Reminder - No Meeting in January
Next Meeting - February 12, 2003
8:00 p.m., Potomac Elementary School
Speaker: Michael Subin, President, Montgomery County Council
President's Letter - Susanne Lee
WMCCA and the residents of the Potomac Subregion begin the New Year
a major challenge. After the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of
dollars in studies, thousands of hours of skilled, dedicated county
work, and four years of work by WMCCA members and other volunteers, the
Potomac Subregion Master Plan was completed and approved by the
County Council and adopted by the Maryland-National Capital Park and
Planning Commission. However, as first discussed in last month's WMCCA
Newsletter, in one of its first actions implementing the Master Plan,
County Council "blew up" basic provisions of the Plan that impact
on the preservation of environmental resources in the Subregion.
In the final days of the outgoing Council's term, in response to
and their attorneys, Isiah Leggett, then a lame duck Council member,
through sewer category changes on Boswell Lane and in Glen Hills that
clearly violate the plain language of the Master Plan. The Master Plan
provisions at issue deal with sewer extensions and were carefully
constructed based on environmental data assembled as part of the Master
Plan process. The provisions were specifically designed to ensure the
protection and enhancement of water quality in the Watts Branch and
Branch watersheds. The Piney Branch, because of its unique
sensitivity, has been designated by Montgomery County as a Special
Protection Area, and the Master Plan affirms the stringent limitations
contained in the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy. The
Council's approval of multiple sewer hookups on Boswell Lane clearly
violates those restrictions and promotes the intensive development in
watershed that the Master Plan provisions sought to halt.
In addition to the immediate negative impact on those watersheds, an
greater concern is the blatant rejection and de facto amendment by the
Council, without adequate public notice and comment, of such key Master
Plan provisions - provisions approved by the Council just a few months
after extensive public hearings and debate. The Council's actions put
jeopardy the entire Master Plan process and citizen efforts, past and
present, to maintain the Subregion as a low-density green wedge.
made in the Master Plan that supposedly were to resolve certain issues
the next 10 to 15 years are now at risk of being modified and reversed.
These include basic decisions regarding such issues as: land use,
the maintenance of existing zoning and the placement of schools,
centers, and commercial districts; the widening of River Road; a second
Potomac River bridge crossing; the two-lane road policy; rustic and
road classifications; historic property designations; and park
Nothing is secure now - not for Potomac neighborhoods or for
other communities in the Subregion, or even for other areas of
County. If Master Plans can be violated and rejected with such
then homeowners and communities can no longer rely upon or put trust in
WMCCA has initiated a series of actions aimed at reversing the
actions and ensuring that other Master Plan provisions are not violated
the future. County Council and other county staff members were
immediately to determine how and what had occurred and what could be
to reverse the decisions. Letters were sent and phone calls made to
individual Council Members, and follow-up meetings are scheduled.
counsel has been retained to explore possible legal action. We are
reaching out to other civic and environmental organizations to enlist
support in our efforts - efforts we believe are essential to ensure all
county residents the protections and processes afforded by Master
In addition, we urge all WMCC members to contact County Council members
directly to express concern about the Council's blatant rejection of
Master Plan provisions on sewer extensions and the precedence it sets
the Council to ignore, reject and reverse any other Master Plan
Council member Howard Denis, who voted for the Boswell Lane sewer
extension, represents much of the Potomac Subregion. Phil Andrews, who
voted against the extension, represents a northern portion of the
Subregion. Michael Subin, who voted for the extension, is the County
Council President, and a letter sent to him generally is distributed to
other Council members. We also urge you to attend the next WMCCA
on February 12, 2003 when Mr. Subin will be the guest speaker.
A list of Council Members and their phone numbers and e-mail addresses/
links appears under the heading Gov't Officials elsewhere on our web
summary of the sewer category changes that violate the Potomac
Master Plan is set forth below at the end of the Newsletter.
WMCCA will testify before the County Council on
14, 2003 opposing Council Bill No. 38-02, which would make optional
development standards (denser development than under existing zoning)
currently available to developments of 35 or more units also available
any other developments that contain moderately priced dwelling units
(MPDUs), no matter how small the parcel of land or the number of
units proposed. While WMCCA supports efforts to increase the number of
MPDUs available, under this legislation high-density infill
could be approved for single lots in established single-family detached
neighborhoods without regard to zoning, the Master Plan, or the
of the surrounding neighborhood.
