Our County Council is now entering the final deliberation phase on our new General Plan with the public hardly knowing it. The Planning Board has pushed Thrive Montgomery 2050 over the past two years — while the pandemic kept most of us sheltering in our homes.

Many in the civic community had concerns that without real public engagement, the outcome would be problematic. As predicted, it is.

This plan takes Montgomery County in an entirely new direction, departing entirely from the Wedges and Corridors plan that has governed our growth for decades.

This new plan is designed to extend our county’s urban umbrella through the suburbs and out to the Agricultural Reserve. Thrive Montgomery 2050 seeks to double our density while calling to “remove master-planned but unbuilt highways and road widenings that are not consistent with this plan.” (p. 10 of the PDF)

The new plan calls for everyone to “walk, pedal, or roll.” (p. 78 of the plan)

This little slice of Utopia may sound nice to some, but is this the direction we want for transportation?

Thrive encourages the use of buses as a primary mode of transportation, but this ignores the fact that it’s not what people use for their commute to work. A 2006 to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey lists the bus as the preferred transportation for a job commute for about 5% of the respondents.

A 2019 Montgomery County QuickStats report showed that about 75% of respondents drove either alone or in a carpool to their jobs.

Thrive at its core promotes a new paradigm of growth known as “upzoning,” which promotes the building of multiplex (duplex, triplex, and quadplex) housing throughout our suburbs, and letting the market decide what actually get built. 

This “handoff” approach to suburban planning is being implemented throughout the country, without addressing the consequences. The apartment building next door takes up more space, leaving less land and fewer trees. While this may or may not be an aesthetic disappointment, it is an environmental tragedy. 

Without natural drainage and a fulsome tree canopy, we will turn our communities into flood-prone heat islands.

And the potential costs of Thrive are staggering — possibly billions of dollars. A Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee report estimates the roadwork costs at $1 billion for large centers, $3.3 billion for medium centers and $3.3 billion for smaller centers.

We will be paying more in taxes for the privilege.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 is being sold as a way to help solve our affordable housing problem. However, the market decides what gets built. 

This means that when your children are looking to purchase starter homes, they will be priced out by developers who can afford to pay top dollar in order to convert the property into luxury multiplexes.

Once this happens to some of our naturally occurring affordable housing stock, those homes will be gone forever, displacing many families who rely on them.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 also conveniently ignores the existing pipeline of approved housing, with approximately 44,400 units already approved countywide and more than 85,000 potential new units.

The Planning Board risks taking us into dark waters with Thrive Montgomery 2050, threatening to change the very nature of our county without addressing the unintended consequences of our plan. 

Thrive Montgomery 2050 will destroy the diverse, affordable and cohesive single-family neighborhoods that we have spent the past 60 years developing.

Please send letters, emails and phone calls demanding that our County Council refuse to commit us to this unproven social experiment. Without meaningful community involvement and a plan to address its current shortcomings, we cannot thrive as a community. 

Please join me in demanding the County Council reject Thrive Montgomery 2050, and to make Montgomery County a community we can all be proud of.

Cary Lamari of Aspen Hill is a member of Responsible Growth for Montgomery County.

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