Light at the End of the Tunnel
President’s Letter – by President Carol Van Dam Falk
Finally, we’re seeing some light at the end of the long, pandemic tunnel. COVID-19 cases are falling and local governments across the country, including our own, are lifting restrictions, although it’s wise to still exercise caution in public places. Like most institutions, the Montgomery County Planning Board held meetings online during the pandemic which is completely understandable, but it failed to inform the public how they could attend some of those meetings. The Board’s Development Review Committee repeatedly violated the Open Meeting Act by failing to provide links to such meetings. The Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) agreed. In a letter this week, we asked the County Council if it plans to launch an investigation. Stay tuned for its response.
In another letter this week to Marc Elrich, we asked the County Executive to immediately fund the People’s Counsel. The County Council is looking at controversial zoning changes in connection with Thrive 2050 and already passed other questionable legislation regarding the installation of 5G technology. The People’s Counsel once played a critical role in ZTAs that represented the interests of ordinary people, not corporations or developers. The People’s Counsel was defunded years ago.
New Residential Cell Tower Zoning Submitted by Theodora Scarato
Councilman Hans Riemer has proposed another cell antenna zoning amendment ZTA 22-01– which will allow cell tower antennas on existing utility poles 30 feet in front of homes in residential areas, removing notice to residents and public hearings. Note – This is an attempt to fix a technical loophole in ZTA 19-07 (which the Council passed in the summer of 2021) allowing short “small cell” towers 30 feet from homes. There is a coalition petition online at https://actionnetwork.org/letters/stop-zta-19-07/. Sign up for the Council’s public hearing for ZTA 22-01 on Tuesday July 12, 2022. If the waiting list fills up, they may accommodate speakers by moving the event to the evening for a longer hearing.
2021 Water and Sewer Plan Update Submitted by Ken Bawer
The Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) is preparing a final draft of the Water & Sewer Plan for submittal to the County Executive. They expect to transmit it to the County Executive by the end of the day on March 4th. DEP will also request a meeting with the Executive to discuss any questions he may have. Once that is done, within the next few weeks, the Executive’s office will transmit the Executive draft to the County Council and the Council will set a public hearing date. Given the Council’s schedule with other water and sewer issues, DEP does not expect a hearing to be scheduled until late April or May, once the Council is through with the budget. The Council is required by State law to provide a minimum 30-day notice for the hearing. We will be looking for, and opposing, any changes which grant special favors to developers. For example, the owners of the Potomac Oak (a.k.a. Travilah Oak) Shopping Center and the “old white house” diagonally across from each other at the intersection of Travilah Road and Glen Road have each asked for a 5,300-foot public sewer line extension along Travilah Road to their properties which are outside the planned sewer envelope.
Heritage Gardens Land, LLC’s Proposed Townhouse/Senior Care Community at 10701 South Glen Road – Conditional Use Application No. CU202201 Submitted by Susanne Lee
Two more days of hearings (February 28th and March 2nd) were conducted before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) regarding the conditional use application to construct a townhouse / senior care community on the 30-acre lot (RE-2-residential) at the intersection of Norton and South Glen Road. This followed a win on February 11, 2022, when OZAH granted the motion submitted by West Montgomery, the Greater South Glen Neighborhood Association (GSGNA) and other neighbors to require a traffic study that the applicant had failed to submit. In siding with us, OZAH rejected a long-standing interpretation by the Planning Board regarding such studies – an interpretation that was clearly inconsistent with the plain language of the requirements.
The traffic study requirement was remanded to the Planning Board and any additional hearings will be scheduled after that is completed. During these recent hearings WMCCA, GSGNA, and many residents expressed their opposition through testimony and written submissions. Many have done extensive research and they presented a broad range of reasons why this application must be denied. We at West Montgomery focused on 3 major reasons:
- First, the placement and construction of the Lodge Complex will violate the environmental protection requirements contained in state and federal laws and regulations and summarized in Montgomery County’s Environmental Guidelines and the forest preservation requirements in the Potomac Subregion Master Plan.
- Second, the construction of a facility this size at this location is inconsistent with the basic framework of the Master Plan, including the elderly housing and special exception provisions.
- Third, the ownership structure of the facility is so bizarre that, when coupled with the stringent age restrictions, dooms it to failure and guarantees an enforcement nightmare – thus requiring stringent covenants, staging, and reporting requirements.
The OZAH link to the exhibits has been taken down until just before the next hearing. If you want details about the project, many of the exhibits can be found at the Montgomery County Planning Board website here:
If you would like to submit a written statement, the hearing record is still open and you can do so by sending your signed submission by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to further support our efforts, we urge you to send donations for legal and consultant expenses to GSGNA at 11021 Dobbins Drive, Potomac, MD 20854, or by Venmo to @Neil-Goldman-9. GSGNA will provide a receipt for all contributions
WMCCA Nominating Committee The following individuals are proposed to serve on the Nominating Committee and will be voted upon at the March 9, 2022 General Meeting. They in turn will nominate Officers and Directors to be voted upon at the May 11, 2022 Annual Meeting:
Chairperson – Ginny Barnes
Members: Barbara Hoover, Ken Bawer, Kathy Petitt, Barbara Brown
Finally – WMCCA NEEDS A NEW WEB ADMINISTRATOR! We have updated the website and are poised to turn it over to a new provider. Would you be interested in performing this important task for the organization? It would require uploading the monthly newsletter, occasional testimony by Board members, and the like. If you’re interested, contact us at email@example.com.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Carol Van Dam Falk
Website – WMCCA.org – Peter Poggi, Newsletter Editor – Nancy Madden
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 (www.wmcca.org).
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.