Our neighborhood has a remarkable opportunity to influence the redesign of a geographic area we all know well: the stretch of Georgia Avenue running through the area officially known as Montgomery Hills. For the first time in a very long time, planners and elected officials want to hear from us: people living in communities along this area. What works? What doesn’t? What needs to be done to improve it? Let’s show them that we care, and that the Georgia Avenue Redesign is a project that merits funding and attention.
Here’s how: join us on Sat. Sept. 29, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., on Columbia Blvd — the stretch running from Seminary Road to 16th Street — for the Montgomery Hills Street Fest.
While we are compiling all of the great ideas from last week’s charrette, please sign the petition to show your support for SHA funding of the Georgia Ave design and implementation. SHA has stated they will fund the project; however, we know competition for funding is fierce and this project has a history of being delayed.
Every signature helps us get closer to realizing our vision for the neighborhood!
Montgomery County wields control over the space beyond the Georgia Ave roadway. The County has authority that significantly affects land use and economic development, such as zoning and other regulations, incentives, and measures that can help or hinder revitalization. The Montgomery County Planning Department is looking at developing recommendations to improve the Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills neighborhoods in the update to the sector plans. Further, the County has the ability to help shape Georgia Ave design decisions as well as help ensure that the redesign and implementation is funded by the State.
Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills sits squarely in Montgomery Council District 5 represented by Tom Hucker. Montgomery Hills is also represented by four At-Large Councilmembers: Hans Reimer, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Marc Erlich. Councilmember Floreen is not seeking re-election. Councilmembers Levelthal and Erlich are running for County Executive, along with four additional candidates. Councilmember Hans Reimer is seeking reelection in a field with thirty-three contenders for the four At-Large seats.
Here is what the County elected officials and candidates have had to say about our efforts to #FixMontgomeryHills.
Montgomery County Executive
Neighborhoods are about people – not cars. There is much potential for Montgomery Hills to become a vibrant and attractive place, and I applaud the Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills for building community support for such a vision. That support will be crucial as we work with residents, various government agencies, and property owners to turn potential into reality. District 1 Montgomery County Councilmember Berliner, Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee
For too long the Georgia Ave corridor between 16th Street and Forest Glen has been the subject of great plans, but no action. I am committed to moving from plan to action, so that we can transform Montgomery Hills and Forest Glen into a vibrant community destination. At-Large Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal
Montgomery Hills can thrive as a neighborhood center if we provide safe pedestrian access to shopping areas, transit, and community facilities with wide, tree-lined sidewalks and a median along Georgia Ave. I am committed to safety and a streetscape for all users. Montgomery County Executive Candidate David Blair
Montgomery County District 5
I’ve been working with our county Planning staff and State Highway Administrator Greg Slater to transform this 0.7-mile stretch of Georgia Avenue in Montgomery Hills. It’s become a vehicle-centric commuter roadway with the highest non-Interstate traffic volumes in Maryland and a collision rate significantly higher than statewide averages. As it is, the road contributes little to residents’ quality of life or to retailers’ prosperity, and traffic volume is expected to increase 15 percent in the next 20 years. What we need is a bike- and pedestrian-friendlier approach that’s safer and enhances – not degrades — this neighborhood. District 5 Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker
Montgomery County Council At-Large
Our county is a special place and Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills represent the future of our county – how we grow, flourish, and continue to be a great place to live. In order to do that, we must dedicate resources and make sure that our neighborhoods just don’r change for the sake of change – but grow as vibrant communities that serve the people. At-Large Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer
The time has come for Montgomery Hills and the surrounding residential neighborhoods to be a place where people are encouraged to walk or bike, rather than drive. We need to leverage our unique location inside the beltway to include the instillation of bike lanes on Georgia Ave that protect both riders and drivers. As the former chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, I will continue to be a champion for the redesign of Georgia Ave so that is safer for all users. At-Large Montgomery County Candidate Evan Glass