The Board of Appeals hearing on the Allentuck Special Exception Request
(nursery at corner of Glen Road and Falls Road) has been postponed
February. At that time WMCCA plans to support the proposal in general,
subject to the imposition of certain limitations on lighting and sales
Planning and Zoning:
We have received two new site plans which we will
bring to our February 12 meeting. Should you have questions about them
before the meeting, call George Barnes, 301 762-6423.
Greenbriar Preserve - 31 lots, RNC zoning (rural cluster). This
is near the corner of Glen Road and Piney Meetinghouse Road adjoining
Tipton property, and is part of the cluster development concept
the Master Plan in return for the dedication of a significant amount of
land for conservation and parkland. This is a preliminary plan, and
neighbors could have input with the Park and Planning staff at this
Congressional Forest Estates: Preliminary Plan for five houses. The
property is bordered by Beech Hill Drive, Aldershot and North Branch
The houses are on roughly half-acre lots. Several specimen trees are
shown to be saved but many others would surely be lost.
SUMMARY OF SEWER CATEGORY CHANGES THAT VIOLATE THE POTOMAC MASTER PLAN
NOTE: THE FIRST TWO CATEGORY CHANGES CLEARLY VIOLATE THE PLAIN LANGUAGE
THE MASTER PLAN AND, IN THE CASE OF THE FIRST CATEGORY CHANGE, ALSO THE
PINEY BRANCH SEWER RESTRICTED ACCESS POLICY. THE THIRD CATEGORY CHANGE
BE A VIOLATION OF THE MASTER PLAN DEPENDING ON FACTS WE ARE STILL
VERIFY AS WELL AS THE FINAL SEWER ALIGNMENT.
I. BOSWELL LANE EXTENSION TO THE PINEY BRANCH RESTRICTED ACCESS TRUNK
Map Amendment No.WSCCR 00A-TRV-03. Applicants: R.A.M. Investing, Ltd.
Boswell Lane Limited Partnership (Steve Orens .
Location: Northeast side of Boswell Lane 800 ft. west of Glen Mill
- Requested pubic sewer service via an extension to the Piney
Trunk Sewer to support a proposed four-lot subdivision.
- Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy, as amended by the
Potomac Subregion Master Plan, prohibits additional hook-ups except in
limited circumstances: "[for]properties which abut and predate existing
sewer mains, restricted to one sewer hookup only.”
- Applicant’s property does not abut the existing main and the
is for a four-lot subdivision, not a single hook-up. Thus, the request
clearly does not meet the requirements of the Piney Branch Sewer
Access Policy and the Master Plan. This was the unanimous conclusion
by all the government agencies that commented on the request, including
Montgomery County Planning Board, the Department of Environmental
Protection, the County Executive and the County Council Staff.
- In Councilmember Isiah Leggett’s presentation to the Council on
November 26, 2002, just before the Council voted, he urged the Council
vote for the extension indicating that the Council need not adhere to
Master Plan provisions.
- No public notice was given that the agenda of the
Environment(T&E) Committee, chaired by Mr. Leggett, would include a
this category change at its meeting on November 25, 2002. Similarly, no
public notice was given that the Council agenda would include a vote on
category change on November 26, 2002, the day it was enacted.
II. GLEN HILLS EXTENSION TO THE WATTS BRANCH SEWER LINE. Map Amendment
WSSCR 01A-TRV-10. Applicant: Eberhard Klein represented by Larry Gordon
Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy, and Ecker. Location: Glen Hills
neighborhood, north side of Watts Branch west of Valley Drive.
- Requested extension of public sewer to a vacant lot in Glen
- The Potomac Subregion Master Plan contains the following Sewer
Service Policy restrictions for the Glen Hills area:
“Conduct a study described above of the Glen Hills area. Based on the
results of the study develop a policy outlining the measures needed to
ensure the long-term sustainability of septic service for new home
construction and existing home renovations, minimizing the need for
future sewer service extensions. Under this policy the sole basis for
providing new sewer service would be well-documented septic failures
extension could be provided consistent with results of the study and in
logical, economical, and environmentally acceptable manner. Until a
is developed, restrict further sewer service extensions in Glen Hills
properties with documented public health problems resulting from septic
- The required study has not yet been completed and no policy
developed; and, thus, extensions are limited to properties with
public problems because of failed septic systems. This vacant lot does
have a failed septic and thus is ineligible for an extension under the
Master Plan restrictions.
