Tag Archives: 2003

Newsletter – December 2003

December 2003


President’s Letter – George Barnes

As our membership has learned over the years, some of the most troublesome, time consuming, and expensive battles we have fought in seeking to protect the residential character of our neighborhoods and our community have been over special exceptions. We find ourselves once again facing a major special exception proposal, this time a very large continuing care facility providing care ranging from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing. The proposal would be constructed on the 28 acre Tauber property located on Democracy Blvd. between the end of the Bullis School property and Stapleford Hall Rd. The plan calls for 36 independent living units, 244 assisted living units, and 80 beds in a skilled nursing facility housed in a number of separate buildings which are quite large. The property is traversed by two streams for which the applicant would be required to make extensive restoration efforts as they are currently in a very degraded state. Some perimeter screening would be provided. The plan is being presented to the Planning Board as a pre-preliminary plan because the property is actually one 18 acre residential lot and a 10 acre parcel which has never been subdivided, which means that it must go through the subdivision process before any use such as this could be built. The applicants do not wish to go forward with a Special Exception application until they are assured that they will be able to obtain subdivision approval. The designs are in a very early planning stage and we will have several opportunities for input.

This proposal would place a large special exception right next to another large and very active special exception, the Bullis School, and a short distance from the Bolger Center, another major institutional use which does not require a special exception only because it is a US Government facility. The Special Exception Policy guidelines in the new Potomac Master Plan calls for increased scrutiny in reviewing applications for highly visible sites, and avoiding an excessive concentration of special exceptions along major transportation corridors. Both these guidelines would seem to apply in this instance.

This is sure to be a long drawn out and contentious matter, so plan to join us on December 10 to hear about this major proposal, which, by the way, will be as new to Mr. Denis as it is to us.

Planning and Zoning – Chair, Susanne Lee, 301 738-7987

On another special exception matter, the Board of Appeals has denied a request for an administrative modification of the special exception for an antique shop at 9900 River Rd. (across from the water filtration plant). The requested modification would have significantly expanded the scope of operations and the impact on the community. We can probably expect to see a request for a modification via a public hearing in the near future.

Sewer Category Change: A category change request has been filed for an administrative approval for sewer service for five lots on the Fulk property on the northwest side of Lloyd Rd. This property is behind the houses on Lloyd Rd. sloping down to the Piney Branch and abutting the Piney Branch Sewer. It is because the property abuts the sewer that it qualifies for administrative approval. It is possible that if there is controversy involved or extensive environmental reasons the property should not be developed the proposal might be put back into the regular hearing process. The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. at Suite 140, 255 Rockville Pike, Rockville. Call Alan Soukup at Department of Environmental Protection to request that it not be approved administratively.

St. Luke’s Church, River Road : Neighbors have successfully lobbied the County Council to condition an approval for a sewer hookup for the property on a covenant or other assurance that no access will be sought to Fox Hunt Lane which abuts the back of the property.

Hall Rd: The extension of Hall Road through to River continues to be a concern; WMCCA and the residents are continuing to work on the issue.

Environment – Chair, Ginny Barnes, 301 762-6423

Blockhouse Point Conservation Park Master Plan: The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the Blockhouse Point MP which will govern the future of and the uses which will be permitted in this beautiful and pristine conservation park. Our Environmental Chair, Ginny Barnes, as worked extensively on this plan and will testify for WMCCA . Copies of the Plan are available at the Potomac Library or at the Planning Board offices in Silver Spring where the hearing is to be held on December 18. Sign up in advance to testify. Greenbriar Park: A public meeting will be held to discuss the development of the 25 acre Greenbriar Park site on Glen Rd. This undeveloped property is proposed to have conservation areas along the portions abutting the Greenbriar Branch and recreational facilities, perhaps ballfields, in the upper portions along Glen Road. The meeting will be held on Thursday, December 11 from 7:00 to 9:30 pm in the all purpose room at Travilah Elementary School, 13801 Dufief Mill Rd.

Roads, Streets, and Bridges – Chair, Diana Conway, 301 983-6142

We will discuss with the membership another contribution to Solutions not Sprawl, the umbrella group, to which we belong, which continues to work to prevent a second crossing of the Potomac River and an interstate highway through the heart of Potomac. This issue has not diminished as a threat or gone away. Powerful pro bridge groups are continuing to work behind the scenes to further this idea.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, George Barnes


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.

Newsletter – October 2003

October 2003

Upcoming Meetings

President’s Letter – George Barnes


I would like to welcome all our members back for another season of meetings, hearings, issues, threats and crises – in other words, normal fare for the West Montgomery County Citizens Association! Special thanks to outgoing President, Susanne Lee, for her hard work and outstanding effort over this past year. Her tireless and thorough job as WMCCA’s president is truly a hard act to follow.

