As I step down at the end of the summer as President of WMCCA to make way for the very capable, passionate new President, Liza Durant, we have much to be proud of but much work still lies ahead. A top priority will be tracking developments of the Gaithersburg West master plan. We have attended several informational meetings with Johns Hopkins real estate folks and County officials, including Council President Phil Andrews. I can report to you that Mr. Andrews expressed similar concerns to our Board members who met with him. He does not support the sheer magnitude of what Johns Hopkins has in mind, and he agrees that 40,000 new jobs and 20 million square feet of office space, research facilities, and housing should be downscaled. Mr. Andrews also agrees that transit is an overriding concern, and is something that must be nailed down before any development begins.
WMCCA Board member Mike Denker and I attended the Planning Board's first work session on Gaithersburg West, and there was quite a bit of pushback from Planning Board members to staff regarding the same issues. Several Planning Board Commissioners flatly stated that without a commitment on major upgrades to highway interchanges from state transportation officials, this project should not move forward. Our roads simply cannot handle the density proposed by Johns Hopkins.
As WMCCAs Environmental Chairperson, Ginny Barnes will continue efforts on revisions to the County Forest Conservation Law. She has been working with other organizations and county officials over the last five years to strengthen the law so it protects more existing forest rather than simply providing mitigation after forest has been cut and destroyed. Conservation easements as well as canopy protection on smaller lots play significant roles in overall forest function and have become pivotal issues in local communities.
The WMCCA Board is also keeping tabs on the proposal for a Country Inn on River Road. The project still lacks definition and could be troublesome in years to come if the proposal is not in keeping with the intent of the Country Inn Zone.
Election of WMCCA Officers and Directors
The Nominating Committee proposes the following slate of WMCCA Officers and Directors to the membership for a vote at our May 13th meeting. Nominations may also be made from the floor.
President: Liza Durant
President Elect: Ginny Barnes; Vice President: Susanne Lee; Immediate Past President: Carol Falk
Treasurer: George Barnes; Secretary: Kate Anderson; Newsletter: Lois Williams
Directors nominated for a two-year term:
Mike Denker, Shawn Justement, Cynthia Fain
Directors serving second year of a two-year term:
Ellie Pisarra Cain, Diana Conway, Betsi Dahan, John Yassin
Planning and Zoning Report by George Barnes
Potomac Swim and Tennis Club: A decision by the Hearing Examiner on the special exception modification to allow a tennis bubble will be available soon. The record had been kept open until the end of April to allow all parties to submit complete testimony.
Environmental Report by Ginny Barnes
Montgomery County Stormwater Permit: Implementation of the new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit, delegated through the Federal Clean Water Act, has begun, including budgeting at the County level. The Stormwater Partners Network (of which WMCCA is a member) is supporting a modest $10 increase in the annual Water Quality Protection Charge (to $45.50) to fund Total Maximum Daily Load planning and other stormwater work necessary to meet conditions of the new permit. Stormwater pollution, with the toxins and sediment it carries, is the greatest threat to our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, and severely impairs our ability to provide clean drinking water to a growing population.
Stormwater Partners honored by Civic Federation: Each year the Civic Federation gives the Star Cup Award to an outstanding effort in the Montgomery County civic community. This year, the Stormwater Partners Network, under the leadership of Diane Cameron, will receive the award for its work with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection to craft a Stormwater Permit that, for the first time, sets limits on pollutants reaching our watersheds. WMCCA will be a participant in the ceremony.
Conservation Easements, Winterset Subdivision: On April 4th, the Planning Board heard a request to remove a Category I easement from a property where afforestation (planting forest where none existed previously) by the developer had not occurred in 1996 when the development was built, so there was no forest within the easement. The property owner had since received permits from the Department of Permitting Services to build an array of structures within the easement that should never have been allowed. The danger here lies in setting a precedent for lifting easements just because they have already been violated in this case, by a large cast of characters that included the homeowner, the developer, and the County's own Permitting Department. A creative solution proffered by the Planning Board includes changing the nature of the easement without lifting it by using the developer's original bond posted in 1996 to plant trees on all properties in the subdivision that have easements as well as requiring 4-to-1 mitigation by the property owner to protect off-site existing forest. Another hearing is scheduled May 7th at the Planning Board.
In Memorium Throughout our region, the historic preservation, civic, and environmental communities are mourning the loss of Wayne Goldstein, a tireless activist and a pillar for those of us working for better government, for citizens to be heard and respected, for our historic resources to be saved, and for our environment to be protected. Many of Wayne's friends and colleagues feel that one of the ways he'd wish us to honor him is by defeating the Knapp Amendment No. 09-1 a proposal to amend Chapter 24A of the Montgomery County Code regarding preservation of historic sites. Wayne was working hard on this issue at the time of his sudden death April 27. The amendment would essentially gut our ability to preserve historic structures, and many of the historic sites now part of our collective heritage would have been considered ineligible under this proposal. Write or call in your opposition; emails should be addressed to County Council President Phil Andrews, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 240 777-7900. The record closes for comments May 22nd.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
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