WMCCA Newsletter


WEST MONTGOMERY COUNTY
CITIZENS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER

An Archive of past newsletters, back to the January 2003 issue, is now available on this website.

January 2010



DEP:  A Critical Partner in Potomac

President's Letter - by Liza Wilson Durant, PhD

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is a significant player in monitoring land use and water quality in the Potomac Subregion.  DEP’s recommendations to the Planning Board and the County Council on proposed sewer category changes, stormwater management, and air and water quality are critical to the quality of life in Montgomery County.

Many Potomac residents rely on wells and septic systems while others have access to public water and sewer.  While many of the homes that rely on well and septic are older homes, there are new developments throughout the area that were designed to rely on septic systems.  The mandate to develop certain areas on septic is deliberate and part of the county’s Master Water and Sewer Plan which defines a “sewer envelope” – the area outside of which development must rely on septic.  By limiting development in certain areas to that which can be sustained by septic systems, the county is able to control development, as septic systems require a certain amount of land, drainage and geography.  This is critical in parts of Potomac and its environs where development pressures can threaten Special Protection Areas (places with high quality or sensitive water resources requiring land use controls) and the Potomac area’s function as the Green Wedge between the urban downcounty and the Agricultural Reserve.  DEP is a key player in the management of requests for sewer category changes from septic to sewer, and it carefully evaluates the need for such changes, taking great care to ensure that it preserves the “sewer envelope” and thereby the environmental quality of the region.

DEP’s influence in Potomac extends far beyond its work with sewer and water supply, and includes the management of over 1,500 miles of streams throughout the county many of which drain into the Potomac Subregion and the Potomac River.  DEP conducts a stream monitoring program to assess the health of all streams within Montgomery County watersheds, identifying problems and recommending strategies and actions to correct the degradation of stream water quality.  DEP is also responsible for the county’s 4,000 stormwater facilities and the NPDES permits which govern stormwater management on both private and public development projects.  DEPs success in ensuring stormwater best management practices directly influences the quality of our streams and the Potomac River itself.

Beyond water, DEP manages indoor and outdoor air quality programs, the county recycling program, the county sustainability initiative to identify strategies to reduce greenhouse gases through initiatives in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, forest management, and education and outreach.  DEP also serves as the enforcement agency for incidents associated with air, water and noise pollution.  Clearly DEP’s successes and failures have a significant impact on our environmentally sensitive area.  On January 27, WMCCA welcomes DEP director Bob Hoyt to our General Meeting.  I’ll be listening carefully to his perspective on DEPs challenges and strategies for protection of our quality of life.  I hope you will join us with your questions and concerns.

 Planning and Zoning Report – by George Barnes

Hanson Farm:  Some changes in the plan have been made by the Hanson family to address concerns expressed by the neighbors.  Some units have been dropped and other boundaries adjusted.  We do not believe that the traffic studies inform the community adequately about expected traffic volume increases at the intersections of Glen and Travilah Roads and Glen and Piney Meetinghouse Roads, as well as bridges in the Glen and on Turkey Foot Road.  Only two intersections were studied, Route 28 at Quince Orchard Road and River Road at Piney Meetinghouse Road.  A development of this size will have a significant effect on all intersections in the surrounding community, and we would like a better idea of what is anticipated.

Environmental Report – by Ginny Barnes

County Executive's proposal for Forest Conservation Law Reform:  In mid-December, the county’s Department of Environmental Protection formally presented its proposal to the Forest Conservation Advisory Committee for revising the Forest Conservation Law and providing protection for trees on smaller lots.  It relies on geographic information system overlays – one to determine existing forest and another to show tree canopy on any given property.  Once these are established, the square footage of tree and forest loss is calculated and mitigation fees levied accordingly.  Intended as a “pay to play” approach, it does not prohibit cutting but makes it so expensive to remove trees and forest that it acts as a monetary incentive to configure development plans so they foster retention over cutting and replanting.

The triggers for applicability are any one of the following, regardless of lot size – the issuance of a sediment and erosion control permit, any primary new dwelling (including redevelopment on lots in older neighborhoods), any new primary commercial building, or the removal or fill of 100 cubic yards of soil.  Any monies collected for choosing to cut would be used to plant trees and forest.  The county would contract out all mitigation planting and maintenance – it would no longer be done by property owners or developers.  

This new approach raises a lot of questions and lacks detail.  What, for instance, prevents a property owner from cutting all the trees on site before ever applying for one of the trigger permits listed above?  The proposal is not strictly a tree ordnance as it only applies to new development – as such, is it enough?  Do we value older tree specimens over smaller trees in calculating loss?  What constitutes a reasonable fee structure for tree and forest destruction?  Our tree and forest resources are increasingly valuable as part of an effective climate change strategy.  Significant Forest Conservation reform or the lack thereof will certainly be an issue in the election plans of any serious public official.  


West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter


P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President - Liza Wilson Durant, PhD  Ph: 301 806-2393
Newsletter - Lois Williams

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).

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