existing units.”
According to the council, the master plan recommends maintaining the existing residential scale with limited rezoning near Bus Rapid Transit Stations. However, the plan also addresses concerns about affordable housing in the area.
The council recommends a policy of “no net loss” of market affordable housing. According to the council this would include a combination of market-rate affordable units subject to rental agreements, moderately priced dwelling units and other regulated affordable housing.
According to the county executive’s office, the cost of improvements associated with the master plan is estimated at $175.3 million in total, which would be considered transportation improvements. The three costliest components are the Veirs Mill Road Bus Rapid Transit Alternative, the inclusion of Bus Rapid Transit lanes along the corridor and bicycle and pedestrian improvements.