Recap: Infrastructure and Land Use Member Meeting with Gwen Wright, Director, Montgomery County Planning Department

Posted Date: 
September 24, 2013

Vice-Chair of the Infrastructure and Land Use Committee, Gus Bauman, welcomed MCCC members and introduced our guest speaker, Gwen Wright, Director, Montgomery County Planning Department, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).

Gwen Wright began her position with the Montgomery County Planning Department on July 1, 2013. Wright returned to Montgomery County after 5 years as the Chief, Development Division at the Alexandria, Virginia Department of Planning and Zoning. She plans to bring lessons learned from the development of mixed-use projects including Potomac Yard, Carlyle and Landmark Mall to her position in Montgomery County. Wright is also conducting a “listening tour” to speak with groups and individuals to learn their highest priorities. She noted that her approach to planning is understanding the different characteristics of specific areas/neighborhoods.

Wright gave an overview of Montgomery County’s population demographics. The County exceeded 1 million people in 2012, but the rate of growth has declined. Its population is “majority minority.”  Montgomery County is a highly educated community with 57% of its residents 25+ years old holding at least a Bachelor’s degree. The County’s aging population is growing and increasing the needs for public service. The County’s regional weakness - notably compared to Washington DC, Arlington and Alexandria - is its attraction and retention of Millennials. Wright noted that Millennials will have a significant impact on the housing market and economic trends. 19% of County residents are Millennials and 31% of that population live ½ mile from public transportation.  She said that 77% of Millennials plan to live in an urban or urban-lite core. To keep pace with this trend, Montgomery County needs to focus on transit rich areas and build mixed-use communities that embrace “10 minute living” – neighborhoods that provide quick and easy access to entertainment, healthcare, work, etc.

MCCC Members commented that measurements for development approval -such as transportation - need revision. It was noted that some changes are code-related issues which could support planning goals.  It was agreed that the attraction of employers to ensure a "day time" economy is critical to the future vibrancy of the County.

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