Forest conservation easements make up part of Montgomery County's forest protection strategy. They protect forest on private land by limiting certain activities. To date, the county has protected about 9,700 acres through forest conservation easements – approximately 3.5 percent of the county. When property owners develop parcels of 40,000 square feet or more, easements are created as part of a legally-required Forest Conservation Plan. Thus, a development of homes on small pieces of property can have easements on each parcel of the subdivision. Together these individual easements form an overall effort to preserve forested areas. At times, the easements are adjacent to forested parkland or abut properties with larger tracts of forest, increasing the value and continuity of any given forest ecosystem. In recent years, concerns about climate change have made us more aware of the cooling value, carbon sequestering, and stormwater management functions of these forested lands to the health of our communities and the planet. Forest is unique – not the same as having trees in your back yard. Forests have distinct, different layers starting from the forest floor and reaching to the canopy. They need special care to thrive.
Judging from the number of conservation easement violations that are coming before the Planning Commission, particularly in the Potomac Subregion, too many homeowners are unaware or unconcerned about the presence of easements on their property. They may have bought a property with an existing easement that runs with the deed. These are supposed to be part of the Record Plat, and a potential buyer of a property should be informed by the realtor. Yet many owners who find themselves in violation of easements report being unaware they are bound by one. To complicate matters, the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) has unwittingly issued building permits for garages, tennis courts, swimming pools, and other structures without checking record plats for possible easements. Thus DPS becomes a co-violator of the Forest Conservation Law. Solutions to violations vary, and may include on- or off-site planting mitigation, fines, amendments to the original Forest Conservation Plan, or legally agreed upon settlements such as occurred as a result of the infamous cutting at Swains Lock in 2004.
To help citizens better understand the Conservation Easement Program, MNCPPC has implemented a locator on their website so you can find easements on your property or in your neighborhood. Go to www.montgomeryplanning.org/easements. Easements on private property are just part of a larger Forest Conservation Strategy in Montgomery County, but tracking forest decline shows that our greatest losses have occurred in the downcounty where forests have become fragmented through development into stands or neighborhoods of trees that are not protected by any law from being cut down when redevelopment takes place. Likewise, our greatest gains have come in the upcounty, most particularly in the Agricultural Reserve where there is land to replant or augment forest. Having an easement on your property is a benefit to the greater public good. Come to our meeting and learn why
Water and Sewer Category Amendment Requests - by Susanne Lee
On October 19, 2010, the Montgomery County Council unanimously rejected the request of Travilah Oak, LLC and Han & J. Jan to extend public sewer and water lines to the Potomac Oaks Shopping Center at the intersection of Travilah and Glen Roads. The Council’s decision was based primarily on a determination that the request violated the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, the County’s Water and Sewer Plan, and County and State statutes and policies on smart growth and sustainable development. The Council action followed similar determinations made by the Montgomery County Planning Board, the County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the County Executive. The Council encouraged the applicants to utilize the existing capacity as well as other county-approved methodologies to achieve their goals for the site.
As part of the same package of sewer category change requests, the Council also rejected a request for a sewer extension to a property at 12500 Circle Drive in the Glen Hills neighborhood. In so doing the Council confirmed the determination of the Montgomery County Planning Board and the County Executive that this extension would violate the Potomac Subregion Master Plan provisions for Glen Hills as well as the Piney Branch Subwatershed Restricted Access Policy. During the same session the Council approved public sewer and water for the Hanson farms development at 14100 and 14200 Quince Orchard Road based on the Potomac Subregion Master Plan provisions for the site.
Pepco Follow-up – Our October General Meeting with Pepco officials was lively! It brought out gaps in their response to customers who need to call the utility. Pepco agreed to provide us with a telephone number that connects the caller with a real person, not a recording. The next time you need to reach Pepco, especially with something that needs an individual to respond, call during the day at (202) 833-7500 and a customer representative will answer, or alternatively you can leave a message. This is Pepco's normal business line for customers.
Pepco Forester Dan Landry cited a study prepared for MERTT (Maryland Electric Reliability Tree Trimming Council) and released in August of 2010 that looks at tree-related outages in Maryland. Pepco has targeted seven species as the most likely to be implicated in outages, and their recent aggressive tree trimming efforts target those species in or near right-of-way's – Tulip Poplar, White Pine, Virginia Pine, Silver Maple, Red Maple, Black Locust and Northern Red Oak. You have probably been seeing their Asplundh contractor trucks out on local streets.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
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