Kaid Benfield | Huffington Post

Montrose Green development for 1819 W MontroseIf planners for Bethesda, Maryland fully realize a conceptual vision now being offered to community leaders and the public, the once-quiet but now-bustling suburb’s downtown could become a nationally relevant example of urban sustainability.

While the thinking is in its infancy, the Montgomery County Planning Department – under Maryland law, the county has legal authority – is considering a comprehensive green overhaul of Bethesda’s downtown plan, currently being updated by for the first time in twenty years. Particularly significant, in my opinion, would be two to three neighborhood-scaled “ecodistricts” within the downtown that would lead the way with showcase practices to accelerate and intensify environmental performance. The Department is being exceptionally cautious in stressing that for the moment its ideas are only conceptual and preliminary in nature, and will be subject to extensive review and refinement, but they point in the right direction.

Bethesda, just a few miles outside of Washington, DC, has been a leader in the smart growth and urbanist trends that were born in the 1990s and are still being put in place in many jurisdictions. A lot of progress has been made, and most of its downtown is now highly walkable and transit accessible, especially for a suburb. But, with a few exceptions, the community has not taken the next step to become “green” as well as “smart.” What was progressive two decades ago is merely good practice now. Leadership requires more, and the county’s new initiative is timely. Read more