Newsletter – October 2006

October 2006

President’s Letter – Inconvenient Truths Of The Potomac Subregion 

Susanne Lee

One inconvenient environmental truth:  Notwithstanding what we thought
would be effective state and county forest conservation statutes, the
destruction of forest canopy continues unabated.  The percentage of the
county that is forested decreased from 45 percent in 1973, to 32
percent in 1986, to 28 percent in 2000.  Rather than maintaining forest
cover, the canopy has decreased and forests are more fragmented than
when the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Statute was enacted.

Another inconvenient truth:  Even though the Potomac Master Plan and
Montgomery Countys Ten-Year Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan
generally prohibit the extension of sewer into low-density,
environmentally sensitive areas such as Potomac subregion, unwarranted
sewer extensions continue throughout the subregion.  The results are
dramatic and predictable intense development on our most
environmentally sensitive land, destruction of large stands of mature
trees, increased pavement and stormwater runoff, and oversize
developments out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Yet another inconvenient truth:  We all live downstream.  The enormous
King Farm, Fallsgrove, and Traville/Shady Grove developments are in the
headwaters or along the network of streams that flow through the
subregion.  These developments have had huge impacts on traffic in the
area as well as major impacts on water quality.

In the months ahead, the West Montgomery County Citizens Association
will be working to address these and other evolving environmental
truths, with special emphasis on the following:

  • Forest Conservation Law:  Vigorous enforcement of the existing
    requirements and enactment of the revisions necessary to make the law
    and regulations truly protective.
  • Glen Hills Sewer Study:  The study will provide vital information not
    only with regard to Glen Hills, but also the elements necessary to
    promote successful septic use in low-density areas.
  • Green Infrastructure Master Plan:  A much needed Montgomery County
    initiative to protect the other infrastructure the network of
    waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural
    areas that support native species, maintain natural ecological
    processes, and sustain air and water resources.
  • Stream health and water quality issues:  Efforts to address stormwater runoff, stream pollution, and the proposed WSSC Mid-River Intake.

ISO In Search Of a New Board Member

WMCCA has an opening on its Board of Directors. This is a great way to get involved in challenging local issues.  If you are interested or know someone who might be, call
Susanne Lee at 301-738-7987.

Planning and Zoning:

George Barnes

Justement Woods: Chang property at 11731 Glen Mill Road.  The
developer has made changes to the plan originally submitted to the
Planning Board/Development Review Board and is seeking a meeting on
site with neighbors and WMCCA to address concerns of the community.

Falls Road Dental Office: A hearing was held on September 28 on an
application for a Special Exception for a dental office with a
non-resident dentist.  Prior dentists at this address have resided in
the building, which is approved similarly to a home occupation.  The
hearing is to be continued at a later date because some of the
information that the applicant submitted had not been reviewed by
Parking and Planning technical staff.   WMCCA will testify on our
concerns when the hearing is rescheduled.

Esworthy Estates: A nine-acre parcel with 20 feet of road frontage on
Travilah Road has a preliminary plan for four houses at the end of a
long pipestem driveway.  Zoning regulations require road frontage at
least 25 feet.  A waiver would be required, and the Planning Board has
never granted a waiver for more than two houses with insufficent
frontage.  It would be an unwelcome precedent if the Planning Board
began granting multi-lot subdivisions in locations that do not meet
requirements of the zoning ordinance.  

TPC at Avenel: A special exception hearing is scheduled for October
13 before the Hearing Examiner on an application to modify the existing
special exception for the Tournament Players Club at Avenel.  The
Planning Board will hold a hearing on October 5, and will make comments
or recommendations to the Board of Appeals.  Individuals may testify at
the hearing both at the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals without
prior notice; groups must give notice of their intention to testify
before the Board of Appeals ten days prior to the hearing date.

Just a note about the process in case you are confused by the names and
players.  The Board of Appeals has jurisdiction over Special Exceptions
and variances.  The Planning Board has jurisdiction over Development
plans, first preliminary, then final.  The Planning Board will also
hold a hearing on a Special Exception application to determine if it
meets the criteria set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, and the Planning
Board’s technical staff will evaluate the application for
compliance with other county statutes such as forest conservation,
stormwater, imperviousness, and parking.  The Planning Board will
report its findings to the Board of Appeals and make a recommendation. 
The Board of Appeals has delegated the conduct of Special Exception
hearings to the office of the Montgomery County Hearing Examiner who
will conduct the actual hearing and make a report to the Board of
Appeals, which will then vote to approve or deny the application based
on the evidence and recommendations from those hearings.  

Environmental Report:

Ginny Barnes

  1. Proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Law (FCL) submitted
    to the County Council by the C&O Canal Task Force are being converted
    into a bill that Council member Howard Denis hopes to introduce after
    the first of the year.
  2. Bill 26-06 to establish a Forest Preservation Advisory Board was introduced by Tom Perez.  There has been a public hearing before the County Council and discussion at the Planning Board.  The County Council will take action on Tuesday, October 3.
  3. A Forest Conservation Task Force at MNCPPC is concentrated on improving the current FCLs implementation process, and will issue a set of recommendations by the end of the year.

Stormwater: The Stormwater Partners Coalition, which includes WMCCA,
is a broadly based county-wide group of civic and environmental
groups trying to add measurable pollutant standards to the NPDES Permit
issued by Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to jurisdictions
under the Federal Clean Water Act.  Without placing limits on
pollutants entering our streams, we cannot stem the degradation of
water quality throughout Montgomery County watersheds.  This issue is
closely linked to forest conservation because one of the best
attenuation measures for stormwater run-off is trees and forest.  As we
continue to lose forest, water quality declines too.  

Over the summer, using data from the countys Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP), the Stormwater Partners compiled a list
of the Top Ten most polluted streams in our county that includes
several in the Potomac Subregion.  Cabin John, Rock Run, Muddy Branch
and Watt Branch all have pollutants such as raw sewerage leaks,
biological declines, bacteria, and sediment.  In Watts Branch, it is
estimated the sediment pollution causes an additional $800,000 annually
in drinking water treatment.  A draft permit is expected to be issued
by MDE some time this fall.

WMCCA Special Project  

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Carol Van Dam Falk
301 963-6779

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 (

Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.

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