Many regions across the country do not have a plan for their growth. They just spread. But Montgomery County planners had a vision which turned into a General Plan and individual Subregion Master Plans. We developed under a concept of 'wedges and corridors'. As a result, we have a high density urban core closest to DC and residential low density 'green wedges' extending beyond urban centers like Silver Spring and Bethesda. The 'green wedges' buffer our remaining farmland which has come to be known as the 'Agricultural Reserve'. County planning has always considered the environment. The eastern and western 'green wedges' buffer the Agricultural Reserve and are based on protecting streams that lead to the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers as sources of the public drinking water supply. As the County has grown, so has the pressure for more dense development of the land we have committed to protect. www.wmcca.org, become a member, come to our meetings and work with us so Potomac grows as our Master Plan intended.
Organizations like WMCCA and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance are watchdogs and we must stay constantly vigilant in upholding our Master Plans and the farming history we share. Our common foundation of preservation principles compels us to resist the constant push to allow more and more inappropriate uses and increased density. We have protection of the environment in common and we often work together to achieve mutual ends. Keeping our low density zoning, holding back sprawl, protecting our watersheds and invaluable open spaces, make us natural allies. WMCCA is committed to buffering and protecting the 93,000 acres preserved to keep farming alive and well. The entire County benefits from nearby sources of fresh food and farm products, a window into our past and a landscape that always refreshes our spirits. We are fortunate in Potomac to have the Reserve as our nearest neighbor.
Sewer extensions enable urban sprawl, disrupt the natural environment, threaten water quality in streams, pollute drinking water supplies, destroy forest cover, and enable the massive increase in house size and footprint with increased stormwater runoff. The County Council held a straw vote on March 20th and narrowly approved (5 to 4) the Elrich Amendment to the Water & Sewer Plan to protect our clean streams and stop sewer sprawl. The objectives of the amendment are two-fold.
First, it begins pro-active septic system owner outreach and education to prevent septic system failures. Education is the best way to ensure septic systems are properly maintained, avoiding many potential failures altogether.
Second, it changes the objective of septic surveys. As originally written, these surveys were simply used as a mechanism to promote sewer sprawl. They approved conversions from septic to sewer (via sewer category changes) based on theoretical, non-scientific determinations of long-term sustainability constraints to septic systems. For example, the result of the South Overlea Drive Septic Survey was to promote sewer sprawl by granting conversion to sewers for properties that not only had functioning septic systems, but also had an available replacement field. The new language changes the objective of surveys to identifying and fixing actual or anticipated septic system failures. Sewer extensions would be limited to those properties with failed systems for which all available on-site remedies have been exhausted.
The importance of limiting sewer sprawl is obvious. Once sewer service is made available, water quality and the environment inevitably degrade due to increased house sizes, rezoning, and higher density development. The resulting increased impervious surfaces promote increased stormwater runoff that degrades streams with sediment and contaminants. Stream quality maps show that areas with sewer lines have the worst water quality in the County.
Conversely, areas with septic systems have the highest water quality. WSSC has already proposed an $83M move of the Potomac Water Filtration Plant’s water intake to avoid stormwater-borne contaminants caused by sewer-enabled high-density development primarily in our own Watts Branch. As we observe the necessity to repair aging sewer infrastructure in our stream valleys, the extent of the damage caused by sewers is all too glaring. Eroded and broken sewer pipes in our Stream Valley Parks require the use of heavy equipment to make repairs, resulting in the loss of additional forest and wetland habitat. Plus, WSSC sewer lines spilled more than 9 million gallons of raw sewage in the last three years due to blockage-caused overflows. In our low density, rural, and agricultural zones, reliance on septic has been key to keeping development pressure low. As a County, we have made a commitment to smart growth and the use of septic systems is still key to limiting imperviousness which reduces stormwater runoff, thus protecting clean water and our precious watersheds.
We await the final revised wording of the Water and Sewer Plan before the final vote. As long as the straw vote holds, this is a major victory for upholding the Potomac Subregion Master Plan which says that sustaining the environment should be the preeminent policy determinant in our Subregion which is so defined by its natural resources, and that new development and redevelopment must respect and enhance the Subregion’s environmental quality.
Therefore, we encourage our members to send a thank-you note to the five Councilmembers who voted in the straw vote for the Elrich Amendment to protect our environment and clean water and to ask for their continued support of the Amendment at the vote on April 10th:
For our part, the WMCCA heartily thank these five Councilmembers (Riemer, Elrich, Berliner, Navarro, and Hucker) for voting for the Elrich Amendment to the Montgomery County Ten Year Water and Sewer Plan. Restricting sewer extensions to only those properties with failed systems and for which all available on-site remedies have been exhausted, is the most sensible and environmentally sound modus operandi.
DUES REMINDER: If you have not already renewed your membership, please do so today. We count on your dues to cover the cost of our newsletter. Individual $25 / Family $50. We also welcome donations to our Legal Fund. Please share your email address with us so we can send you meeting reminders and action alerts. You can note your email address in your membership renewal, or send an email to Membership@wmcca.org if you would like to have notices in an electronic format.
WMCCA is looking for someone to help modernize our website.
While the current www.wmcca.org website has served us well since 2003, it is built upon an outdated Microsoft Frontpage 2003 platform, written entirely in HTML using frames, and reliant upon one individual. Our objectives are twofold. First and foremost, we need to have a trained backup who will share responsibility for maintaining the current site alongside our current website administrator. Once familiarized with the site, this responsibility will require a minimal time commitment of less than 30 minutes monthly. Our second goal is to identify and begin transforming the site to a more maintainable, perhaps template driven platform. This will require gaining an understanding of the existing website structure and working closely with the WMCCA Board and website administrator to come up with a suitable design.
Interested candidates should have a current background in current document management type website design and development methodologies, and a familiarity with available hosting options. Please contact Peter Poggi, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help support our efforts in defending the Master Plan. Renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Look for your renewal notice in the mail or go to our website to download a membership form or join using PayPal: www.wmcca.org
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President - Ginny Barnes: 301-762-6423
Website – WMCCA.org - Peter Poggi, Newsletter Editor – Nancy Madden
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.