Potomac is filled with landmarks that serve as reminders of the history of our community and its origins as farm country. The silo which stands in front of the Merry Go Round Farm development, the steadfast antique red barn on Travilah Road, the fields of Callithea Farm now preserved as parkland under the Legacy Open Space Program are a few examples. While there are still a few small scale horse farms happily dotting our countryside, modern pressures have forced Potomac’s farmers out of the region or out of business altogether. So goes the last large-scale productive farm in our area – the Hanson Farm on the corner of Travilah and Quince Orchard Roads, established in 1941. The 2002 Potomac Subregion Master Plan well anticipated this transition, and recommended that the property be reclassified from the RE-2 zone (Residential single family homes on 2-acre lots) to the PD-2 zone (Planned Development) to accommodate more intense development on this 170 acre parcel in exchange for preservation of upcounty agricultural lands. Under the County’s TDR (transfer of development rights) program, the Hanson Farm is designated as a “receiving area” for density intended to compensate farmers in the Agricultural Reserve for retaining their property in farmland.
Over the last several years, the Hanson family has worked with Montgomery County Park and Planning Staff on a Development Plan that will bring their vision into compliance with the Master Plan and make the property attractive to a developer and ultimately new homeowners. The current plan allows for a total of 187 dwellings consisting of a mix of single family homes and townhomes and a 10-acre park, with 50 percent of the property to be dedicated to open space (excluding the 10-acre park). In keeping with the Potomac Master Plan, the homes are clustered on the property to add environmental protections; expand the regional stream valley system by dedicating forested area along Muddy Branch tributaries to the M-NCPPC; allow a 200-foot buffer along the Muddy Branch stream; and provide trails and paths between the 10-acre park, the Potomac Horse Center, Travilah Road, and the stream valley park. While the TDR Program allows for additional residential housing, the surrounding community has concerns associated with the increased density in what has been characterized as a semi-rural area and the significant traffic congestion that a development of this size can bring.
The Hanson Family recently modified their plans to address some community concerns by reducing the number of townhomes from 132 to a range of 66-85, thereby increasing the number of single-family homes. Also, the revised plan reduces the number of detached single-family homes that would border Travilah Road from five to four, with these homes accessed via an internal road to limit the number of entrances on Travilah Road. Environmental concerns raised by Park and Planning staff resulted in the reconfiguration of an internal access road around a stream valley rather than utilizing a bridge across it. Current traffic studies are limited to the intersections of Route 28 at Quince Orchard Road and River Road at Piney Meetinghouse Road. However, a development of this size will likely impact on the intersections of Glen and Travilah Roads and Glen and Piney Meetinghouse Roads, as well as the bridge in the Glen and on Turkey Foot Road. Before this development moves forward, it will be important to understand the impact of the density on these major thoroughfares. The rezoning application for the property will be heard by the Montgomery County Planning Board on March 4. The Montgomery County Hearing Examiner will conduct a hearing on March 12, and if necessary, March 15.
I will be sorry to see this last beautiful farm sold to development, but I hope that what rises in its fields will be a sustainable development with appropriate environmental buffers, and utilizing state of the art environmental site design and architecture and infrastructure that will serve and endure for 100 years.
Environmental Report – by Ginny Barnes
Conservation Easement Website: The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) has created a new online interactive map that will prove invaluable to citizen activists. Environmental planners have mapped the 3,000 easements across Montgomery County to inform the public about how to respect easements and protect natural resources. It finally makes it possible to verify conservation easements and report violations without having to find staff at the Commission beforehand. It increases enforcement capability and citizen accuracy, and will lead to conservation easements being used as intended. With our planet in such distress, protecting easements is a critical aide. Hopefully, the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) will also use the new tool – they have been guilty of issuing building permits in conservation easements, thus complicating efforts to enforce them, since one agency of government cannot issue violations to another, and property owners cannot be held responsible for DPS mistakes. To see if an easement is in place on a property, you need only the address. Go to and type www.montgomeryplanning.org/environment/forest/easements in the address and a map will show an aerial view of the property and any easements on it. If you believe there is a violation, you can report it online, and an inspector will then be sent to verify.
New Sidewalk Extension on River Road – by Diana Conway
In response to many requests from neighbors, the County Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to extend the sidewalk on River Road. The extension will be an eight-foot-wide asphalt sidewalk/bikeway, stretching from 10705 River Road (where the sidewalk currently ends) west to the intersection of River Road and . This sidewalk would give all homes on River Oaks Lane safe pedestrian and bicycle access to Potomac Village. The County has determined that there is sufficient right-of-way, and that the project will require removal of a split rail fence and several trees and boxwoods, many of which appear to be in the public right-of-way. Residents of Riverwood Drive are concerned that the project is not being extended all the way to their street – the next cross street on River Road. A public hearing has been set for . To comment, contact DOT Annual , Richard W. Earp at . And plan to join us at the WMCCA meeting where the project will be on the agenda.
Gaithersburg West Update – by Diana Conway
Public transit is essential to support any new development in Gaithersburg, and Johns Hopkins University and County officials have told us that the high density they have planned for the development (over 40,000 new residents) was critical to securing funding for the (CCT). However, recently stated that this is not the case – and that the CCT will be built if funding is available, regardless of the final plan for Gaithersburg West. The state has investigated two additional CCT alignments that would not cross the Belward Farm and has stated that the change in alignment would not affect ridership numbers. These alignments would avoid the pedestrian and automobile challenges on Muddy Branch Road and at the corner at Great Seneca Highway. Even more importantly, far fewer homes would be destroyed if the CCT does not traverse the farm. Two civic organizations – www.scale-it-back.com and www.reasonabledevelopment.info – oppose the scale, staging and configuration of the current plan, and WMCCA remains concerned about the scale of the proposed development and its potential impact on our roads, schools, and stressed waterways. The County has also proposed a similar “science city concept” near Route 29 anchored around a former FDA property. Councilmembers from the eastern express reservations about the impact of the super-sized Gaithersburg West plans on the viability of their eastern Science City.
ISO Newsletter Editor – WMCCA is recruiting a newsletter editor (to start in September) who will compile the President’s Letter and committee reports, have the newsletter copied and folded, affix labels and stamps for mailing, and manage our planned electronic distribution. Call the president.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
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