This year we are holding WMCCA’s General Membership meetings at the large meeting room in the Potomac Library. The Library will provide a more intimate setting and foster easier discussion of the issues we face and an opportunity for better dialog with our guests. WMCCA’s Board of Directors will meet prior to the General Meeting. Our May membership meeting, which is our annual meeting, will be at Potomac Elementary School. We urge all our members to join us at this year’s meetings.

We need your help to deal with issues which range from threats to our zoning, our roads, the kind of development which will occur in our community, our streams, parks, the looming threat of an interstate highway through our community, institutions springing up in our neighborhoods, water and sewer issues, our Master Plan, all the things which can and do affect each and every one of us. WMCCA is a respected and powerful civic association in Montgomery County, and we need your help to keep it that way.

WMCCA invites your participation on our committees. Each committee’s current issues are described below, with the chair’s name and phone number. We are striving to fill membership on the committees from WMCCA’s general membership as well as Board members. Please contact the committee chair or any Board member if you can help.

Planning and Zoning – Chair, Susanne Lee, 301 738-7987

Hall Road: A development proposed for a property on River Road across from the existing intersection of Hall Road and River Road has sparked a very controversial proposal to open a connection to River Road from the portion of Hall Road that connects to Falls Bridge Road, and which now dead ends at the boundary of the property concerned. Residents who have for many years lived on this quiet, narrow residential street are rightfully concerned. Significant safety issues relating to injecting additional traffic turning movements on this section of River Road, lack of sight distance, and backups just over the crest of the hill at Accord Drive make this an extremely dubious idea.

Montgomery County Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan: This plan is the vehicle that governs which areas will develop on public sewer and water, and sets forth the policies on which decisions are made. We are currently monitoring a series of amendments to the plan, and will have testified on them before WMCCA’s October 8 meeting. Of particular concern is the treatment of Private Institutional Facilities, known as PIFs. The County Executive is advocating a comprehensive policy which will look at not only the Water and Sewer Plan, but also advocates changes to the County’s land use planning, zoning, and water quality protection processes. There is a grave potential for radical changes to accepted land use policy, especially in areas outside the established water and sewer envelope, notably the RDT (agricultural reserve), RE-1, and RE-2 zones.

Membership – Chair, C.O. North, 301 299-3453

Members of the membership committee will be contacting new arrivals to the community to invite them to join. We will continue to have a presence at Potomac Day and other community events.

Environment – Chair, Ginny Barnes, 301 762-6423

The Blockhouse Point Conservation Park management plan is nearing completion at Park and Planning. This 600+ acre park in Potomac is considered one of the five best natural areas in the County. Montgomery County has many parks – stream valley parks, regional parks, recreational parks. We have miles and miles of trails, many of them multi-use. But our county has few true conservation parks whose main purpose is that they remain completely unspoiled and preserved. Blockhouse Point Conservation Park is a remarkable place. How it will be managed will be decided soon.

Roads, Streets, and Bridges – Chair, Diana Conway, 301 983-6142

Without a doubt, the single most important road issue which we face is the idea for a new bridge across the Potomac River and through our community. This is still an extremely serious and active threat. Tremendously wealthy and powerful interests are continuing to work behind the scenes to further this project. WMCCA continues to be a member organization of Solutions not Sprawl and a supporter of Smart Inc. It is vital that we stay active and strong in our opposition to a bridge through our community.

Special Project – Chair, Lois Williams, 301 299-7236

This year WMCCA will be recognizing students’ Potomac-area environmental projects – classroom, science fair or Scout projects that include observations or data and analysis or activities at a site in the Potomac Master Plan area. This winter and spring WMCCA representatives will be reviewing eligible projects. Lois Williams will describe WMCCA’s new Student Environmental Project Recognition Program at the October 8 meeting.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, George Barnes


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.

Newsletter – May 2003

May 2003

President’s Letter – Susanne Lee


Dogwood and azalea blossoms and migrating warblers seem to be dripping from the trees. Once again they remind us of the incredible natural beauty of the Potomac subregion. The ability to preserve and enhance this beauty often depends not on stopping development proposals, usually impossible, but on mitigating the negative impacts to the environment and the surrounding neighborhoods.

We’ve all seen the results of — for want of a better term — dumb development. Whole properties are denuded, the natural topography destroyed, and thoughtless housing construction and siting result in maximum negative impacts. Ensuring smart development requires knowledge, creativity and tenacity. Sometimes even small changes can have a major impact on how the development will affect the natural resources on and off the site and the existing neighborhood. It is a continuing challenge to force positive changes in site plans, but it can be done. Surrounding neighbors with on-the-ground knowledge of the site and the potential impacts of a developer’s plan continue to be a major resource in the protection of environmental resources. We applaud the work of neighbors surrounding the proposed developments of Congressional Forest Estates, the Greenbriar preserve properties, the Thompson Farm, and the Haines Corporation developments in Glen Hills as they push for site plan changes that will lessen the negative impacts of those developments.

