Over the next two decades, county planners project that more than 200,000 people are going to move into county neighborhoods, and they're beginning to think about how to prepare.
They also want to hear from residents about what kind of place they want to live in. Do residents want more shopping centers? Where should new playing fields and other recreational facilities be built? How should new development fit into established neighborhoods?
Montgomery's population is projected to grow by an average of 16 residents a day for 25 years, said Nancy Lineman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Park and Planning.
"We are just broaching the discussion about the future growth of the county," Lineman said. "We are looking at how the county will prepare for its future growth, how it will protect the agricultural preserve and not make traffic worse with the addition of approximately 200,000 people over the next 25 years."
Numerous public forums have been held with the theme "Revitalizing Centers, Reshaping Boulevards, and Creating Great Public Spaces." The last in the series, an event dubbed a "community speak-out," will be held Jan. 15 at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton.
At the January event, planners will use public comments to develop a list of the amenities residents think are most important for a good quality of life. They want to hear specific suggestions for the location of parks, shopping centers, bike trails and new subdivisions.
Residents who cannot attend the event have the option of sending comments in writing or inviting planning staff members to come and speak to their group.
"What we find is, we need to take advantage of multiple avenues to reach people," said Karl Moritz, chief of research in the planning department. "We want to talk to folks who are busy . . . working and taking care of their kids. We want to hear from diverse populations. What planners do is try to figure out how to accommodate a bunch of different perspectives."
The staff will analyze the public comments and revise the county's final report accordingly, a step requested in public forums this year, Moritz said. The document will be used by the Planning Board and elected officials as they make policy decisions about growth.
"One thing we've heard so far from the public is, well, you've got the public outreach," he said. "When are you going to stop and look at what we've learned so far and reflect in your proposal what they [the public] said? And that's a perfectly valid thing to say."
The location of recreational facilities has been a popular topic in the forums. In Kensington and other down-county communities, senior tennis players are lobbying for the preservation of their beloved tennis bubble, also known as the Wheaton Indoor Tennis Facility. There has been some talk in county planning offices about possibly doing away with the bubble.
Milton Spivack, 62, a retired Navy employee living in Kensington, said that an informal group of tennis players 55 and older is staying on top of the issue, attending forums and sending e-mail to county leaders. A petition is being circulated.
The senior tennis players also are asking the county to consider resurfacing the Wheaton indoor tennis courts in clay or another soft material.
"We are trying to be proactive and keep the bubble open," Spivack said. "And we'd like to get some repairs made. If you come out, you'll see lots of seniors wearing knee braces and things to protect themselves from injury."