President’s Letter – Opposition to Proposed I-495 Beltway and I-270 Corridor Expansion
President Carol Van Dam Falk
West Montgomery County Citizens Association, together with several other area organizations, has opposed Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s multi-billion-dollar proposal to expand the I-495 Beltway and I-270 corridor for several reasons: it would hurt local ratepayers, severely impact Maryland taxpayers, but most importantly, it would assault our local environment in a way that can never be undone at a time when state government should be most concerned with finding ways to mitigate climate change, not increase it. WMCCA wrote the then-head of the Maryland Highway Department along with several regional and state representatives regarding our strong opposition to the I-495/I-270 expansion project a little more than a year ago and more recently signed on to a coalition letter that includes legal and technical comments on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the 495/270 toll lanes plan. The comments provide a rigorous legal and technical analysis of why the proposal is flawed and must not move forward.
One of the groups spearheading this effort has been the Maryland Sierra Club. Therefore, we thought it timely to invite Shruti Bhatnagar and Brian Ditzler of the Sierra Club Maryland to describe how the project would increase carbon emissions, damage forests and streams, encourage sprawl, destroy some established neighborhoods, and fail to achieve Hogan’s stated goal of reducing congestion.
The Sierra Club and WMCCA support expansion of public transit options from Shady Grove to Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg as well as the Corridor Cities Transitway, which would require state and county funding. WMCCA and the Sierra Club have long supported adding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along MD 355 which would far better meet the needs of commuters than adding roads or lanes.
Update – Heritage Gardens Land, LLC at 10701 South Glen Road – Conditional Use Application No. CU202201
Submitted by Susanne Lee
The hearing before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) for this massive townhouse/residential care facility proposed for the 30-acre lot (RE-2 -residential minimum 2 acre) at the intersection of Norton and South Glen Roads has been postponed from December 13, 2021 to January 28, 2022 at 9:30 am. The Montgomery County Planning Board is required to review the proposal and provide recommendations to OZAH at least 10 days before the OZAH hearing, but the Planning Board’s hearing date in January has not been published. According to the Planning Board staff, they provided comments to Heritage Gardens on the initial proposal and in response Heritage Gardens was revising the proposal. We requested a copy of any written comments but unfortunately the Planning Board staff has not provided them. When a prior proposal was submitted 2 years ago, it went to the Planning Board’s Development Review Committee and we received copies of their extensive, substantive, written comments.
On November 23rd, Heritage Gardens attorney Patricia Harris indicated that the revised proposal would be submitted within several days, but no new documents have as yet been posted on the Planning Board website. West Montgomery invited Heritage Gardens to speak at our December General Meeting, but they were not available for that date. Instead they indicated they will present the proposal at our January 12, 2022 General Meeting via Zoom. Information regarding OZAH, including information regarding participating in the process, is here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ozah/.
Documents describing the proposal can be found here on the Planning Board site: https://eplans.montgomeryplanning.org/daiclinks/pdoxlinks.aspx?apno=CU202201&projname=10701%20South%20Glen%20Road
Thrive Montgomery 2050 – General Plan Update
Submitted by Ken Bawer
On October 25, the County released the “Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee Draft of Thrive Montgomery 2050,” an update to the County’s General Plan. As stated in this draft, “A general plan is a long-range guide for the development of a community.” Regarding Corridor-Focused Growth Areas, we are pleased that the PHED Committee’s Draft removes the River Road corridor from the Beltway to Potomac Village as being an inappropriate designation.
Unfortunately, the PHED Committee’s Draft disregards most of the issues raised in our July 7, 2021 comments for the Montgomery County Council Public Hearing for Thrive Montgomery 2050, Planning Board Draft, April 2021 and does not present any information that would alter any of those comments or cause any to be removed from consideration. Our comments from the Council Public Hearing for Thrive Montgomery 2050, Planning Board Draft, April 2021 on the Planning Board Draft therefore remain valid, and both they and the comments below on the PHED Committee’s Draft must be satisfactorily addressed. The mantra expressed in this plan is growth, growth, growth (whether economic, business, or population) – it is mentioned over 120 times in the PHED Committee Draft. Instead of focusing on “compact growth”, this plan should be designed around the mantra of “sustainable growth”. That is, how can we grow our quality of life in a sustainable manner within the physical limits of our environment? Compact growth may not be sustainable – for example, how is stormwater kept out of streams when impervious surface density increases?
We completely reject the premise that the County must and will inevitably become more urban. Certainly, the County will become more urban if this plan is implemented as written. However, the authors’ present this outcome not only as a fait accompli, but as the desired outcome based upon their personal preference (and developer interests) for a more urban county. We reject that a more urban county is an outcome that we should strive towards. This draft Plan’s promotion of “stream restorations” is in direct contradiction of our Climate Action Plan’s vision to retain forests (p. xvii). “Stream restorations” are highly destructive construction projects which actually destroy forested areas in their footprints.
Two-and-a-Half Years Later the Derelict House on Chapel Road Still Stands
Submitted by Barbara Hoover
On November 15th, 2021 WMCCA wrote to Councilmember Andrew Friedson and requested his assistance and support to navigate Montgomery County Government, to finally have the dangerous burned-out house on Chapel Road demolished. After two and a half years of hearings, COVID delays and many inquiries and concerns, the property still remains a problem. Recently, Judge Rand Gelber, who presided over the last court hearing, granted the request for a ‘clean and lien’ to demolish the remaining structure. Unfortunately, when we contacted Montgomery County Supervisor Dan McHugh about proceeding with the demolition, we were told that there was no budget to do this, and that Montgomery County was not in the business of demolishing private property.
In March, 2019 WMCCA was approached by concerned neighbors about a derelict burned down house at 10100 Chapel Road. In case you missed this, it was a spectacular fire at night on Feb 1st and 60 firefighters fought it, and it was widely covered in the local news: http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/massive-overnight-fire-leaves-home-badly-damaged-in-potomac. The neighbors had been concerned about this house for a while before the fire, as the owners had moved out and the house was deserted and the grounds unkempt. Now, the shell of the home is an unsightly nuisance and an “attractive” hazard for any kids likely to examine the property. Neighbors who live in close proximity to this property are concerned about the negative impact that the burned shell and unkempt grounds will have on their home values. The neighbors remain very concerned about this property, and are upset that we have put all this effort into two years of hearings to arrive at a supportive court ruling, only to be told that there is no budget.
REMINDER: IT’S TIME TO RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP FOR 2021-2022!
Your support is vital to our continued work. As a member you will receive our monthly newsletter and notices of our monthly meetings (October thru May), and we’ll alert you to issues that may impact you and fight with you to protect our “Green Wedge”.
Add the January 12th WMCCA General Meeting to Your Calendar
A representative from the contract purchaser of the South Glen Properties (site of the former Fourth Presbyterian School property on South Glen Road at Norton Road), Ken Wormald/The Wormald Companies, will present their proposed plans for their Heritage Gardens development. We encourage the neighbors affected by these plans to become involved in the process now and in January attend this meeting to present their questions and concerns.
VIRTUAL WMCCA Meeting December 8, 2021 – 7:30 p.m.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Carol Van Dam Falk – resident@WMCCA.org
Website – WMCCA.org – Peter Poggi, Newsletter Editor – Nancy Madden