Although the impacts of specific local development plans are important, there are many issues emerging at the State level that could have enormous impacts on the entire Potomac subregion. Of critical importance is the possibility of a second Potomac River bridge crossing through Potomac. As Tina Brown from Solutions Not Sprawl described at our April meeting, a variety of legislative proposals appeared during this legislative session that could have increased the possibility of a bridge, including the establishment of a Regional Transportation Authority and the Private Public Transportation Act.

Last week there more ominous signs. In the midst of budget cuts and property tax increases, Governor Erlich pledged $400,000 to match money Virginia has already committed to study a bridge crossing upstream from the American Legion bridge. Erlich also announced he is directing an additional $19.1 million to the Intercounty Connector, a road that, if one connects the dots, leads directly to a future bridge crossing.

Guest speakers for the upcoming May 14th WMCCA meeting will be the District 15 representatives to the Maryland General Assembly: State Senator Garagiola, and District Representatives Jean Cryor, Kathleen Dumais, and Brian Feldman. All except Jean Cryor are serving their first terms in the Assembly so they have never appeared before our membership. We have asked that they provide an overview of the 2003 legislative session. This meeting will provide the community with an opportunity to hear the legislators views on a variety of issues, including a second bridge. It will also provide participants an opportunity to express their views to the legislators. All are welcome to attend.

Election of officers

The Nominating Committee has proposed the following slate of candidates:

  • Vice President: Ginny Barnes
  • Secretary: Barbara Boykin
  • Treasurer: C.O. North
  • Newsletter Editor: Lois Williams
  • Directors: Karl Buschmann, Mark Barnes,
  • Jonathan Burnworth and Angela Dolginow

Moving up into the office of President will be George Barnes and into the office of President-Elect will be Carol Falk.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Suzanne Lee
301 738-7987


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.

Newsletter – April 2003


A Second Bridge Crossing in Potomac?

Reminder–under our new schedule there will be no membership meeting in March

A SECOND CROSSING IN POTOMAC?
Wednesday, April 9, 2003, 8:00 p.m.
Potomac Elementary School
Speaker: Tina Brown, Solutions Not Sprawl

If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

President’s Letter – Susanne Lee


Efforts to promote the construction of a new Potomac bridge will be the subject of the WMCCA upcoming membership meeting. Tina Brown from “Solutions Not Sprawl” will discuss the range of proposals currently in play. We believe that a new bridge and accompanying superhighway through the heart of the Potomac subregion would be so devastating that all initiatives to facilitate bridge construction must be blocked.

Once such initiative is being considered in Annapolis as the state legislative session races to a conclusion. The Public-Private Transportation Act of 2003, if enacted, would provide for private funding of road and bridge projects. This would open the door for private investors to fund the Intercounty Connector (ICC), other sprawl-inducing projects that provide the rationale and increase pressure for a new bridge, and perhaps the bridge itself. According to Solutions Not Sprawl,” the bill could allow a privately-funded transportation project to bypass the critical environmental review which is triggered with federal funding. Currently, large federally funded transportation projects must go through a rigorous state and federal environmental review. This process allows for community input, analysis of alternatives, and a thorough environmental impact analysis. If a project is funded privately by development interests, it can bypass the rigorous federal environmental impact analysis. Even if a state regulation is triggered, the Maryland environmental regulations do not have the extensive environmental protection covering parkland and analysis of alternatives that exists in the federal regulations.

Another initiative would raise taxes and vehicle registration fees to fund County Executive Duncan’s “Go Montgomery” transportation plan – called “Pave Montgomery” by some. Funds made available under the new legislation could be used for a Purpose and Need Statement for a new Potomac River crossing and the creation of a new regional transportation authority – one which could usurp local decision-making regarding a Potomac River bridge. Given that the Potomac Subregion Master Plan specifically rejected a new bridge, we strongly object to the use of tax dollars to fund these activities.

Join us at WMCCA’s membership meeting on April 9th to learn the facts and what you can do to make your opinions known.

Master Plan Violation: Boswell Lane Sewer Category Change Approval – WMCCA has filed a request with the Maryland Departments of Environment and Planning asking for disapproval of a Boswell Lane sewer category change granted to R.A.M. Investing Ltd. that violated the Potomac Master Plan and the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy. The request was filed in accordance with a little-utilized provision of the Maryland code that provides for disapproval of County Council amendments that violate local master plans.

