Congratulations to two local jurisdictions from the Washington region that were honored with three national planning awards from the American Planning Association this year. A total of five Excellence Award recipients were selected by the APA Awards Jury as well as 12 Achievement Award recipients. Read more about each of this year’s local award recipients below.
Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve is a 93,000-acre designated land use zone that preserves farmland and rural open space in the northwestern part of the county. The Reserve has successfully kept more than one-fourth of the county as a contiguous rural area and provides economic benefits to local farmers. The Reserve’s innovative land conservation policy is widely studied and emulated in many other locations throughout the U.S.
Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve was conceived in 1980 to prevent urban sprawl, protect farmland, and limit development. Several measures were implemented to accomplish these goals, including reducing the rate of new residential development from one house per five acres to one house per 25 acres. The county also implemented a transferable development right (TDR) allowing landowners to recover the equity in their land without having to sell it.
The Agricultural Reserve was created to preserve farmland and open rural space. Photo courtesy Montgomery County, Maryland.
The policies and measures implemented through the Agricultural Reserve program helped retain 540 farms in the county and contributed millions of dollars to the local economy. Of the 93,000 acres in the Reserve, 63,493 acres are devoted to farming.
The policies of the Agricultural Reserved have helped retain 540 farms and contributed millions of dollars to the local economy. Photo courtesy Montgomery County, Maryland.
Counties from around the country, from California to Connecticut, have adapted the Reserve model and development transfer tools to their own locations. Many farmers in Montgomery County have participated in more restrictive protective measures through conservation easement programs administered by their county and state.
The Ag Reserve model has been so successful that many other communities in the U.S. have adapted it to their own circumstances. Photo courtesy Montgomery County, Maryland.
NATIONAL PLANNING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR IMPLEMENTATION — GOLD
Arlington County’s Smart Growth Journey Implementing the General Land Use Plan
Arlington County, Virginia
For more than 50 years, Arlington County’s General Land Use Plan has served as a guide for the county’s smart growth journey. During this period, the Virginia county has transitioned from a suburban, auto-centric collection of neighborhoods to one of the country’s most recognized examples of smart-growth, sustainable, and transit-oriented development while reducing commercial sprawl and conserving the quality and diversity of neighborhoods.
Arlington County, home to more than 222,800 residents and nearly 222,300 employees, has successfully planned for seven mixed-use, walkable, and bicycle-friendly Metro transit villages. High-density development is concentrated in two Metro corridors and accommodates 36 million square feet of office space, 6 million square feet of retail space, and over 47,000 residential units.
Zoning and financing tools encourage development of affordable housing and enable amendments to site plans to allow creative and adaptive reuse of vacant office buildings. The tools routinely assess the need for community benefits. To maintain its commitment to the smart growth process, the county conducts a public review process every five years to assess the performance of the General Land Use Plan.
NATIONAL PLANNING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR TRANSPORTATION PLANNING — GOLD
Bicycle Master Plan Stress Map
Montgomery County Planning Department
Montgomery County, Maryland
Montgomery County, Maryland’s Bicycle Master Plan Stress Map identifies the stress levels encountered when cyclists navigate the 3,500 miles of roads and trails in the region. The stress map is accessible online so users may find the areas with the greatest amount of traffic stress. Levels range from very low (appropriate for children) to very high (appropriate for experienced cyclists).
The map provides a data-driven approach to understanding bicycle connectivity by linking the traffic stress evaluation to the goals, objectives, and performance metrics outlined in the county’s Bicycle Master Plan. The map also explains traffic stress to decision makers through videos, maps, and self-directed tools that allow cyclists to identify safer routes.
The Bicycle Stress Map helped secure $6 million from the Montgomery County Council to fund a network of separated bike lanes in downtown Silver Spring — one of the first planned networks in the nation. Construction on the first separated bike lane began in September 2016, with the entire network to be built by 2020.