by Sophia Knoll

The Montgomery County Planning Department is considering EcoDistrict concepts — based on three core principles of sustainability: environmental, social and economic — as part of  a 20-year plan for downtown Bethesda.

At a June 18 public meeting, Tina Schneider with the planning team and Otto Condon of ZGF Architects discussed how the Bethesda community can go about changing Bethesda for the better.

First off, they said that we must look at buildings, streets, and communities as a network that can seamlessly work together. According to Condon, everything within an EcoDistrict must be used for either retail, housing, office space, or culture and more importantly must focus on water and energy efficiency to “revitalize cities from neighborhoods up.”

Condon also mentioned that districts are the building blocks of sustainable cities, which has led the Montgomery County Planning team to divide Bethesda into four main districts in designing our own EcoDistrict.

In the second part of the meeting, people worked in groups of eight looking over maps of Bethesda and brainstormed over various goals, deciding which of the eight “Performance Areas” (Community Identity, Health and Well Being, Equitable Development, Habitats and Ecosystems, Materials, Water, Energy, and Access and Mobility) they would like to see associated within each district.

People offered their suggestions and ideas for the planning committee, which will move forward in creating a plan for the Bethesda EcoDistrict and submit it later this year to the County Council for approval.

For anyone who cares about Bethesda, it is important to get involved and become part of the process. Offer your ideas (send an email to bethesdadowntownplan@montgomeryplanning.org) and help ensure Bethesda’s future as an efficient, vibrant, and  environmentally friendly community.

Sophia Knoll is a Bethesda Green intern and a rising high school senior at Georgetown Visitation.

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