Signs at Stream Crossings – As part of WMCCAs ongoing efforts to inform residents about the importance and location of streams and stream valleys that crisscross the Potomac subregion, and thanks to the efforts of Board member Lois Williams, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation has installed a stream identification signs at a few intersections of streams with county roads in the Potomac area. Negotiations are underway for signage at additional stream crossings. Citizens who know our area’s streams will be better stewards of our water quality and environment.

Allentuck Nursery Special Exception Request – WMCCA plans to testify at the Montgomery County Board of Appeals hearing on April 7th in order to support measures that will address lighting on the site, the types of lawn furniture that will be sold, and the landscaped buffer/berm that is to be constructed.

Greenbriar Preserve and the Tompson Farm – Plans for these large proposed developments were presented at the March WMCCA Board meeting and may soon go before the Montgomery County Planning Board for approval. For further information, contact George Barnes, 301-762-6423.

WMCCA Nominating Committee – A Nominating Committee consisting of a Chair and four members will be elected by the membership at the April 9th membership meeting. The Nominating Committee will prepare a slate of officers and directors to be voted upon on at the WMCCA Annual Membership meeting on May 14th. If you are interested in serving as a member of the Nominating Committee or as an officer or board member, call Susanne Lee, 301-738-7987.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Suzanne Lee
301 738-7987


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.

Newsletter – March 2003

Reminder–under our new schedule there will be no membership meeting in March

I. A SECOND CROSSING IN POTOMAC?
Wednesday, April 9, 2003, 8:00 p.m.
Potomac Elementary School
Speaker: Tina Brown, Solutions Not Sprawl

II. ISSUES IN THE 2003 MARYLAND STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Wednesday, May 14, 2003, 8:00 p.m.
Potomac Elementary School
Speakers:
Jean Cryor, Member of the House, District 15
Robert Garagiola, Member of the Senate, District 15

If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

President’s Letter – Susanne Lee


“Second Crossing” – “Techway” – “The Bridge” – words we haven’t heard much lately. Unfortunately, however, steps continue to be taken in several arenas that together could help set the stage for a new Potomac bridge crossing, with the likely route through the Potomac Subregion. These include:

  • Election of a County Council, County Executive, and Maryland Governor that support expanded road building, in particular the Intercounty Connector. Not only will the ICC cause severe environmental degredation to some of the county’s last best stream valleys and wetlands, it lays the eastern foundation for the Techway and the Outer Beltway.
  • Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan announced his support for a new Potomac River Crossing Study and a Regional Transportation Authority in his $1 billion “Go Montgomery” plan.
  • The Maryland General Assembly authorized a study to assess whether a new Regional Transportation Transportation Authority (RTA) was a good idea for Maryland. The report was released February 10th, and recommended against an RTA. Despite the results of the study, legislation has been introduced in both the Maryland Senate and House which calls for a conference to discuss the creation of an RTA. An RTA could have the power to override decisions of local government officials and local land use and zoning policy, and expedite unpopular bridge and highway projects. Additional legislation entitled the Public Private Transportation Act would permit private companies to pay for road and bridge projects, thus possibly providing a way for development forces to get these projects at the top of the list in a tight budget climate.
  • The Council of Governments is planning a $400,000 Techway Study, and the Virginia Department of Transportion has put $400,000 aside for a “Techway” study.

These actions serve to exert continuing pressure for a second crossing. As WMCCA focuses more attention on responding to these issues, we urge individual members to stay informed and take action as well. An invaluable partner in our efforts and a resource for all is the organization, Solutions Not Sprawl (SNS). One of the major missions of the organization is to halt proposals for any new Potomac river bridges and their connecting superhighways. Tina Brown with Solutions Not Sprawl will be the guest speaker at our April 9th meeting, and we urge everyone to attend to learn the most recent developments regarding the Bridge. You can also check for updated information on their web site at http://www.solutionsnotsprawl.org.

Congressional Forest Estates – WMCCA reviewed the plan submitted by the developers to the Montgomery County Planning Board and were very concerned because an excessive number of specimen trees would be destroyed. The WMCCA Board of Directors voted to back the Congressional Forest Citizens Association in voicing this concern to the Planning Board staff. Through calls and letters, the two citizens associations and numerous homeowners expressed their concerns to Park & Planning, and WMCCA Board Member Barbara Boykin testified at the Planning Board hearing on Thursday, February 27th. In addition to the tree destruction, homeowners feared that stormwater runoff would become problematic and that the new development would be out of character with the heavily wooded nature of the rest of the neighborhood. At the hearing the Planning Board staff recommended that the number of lots for development be cut from five to four, to make the individual lots more consistent in size with the rest of the neighborhood, and to allow more beech trees to be saved. The vote of the Board was unanimous in favor of the reduction.

