Newsletter – May 2013

May 2013

Tree Canopy – It’s Important

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

Several of this years WMCCA meetings directly or indirectly focused on our areas tree canopy. There is good reason for this attention to tree canopy everything from the quality of our streams to our enjoyment of the outdoors is dependent on trees. The need for trees to remove pollution from the air and water, reduce flooding and limit the heat-island effect cannot be overstated. Already under considerable stress from age, deer damage and the effects of pollution, our tree canopy is experiencing a net loss from ongoing infill and redevelopment, a loss exacerbated by Pepcos extensive tree removal.

Many trees are lost in older neighborhoods as the small houses built a half-century ago are replaced with much larger houses, and, with the countys decreasing inventory of buildable lots, there is more pressure for infill development. Montgomery Countys Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is endeavoring to switch large areas of the Glen Hills neighborhood from septic systems to sewer service. If this change is approved, the infill development will thin the lush Glen Hills tree canopy as well as damage sensitive stream valleys. And it seems that DEP is looking at bringing sewer into neighborhoods similar to Glen Hills.

The Maryland Public Service Commission, in an attempt to improve reliability, has directed Pepco to increase tree cutting along power lines. At our April meeting Pepco representatives told us that, in the past, trees were pruned sufficiently to last two years before needing to be trimmed again. The current standard is now four years, and trees that can’t be cut back enough to last four years need to be removed. The resulting tree removal has been substantial, and the power companys drastic pruning may stress many trees too much for survival.

Two bills being considered by the County Council are designed to limit the loss of tree canopy by providing incentive to preserve trees where possible and bringing in funds to replant trees when removal is necessary.

  • Tree Canopy Conservation (Bill 35-12, proposed by County Executive Leggett and sponsored by the Council President) endeavors to limit the amount of tree removal when properties are redeveloped or new development occurs. Legislation would not prevent a development from being approved, but if trees on a property cannot be saved, a fee would be collected to provide funds to replant trees, either on the same property or elsewhere.
  • Roadside Trees Protection (Bill 41-12, sponsored by Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich) would require a permit and ensure protection of trees in the right-of-way. As in Bill 35-12, if a tree cannot be saved, a payment to a tree-planting fund would be required to replace the lost tree canopy.

Efforts to slow the loss of tree canopy are essential. The two tree bills being considered by the County Council work together to reduce canopy loss and provide protections to trees not covered by the Forest Conservation Law. The proposed bills are facing opposition. These bills are an important step in slowing canopy loss and need our support.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg made some very pointed comments in a recent Court order regarding the Brickyard dispute. The Court found that … [T]he entire episode left the oft-stated and under-exercised notion of government transparency with a black eye. The Court added the actions of the county government and the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) resulted in an enormous waste of private, county and state resources. Describing the last minute decision by the County Executive to rescind the Brickyard lease and return the property to the BOE, Judge Greenberg wrote, After many months of litigation, and on the cusp of a final decision by the court, the county suddenly decided that the lease initially claimed to be so beneficial that it had to be rammed through the Board of Education before a more thorough and thoughtful public discussion could take place was not quite so vital to the county and its soccer-playing youth. The Court order rhetorically reflected, Why county officials suddenly changed their minds is unknown to the court, and suggested that perhaps the decision to abandon the lease was a matter of political expediency, or maybe county officials read the judicial tea leaves and believed the county would ultimately not prevail before this court.

The Brickyard Coalition is pleased to note that Court has pointedly told the County and the BOE that their process was not transparent, and resulted in unwarranted governmental expenditures. It is our hope that the BOE and the County will heed the Courts findings and will follow an open and transparent process in their future actions.

Glen Hills Sewer Study

by Susanne Lee -Close to 200 residents of Glen Hills and surrounding neighborhoods attended Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection public meeting on the Glen Hills Sanitary Study on April 18th. As with all past meetings, DEP used it to provide information on what it has done in response to the $350,000 appropriation by the County Council for the Master Plan study of failed septic systems in Glen Hills. Once again DEP failed miserably in providing any meaningful forum for public input. Residents again asked pointed questions about violations of the Master Plan study requirements, the disastrously flawed study design and application of the results, and the impact of these bogus results on property values. And once again DEP representatives failed to concede that there were any problems with the study. When asked whether residents who have fully functioning septic systems are legally required to tell potential home-buyers that they have been declared not sustainable based on this bogus study, DEP representatives said they couldn’t answer that question without consulting County legal counsel!!! WMCCA is submitting detailed written comments on the Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies again. The studies and DEP recommendations then go to County Executive Ike Leggett for transmittal to the County Council, the ultimate decision-making authority regarding the fate of Glen Hills.

Potomac Elementary School Modernization

by Curt Uhre Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) staff held the first public meeting regarding the modernization of the Potomac Elementary School (PES) since the decision was made by MCPS to consider building a new PES at the Brickyard site. Approximately 50 people attended. Traffic concerns and the added travel time for the students to the Brickyard site was the top concern expressed. About 90 percent of the PES students would be traveling through the congested Falls Road/River Road intersection during morning rush hour traffic. The lack of public notice of the decision to consider Brickyard as a school site was also raised by many attending. Most citizens preferred building a the new PES at the current site rather than moving the school to the Brickyard site. There were no votes for the Brickyard site in a straw poll taken by the MCPS.

Election of WMCCA Officers and Board

The Nominating Committee proposes the following slate of Officers and Directors to the membership for a vote at our May 8th meeting. Nominations may also be made from the floor.

President Elect: CURT UHRE;
Vice President: SUSANNE LEE;
Immediate Past President: SHAWN JUSTEMENT
Newsletter: NANCY MADDEN

Directors serving second year of a two-year term:

Nominees for a two-year term:

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 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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