ROCKVILLE—All of the meeting time during the Montgomery County Council’s session on Oct. 22 was filled with the Montgomery County Planning Board’s semi-annual report, which covered the updates to parks and area development.
The fall report comes in the form of staff member presentations. According to the council, these semi-annual reports give the planning department an opportunity to provide an update of its long-term projects and accomplishments.
In an overview of the reports, the council notes that in previous years the planning department would provide booklets to the council detailing all the information on project updates and future goals. However, due to the time-consuming and resource-intensive nature of creating the booklets, the council is now briefed by members of the planning department in the fall. The booklets continue to be provided to the council for the spring semi-annual report.
Tina Patterson, who serves as a member of the Montgomery County Planning Board, kicked off the meeting by noting the council’s commitment to highlighting the issue of equity in the county.
“I think it’s important that as we move forward as a county, and as this group, the planning department and the parks department, move forward, it’s important to recognize who is at the table and what is being said,” Patterson said. “What those words indicate and what our actions are, are reflective of the needs of the community at large.”
She also acknowledged that plans for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), have been removed from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) latest list of priorities.
The CCT would have created a Bus Rapid Transit Line to connect cities in the mid county and up county. The original plans featured a light rail system, and then plans were downgraded to a bus system. The CCT has been a transportation project for Montgomery County for many years and has often been left unfunded by the state.
Patterson assured the council that although plans for the CCT will not be moving forward, local jurisdictions can still focus their attention on regional transportation issues.
“We know that the CCT is no longer on the roster of projects, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do transportation projects that would impact or help residents living in the up county and the east county,” she said. “Folks still need to get to work and we can’t do it with the transportation model we have today.”
Council President Nancy Navarro said that she has been pleased to see that other governmental agencies have been responsive to the council’s push toards a more-equitable Montgomery County.
“It’s very exciting that different agencies are really, truly being proactive (about equity policies) so we can be aligned (with other departments),” she said. “It’s great that we are going to pass legislation for county government, but if all of us are not on the same page, we won’t be able to really turn the needle as fast as we should.”
Parks Department Director Mike Riley gave the council an overview of the accomplishments of the department in fiscal year 2019. He explained that activating and utilizing the county’s parks has been a major priority this year, with activities, programs and even outdoor concerts.
According to his presentation, the parks department has created and maintained more than 60 different events and programs that take place in the spring and summer months.
He went on to note that the parks department is always looking for ways to financially support these programs.
“We’re obviously aware that the local tax base can’t always support the needs of the growing parks system, so we’re focused on public-private partnerships, our park foundation grants, bonds and volunteers,” Riley said. “So, we’re looking at all kinds of ways to bring resources to the parks outside the local tax base.”
In recent months, the parks department has conducted trail studies, and with the help of volunteers it has worked on making improvements to the county’s greenspace. Riley explained that the parks department has logged approximately 11,000 volunteers and about 71,000 hours of volunteer hours.
For instance, Riley said, volunteers and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) have helped to rejuvenate the three miles of the Northwest Branch Trail.
Gwen Wright, who serves as the director of the Montgomery County Planning Department, explained to the council that the departments are often very busy with their work.
“We feel busy, but we (also feel) like (our work is) moving the county in the right direction,” she said.