Sewer Category Changes – WMCCA testified before the Planning Board on March 6th with regard to the standards for documentation required for public health exceptions. The Board agreed, and declined to concur with a request because it lacked adequate documentation.

Nominations – WMCCA elections will take place at the general membership meeting on May 14th. If you would like to serve on the Nominating Committes or if you would like to be nominated for a position as a WMCCA officer or board member, please call Susanne Lee at 301 738-7987.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Suzanne Lee
301 738-7987


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.

Newsletter – February 2003

February 2003

An Archive of past newsletters, back to the January 2003 issue, is now available on this website.
Next Meeting – February 12, 2003
8:00 p.m., Potomac Elementary School
Speaker: Michael Subin, President, Montgomery County Council
If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled

President’s Letter – Susanne Lee


WMCCA and our individual members continue to voice strong objections to the County Council’s recent blatant violations of the Potomac Master Plan. We had hoped to receive a response from Council President Subin at our December meeting, but a snow storm forced a cancellation of the meeting. Fortunately, he was available to reschedule and will be speaking at our February meeting. In addition to individual letters from WMCAA and our members, WMCCA recently joined with the other members of the Potomac Subregion Leadership Group to send the letter reproduced below to Mr. Subin and other Council members. To date, we have received no response from Mr. Subin. We urge you to attend our upcoming meeting and learn firsthand the Council President’s reaction to these grave threats to the Potomac Master Plan.

Michael Subin, President
Montgomery County Council
100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850

Dear Mr. Subin:

The members of the Potomac Subregion Leadership Group, consisting of representatives from the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, Darnestown Civic Association, North Potomac Citizens Association, and the Willows and Neighbors Citizens Association, express our grave concerns with the recent approval for the applications WSSCR 00A-TRV-03 and WSSCR 01A-TRV-10, which constitute a direct violation of the recently adopted Potomac Master Plan.

Our four civic associations worked extensively on the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, commencing in 1998 through its adoption by the County Council in March 2002. Members of three of our civic associations served on the Potomac Master Plan Advisory Group (MPAG) during those five years. Our civic associations also provided input on the plan during the multiple public hearing sessions before the Planning Board and the County Council. We were convinced that the Master Plan, after Council approval, provided a set of comprehensive recommendations and guidelines for the use of publicly and privately owned land within the Subregion. As adopted, the Master Plan recognized that limiting sewer capacity in the Subregion was integral to both protecting the environment adjacent to the Potomac River and the public water supply.

Due in part to the amount of citizen effort which was expended by our respective organizations and its individual members over the five year period within which the Master Plan was developed, we are disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened, and quite frankly, astonished by the approvals of the County Council on October 22, 2002 and November 26, 2002 of two sewer extension applications which clearly violate the specific language of the Master Plan as it pertains to the restriction of further sewer extensions in the Glen Hill area and the Piney Branch Restricted Access Policy. Specifically we refer to applications WSSCR 00A-TRV-03 and WSSCR 01A-TRV-10.

The Council’s decisions on these two sewer extension applications are not supported by any other government agency involved in the process. The record reflects that the County Executive, the Maryland Park and Planning Commission, and your staff repeatedly recommended denial of these applications to maintain consistency with the updated Master Plan recommendations and your water and sewer plan policies. Yet they were both approved, the latter on a 5-4 vote at the Council’s November 26, 2002 session without public notification that the item would be on the agenda.

The Council’s decision on these two matters goes, in our opinion, well beyond the sewer extension applications themselves. We believe Council’s action calls into question the Council’s respect for and commitment to the recently adopted Potomac Subregion Master Plan. We need to hear from the Council that such is not the case. We believed the Approved Master Plan would be the defining document for future development in our communities and that we could trust it to guide your decisions. We did not expect, especially after the amount of citizen time devoted to the Plan’s construct, to be dealing with an issue that so clearly violates both the letter and spirit of the Potomac Master Plan only eight months after the Plan’s adoption. This is not good government!

Each of our organizations intends to update our members on these recent Council actions. This will be done by including this letter in our respective newsletters, related publications and community meeting agendas. We respectfully request a prompt reply to this letter so your response, too, can be included as part of our member update.

