By Genevieve McDowell Owen, NWCA President
Personally, I’m not a fan of change. Snider’s, under the new ownership, still feels a bit weird to me every time I go in; I miss our neighborhood Staples even though Aldi replaced it some time ago; and I’m still adjusting, almost eight months later, to being an empty nester. Plus I can’t quite believe houses in North Woodside are now selling for a million dollars, some for over a million dollars. Maybe your house is worth that already. Wow. Can I mention that my husband and I bought our house in 2000 for $217,500? I don’t think our modest bungalow is worth $1,000,000 quite yet, but it’s now worth so much more now than I ever imagined it would be.
So change has already come to North Woodside. We are at the center (okay, technically bottom center) of a growing, affluent county bursting with new folks bringing innovation and eagerness to succeed right to our doorstep. But this boon is creating a big problem — lack of housing. It is one of the reasons our houses have increased so rapidly in value. Everyone wants to live in North Woodside. (And why wouldn’t they? It’s lovely, and close to shopping, good schools, and transportation.)
According to a recent Washington Post article, “(t)he supply shortage has grown so severe across the D.C. area that, in 2019, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments issued a sweeping call for local leaders to aggressively ramp up housing production. The association advised governments to approve a total of 320,000 homes by 2030, with a focus on affordably priced housing near jobs and transit.”
So Montgomery County has decided to embrace this population growth — it’s already proved to be a boon to our area, economically and culturally — and even plan for it. Because without a plan growth can cause problems, of course. It can strain services, increase commute times, worsen environmental conditions, and exacerbate inequality.
The plan, created by our Montgomery County Planning Board, is called Thrive Montgomery 2050 (Thrive). Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a 30-year blueprint for population growth in our county that also addresses environmental and climate concerns, transportation, open-land preservation, quality-of-life issues like walkability and public art, and the pressing need for racial equity and social justice. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the Thrive section on the montgomeryplanning.org website.
I was delighted to be part of the team of NWCA Board members that brought together lots of folks with different perspectives to discuss the housing and zoning aspects of Thrive, and what changes it might bring to our corner of the county, at a neighborhood forum back in March. After planners from the Planning Board presented a quick outline of Thrive, North Woodside residents asked excellent questions of the six panel members representing all sides of the issue.
I was even more delighted that the neighborhood survey on Thrive, sponsored by the NWCA Board, garnered a record-breaking response, with 111 neighbors representing 99 households participating (a nearly 40% increase in individual participation — and at least 25% by household — compared to the last survey we conducted in Fall 2019). The results of the survey, which are available on our website, showed that a majority of the neighbors who took the survey support the way the county proposes to plan for the future.
Thrive Montgomery 2050 is still under review, and won’t be voted on by the County Council for a few more months (so there’s still time to make your voice heard!), but even before a plan is put in place, I’m grateful to live in a county that is committed to creating a green, just, and inclusive way to deal with a future of growth and change. It makes thinking about the coming changes easier for me, including the addition of much-needed housing to our area. I hope it does for you, too.
The above letter ran in the Spring 2022 issue of the Beacon.