With all the convenience that this location offers, Montgomery Hills should be an attractive, accessible neighborhood center that serves the local community and where local businesses can thrive. This problem is within our ability to resolve as elected officials and responsible government. We must redesign Georgia Ave to accommodate walking, biking, and access to our transit systems. When residents can walk and bike safely through the area, local small businesses will thrive. This is how you improve livability. At-Large Montgomery County Candidate Will Jawando
There are wonderful neighborhoods and local businesses in the areas adjacent to Georgia Avenue between 16th Street and Forest Glen – but our lack of investment in this corridor makes it harder for people to discover and access these places. We need to make Montgomery Hills safer for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users, and support residents and business owners in creating a stronger sense of place through streetscape and roadway improvements. At-Large Montgomery County Candidate Brandy Brooks
County support will help Montgomery Hills and Forest Glen residents and businesses transform their community – a stretch of Georgia Avenue with huge potential – into the walkable, bikeable, safe, and attractive commercial district we know it can be. We will use zoning and planning tools, economic incentives and business assistance programs, and community good will, talents, and advocacy to turn this vision into reality, soon. At-Large Montgomery County Candidate Seth Grimes
Montgomery Hills is less than ten minutes from my home. Over the last twenty-five years as both a cyclist and driver, I’ve experienced the difficulties of accessibility and congestion in the Montgomery Hills corridor. Seeing the well-planned, community-centered, walkable and accessible developments in other areas of the county, I know we can do better for Montgomery Hills–and I look forward to the exciting next steps! At-Large Montgomery County Candidate Jill Ortman-Fouse
Montgomery Hills has a myriad of physical challenges: too many vehicles, not enough pedestrian infrastructure, absentee landlords, and on and on. Change is tough to come by because of our fractured and complex political landscape making it difficult for any one politician or jurisdiction to effectuate change.
The State of Maryland controls Georgia Ave., which is the dividing line between Maryland Legislative Districts – District 18 Delegates (Ana Sol Gutierrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Alfred Carr) whom represent the west side and District 20 Delegates (Sheila E. Hixson, David Moon, Jheanelle Wilkins) whom represent the east side.
In District 18, Al Carr is the only incumbent running for re-election. There are seven other candidates: Ron Franks, Mila Johns, Helga Luest, Leslie Milano, Joel Rubin, Emily Shetty, and Jared Solomon. In District 20 two incumbents, David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins, are running for re-election. There are five additional candidates: Fatmata Barrie, Lorig Charkoudian, Malik Lendzondzo, Darian Unger, and George Zokle.
Maryland State Senate District 20 is represented by Senator Will Smith and he is running unopposed.
Montgomery County wields control over the space beyond the roadway. Further, the State generally solicits county input regarding state road design and funding decisions. The County controls land use through zoning and can influence development (or the lack thereof) through incentives, grants, and other economic development measures.
Montgomery Hills sits squarely in Montgomery Council District 5 represented by Tom Hucker. Montgomery Hills is also represented by four At-Large Councilmembers: Hans Riemer, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Marc Elrich. Councilmember Floreen is not seeking re-election. Councilmembers Leventhal and Elrich are running for County Executive, along with four additional candidates. Councilmember Hans Riemer is seeking reelection in a field with thirty-three contenders for the four At-Large seats.
Your vote can help us realize a brighter future for Montgomery Hills! Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills is not formally endorsing any specific candidates, but there are a few characteristics we hold above others.
First, fairness and inclusiveness. Georgia Ave should be a complete street that accommodates all users: vehicles, pedestrians, strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes. Montgomery Hills can continue to be a place that welcomes small local businesses: ethnic restaurants, specialty grocery stores, international coffeehouses. Second, competence navigating the legislative process, working effectively with regulatory agencies, and understanding the business community. It will take all these skills to transform Montgomery Hills. Third, a resoundingly champion for smart growth who encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing options, and transit accessibility to the Forest Glen metro and improved bus access. Last, someone with a vision who can imagine an improved Montgomery Hills and has the determination to see that vision effectuated.
We have contacted every relevant elected official and candidate to ask their position on Montgomery Hills. Below are are some quotes from the state candidates in support of our effort to #FixMontgomeryHills.