Sincerely,
Tom DeGraba, President, Willows And Neighbors Citizens Association
Susanne Lee, President, West Montgomery County Citizens Association
James R. Grant, Jr., President, North Potomac Citizens Association
Terrence Reis, President, Darnestown Civic Association

Upcoming Events:

WMCCA will testify before the County Council on January 14, 2003 opposing Council Bill No. 38-02, which would make optional development standards (denser development than under existing zoning) currently available to developments of 35 or more units also available to any other developments that contain moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs), no matter how small the parcel of land or the number of dwelling units proposed. While WMCCA supports efforts to increase the number of MPDUs available, under this legislation high-density infill developments could be approved for single lots in established single-family detached neighborhoods without regard to zoning, the Master Plan, or the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Board of Appeals hearing on the Allentuck Special Exception Request (nursery at corner of Glen Road and Falls Road) has been postponed until February. At that time WMCCA plans to support the proposal in general, subject to the imposition of certain limitations on lighting and sales of garden furniture.

Environmental Affairs: Ginny Barnes, WMCCA’s Environmental Chair, testified before the Planning Board on February 6, 2003 regarding the Countywide Trail Plan Amendment.

Planning and Zoning: Copies of the site plans for the Greenbriar Preserve and Congressional Forest Estates developments will be available for examination at the WMCCA meeting on February 12.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Suzanne Lee
301 738-7987


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).

Newsletter – January 2003

January 2003

Reminder – No Meeting in January
Next Meeting – February 12, 2003
8:00 p.m., Potomac Elementary School
Speaker: Michael Subin, President, Montgomery County Council

President’s Letter – Susanne Lee


WMCCA and the residents of the Potomac Subregion begin the New Year facing a major challenge. After the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies, thousands of hours of skilled, dedicated county staff work, and four years of work by WMCCA members and other volunteers, the Potomac Subregion Master Plan was completed and approved by the Montgomery County Council and adopted by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. However, as first discussed in last month’s WMCCA Newsletter, in one of its first actions implementing the Master Plan, the County Council “blew up” basic provisions of the Plan that impact directly on the preservation of environmental resources in the Subregion.

In the final days of the outgoing Council’s term, in response to developers and their attorneys, Isiah Leggett, then a lame duck Council member, pushed through sewer category changes on Boswell Lane and in Glen Hills that clearly violate the plain language of the Master Plan. The Master Plan provisions at issue deal with sewer extensions and were carefully constructed based on environmental data assembled as part of the Master Plan process. The provisions were specifically designed to ensure the protection and enhancement of water quality in the Watts Branch and Piney Branch watersheds. The Piney Branch, because of its unique enviromental sensitivity, has been designated by Montgomery County as a Special Protection Area, and the Master Plan affirms the stringent limitations contained in the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy. The Council’s approval of multiple sewer hookups on Boswell Lane clearly violates those restrictions and promotes the intensive development in the watershed that the Master Plan provisions sought to halt.

In addition to the immediate negative impact on those watersheds, an even greater concern is the blatant rejection and de facto amendment by the Council, without adequate public notice and comment, of such key Master Plan provisions – provisions approved by the Council just a few months ago after extensive public hearings and debate. The Council’s actions put in jeopardy the entire Master Plan process and citizen efforts, past and present, to maintain the Subregion as a low-density green wedge. Decisions made in the Master Plan that supposedly were to resolve certain issues for the next 10 to 15 years are now at risk of being modified and reversed. These include basic decisions regarding such issues as: land use, including the maintenance of existing zoning and the placement of schools, recreation centers, and commercial districts; the widening of River Road; a second Potomac River bridge crossing; the two-lane road policy; rustic and other road classifications; historic property designations; and park acquisitions and use.

Nothing is secure now – not for Potomac neighborhoods or for other communities in the Subregion, or even for other areas of Montgomery County. If Master Plans can be violated and rejected with such impunity, then homeowners and communities can no longer rely upon or put trust in their contents.

WMCCA has initiated a series of actions aimed at reversing the Council’s actions and ensuring that other Master Plan provisions are not violated in the future. County Council and other county staff members were contacted immediately to determine how and what had occurred and what could be done to reverse the decisions. Letters were sent and phone calls made to individual Council Members, and follow-up meetings are scheduled. Legal counsel has been retained to explore possible legal action. We are also reaching out to other civic and environmental organizations to enlist their support in our efforts – efforts we believe are essential to ensure all county residents the protections and processes afforded by Master Plans.

In addition, we urge all WMCC members to contact County Council members directly to express concern about the Council’s blatant rejection of the Master Plan provisions on sewer extensions and the precedence it sets for the Council to ignore, reject and reverse any other Master Plan provisions. Council member Howard Denis, who voted for the Boswell Lane sewer extension, represents much of the Potomac Subregion. Phil Andrews, who voted against the extension, represents a northern portion of the Subregion. Michael Subin, who voted for the extension, is the County Council President, and a letter sent to him generally is distributed to all other Council members. We also urge you to attend the next WMCCA meeting on February 12, 2003 when Mr. Subin will be the guest speaker.

