Thrive Montgomery 2050: What to know about the plan approved in Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Council has unanimously approved a plan called Thrive Montgomery 2050. While supporters say it creates affordable housing, the county executive is blasting the plan as a "bait and switch."

Thrive Montgomery 2050 is a new zoning plan for the next 30 years. Supporters say the plan encourages affordable housing and racial equality in neighborhoods where prices have skyrocketed. 

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The council president tells FOX 5 he doesn't want Montgomery County's affordable housing stockpile to disappear.

"Within housing, we want to make sure we have different housing types across the county so that more people can access and live in the communities where they work and want their children to go to school, but it also involves our parks department, our planning and our environment and economic development," Gabe Albornoz says.

However, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich says he supports affordable housing, but insists Thrive 2050 not only won't deliver more of it, but would allow developers to build multi-dwelling townhouses and apartments in neighborhoods with no guarantee that the units would be affordable.

"The price of lots will go up because once somebody sells and the person realizes, 'Oh, that person turned it into $3 million townhouses,’ the next person selling a lot is not selling it at the same price. They’re saying if you get three units out of this, I want the value of three units," Elrich says.

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The issue has caused a rift between the Democratic executive and the Democratic council. President Albornoz tells FOX 5 he thinks Elrich "has not engaged in productive dialog with the council."

Elrich cannot veto or amend the plan since that is a power that resides with the county council.

Read the full statement from Elrich here:

"I am disappointed in the Council’s vote to approve the Thrive 2050 General Plan. This document will guide commercial and residential development in Montgomery County for the next 30 years. There were many important questions that were never answered and reasons to postpone this vote, including multiple errors and insufficient attention to racial equity

The recent events regarding the Planning Board have highlighted the need for greater transparency as has been requested repeatedly by residents and many others with business before the Planning Board.  I look forward to working with the incoming Council and a new Planning Board that respects and understands the process and substance of land use.  I also look forward to collaborating with them as we develop solutions to our ongoing housing affordability crisis, which is not addressed by Thrive 2050. 

I want to note that over the past two years, the Executive departments and I have sent comments to the Planning Board, the PHED Committee, and County Council expressing concerns about the review process and identifying substantive changes to Thrive that my staff and I thought were necessary. I appreciate that some changes were made, but many other important changes were not.  You can see the memos and letters here: 

Regarding affordable housing, the long-standing problems we face are not dissimilar to the challenges faced by jurisdictions across the country. Addressing them requires more than focusing solely on potential zoning changes.  It requires learning from the experiences of others and considering a variety of solutions.  I look forward to continuing to work with Councilmembers, residents and advocates on these important strategies, including no-net-loss of affordable housing, rent stabilization, and improvements to our MPDU regulations as well as continued funding for affordable housing preservation and production. Together, I hope we can pursue a multipronged approach to identify and implement solutions. 

My memo, dated October 20, 2022, laid out my major concerns with the process and with some of the substance of Thrive 2050, and I will not repeat those points. However, I think it is important to point out that it has been incorrectly stated that Thrive 2050 is the first major update since 1969 – it is not.  As noted on the Planning website: "The Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan is an update to... the General Plan," in the tradition of a General Plan update in 1993 and an update of the Housing Element of the General Plan, approved and adopted April 2011. 

I want to thank the many people who have been involved in this process for the past few years, especially the many residents who care deeply about their communities and the County – we all want to see Montgomery County continue to thrive and I look forward to continuing our work."