I am in full support of the Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills’ grassroots efforts to advocate for improved pedestrian safety and a more vibrant commercial area in Montgomery Hills and nearby areas! MD District 18 Delegate Al Carr
After becoming a Montgomery County homeowner, my attention turned first to getting a four-way stop on my corner, to prevent cars from using my quiet neighborhood street as a cut-through and occasionally ending up on my front lawn. Shortly thereafter, I was drawn to the Montgomery Hills effort with Adam Pagnucco, to fix the “Intersection of Death” at Georgia and Forest Glen and was made aware of the extremely serious problems besetting that small gem of a community. Efforts on the county and state levels over the past decade have been grossly inadequate — now is the time to push to make Montgomery Hills a walkable community again. Dana Beyer, Candidate for MD District 18
In Montgomery Hills, Georgia Ave is clogged with traffic, and presents safety hazards during rush hour with poor signage for shifting lanes. People feel unsafe walking or biking along this corridor. I fully support state funding to redesign the Montgomery Hills portion of Georgia Ave to be more walkable and safer all around — for pedestrians, for bikers, and for drivers. Leslie Milano, Candidate for MD State Delegate District 18
I frequently commute via the Forest Glen metro station and lived a couple blocks just south of Montgomery Hills when I first moved to Montgomery County. I am personally aware of the pedestrian safety and traffic challenges along Georgia Avenue, as well as the critical need to improve the business district. I have hope that with the current plans to redevelop the area, SHA and our County can and will work closely with the community to ensure that the community’s vision of safer streets to walk, bike and drive and a revitalized business community are achieved. I am proud to share that I am the only candidate for Delegate in D18 that has received a perfect score on the Action Committee for Transit scorecard, demonstrating my commitment to fighting to improve our public transit options and walkable communities throughout our region. If elected, I will work closely with SHA and members of the Montgomery Hills community. Emily Shetty, Candidate for MD District 18
As a person who uses the Georgia Ave corridor daily, I fully support the efforts to make the Georgia Ave corridor in Montgomery Hills more pedestrian and bike friendly. Additionally, I support replacing the antiquated left-turn technology currently in place with a camera based system which will help reduce overall congestion. Implementing these changes will make Montgomery Hills more accessible, enjoyable and (most importantly) safer for all. Ron Franks, Candidate for MD District 18
As an elected Council Member in the Town of Chevy Chase, I see firsthand the impact of development on our community’s quality of life. That’s why I’m a strong proponent of including community organizations, like the Friends of Forest Glen, at the front end of transportation planning. Development should be sustainable and put people first for our region to thrive. I’m also concerned that the Hogan Administration has broken its mitigation commitments to communities like Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills that are located adjacent to major transit projects. The result has been a decrease in pedestrian safety and negative impacts to local businesses. The House of Delegates can do much more to address these shortcomings and to hold Governor Hogan’s feet to the fire, so that developers live up to their commitments. We need accountability, and that is what I intend to deliver. Joel Rubin, Candidate for MD District 18
MD State District 20
The redesign of Georgia Avenue Corridor in Montgomery Hills is critical to the safety and the economic vitality of this area. The intersections throughout the corridor pose significant danger, and the existing conditions create a vehicle-dominated environment that is untenable for our local businesses and residents. District 20 State Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins
I fully support the community vision to make Montgomery Hills a vibrant, walkable community, with thriving locally-owned businesses. Doing this will require that the State Highway Administration make considerable improvements to Georgia Ave, working in conjunction with the community and the County. As your delegate, I will be a champion for these changes, keeping this issue front and center for SHA until we get the necessary improvements made. I will also fight to prevent the widening of the Beltway and to have those funds, instead, invested in better public transit to relieve congestion, and in making communities more bike and pedestrian friendly. Lorig Charkoudian, Candidate for MD State Delegate District 20
Please join us Tuesday, June 12th at Grace Church for a community organized charrette for Montgomery Hills. Anyone who would like to see improvements in the area between 16th Street and the Beltway along Georgia Avenue should join.
What is the Montgomery Hills Charrette? A charrette is a creative, collaborative gathering of stakeholders focused on brainstorming how to solve a specific problem and develop actionable design goals and solutions. Our goal is to consider the issues facing Montgomery Hills (traffic, safety, economic stagnation, unsightliness, and a lack of place) and build a collective vision for the future of Montgomery Hills. The charrette process can also help build momentum for Montgomery Hills’ revitalization.
Why Now? We have a unique opportunity to effectuate change. The MD State Highway Administration (SHA) is poised to release their preferred alternative for Georgia Ave’s redesign. Montgomery Planning is updating the Montgomery Hills Sector Plan with a proposed early 2019 completion date. WMATA plans to redevelop the Forest Glen Metro, and work is underway for Woodside 16th Street Purple Line stop. The time is now to hone our vision for the neighborhood and work toward transformation of the area.
Who Should Attend? You! What would you like to see in Montgomery Hills? What problems can we fix and how can we transform the entire corridor into a destination to serve the community as opposed to one that we want to drive through as fast as possible. Residents, local business owners, property owners are all invited.