A list of Council Members and their phone numbers and e-mail addresses/ links appears under the heading Gov’t Officials elsewhere on our web site. A summary of the sewer category changes that violate the Potomac Subregion Master Plan is set forth below at the end of the Newsletter.

Upcoming Events:

WMCCA will testify before the County Council on January 14, 2003 opposing Council Bill No. 38-02, which would make optional development standards (denser development than under existing zoning) currently available to developments of 35 or more units also available to any other developments that contain moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs), no matter how small the parcel of land or the number of dwelling units proposed. While WMCCA supports efforts to increase the number of MPDUs available, under this legislation high-density infill developments could be approved for single lots in established single-family detached neighborhoods without regard to zoning, the Master Plan, or the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Board of Appeals hearing on the Allentuck Special Exception Request (nursery at corner of Glen Road and Falls Road) has been postponed until February. At that time WMCCA plans to support the proposal in general, subject to the imposition of certain limitations on lighting and sales of garden furniture.

Planning and Zoning: We have received two new site plans which we will bring to our February 12 meeting. Should you have questions about them before the meeting, call George Barnes, 301 762-6423.

Greenbriar Preserve – 31 lots, RNC zoning (rural cluster). This property is near the corner of Glen Road and Piney Meetinghouse Road adjoining the Tipton property, and is part of the cluster development concept approved in the Master Plan in return for the dedication of a significant amount of land for conservation and parkland. This is a preliminary plan, and neighbors could have input with the Park and Planning staff at this point.

Congressional Forest Estates: Preliminary Plan for five houses. The property is bordered by Beech Hill Drive, Aldershot and North Branch Drive. The houses are on roughly half-acre lots. Several specimen trees are shown to be saved but many others would surely be lost.

SUMMARY OF SEWER CATEGORY CHANGES THAT VIOLATE THE POTOMAC MASTER PLAN

NOTE: THE FIRST TWO CATEGORY CHANGES CLEARLY VIOLATE THE PLAIN LANGUAGE OF THE MASTER PLAN AND, IN THE CASE OF THE FIRST CATEGORY CHANGE, ALSO THE PINEY BRANCH SEWER RESTRICTED ACCESS POLICY. THE THIRD CATEGORY CHANGE MAY BE A VIOLATION OF THE MASTER PLAN DEPENDING ON FACTS WE ARE STILL TRYING TO VERIFY AS WELL AS THE FINAL SEWER ALIGNMENT.

I. BOSWELL LANE EXTENSION TO THE PINEY BRANCH RESTRICTED ACCESS TRUNK SEWER. Map Amendment No.WSCCR 00A-TRV-03. Applicants: R.A.M. Investing, Ltd. and Boswell Lane Limited Partnership (Steve Orens . Location: Northeast side of Boswell Lane 800 ft. west of Glen Mill Road.

  1. Requested pubic sewer service via an extension to the Piney Branch Trunk Sewer to support a proposed four-lot subdivision.
  2. Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy, as amended by the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, prohibits additional hook-ups except in very limited circumstances: “[for]properties which abut and predate existing sewer mains, restricted to one sewer hookup only.
  3. Applicant’s property does not abut the existing main and the request is for a four-lot subdivision, not a single hook-up. Thus, the request clearly does not meet the requirements of the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy and the Master Plan. This was the unanimous conclusion reached by all the government agencies that commented on the request, including the Montgomery County Planning Board, the Department of Environmental Protection, the County Executive and the County Council Staff.
  4. In Councilmember Isiah Leggett’s presentation to the Council on November 26, 2002, just before the Council voted, he urged the Council to vote for the extension indicating that the Council need not adhere to the Master Plan provisions.
  5. No public notice was given that the agenda of the Transportation and Environment(T&E) Committee, chaired by Mr. Leggett, would include a vote on this category change at its meeting on November 25, 2002. Similarly, no public notice was given that the Council agenda would include a vote on this category change on November 26, 2002, the day it was enacted.

II. GLEN HILLS EXTENSION TO THE WATTS BRANCH SEWER LINE. Map Amendment No. WSSCR 01A-TRV-10. Applicant: Eberhard Klein represented by Larry Gordon of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy, and Ecker. Location: Glen Hills neighborhood, north side of Watts Branch west of Valley Drive.

