Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ December 2021

Upzoning Proposal Would Increase Housing Density in Montgomery County

By Sharon Canavan

In December 2020, Councilmember Will Jawando introduced Zoning Text Amendment ZTA 20-70.  The twin goals of this proposed change are to increase the supply of “Missing Middle” housing [], which would be market rate (i.e., nonsubsidized) but more affordable to moderate- and middle- income households, and to encourage denser development along existing transit corridors.  A change to allow increased density is often referred to as “upzoning.”

As introduced, ZTA 20-70 would amend the Montgomery County zoning code to permit denser development within a mile of a Metro station.  This proposed change would allow redevelopment of single-family homes in residential areas zoned R-60 to build duplexes, townhouses, or small multifamily buildings on a parcel.  Most of the Four Corners area is zoned R-60.

In February 2020, the Montgomery County Planning Department sent its evaluation of ZTA 20-70 to the Montgomery County Planning Board (view the ZTA 20-07 Planning Board Staff Report at  The County Council held a public hearing on ZTA 20-07 on 11 February 2020.

On 4 March 2021, Council President Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer — Chair of the Committee on Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) of the Montgomery County Council — sent a letter asking the Planning Board to evaluate zoning reforms to increase Missing Middle housing and make recommendations on zoning text amendments.  Planning staff responded with the Attainable Housing Strategies [] report making the following preliminary recommendations to the County Council (see PowerPoint Presentation at

PHED Committee Chair Riemer is drafting further changes for a ZTA Missing Middle proposal.  Among the changes being considered are permitting Missing Middle housing types in single-family residential zones for any property within one-quarter mile of an existing or planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor if “the property has frontage on an arterial or higher roadway classification” or the property is recommended for Missing Middle housing in the applicable Master Plan.  This change would directly impact the Northwood-Four Corners community, as the BRT Flash buses are already operating on Route 29 and the area on University Boulevard from Wheaton to Langley Park is one of the recommended BRT routes in the Countywide Transit Corridor Functional Master Plan.  Noting that these changes “are complex and very significant,” Riemer asked the Planning Board to review “Missing Middle, provide more opportunity for public input, and develop recommendations for the Council.”

In part, the impetus for the Missing Middle housing zoning changes is being driven by the efforts underway and being considered under the Thrive Montgomery 2050 (TM 2050) planning process that is evaluating the County’s future growth, housing needs, and transportation priorities.  Although the TM 2050 plan has not yet been adopted, the planning document has a strong focus on equitably addressing affordability and housing needs.  TM 2050 does not directly implement zoning changes, but it is intended to serve as a conceptual planning framework for evaluating and recommending future zoning amendments.

NFCCA is a member of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, which sent a letter to the County Council opposing adoption of the TM 2050 general plan until there is more opportunity for public input and suggesting the need to accumulate more data and strategic proof of concept through pilot projects.  A copy of the MCCF letter and accompanying articles can be found at  [Editor’s Note: I strongly urge you to read the objections raised by the MCCF.]

The Planning Board will continue to review staff recommendations, but future decisions will fall to the new planning commissioner.  Once final recommendations are adopted by the Planning Board, the report will go to the County Council, which will hold a public hearing. Councilmember Riemer is not expected to take up zoning text changes in the PHED Committee until the TM 2050 general plan is finalized.

NFCCA will continue to monitor these planning and zoning developments.   ■

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