President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk
As your new President, I hope to draw on the vast experience of our past President George Barnes and other equally effective past Presidents, some of whom still serve on the board of WMCCA as well as our other able and experienced board members. I also want to extend a most cordial invitation to new members, potential new members, and existing members dedicated to responsible growth in the Potomac Subregion Master Plan area. That civic responsibility includes keeping a watchful eye on our elected representatives and civil servants. It also means doing our share to protect the Green Wedge.
We can’t do it alone. Now is the time to step up to the plate and join us in protecting our Master Plan, which has come under attack in various forms of legislation by the County Council. On November 2, you will vote on Ballot C, which would do away with the at-large seats on the County Council. The WMCCA Board voted to remain neutral on Question 5. There are pros and cons to this issue. Some say we need these at-large members so we can work with each of them on a broad range of issues that affect our area and the entire county. Others say the at-large members are beholden to no one but developers. A brief report will be presented at the October general meeting.
On MPDUs, George Barnes testified before the Council and argued that while some of the proposed changes were viable, others did nothing to enhance affordable housing but would in fact jeopardize all of the county Master Plans, including ours, and subject us all to increased density, more traffic congestion, more developer buy-outs, and reverse years of innovative planning as set forth in the 1980 and 2002 Master Plans for the Potomac subregion. On the Seven Locks school issue, an appeal is now before the Maryland Board of Education. As Seven Locks transcends typical school issues and crosses into land use issues, we are following its developments and are encouraging interested parties to raise money and hire a lawyer to pursue the Administrative Procedures Act as an appeal mechanism.
Help us to fight the good fight. Join us on October 13th to learn about what is at stake for our County’s future, and encourage your friends and neighbors to come as well.
Planning and Zoning – George Barnes
Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU’s) and Accessory Apartments – WMCCA testified at two recent hearings before the County Council on a series of Zoning Text Amendments and bills introduced by a number of different council members with different ideas and philosophies on the MPDU program in Montgomery County. How the Council decides to modify this program could have radical impacts on all areas and zones in the county and could conceivably reduce the role of Master Plans in determining densities throughout the county. WMCCA has urged the Council to protect the Master Plan process, the role of the Planning Board and the planning process and to not allow the zoning ordinance to trump master plans and allow increased density and denser housing types if MPDU’s are included in development proposals. We have asked for an end to the buyout policy that has resulted in the net loss of most of the MPDU’s created since the program was started in the late 80’s. We have cautioned against removing accessory apartments from the jurisdiction of the Board of Appeals (i.e. the Special Exception process) and putting it in the hands of a housing authority, thereby eliminating notification, public hearings and an inspection policy that exists under current law. We will work with other Citizens Associations to lobby Council members in the coming weeks on these issues and will certainly ask our members to write and call the Council.
Special Exception hearing – Srour property, Falls Road – A hearing will be held on November 15 on an application for a Special Exception for a Medical Practitioner’s office for use of other than a resident of the building. This property is next to the Bank of America building on Falls Road, and it has been operated as a dentist’s office as a home occupation for several years. The special exception would allow two dentists, a hygenist, one dental assistant and two part time employees (one full time equivalent employee) who will serve as the receptionist and perform other front office duties. One day a week there will be a maximum of four employees on site at one time. Prior to this application, one dentist was a resident of the building and it was a permitted use as a home occupation. WMCCA has sought to confine commercial enterprises to the commercial zone and prevent businesses from moving out into the residential zones surrounding the Village. The use of the property as a home occupation does not create a presumption that a special exception at this location is permissible. Such an exception will be subject to all of the requirements for parking, landscaping, set backs, traffic impacts and the impacts on the surrounding neighbors.
Normandy Farm rezoning application to Country Inn Zone – A hearing will be held on November 19 on the application of Normandy Farm for a rezoning from the R-200 zone to the Country Inn zone. WMCCA is concerned with the possible accessory uses permitted under this zone in the zoning ordinance. While the owners have maintained that no accessory uses are contemplated, we would like to have some sort of more binding assurance that no such uses will be permitted. We are also concerned with the landscaping, new building, parking reconstruction, afforestation of the site and the preservation and restoration of the spring on the property that is in the headwaters of the Kilgour Branch.
Safeway expansion in Potomac Village – The management of the shopping center presented a plan to the WMCCA Board for an expansion and remodeling of the Safeway in Potomac. The addition would consist of a mezzanine above the rear portion of the store to house receiving, food preparation, offices, an employee lounge and rest rooms, and would allow increased floor area on the first floor for sales and display. The addition would add some 3000 square feet to the area of the store. Entry and exit from the store would be through one set of doors on the front of the store next to the hardware store. The Board expressed some concern about the potential for increased congestion in this area of the center with both ingress and egress and car loading in this area. No increase in the number of parking spaces is contemplated to offset the increased square footage of sales area in the center.
WMCCA Special Project
WMCCA encourages young people to go outdoors for science. We invite students who have done an activity at a local site to show us their report, poster, collection, or science fair project. A WMCCA representative will be at the Potomac Library to review projects for an hour before the General Meeting each month (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.), starting October 13, 2004. Call Lois Williams, 301 299-7236.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Carol Van Dam Falk
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).
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.