  1. Requested extension of public sewer to a vacant lot in Glen Hills.
  2. The Potomac Subregion Master Plan contains the following Sewer Service Policy restrictions for the Glen Hills area: ‘Conduct a study described above of the Glen Hills area. Based on the results of the study develop a policy outlining the measures needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of septic service for new home construction and existing home renovations, minimizing the need for future sewer service extensions. Under this policy the sole basis for providing new sewer service would be well-documented septic failures where extension could be provided consistent with results of the study and in a logical, economical, and environmentally acceptable manner. Until a policy is developed, restrict further sewer service extensions in Glen Hills to properties with documented public health problems resulting from septic system failure.’
  3. The required study has not yet been completed and no policy developed; and, thus, extensions are limited to properties with documented public problems because of failed septic systems. This vacant lot does not have a failed septic and thus is ineligible for an extension under the Master Plan restrictions.
  4. T&E Committee, at the urging of the lawyer for the applicant, erroneously determined that this property was ‘unique’ and voted for an extension on the basis of that finding. The Department of Environmental Protection determined that it was not ‘unique’ and that this determination was not supported by the facts.
  5. The T & E Committee, without any public meeting or other public communications, invented 5 new criteria to indicate how “unique” this lot was. In fact, DEP determined that these criteria, e.g. the lot doesn’t perc, could be met by many other lots throughout Glen Hills. It was just such similar piecemeal extensions that were the subject of much criticism in the Master Plan process and, as a result, they are prohibited under the Master Plan.
  6. In contrast to the hours of public comment and deliberations given to Glen Hills sewer policy in the Master Plan, the T&E Committee, with no opportunity for public comment, established these entirely new criteria that will now be applied to sewer requests in Glen Hills. The criteria were developed after the public hearing and after the T&E committee meeting and were not made available to the public until just before they were presented to the Council for a final vote. These criteria amount to an amendment to the Master Plan that was never subject to public comment.
  7. Furthermore, in response to one of the criteria, the T & E Committee erroneously stated that the extension will have minimal environmental impact. To the contrary, the lot is heavily wooded, the woods are contiguous to a forest conservation area established on the adjoining lot under the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law. According to abutting property owners, the lot also contains an area of wetlands that drain into a tributary of the Watts Branch.

III. GLEN HILLS AREA EXTENSION FOR AS YET UNVERIFIED PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEMS CAUSED BY AS YET UNVERIFIED FAILED SEPTIC SYSTEM. Map Amendment No. WSCCR 00A-TRV-05. Applicants: Douglas and Chris Hatch. Location: 13300 Southwood Drive in Glen Hills.

  1. The July, 2002 request for a sewer category change for this lot stated that the extension was needed in order to build an addition for an elderly relative.
  2. On October 15, 2002, after the public hearing on September 19th and the T&E Public Work Session on October 14, 2002, the County Department of Environmental Protection received a memo from the Department of Permitting Services that state with regard to the lot that “[a] failing septic system has been confirmed” and requested a 22ft. direct sewer hookup to the existing main at Jasmine Hill Terr[ace].”
  3. The Master Plan provisions for Glen Hills state that an extension may be granted for pubic health reasons as follows: “Under this policy the sole basis for providing new sewer service would be well-documented septic failures where extension could be provided consistent with results of the study and in a logical, economical, and environmentally acceptable manner. Until a policy is developed, restrict further sewer service extensions in Glen Hills to properties with documented public health problems resulting from septic system failure.”
  4. The Master Plan requires documentation of an actual failure, not failing or the possibility of a failure. In the absence of documentation that the system has actually failed and a public health problem exists, the extension is barred by the requirements for public health extensions in Glen Hills set forth in the Master Plan.
  5. Notwithstanding the Master Plan requirement that any extensions for public health reasons in Glen Hills must be provided in an “environmentally acceptable manner”, no information was presented to the Council or the public regarding the environmental impacts of this extension. The extension could have been obrained by running the line in the street and hooking up to a main on Scott Drive. Instead, the alternative that was approved is a 200 ft. extension that will go through the heavily wooded backyards of the applicants’ two abutting neighbors. These forest stands are specifically protected from any disturbance by forest conservation easements that were placed on all the properties in the North Glen Hills subdivision.
  6. Adequate notice and opportunity to comment has not been given to the neighbors through whose properties the line will be constructed. The material presented to the Council indicates that the applicants contacted the abutting property owners whose backyard forest stands will be destroyed by the extension insinuating that the neighbors had somehow agreed to the extension. In fact, they were not provided information about this request by the applicants and had told the applicants when asked several years ago that they objected to the extension.


It was only after the September public hearing and the October T&E work session, both of which dealt only with the prior request for an extension in order to expand the house (for which the unanimous County recommendation had been denial), that the applicants claimed their septic was failing. There was no way the neighboring property owners could have known about this entirely new claim or the proposed alignment through their properties until the information was disclosed in the staff report just prior to the time the Council was acting upon the request. There was thus no meaningful opportunity for them to respond in a timely manner to a construciton project that will have a substantial negative impact on their properties.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Suzanne Lee
301 738-7987

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.