This is our last Newsletter and General Meeting until October. Since it's also my last President's Letter, I'm compelled to reflect on what we have faced and accomplished as an association. The year has brought an inordinate number of threats to our Master Plan and numerous precedent-setting issues. In terms of time spent by WMCCA, it adds up to a lot of volunteer hours. In terms of results, sometimes all we can do is hold community impacts at bay. Sometimes we can do a lot more as we fight to protect our zoning, our roads, the environment, our Master Plan, and our quality of life in a unique community.
We have worked on the Country Inn proposal from initial discussions with the applicant to the Planning Board Hearing, where the Planning Commission agreed with us that the banqueting facilities were driving the project. On the Sutton Property, we compelled the applicant to reduce the number of lots and create a development in which the sand mound septic systems were placed only on lots they served. We joined with other umbrella civic groups to curtail an effort by Potomac Oaks Center to obtain sewer to an area strictly forbidden from sewer extensions by our Master Plan.
The current opposition by surrounding neighbors to the proposed group homes for the elderly is fueled by a questionable interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance by the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) that is allowing the applicant to defraud the community and subvert both county and state regulations. In the Nextel construction project at the Cabin John Fire Department Falls Road Station 30, DPS and a tangle of other entities have allowed work to proceed without a Special Exception, building permits, or consultation with abutting neighbors.
In these cases and throughout the long history of our association, it is a partnership with neighbors directly affected by a project that brings the best results. Having a neighborhood get behind its own issues is essential. Neighbors lend vital credence to our opposition and bring to light both the initial concerns of an issue and the subsequent details that we need to help them in their efforts. WMCCA brings our extensive knowledge of how the government functions, our long-standing relationships with public officials and agencies and most of all our 61 years of civic credibility. But it is the neighbors who bring the fire.
Environmental and Planning and Zoning Report
Cabin John Fire Station 30 on Falls Road: The neighbors of the Fire Station were startled when construction suddenly started on what they learned was an equipment building to house telecommunication gear for Nextel. No prior notice of the project was given and no building permit was posted. Importantly, no Special Exception has been sought, or approved, which we believe is a requirement to construct buildings for private businesses on Fire House property. Such was the case a few years ago when an application for a cell tower was filed – and denied – on this property. Something of the old shell game is going on here in which no one knows which cup hides the pea, and everyone has a different (and weak) rational for why this should be built with no approvals. Fortunately, staff of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) agree with neighbors that a Special Exception is necessary. Stay tuned. Country Inn on River Road: The Koh family has contacted us with revisions to their development plan for a Country Inn. We will meet with them soon to hear what modifications they have made. We plan to hold the meeting in a facility that will allow all interested community interested members of the community to attend. Fourth Presbyterian School on South Glen Road: The school has announced that they will post signs giving 30 days notice of the start of construction of their new school building. We met with the school last spring to discuss their plans, and reported on those meetings in our newsletter, yet we have heard from several adjoining neighbors that they knew nothing about it. The school assured us at the time that they had sent letters to adjoining property owners. Burbank Drive Group Homes: WMCCA has written to the Board of Appeals asking them to look into the issue of this project being interpreted as three separate group homes rather than a single facility that would require a Special Exception. We will likely have to turn our request into a formal appeal.
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.