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.

October 2010



Don't Blame It On The Trees!

President's Letter - by Ginny Barnes

Pepco power outages, particularly over the past year, have created serious questions about Pepco’s ability to provide reliable electricity to customers. During the severe storms of last winter and this summer, extended periods without power became health dangers for citizens.  As a result, the Public Service Commission has initiated an investigation into the causes and held public hearings on August 30 and September 2. It is plain that Pepco's performance is far from acceptable. There are no clear standards against which Pepco and other Maryland utilities can be measured with regard to frequency and duration of outages.  There are no consequences for poor performance and no metrics for customer communication. Without standards of reliability that an electric utility is obliged to meet, how can we judge accountability when the lights go out and the air conditioning goes off?   Many other States have adopted "performance based ratemaking,” which holds that a utility's earnings from ratepayers be linked with how well it performs the duty of delivering electricity to customers. The Public Service Commission has been urged to adopt this approach by County Councilmember Roger Berliner and State Delegate Brian Feldman, who have also initiated potential legislation if the Commission does not implement reliability standards.

Pepco would have us believe – and has stated in the press – that it is the fault of so many trees getting in the way of their power lines. WMCCA has a long history of fielding complaints from members of the community regarding Pepco's pruning practices that often extend well beyond the public right-of-way and onto private property.  Pepco is not interested in preserving a healthy tree canopy nor in the long-term viability of trees and the parts of trees they cut away from power lines. In fact, their contractors seem to have no ecological literacy or training beyond getting rid of what they see as obstructions. We live in a community known for our abundant roadside tree canopy. Many homeowners have conservation easements to preserve trees and forest on their properties. As we wrestle with ongoing climate change, the economic value of tree cover increases.  As part of the current scrutiny on reliability, we expect Pepco to find solutions that do not include the wholesale removal of an asset that provides so many vital environmental benefits.      

Planning and Zoning by George Barnes  

Nextel Appeal – We have decided, after consultation with our attorney, that we will not pursue an appeal of the Circuit Court's refusal to overturn the Board of Appeals decision in the case of the Nextel equipment structure at the Cabin John Fire Station on Falls Road.  If we could immediately address our actual concern, which is that a cellular phone structure on privately-owned land belonging to a volunteer fire company, not the County, is required to obtain a Special Exception, we would have continued our case in the appellate court.  Unfortunately, we had been forced into a procedural challenge over a minor aspect of the case – and could not get to the real issue without first resolving the minor one.  The Board of Directors felt that the cost to continue was too great.  Hopefully, we will be able to address the real issue at some time in the future.   

Environmental Report – Sewer and Water Category Changes  

WSCCR 07A-TRV-10: Travilah Oak Center – On September 16, 2010 the Planning Board voted unanimously to support their staff recommendation and DENY this request on the grounds it is inconsistent with the Approved and Adopted Potomac Subregion Master Plan. The County Executive has also recommended DENIAL. It violates the Ten Year Water and Sewer Plan.  Four major civic organizations joined us in opposition to this application:  North Potomac Citizens Association, Darnestown Civic Association, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, and the Montgomery County Civic Federation. The site is well outside the sewer envelope, located in the center of RE-2 residential zoning. It currently supports thirteen operating businesses. Both streets of the corner are open section country roads, one of which, Glen Road, is classified as Rustic. The owners have already received approval for an office building fronting rustic Glen Road that is also intended to be developed on septic.

Approval of this request would set a precedent that threatens the Montgomery County sewer service policy and individual County Master Plans – as well as the recent stronger positions on smart growth taken by the State of Maryland, the Planning Board, and the County Council to concentrate development around existing infrastructure.  On September 27, the Council held a public hearing and on September 29, the Transportation and Environment (T&E Committee) agreed with the Planning Board and County Executive and voted for DENIAL.  The request will now go to the full Council on October 12.  

WSCCR 09A-TRV-05:  12500 Circle Drive in Glen Hills – The County Executive and Planning Board agreed this request should be denied because it is inconsistent with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan sewer restrictions in both the Piney Branch Watershed and Glen Hills.  Denial is further supported by the fact that there is no current public health problem at the site.  The T&E Committee concurred, recommending DENIAL.


West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter


P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President - Ginny Barnes  Ph: 301 762-6423
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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