It’s time to pass Thrive 2050 in Montgomery County

UPDATE: THRIVE 2050 passed! On October 25th, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to approve Thrive Montgomery 2050 – the county’s new general master plan. Thank you for your collective advocacy to make this critical step happen! The Plan is the blueprint. Now the real work begins to create policies and take actions that strike the right balance between urbanism and environmental protection for Montgomery County. Council Thrive resources can be found here. Nature Forward’s Thrive work can be found here.

Montgomery County is a large, beautiful, diverse, progressive county famous for its Agricultural Reserve, stream valley parks, great restaurants, lovely neighborhoods, left-leaning politics, post-war suburban housing stock, and as a home for countless recent immigrants and new arrivals from all over the nation and the world. It was 1964 the last time the county’s general plan was rewritten. Known as the “Wedges and Corridors” Plan, the plan was only partly updated in 1993. Since 1993, and certainly since 1964, the county and world have changed dramatically. In 2019, Montgomery Planning began to rewrite the general plan under the name “Thrive Montgomery 2050.” County Council is now considering a final draft of the plan in the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee.

Thrive Montgomery 2050

It is time to modernize and improve the county’s land use plan to make it be relevant to the times and conditions we live in now. It’s time to make a plan that addresses all the challenges the future holds. ANS believes that while it can still be improved, it is time to pass Thrive 2050 so we can move onto the important work of implementing the plan.

Thrive passing now will allow other pending policies linked to land use, like legislation and important sector plans, to be updated to the new General Plan standards.

ANS has engaged in the Thrive 2050 process since its inception. We hosted: sting virtual and in-person discussions with the public and with representatives of watershed groups. We provided feedback to the Planning Department on its Spanish-language outreach, including inviting Planning Staff to our Long Branch community outreach events, and co-hosting online bilingual webinars. ANS promoted discussion and debate on Thrive 2050’s environmental strengths and weaknesses. We engaged with Thrive through our participation and leadership in many coalitions, including specific outreach to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) groups: the MORE NetworkMontgomery for All CoalitionStormwater Partners Network, and the Montgomery County Forest Coalition.

Read more about why we think it’s time to pass Thrive 2050 in our February 2022 Bethesda Beat Op-Ed calling for improvements and passage of the plan.

Do we think the plan could be better? Of course! After analyzing the new additional THRIVE environmental chapter and Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) Review Report, ANS recommends that the County Council incorporate the following into the final Council version to make it even stronger: 

Forests and Trees: Thrive should include stronger recommendations to protect existing forests and trees in the county. The plan should specify a goal of “no net loss” (no more cutting down trees) and “net gain” (planting more trees) to mitigate climate change, improve water and air quality, and enhance health and wellbeing benefits. We want more forest and tree protections in Thrive 2050, but we recognize that Thrive alone will not enact policies to protect our trees. That’s why we are also strongly encouraging Council to pass a new Bill 25-22 to improve the Forest Conservation Law, right now!

Outreach to Underrepresented Communities: As the Racial Equity and Socal Justice Review reported, the planning process should have included earlier and more meaningful outreach to diverse and working-class communities. The Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee should conduct a careful review to ensure that more working-class priorities are incorporated into the Plan and that investment opportunities increase in historically underserved communities over time. We acknowledge that when it comes to master planning, Thrive represents an unprecedented attempt at outreach to diverse audiences. We believe that early stumbles should not prevent passage of Thrive at this stage. Those early missteps should provide a critical source of lessons learned for all future policies and outreach efforts.

Watershed Protection: Thrive should include more language on watershed and waterways protection, especially for stormwater management and green infrastructure. We need this protection to mitigate the impacts of climate change is bringing more frequent, intense, and larger storms and flooding to the county. Beyond Thrive, we are advocating for strong clean water policies in the County by watchdogging the County’s development regulations, state Clean Water Act permits, green building codes, and other arenas where ANS has been and continues to be active in pursuing policy improvements.

Climate Change & Environmental Justice: The final draft of Thrive should expand and incorporate more environmental justice and climate change actions throughout the plan, not only in the re-added environmental chapter. We do support Thrive’s vision that would allow more housing types around transit corridors in already-developed parts of the county. Improving and adding housing near transit is one of the most impactful things we can do to fight climate change in the suburbs.

ANS recognizes that Thrive 2050 represents a long-term vision, not a set of implementable policies. Fighting for those policies will be our work for the future. Today, it is time to move forward toward a new general plan vision by passing Thrive 2050. We’ve been waiting since 1964 to strike the right balance between urbanism and environmental protection for Montgomery County. That balance is essential to creating a sustainable future.

We must not delay. Join us and encourage the Montgomery County Council to approve the County’s General Plan Thrive 2050 now.


Council will have to review and include all recommendations from the public to the final THRIVE draft by October 11th. Use the form below to email your councilmembers in support of passing Thrive today!

It’s Time to Pass Thrive 2050

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