More Government in Darkness, Secrecy, and Another Done Deal?
President’s Letter – By Susanne Lee
This time it’s the Glen Hills neighborhood and the long awaited sewer study. In contrast to the Brickyard site, this time it appears there wasn’t even disclosure of a scope of work, not even a public Request for Proposals, before the study contract was awarded. Are County officials again orchestrating a neighborhood’s fate while leaving those most impacted the residents in the dark until after the deal is done? Is it yet another blatant violation of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan? How can we know?
The Potomac Master Plan requires a study to be conducted of Glen Hills, the results of which are to be used to develop a policy outlining the measures needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of septic service for new home construction and existing home renovations, minimizing the need for further sewer service extensions. The Plan specifically states that that the study must be conducted in conjunction with the citizens of this area and the appropriate public agencies, and must include six specific elements that go well beyond the traditional sanitary survey (Potomac Master Plan, p. 24).
Ten years after the Master Plan’s adoption, the Montgomery County Council appropriated $350,000 in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the study, as a result of Council Member Nancy Floreen’s efforts. We who live in Glen Hills were a bit surprised that in these times of very tight budgets such funds were available, but we looked forward to working in conjunction with the County to develop a meaningful study that met the requirements of the Master Plan.
Early phone calls seeking information about the study were met with the response that it was unclear who would be in charge of the study. Eventually we learned that David Lake, Water and Wastewater Policy, Office of the Director, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was in charge. We called Mr. Lake on January 19, 2012 and he stated that: The scope of work for the study has already been developed; A contractor had already been selected; No public Request for Proposals was issued; Final details were to be negotiated in a private internal meeting with the contractor on January 20th; And no, we could not sit in as a silent observer. He would not provide us or any other neighbors with the scope of work.
The term in conjunction with is defined as the act of joining together; combination; the simultaneous occurrence of event. How can this study possibly be conducted in conjunction with the citizens and other public agencies when all of the critical decisions regarding scope and implementation have already been made in secret? How are we to know that it even includes the six critical Master Plan elements? What, if any, input was provided by the public agencies with expertise in forest conservation, water quality, stormwater management, and Master Plan implementation?
We contacted Robert Hoyt, Director of DEP, expressed our great concern, provided him with background information, and requested his assistance in obtaining a copy of the scope of work and a restart of the process. He responded that his office would provide a written reply to us by January 27, 2012. It is unclear what the response will include and, as the Newsletter goes to press, we have not received it.
Sewer expansion is a major, contentious land use issue because it so often determines the character of our communities. We who live in Glen Hills had great hopes for this study. We looked forward to working closely with the County to craft a study that maximized its usefulness in addressing and educating on issues surrounding sewer versus septic use. We hoped that scientifically-sound data would be collected that would in turn provide the basis for informed decisions not just in Glen Hills, but other low density areas as well.
Now we approach it with great skepticism. How could this possibly have happened without even a phone call to local citizens? How can the County expect us to trust the process, the study results, and the resulting policy development? We look forward to the County’s explanation and the opportunity to restart an open and informed process. In the meantime, we stand in awe (despair?) of what appears at this point to be another flagrant lack of transparency on the part of Montgomery County government.Brickyard Road Soccer Complex The lease between the Board of Education and Montgomery County will be revoked, and the entire process for deciding the future of the site restarted. This time, though, there’s maximum public transparency and participation. In the meantime, Nick Marvell harvests another year of organic crops. In the short term, government officials will expeditiously comply with the requirements of the Maryland Public Information Law, eliminating the need for an appeal to the Circuit Court to force them to produce documents related to the Brickyard Road site.
Potomac Swim and Recreation Association Indoor Tennis Bubble Facilities On January 19, 2012, WMCCA and neighbors surrounding the site appealed the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of our Motions to Intervene and Vacate the Court’s decision approving the construction of the tennis bubble to the Court of Special Appeals. In addition, WMCCA is working with the neighbors to finalize a Complaint to be filed with the Board of Appeals documenting current violations of the Club’s special exception requirements.
Environmental Report by Ginny Barnes
Glenstone Foundation at 12002 Glen Road has applied for a Sewer Category Change #11A-TRV-06 to extend a private sewer from the Glenstone museum property to Great Elm Drive (approximately 3,000 linear feet) to accommodate expansion of the museum. Though the property now consists of 127 acres (zoned RE-2) the applicant is seeking sewer rather than utilizing currently-required septic. The applicant will be adding to the total acreage by purchasing additional existing homes along Glen Road and adjacent property in Stoney Creek Farms, for a projected total of 177 acres. While the future museum will be LEED-certified, and right now organic lawn care is being utilized, the property owner is reluctant to employ state-of -the-art septic measures. WMCCA is concerned about this application because the property is outside the sewer envelope established under the Potomac Master Plan and does not abut any existing sewer mains. Further, the proposed sewer would cross the Greenbriar Branch, a stream specifically cited to be avoided. The applicant claims sewer is more environmentally safe, but leaking sewer lines have contributed to pollution problems in most Montgomery County streams.
County Executive Leggett announces a cross-agency initiative to streamline building and land development process. Supported by Council President Berliner and Councilmember Nancy Floreen, this effort will cut back on required inspections to receive a building permit and invests even more power in the Department of Permitting Services (DPS), an agency created by former Executive Doug Duncan to provide a “one-stop-shop” for development projects. However, DPS is also charged with enforcing the County Zoning Code, which takes a poor second to issuing permits. With two conflicting objectives, DPS is funded by permitees, so the bulk of the agencys attention has not been to given to adequate enforcement. Information and dates for public forums at
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
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