By Shruti Bhatnagar
The writer is chair of the Montgomery County Sierra Club.
Montgomery County demographics have changed in the past decade, making us a very diverse, majority-minority community. It has become crucial, to address the needs of the rapidly changing population, that a new approach to land use development is adopted with a plan that includes smart growth strategies for sustainable communities where the next generation can live a good quality life and thrive.
Climate change is knocking on our door, and the clock is ticking. The window of opportunity to address the climate crisis and create sustainable communities is closing rapidly. We must act now.
The new general plan “Thrive Montgomery 2050” is now with the full Montgomery County Council for consideration. The Sierra Club, in a recent letter has urged the council to move expeditiously — before Nov. 30 — to enact Thrive.
Thrive will serve as the foundation, over the coming decades, for building a stronger, more vibrant and more sustainable Montgomery County. Over recent years, Sierra Club has been a strong and consistent supporter of smart land use and transportation policies aimed at giving more county residents an opportunity to enjoy compact mixed-use, mixed-income, pleasant transit-served walkable neighborhoods with plenty of parks and trees.
Thrive will set the stage for the county’s movement in this direction.
Thrive will also set the stage for promoting other key Sierra Club priorities, such as increasing affordable/attainable housing, preserving the county’s renowned Ag Reserve, enhancing a variety of transportation options beyond driving (such as transit, walking, biking), increasing neighborhood economic and racial/ethnic diversity, and improving stormwater management.
We realize that high decibel criticism has been leveled at Thrive over recent weeks.
The concerns about Thrive that we have seen are related to implementation. We can continue to work through implementation considerations with time (e.g., when evaluating specific sector plans and zoning text amendments, where further public input will be required).
However, we need the strong foundation that Thrive’s vision provides. Thrive is a tool that outlines an approach to planning and provides guidance for smart growth strategies that help in addressing climate change, improving social and economic equity, and promoting the county’s economic vitality.
We believe that the council must act now. We applaud the outreach efforts undertaken since 2019 and the participation thus far.
So that we can move forward to create sustainable communities where our children and grandchildren can thrive, we strongly urge the Montgomery County Council to take the bold step and approve Thrive 2050 now — before Nov. 30.