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Zoning Rewrite Would Help Residents Age in Place

The county's zoning rewrite would allow a residential neighborhood to change, gradually, to diversify its housing stock.

Revisions in the works for Montgomery County's aging zoning code—which dates to 1977 and is more than 1,200 pages long—are meant, among other things, to help Montgomery County's residents age in place, architect and sustainability expert Carl Elefante said.

In the planning department's December 2012 cable show Montgomery Plans, Elefante—who served on the planning department's advisory panel when planning staff drafted the zoning code rewrite—explained how the county's ambitious Zoning Rewrite Project would make it possible for residents to stay in their communities as they grow older.

The zoning rewrite—which is entering into its final stages of revisions—is meant to allow for more variety in residence size and type within a neighborhood, so that smaller residences (good for younger and older people, for example) can exist alongside larger ones (good for growing families).

Takoma Park is an example of what the new zoning code could achieve, Elefante said.

In Takoma Park, he explained, there are 600- to 800-square-foot bungalows across the street from two-and-a-half-storied Victorian "painted ladies." Some of the houses have been converted into multi-family homes, he added.

"Side-by-side, little-lot houses, big-lot houses right next to each other," in a "tremendous diversity of housing stock that really makes it so that you're able to age in place," Elefante said.

The zoning rewrite "has a number of provisions" that would allow residential neighborhoods to change, gradually, to allow this sort of housing stock diversity.

"A sense of an assessment of the character of the existing community [and] ... neighborhood ... [will be] required [to] propose alterations to existing residential properties. It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition," Elefante added.

Other aspects of the zoning rewrite encourage more mixed-use planning and development, which also can assist residents to stay in their communities (rather than move into retirement communities) as they get older.

Do you think your neighborhood would benefit from the sorts of changes that Elefante describes? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments.

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