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Sustainable suburbia?

Most of the 17 “sustainable communities” designated this week by the Maryland Department of Planning are towns or cities or county seats — Snow Hill, Thurmont and Towson, for example. One exception: 50 square miles of Montgomery County that take in portions of nine incorporated areas.

Silver SpringTo qualify for the moniker, communities must persuade the state they’re green. But they also win points for promoting small business, affordable housing and public transportation.

Small business retention and transit-oriented development at the Wheaton and White Flint metro stations are two strategies that found favor. Another is turning portions of Route 355 into a walkable urban boulevard. The county’s three largest municipalities — Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park — are looking at redeveloping underused commercial properties, maintaining a mix of housing, small business retention and environmental sustainability.

Snow Hill, the county seat of Worcester County, has humbler goals. One priority: attracting a grocery store to town.