- T&E Committee, at the urging of the lawyer for the
erroneously determined that this property was“unique” and voted for an
extension on the basis of that finding. The Department of
Protection determined that it was not “unique” and that this
was not supported by the facts.
- The T & E Committee, without any public meeting or other public
communications, invented 5 new criteria to indicate how "unique" this
was. In fact, DEP determined that these criteria, e.g. the lot doesn't
could be met by many other lots throughout Glen Hills. It was just such
similar piecemeal extensions that were the subject of much criticism in
Master Plan process and, as a result, they are prohibited under the
- In contrast to the hours of public comment and deliberations
to Glen Hills sewer policy in the Master Plan, the T&E Committee, with
opportunity for public comment, established these entirely new criteria
will now be applied to sewer requests in Glen Hills. The criteria were
developed after the public hearing and after the T&E committee meeting
were not made available to the public until just before they were
to the Council for a final vote. These criteria amount to an amendment
the Master Plan that was never subject to public comment.
- Furthermore, in response to one of the criteria, the T & E
erroneously stated that the extension will have minimal environmental
impact. To the contrary, the lot is heavily wooded, the woods are
to a forest conservation area established on the adjoining lot under
Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law. According to abutting
owners, the lot also contains an area of wetlands that drain into a
tributary of the Watts Branch.
III. GLEN HILLS AREA EXTENSION FOR AS YET UNVERIFIED PUBLIC HEALTH
CAUSED BY AS YET UNVERIFIED FAILED SEPTIC SYSTEM. Map Amendment No.
00A-TRV-05. Applicants: Douglas and Chris Hatch. Location: 13300
Drive in Glen Hills.
- The July, 2002 request for a sewer category change for this lot
stated that the extension was needed in order to build an addition for
- On October 15, 2002, after the public hearing on September 19th
the T&E Public Work Session on October 14, 2002, the County Department
Environmental Protection received a memo from the Department of
Services that state with regard to the lot that "[a] failing septic
has been confirmed” and requested a 22ft. direct sewer hookup to the
existing main at Jasmine Hill Terr[ace]."
- The Master Plan provisions for Glen Hills state that an
may be granted for pubic health reasons as follows: "Under this policy
sole basis for providing new sewer service would be well-documented
failures where extension could be provided consistent with results of
study and in a logical, economical, and environmentally acceptable
Until a policy is developed, restrict further sewer service extensions
Glen Hills to properties with documented public health problems
from septic system failure.”
- The Master Plan requires documentation of an actual failure,
failing or the possibility of a failure. In the absence of
that the system has actually failed and a public health problem exists,
extension is barred by the requirements for public health extensions in
Hills set forth in the Master Plan.
- Notwithstanding the Master Plan requirement that any extensions
public health reasons in Glen Hills must be provided in an
acceptable manner", no information was presented to the Council or the
public regarding the environmental impacts of this extension. The
could have been obrained by running the line in the street and hooking
a main on Scott Drive. Instead, the alternative that was approved is a
ft. extension that will go through the heavily wooded backyards of the
applicants' two abutting neighbors. These forest stands are
protected from any disturbance by forest conservation easements that
placed on all the properties in the North Glen Hills subdivision.
- Adequate notice and opportunity to comment has not been given
neighbors through whose properties the line will be constructed. The
material presented to the Council indicates that the applicants
the abutting property owners whose backyard forest stands will be
by the extension insinuating that the neighbors had somehow agreed to
extension. In fact, they were not provided information about this
the applicants and had told the applicants when asked several years ago
they objected to the extension.
It was only after the September public hearing and the October T&E
session, both of which dealt only with the prior request for an
order to expand the house (for which the unanimous County
been denial), that the applicants claimed their septic was failing.
was no way the neighboring property owners could have known about this
entirely new claim or the proposed alignment through their properties
the information was disclosed in the staff report just prior to the
Council was acting upon the request. There was thus no meaningful
opportunity for them to respond in a timely manner to a construciton
that will have a substantial negative impact on their properties.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Suzanne Lee
The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We welcome any suggestions for upcoming
meeting topics and ways to further utilize our web site (www.wmcca.org).
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.