Newsletter – April 2013

April 2013

Where Have All Our Trees Gone?

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

Our tree canopy is already under considerable stress. Age, disease and pollution have taken a toll on the areas mature trees, deer are destroying the young understory trees that replace trees as they die, and trees are lost as additions and bigger houses are built in older neighborhoods. For some time, Pepco has been pruning roadside trees, and there has long been concern that trees are pruned so heavily that survival is unlikely. Now trees are being cut down regardless of health and Pepco is dramatically increasing the removal of trees along power lines not only trees under the power lines, but also trees near power lines. Pepco claims that this level of cutting is necessary to improve reliability.

A Washington Post analyses in 2010 showed that Pepco ranked as one of the worst utility companies in the country when it comes to keeping power on and restoring it after an outage. Pepco representatives claim that our region has the fourth-most dense canopy of metropolitan areas in the United States, and the higher number of trees is the cause of the high number of power outages. Forestry expert David Nowak of the U. S. Forest Service disputes Pepco’s claim, noting that our areas tree canopy cover is about average, and cities with denser canopy have better reliability.

Forester Mark Gavin of the nonprofit Casey Trees charged, “Pepco has turned vegetation into a convenient villain. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to say trees are bad than to upgrade equipment. The Post, citing internal Pepco records, found that most sustained power outages were caused by equipment failures, not trees. Pepco began a five-year $250 million reliability enhancement plan in September 2010. While there has been some improvement in reliability, how much is due to equipment upgrades? How much to increased tree cutting?

County Council members Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner introduced a bill that would ensure proper trimming and require written approval of homeowners to remove trees, but their attempt to limit tree cutting failed, when County Attorney Marc Hansen ruled that the County can not regulate utilities. The only authority able to regulate Pepco is the Maryland Public Service Commission. Pepco maintains that it is being directed by the state, but what is the level of oversight?

Homeowners receiving notice that Pepco wants to do tree work on the property or find their trees marked with blue dots can call Pepco. The number for Pepco’s Forestry Department is 202-833-7500, and a forester will be sent to review the trees designated for cutting. If you have trees that you don’t want removed tell them so if you don’t call, Pepco maintains the right to remove what it sees fit. If trees are removed, request vouchers from Pepco for new trees to replant. While it will take many, many years for a sapling to replace the tree that was cut, planting a new tree might make you feel a little better.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – The Board of Education has voted to adopt policy guidelines for the leasing, licensing and use of property held for future school sites, including the Brickyard site. The Policy Committee of the Board of Education to draft these policy guidelines, and may use task forces, work groups, public forums and other venues to seek public input. The Brickyard Coalition Inc. has written to the BOE Policy Committee requesting the opportunity to present information to the Committee relating to the development of these policy guidelines. After the Policy Committee has concluded its work, it will provide a draft policy for the leasing, licensing and use of BOE properties to the BOE for consideration, and the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed policy guidelines.

Breaking News

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is currently conducting a feasibility study for the modernization of the Potomac Elementary School. WMCCA has just learned that the study scope has been expanded to explore the possibility of relocating Potomac Elementary School to the MCPS property known as the Brickyard Road Site. The work session meetings for the inclusion of the Brickyard Road Site are open to the public and we encourage you and your neighbors to attend and participate in this process. The work sessions are: Thursday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 30th, with a final PTA/Community Presentation Wednesday, May 15th. All meetings will be held at the school at 10311 River Road at 7:00 p.m.

Glen Hills Sewer Study
by Susanne Lee – Montgomery County Government continues to amaze first the outrage that was Brickyard and now the Glen Hills Sewer Study! The Phase 1 and Phase 2 Study Reports confirm the County appears poised to jam sewers lines and their attendant costs and increased development down the throats of Glen Hills residents who are overwhelmingly opposed to and do not want or need public sewer. The Glen Hills Study Phase 2 report proposes construction of 13 unneeded sewer lines at a cost to property owners of close to $6 million dollars. After the County branded over a third of the community as not likely to be sustainable on septic, real estate agents are asking how they can market and sell property to potential Glen Hills homebuyers.

The Reports, yet to be made available to the general public, confirm:

  • Blatant disregard and misrepresentation of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan. The Master Plan limits the study to well-documented septic failures and limited extensions to relieve them.
  • March 25: Last day for CAC comments on Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports.
  • Violation of the Piney Branch Special Protection Area.
  • Sham public participation scope of the study decided behind closed doors, meaningless meetings designed to ensure lack of genuine participation, and failure to respond to public comments.
  • County confirms only nine properties (out of 542 properties in the study area) have failed septic systems. Of those nine, five already abut an existing sewer line, including one approved for hook up.
  • Relying on totally theoretical planning level data that it admits is not conclusive and is not based on any actual conditions on any lots the County declares that 223 properties (none of which have failed septics) are likely not sustainable on conventional septic systems.
  • Thirteen new lines are proposed costing $6,000,000, and not one of the lines will service the nine properties purported to have failed septic systems.
  • County defends its failures by saying the $350,000 appropriated for the study was not enough to collect any actual data regarding Glen Hills lots.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams

The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We w

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 ( The Web Site For Information On Issues We Are Working On.

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

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