Recently, Maryland National Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) reorganized Montgomery County’s Community Planning Areas. Previously divided into seven separate planning areas, there are now just three. Roughly speaking, they start with Area 1 in the downcounty, an urban landmass of 18,640 acres that is made up of Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and Takoma Park with a population of 159,410 in 67,600 households. Area 2 encompasses 62,960 acres with a population of 447,175 in 174,540 households. It includes Aspen Hill, Gaithersburg, Kemp Mill/Four Corners, Kensington/ Wheaton, N. Bethesda, Rockville and White Oak. The rest of the county falls into Area 3, the largest, and nearly surrounding Area 1 and 2, arcing across the whole upper county from the Potomac to the Patuxent Rivers with 242,560 acres and a population of 332,615 in 114,860 households. This area includes the two residential “green wedges” buffering the Agricultural Reserve. Specific planning areas include Clarksburg, Cloverly, Damascus, Darnestown, Fairland, Germantown, Olney, Poolesville, Potomac/Cabin John, Travilah and Upper Rock Creek.
Last month we were fortunate to have Area 3 Team Leader Callum Murray as speaker at WMCCA’s General Meeting. It gave us something of a bird's eye view of how the Potomac Subregion fits into a larger picture. Area 3 is more than twice the size of Area 1 and 2 combined. In terms of land use, agriculture accounts for 40% of Area 3, using 96,369 acres. Area 3 has 46,761 acres of parks, which is 20% of Area 3 but 80% of the county’s parkland. Area 3 has 64% of the county's single-family detached housing acreage and 45% of the institutional acreage. We are 35% of the total population while Area 1 accounts for 17% and Area 2 for 48%. We have an abundance of natural resources including some of the county's best quality streams, high-value forested areas and geological diversity. When we look at the county as a whole, what we see is variety everywhere – in housing, other land uses, population distribution, and environmental features. The Potomac Subregion alone is home to Serpentine Barrens, a geology so rare it is found on only 1% of the earth's surface. Surprisingly, Area 3 demographics show that we have the highest Asian population in the county and a higher Black population than Area 1, the most urban. Although Area 3 has much less access to transit and is less densely zoned than Areas 1 and 2, 10% of our residents still take transit to work compared to 27% for Area 1 and 20% for Area 2.
In terms of wrestling with a Zoning Code rewrite, what does this tell us? I keep hearing in the halls of government, at meetings, and in the media that Montgomery County is urban and we need to look at planning from now on from that perspective. But when looking at our land use, our preservation history, and our zoning, I see something quite different. I see a county that is primarily rural and semi-rural in nature with a dense urban core. There is no one size fits all for this county. The General Plan that has guided us since the 1960's was visionary. If we expect to preserve our agricultural heritage, our history and culture as well as our natural resources, we all need to pay close attention to this Zoning Code Rewrite Project. Our way of life depends on it.
Bill 60-10: Sediment and Erosion Control Violations, Civil Penalty Increase – WMCCA testified in support at the Public Hearing held on January 18, 2011. We believe increasing the rate from $500 to $1,000 per violation is a small but essential improvement to the larger problem of sediment from stormwater entering the Chesapeake Bay from all her tributaries. Bill 60-10 was initially sponsored by Marc Elrich. At the hearing, four more Councilmembers asked to co-sponsor: Hans Reimer, Craig Rice and Council President Valerie Ervin.
Pepco Tree Cutting – In the trimming and removal frenzy along MacArthur Boulevard, Pepco cut down a 250-year-old oak tree on a Conservation Easement at Woodrock. The tree was not diseased and did not appear to endanger any power lines – its only crime was to have a branch that crossed over the power lines hundreds of feet above the lines. Gary Miller, president of the Woodrock HOA, called an inspector from Park and Planning to verify the encroachment. As a result, Pepco will plant five holly trees for the mature tree they removed. The tree can never be replaced but this shows that something can be done when overzealous removal is practiced. This beautiful tree will be greatly missed at the entrance to Woodrock.
About WMCCA:WMCCA is your umbrella civic voice for Potomac. We uphold the principles of our Master Plan to protect our low-density zoning, our two-lane and rustic road system and our plentiful environmental resources. We monitor development plans and shape policies that ensure we maintain our community as it was envisioned – as the western residential green buffer to the Agricultural Reserve. With our abundant forests, wetlands, streams and parkland, we enjoy a quality of life unique in Montgomery County. WMCCA works to keep it that way. Please join us.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.