How can I help? If you also want to invest in community improvements, a donation via GoFundMe to cover expenses is very much appreciated. We are looking to cover costs but didn’t want an attendance fee that might discourage participation. Everyone welcome.
Where and When? Tuesday, June 12th 6 pm Grace Episcopal Church
Montgomery Hills has an identity crisis. To be honest, it has a lot of other problems more important than an identity crisis; but it is perhaps because of its utter lack of place that it has been in a 50-year spiral of decline.
Wait – Montgomery where, you ask? That is exactly the problem. Montgomery Hills is the retail/commercial corridor that runs along Georgia Ave in Silver Spring, north of 16th Street until the Beltway. It is surrounded by some of Montgomery County’s neighborhood jewels: Woodside Forest, Woodside Park, North Woodside, Woodside, Linden; and Forest Glen. And while it is home to some of the most beloved Silver Spring institutions such as Snider’s Super Foods, the Woodside Deli, Goldberg’s bagels, and Jalal’s (formerly Natale’s) Barbershop, it is far better known as a place to drive through on the way to somewhere else, then a destination. And it is no wonder. More cars, busses, and trucks move through this stretch of Georgia Ave than any other non-interstate road in the County. “Move” is relative. Mostly traffic crawls. Traffic planners have assigned failing or near failing grades for almost every intersection for both existing conditions and for anticipated future traffic growth. And traffic collides. Rear-end, sideswipe, left-turn, angle, pedestrian, and truck-related crashes occur at rate significantly higher than statewide average for those crash types on similar roads. Which means that the road is unsafe not only for those driving, but for anyone who trys to walk or bike.
It is a rare sight to see pedestrians walking to any of the businesses or to the Forest Glen Metro which is less than ¼ mile away. Given the proximity to both the Forest Glen and Silver Spring Metro Stations, it is even more surprising that Montgomery Hills is such a blighted community space.
So why hasn’t anything been done to improve the situation in over 50 years? While Montgomery Hills is bolstered on every side by well-organized residential neighborhoods, it’s utter lack of place means that it stands apart rather than belong to any of these communities. Furthermore, with a few notable exceptions, the commercial landlords and business owners mostly live outside of the surrounding areas.
We can do better. The State and County can improve Georgia Ave so that it is welcoming and safe to all users. With a safe and walkable corridor, we can help local businesses not just survive, but thrive. If businesses that serve the local community prosper, this will encourage more local businesses to see Montgomery Hills as a viable location. Last, when residents can walk through and between the corridor safely, successful businesses will invest in building improvements.
Help us make Montgomery Hills a place to call our own.
You’re Invited to Attend a Community Meeting on Monday, June 4
Concept Framework to be presented at Planning Department Headquarters
On Monday, June 4, 2018, Planning Department staff will host a community meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Department’s auditorium (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD) to provide an update on the ForestGlen/Montgomery Hills Sector Plan process. Staff will give an overview of the consultant’s findings and share a draft of the Concept Framework Plan. The Concept Framework Plan is a collection of comments and suggestions we have heard from residents, business owners, land owners, County and State agencies. The Concept Framework Plan will help to define the basic organization, structure and evolution of the Sector Plan recommendations. A draft will be presented at the June 4 meeting and will be refined throughout the Summer. RSVPs are recommended, but not required.
The schedule of the ForestGlen/Montgomery Hills Sector Plan has been updated to reflect ongoing collaborations, most notably with Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) and the Planning Department’s work program with the Montgomery County Council. Major milestones include:
Working Draft delivered to the Planning Board in February 2019.
The stretch of Georgia Ave that runs from 16th Street to the Beltway is one of the busiest segments in the entire state. And one of the most unsafe in Maryland. Rear-end, sideswipe, left-turn, angle, pedestrian, and truck-related crashes occur at a rate significantly higher than statewide average for those crash types on similar roads. In a nutshell, it isn’t a very safe place to drive. But it isn’t a safe place to walk or bike either, and even if one could walk safely, there aren’t many places that you would want to walk to. But Maryland SHA has a plan to make Montgomery Hills safer and smarter.
You can read more about SHA’s plan to transform Georgia Ave into a corridor to walk, bike, and drive safely. But we need SHA to fund their plan. Support SHA funding for the MD 97 Plan. Together we can #FixMontgomeryHills.