Given the size and impact of this Summer’s wet weather events, even the current County, State, and Federal stream buffer and wetlands requirements may not prove adequate to protect our streams and homes. But what is clear is that the Montgomery County Planning Board has utterly failed to apply even the current bare minimum legal requirements. And they are doing so with impunity. Our most recent example occurred when they approved construction in the Piney Branch Special Protection Area (SPA) stream buffer. The lot in question is on Glen Mill Road just northeast of the intersection with Boswell Lane. It has severe environmental constraints – wetlands, steep slopes, mature forest, and the Piney Branch stream runs right through it. One house maybe could be squeezed onto the lot. But the developer wanted 2 and the Planning Board obliged approving a site plan that illegally provides for construction of the 2nd house on steep slopes in the stream buffer. We joined with abutting neighbors who opposed the development and WMCCA recently appealed the decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
>We thought long and hard about whether to appeal. Litigation is expensive and although in the SPA, it is only one lot. In the end we decided we had to appeal. We could not let stand a Planning Board decision that so clearly violated the legal requirements for development in the County, putting streams and homes at risk, and doing so in a way that violated basic tenets of administrative law. At issue are the Environmental Guidelines for Environmental Management of Development in Montgomery County at:
The Guidelines are not just recommendations. The document is a compilation of the County, State, and Federal laws and regulations that govern the “protection of sensitive areas during the planning and development process.” (p. viii) They are scientifically based and written in simple, plain English. It does not take a rocket scientist to perform the calculations for stream valley and wetlands buffers. The developer did not follow the requirements and when we documented the errors the Planning Staff failed to make the corrections. Instead, they invented their own bizarre stream buffer calculations allowing the 2nd house while also admitting that they had no wetlands expertise. We pressed the Planning Board to correct the calculations. We also demanded that if they did not, that they make clear the basis for their decision. The public has an absolute right to know which requirements the Planning Board has decided it will not enforce. They did neither. They merely rubber stamped, with no findings, a plan that clearly violates the requirements for stream buffer and wetlands protections.
The wisdom of appealing was further confirmed when we received the developer’s revised plan for the 30 acre Heritage Gardens townhouse development on South Glen Road. Notwithstanding the fact that the Planning Staff correctly determined the first plan violated the Environmental Guidelines prohibiting buildings and construction in stream buffers and on steep slopes, the revised Plan appears to continue these violations. Now more than ever we need the Courts, the Planning Board, and the Office of Zoning and Administrative Appeals to enforce these requirements essential for protecting our streams, our water quality, and our downstream homes.
Many of our members are involved in advocacy and activities that benefit our community. We would like to “shine the spotlight” on your activities via a “Members Corner” as part of our monthly e-Newsletter. Because our printed newsletter is limited to one page, there are many things going on in our area that we do not have room to include, but are important to the Community. Please email a summary of your issues, or civic and environmental activities you have participated in that affect the Potomac Subregion, or tell us what brought you to WMCCA, or how WMCCA has helped you. Please include your name and contact information when you send your information to me at: membership@WMCCA.org. We reserve the right to edit, include or exclude submissions at the discretion of our Editor.
Park and Planning has started the process of updating the 1964 General Plan and the 1993 General Plan Refinement. This document drives all individual master plans. Planners are seeking input from citizens in creating a shared vision of how the County will address three core themes in the next 30 years: economic health, community equity, and environmental resilience. For background on the initiative go to https://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/master-plan-list/general-plans/thrive-montgomery-2050/. WMCCA is looking to schedule a presentation on the initiative for an upcoming General Meeting.
Please renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Go to our website www.wmcca.org to download a membership form or join using PayPal: Individual: $25 / Family: $50. We welcome donations to our Legal Fund. Over the past decade, we have spent over $50,000 in legal fees to protect your local interests. For example, contributions from members enabled us to join the fight against the Brickyard Road soccerplex, the Old Anglers Inn event complex, the Brandywine Senior Living facility, and most recently the Glen Mill Road Piney Branch Stream Valley subdivision. If you have any issues or concerns in your neighborhood, please contact WMCCA. We appreciate the input from our neighbors and are glad to review and address issues as they affect the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, zoning, and environmental threats to the “Green Wedge”, our creeks and water supplies, and the Agricultural Reserve.
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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, 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 background in current website design/development methods, 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 - Susanne Lee
Website – WMCCA.org - Peter Poggi, Newsletter Editor – Nancy Madden
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.