Newsletter – March 2007

March 2007

President’s Letter – Leading By Very Bad Example

Susanne Lee

From the air, the contrast between the Northern Virginia shore of the Potomac River and the Maryland Potomac Subregion has always been stark. On the Virginia side, an intense network of roads and housing smothers the land from Dulles to the Potomac River. On the Maryland side, because of the Agricultural Reserve, the C&O Canal National Park, and the Potomac Master Plan, a giant green wedge has existed between the I-270 corridor and the Potomac. Because of the C&O Canal, we have until now been spared the disastrous building practices that have led to massive houses along the steep banks of the Potomac above Chain Bridge in Virginia.

We have prided ourselves on not being like Northern Virginia. Now, though, it appears we are following their very bad examples. In fact, we are all personally and collectively setting and following bad examples throughout the Subregion. With the weather feeling spring-like, take a walk along the Canal. I recommend the stretch just north of Swains Lock where you will get a good view of the Dan Snyder clear cut area and the nearby property where an enormous wrought iron fence has been proposed to encircle the property all the way down to the Canal. But it is not just these properties.

All along the C&O Canal houses are being built and trees cleared much closer to the canal than ever before, causing irreparable harm to the terrain and the whole sense of the place. A massive stone outcropping is just not the same when a house hovers over it. In a bizarre twist, it appears Snyders outrageous behavior may be setting the bad example for others. If he can do it if he got his I want mine too, no matter the environmental consequences. But it isn’t just along the C&O Canal.

Throughout the Potomac Subregion, developers and neighbors are setting bad examples deciding that the remaining trees and undeveloped open space have to go. The decision is for larger houses and more yard, and pretty soon the mature trees, canopy and absorbent leafy forest floor are gone. In their place come houses with larger footprints and impermeable surfaces, a monoculture grass yard fed with chemicals, and increased run off into our streams and the Potomac River.

This, in turn, prompts the neighbors next door to think that they either would like that look or that they need to tidy up the wooded areas of their property. And so there is constant clearing of mature trees along with the equally important under-story plants, even in areas supposedly protected by conservation easements. Take a drive along Boswell Lane to see the domino effect of what happens when one landowner decides to clear right up to the edge of this rustic road. We need to examine our own impacts and not become or even affirm these bad examples.

Planning and Zoning: George Barnes

We received a call from Chevy Chase Bank informing us that they do not plan to tear down the Dunham’s Garage building, and that they regard it much the same way we do as a community landmark. They will modify it to accommodate drive-through banking and, when they have their plans further along, I am sure they will share them with us. I hope everyone read the article in the Potomac Almanac about the issue of the former tenant moving the cars and the business to 9600 River Road and continuing to operate at that location. The owner of the business, Mr. Peacock, has also started a car rental business there. He has been cited again by the County and has removed the sign from the property, but it continues to be listed on the Enterprise car rental website. In fact one of the neighbors actually rented a car just to see if it could be done. We have been in contact with the County Executive’s Office and expect to hear from them soon.

Environmental Report: Ginny Barnes

Forest Conservation Law Amendments: A workgroup of the Van Hollen C&O Canal Task Force is finishing final edits on amendments first proposed last fall prior to election. Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) has agreed to sponsor. Also, Park and Planning staff is working on their own amendments to FCL to be introduced through the Planning Board soon, with a public hearing possibly at the end of March.

Proposed development plans with strong environmental implications: These have not gone to Planning Board for approval yet, but we are working on them. They include: Justement Woods (Glen Mill Road in Potomac’s historic Glen) Zoned RE-1. Would alter character of Exceptional Rustic Road, cut mature trees for two large houses with septic fields. Sutton Property (off McCrossin Lane) Twenty-five acres zoned RE-2; ten lots requested on sand mounds. Significant environmental features. The main issue is the precedent set by entire development using sand mounds instead of standard septic. Smart Property (Circle Drive in Glen Hills) Developer has been cited and fined for cutting down trees in the existing tree conservation area while he is in the process of proposing a new development. 12000 River Road (overlooking C&O Canal National Park) Proposed large mansion with swimming pool, etc. Owner was granted a permit to install a wrought-iron fence around the entire perimeter of property. The fence would be prominently visible from the canal towpath, located within the C&O Canal scenic easement, and six to eight feet tall, running the entire length of the boundary with C&O Canal National Park. A Stop Work Order is currently in place on fence construction. House plans still under review; site has steep slopes and mature contiguous forest.

Green Matters Conference at Brookside Gardens February 23, this year on Trees and Urban Forests. Because so much of the work I do for WMCCA has to do with forest and tree protection, I attended and came home with some useful data on trees and their immense value. Trees are the first line of defense against global warming and it is because the loss is so great worldwide that we are facing such a critical planetary crisis. The job description of trees is staggering. Basically, it is a fact of our lives today that the economic development of the U.S. has been based on deforestation. And here are some interesting facts gleaned from the wide array of expert speakers:

  • There are 600,000 tree species in the world.
  • There are about 600 species native to North America and only 39 native to Great Britain.|
  • There is no more than four percent of old growth forest left in the U.S.
  • Size matters. The bigger the tree, the bigger the benefits in terms of reducing ozone formation, storm water mitigation, cooling, habitat and quality of life improvements.
  • Studies have shown that trees in communities increase home values by two to twenty percent, decrease crime because trees draw people into the outdoors, reduce stress, encourage community interaction, and increase test scores in children.

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 (

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