Mushrooms Thrive in Darkness, Democracy Does Not
President’s Letter – By Susanne Lee
Sunshine and transparency are absolutely critical to a meaningful democratic process, but both have been sorely lacking in two situations directly impacting Potomac neighborhoods. In each instance, none of the citizens most affected were notified of pending executive and judicial branch decisions until they were done deals.
The first involves the proposed use of a site on Brickyard Road (reserved since the 1970s for a future public school) to develop soccer fields using a public/private partnership. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett engaged in secret meetings with a private soccer organization beginning in 2009, but Leggetts negotiations to lease a designated school site for development and use by a private recreational corporation were unknown to the public until early March 2011, just a few days before the Board of Education voted to sign a lease with the County. In turn, the County expects to enter into a contract with a private entity to build and operate up to four to six soccer fields for the private entity’s own benefit and use.
The second involves the Potomac Swim and Recreation Club’s request for a modification of its Special Exception in order to construct a commercial indoor tennis facility on Oaklyn Drive that includes a tennis bubble. WMCCA and neighborhood residents opposed the facility, and prevailed before the Montgomery County Board of Appeals in a decision issued July 2009. It was not until this summer when construction began on the site that we learned the Board’s decision had been appealed by the Club to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, reversed on appeal, and on remand a revised decision of approval issued by the Board.
Upon investigation, it was learned that none of the neighbors in opposition or WMCCA received the statutorily-required notice that the decision had been appealed. Thus, we never knew of the Circuit Court proceedings or the Court’s decision. Likewise, we never received the statutorily-required notice of the new Board decision on remand. Had we received any notice, we clearly would have taken steps to defend the Board’s decision denying the exception. To make matters worse, for unknown reasons, the County failed to enter the case to defend the Board’s decision. As a result, the Club’s appeal went forward totally unopposed.
WMCCA has joined with the surrounding neighbors in legal actions demanding that the soccer and tennis facility decisions be reopened and the processes restarted with proper notice to all.
Environmental Report: Sewer Envelope Issues
Glenstone Foundation Sewer Category Change Request (127.7 acres on Glen Road in an RE-2 Zone): Proposal is for a sewer extension through the site and along Lake Potomac Drive to an existing gravity main at Great Elm Farm. The stated purpose is expansion of an art museum. This property is outside the sewer envelope identified in the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and does not abut existing or proposed sewer mains. The proposed line extension is over one-half mile long and would tunnel under the Greenbriar Branch stream. Sewer main extensions that disrupt streams and their undisturbed buffer areas are contrary to the environmental focus of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan. The Greenbriar Branch has historically been identified as especially sensitive. WMCCA does not support this request because sufficient septic capacity exists on the property to serve the museum expansion.
Opposition to Glen Hills sewer category change: On July 19, 2011, the Montgomery County Council approved a request for the provision of public sewer to a property in the Glen Hills neighborhood that clearly violated our Master Plan restrictions on sewer extensions in Glen Hills. Under Maryland law, all Council actions approving category changes are subject to State review to ensure consistency with local master plans. By letter dated August 15, 2011, WMCCA requested that the Maryland Department of the Environment reject the Council’s action as inconsistent with the Master Plan. The State has until about October 29, 2011 to approve or disapprove the Council’s action.
Glen Hills Sewer Study: The Montgomery County Council recently appropriated $350,000 for the Glen Hills sewer study called for in our Master Plan. The study is required to be conducted in conjunction with the citizens of the area and is to collect a variety of information with the objective of developing measures necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of septic services for new home construction and existing home renovations, and to address the need for limited sewer extensions if needed. WMCCA is working with Glen Hills residents to ensure citizen participation in the County’s design and implementation of a study that conforms with the Master Plan requirements.
Environmental Report: Gary Road Water Main Construction
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) announced plans to construct a water main in the Gary Road public right-of-way to connect existing water mains in River Road and South Glen Road. WMCCA has worked with abutting property owners to obtain confirmation that the main is really necessary and to continue the negotiation of terms and conditions to minimize negative impacts, especially to the many large trees along the existing roadway. WSSC reports that it is putting out another request for proposals because the response to the first was not adequate.
About WMCCA: WMCCA is your umbrella civic voice for Potomac. We uphold the principles of our Master Plan to protect our low-density zoning, our two-lane and rustic road system and our plentiful environmental resources. We monitor development plans and shape policies that ensure we maintain our community as it was envisioned as the western residential green buffer to the Agricultural Reserve. With our abundant forests, wetlands, streams and parkland, we enjoy a quality of life unique in Montgomery County. WMCCA works to keep it that way. Please join us.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams
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