SILVER SPRING—The Montgomery County Planning Board met on July 18 to hear a presentation from Planning Director Gwen Wright and discuss upcoming projects in the area.
Wright said that her report is meant to give the board an overview of projects and issues that the planning department is working on that might not necessarily come before the planning board. The report and presentation are meant to better inform the board.
“This is an effort on my part to give (the board) a little more information on projects that don’t necessarily come before the planning board but that we are working on and are important and interesting projects,” Wright said. “(The board) knows where we stand on our various master plan activities, but I thought I could use this planning director’s report to not repeat items but to talk about these very important but maybe not-as-visible projects that we have been working on.”
She first highlighted the work that the planning department has been doing alongside Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEHMS).
Wright noted that with more-damaging storms and an expected increase in climate change-related weather events, it is important that governmental agencies work together to come up with response plans.
Kathy Reilly, who serves as a project manager coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said that the OEMHS approached the planning staff to collaborate, as they begin work on a pre-disaster recovery plan.
She explained that OEMHS needed to better understand what each government agency does in order to promote collaboration in the event of a disaster.
“OEMHS wanted to know exactly what we do and bring knowledge to the table to help them frame and draft their plan,” Reilly said. The planning staff’s presentation to OEMHS covered master plans, regulatory reviews, historic preservation requirements and enforcement actions, according to Reilly.
Moving forward, OEMHS will be part of the General Plan Update and participate in its meetings, she said.
Wright said that preparing for disasters comes down to resiliency.
“Resilience really does have to do with what happens (before a disaster), how we deal with climate change, how we’re going to be more resilient and how do we develop these kinds of partnerships (with other agencies) that maybe on the face of it don’t have obvious connections,” she said.
The second part of the planning report covered an update from the planning staff on the county’s climate leadership group.
“The county is launching an effort this year to develop a climate action plan with prioritized actions and strategies to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035,” said Tanya Stern, who serves as the deputy director of Montgomery County Planning.
As part of that effort, the county has put together working groups composed of staff and members of the community to brainstorm ideas and come up with innovative solutions to lessen Montgomery County’s ecological footprint.
“The planning department is going to be actively participating in this effort in two key ways,” Stern said. “I will be representing the department in inter-agency climate leadership meetings that will be taking place quarterly starting in September, and this group will be focused on sharing progress on the climate planning process, discussing challenges and opportunities related to climate change and climate adaptation in the county.”
She explained that by participating in the climate leadership meetings, the planning department will stay plugged into new developments in the county’s efforts to reduce climate change.
The planning department will also be participating in creating solutions through its staff members, who have signed up to help with the work groups, alongside members of the community.
Both the leadership group and the citizen work groups will begin meeting this fall, and the county expects the Climate Action Plan to be completed by the end of 2020.
The planning board also discussed and approved three major projects in the area: 8101 Glenbrook Road will be converted from office space to a childcare facility, and part of the parking lot will be converted to a playground. The Metro Tower and One Bethesda Center projects were both approved by the board.
Finally, the 8000 Wisconsin Avenue project was also approved by the board.
Montgomery County Planning Board meetings are open to the public and typically are held every Thursday in Silver Spring.