Montgomery County planners looking to rewrite the suburb's zoning code -- and spur more mixed-use projects -- are being met by growing resistance from residents in single-family enclaves, such as Chevy Chase and Kensington. The zoning code dictates where and what property owners can build and hasn't been rewritten in more than three decades -- before the area's population exploded to the point where just 4 percent of county land can be developed. At the core of the debate is whether residentially zoned areas, which line the down-county area, should allow more density and multifamily housing.

"The rewrite was designed to bring clarity and transparency to a code that has become unwieldy," said Chevy Chase resident Phillip Kopper. "It was not to create a new vision of the county. The vision embodied in the draft rewrite ignores the character of Montgomery County and its neighborhoods. Cookie-cutter design standards must be rejected."

Others worry that the residential feel of their neighborhoods will be lost in the pursuit of smart-growth projects.

"School clusters in existing neighborhoods would likely face uncertain demographic predictions if single-family homes can by right be replaced with multifamily housing within the same lot size," said Holly Kopit, of Chevy Chase. "Similarly, roads would be more congested and home values for those already living in these areas would be at risk."

According to planning department figures, single-family housing makes up 98 percent of residentially zoned land, 30 percent of all county land and 69 percent of the housing stock -- nearly half of all land is reserved for parks and agricultural purposes. In comparison, less than 2 percent of the county is zoned for commercial and mixed-use development.

Planning Director Rollin Stanley says the current code is outdated and hinders the county's already limited prospects for growth.

"This low percentage of commercial and mixed-use zoning threatens the county's fiscal health," he said. "Having such a large percentage of land for single-family houses limits revenue that could come in from new commercial development, keeping the tax burden squarely on homeowners."

The rewrite, which has been a multiyear undertaking, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.