Tag Archives: 2004

Newsletter – December 2004

December 2004


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

This area of Montgomery County is unlike any other in the County in terms of its green space, wooded stream valleys – and, yes – the slow roads that wind through wooded areas and cross stream valleys. The Rustic Road Program reflects the unique environmental character of our region. Unfortunately, the program is facing increasing pressure from both inside and outside our communities to change. 

The 2001 Potomac Subregion Master Plan states that the Rustic Roads Program was developed, in part to protect the sylvan nature of the Subregion’s roads, particularly in Watts Branch Glen where Glen Road intersects with Glen Mill and South Glen Roads. The Master Plan notes that the traffic volume and accident history of these roads would typically exclude them from rustic road designation. The traffic volume is not caused by increased development in the immediate vicinity, but by traffic congestion during morning and evening rush hour along I-270, prompting commuters to look for alternate routes. Through the years, these commuters, many of whom come from Germantown and further points North, have switched to using our country roads and rustic roads as their main routes for getting to and from work. This is a disturbing trend, and one that needs to be addressed.  

There are a number of roads listed as Rustic with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Unfortunately, many of these roads in our area are used as cut-throughs by commuters who have little or no regard for the speed limit, much less the status of the road. Bsecause of their status, these roads are protected from being widened, straightened, or otherwise streamlined to carry more traffic.  

We also need to reconsider the criteria that must be met before a neighborhood can receive speed-calming devices. Even if a particular road generates the kind of traffic volume that meets or exceeds the criteria, and virtually all of the neighbors support the installation of round-abouts, stop signs, speed bumps, or other speed-calming devices, there are certain criteria the County has established that preclude a neighborhood from getting on the County’s waiting list for such devices. We hope to address these and other issues when Mr. Holmes speaks at the December WMCCA general meeting, and we invite you to bring your transportation and public works concerns to Mr. Holme’s attention as well.  

These roads have become terribly unsafe for children who want to bike to their friend’s house, for moms and kids who want to walk the dog, for anyone wanting to take a short stroll down the road. It has even become treacherous for many of us who live along these cut-throughs to retrieve the mail. The answer, of course, is not to decrease the number of roads designated Rustic, but to give the Rustic Road classification some teeth. 

Planning and Zoning – George Barnes 

Special Exception, Falls Road – The hearing on the application for a special exception on Falls Road next to the Bank of America has been rescheduled for mid February. The postponement was requested by the applicant to allow time to comply with the requirements of the Park and Planning Commission staff. The application will have a hearing before the Planning Board prior to the Special Exception hearing. 

WMCCA.org – Look on WMCCA’s website for the text of recent WMCCA testimonies before the County Council and Planning Board on proposed changes in county policies related to Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU’s) and Accessory Apartments.  

WMCCA Special Project  

WMCCA invites students who have done an outdoor science activity at a local site to show us their report, poster, collection, scout project, or science fair project. A WMCCA representative will be at the Potomac Library to review projects for an hour before the General Meeting each month (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.).  Call Lois Williams, 301 299-7236

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Carol Van Dam Falk
301 963-6779


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 – November 2004

November 2004


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

Now that the presidential 2004 election is over, many of us breathe a collective sigh of relief – and hope that our national leadership has strong convictions about protecting our environment. On a local level, there seems to be a disturbing trend taking place in our neighborhoods that has far-reaching, detrimental effects for our environment. That is the rather indiscriminate clearcutting of mature trees on private property.

To name just a few examples, we have witnessed it on a lot behind the Potomac Elementary School in the past few months. Closer to my home, I’ve noticed it occurring on Esworthy Road. Clearcutting can lead to soil erosion that can have disastrous effects on not only the property at hand, but on several adjoining properties. It hampers watershed protection, especially if it occurs near a stream. DNR experts tell us that when water heats up in the sun, it reduces the amount of oxygen available for stream organisms and increases algae growth. The algae than dies, decomposes, using up more oxygen in the water.

Clearcutting also fragments large forest areas into smaller tracts that make it harder for wildlife to survive, especially some species of birds. Incidentally, instead of throwing out our Christmas trees after each holiday season, we discard it on our own property in the woods, where it makes an ideal nesting area for birds. Robb Gibbs of Montgomery County’s local DNR extension tells us Forest Interior Dwellings (FIDs) are losing habitat throughout North America.

Where clearcutting results in large grass lawns, habitat for many animals is lost. There are also local County ordinances that forbid clearcutting on some tracts of land, especially those that are near a riverbed or stream. Stiff fines may result if the necessary permits are not obtained before clearcutting takes place. Please think twice before you consider expanding your lawn. Ask yourself if the tradeoff is worth it.

We hope to see you all at the November 10th meeting.

Planning and Zoning – George Barnes

Normandy Farm: The hearing on the zoning change for the Normandy Farm property has been suspended indefinitely while the applicants ask that the parking requirements for the Country Inn zone be modified.

ZTA 04-10: The Planning Board will hold hearings on this zoning text amendment that would allow accessory apartments by right in many zones in the county, including RE1 and RE2. WMCCA will testify on the vital importance of keeping the process under the special exception jurisdiction of the Board of Appeals. This process provides notice to neighbors and citizens associations, allows residents to testify on the merits of the proposed use, and requires inspections to insure that the accessory apartment continues to operate within the rules which govern them.

Environmental Report – Ginny Barnes

Conservation Parks in Montgomery County are defined as tracts of open space where conserving resources takes precedence and recreation is limited to those activities with the least impact. The Planning Board approved the Blockhouse Point Conservation Park Master Plan on October 21, with several amendments to the Staff Draft. Natural Resource staff focused their recommendations on necessary protections to the ecological, historical and cultural values of the park. These included a Trail Concept Plan that would re-route some existing trails away from steep slopes and rare plant communities, and amending the Muddy Branch Trail Plan to identify a specific location for the portion of a shared use trail that passes through Blockhouse Point Conservation Park. Visitors to the Park will find a user-specific trail system with some uses limited by the sensitivity of the terrain.

Three of the five Planning Board members wanted to try a pilot program granting equestrian access to the southernmost trail to the bluff overlooks. Access would be through the adjacent Callithea Farm, currently being acquired by MNCPPC through Legacy Open Space. Such expanded access would not go into effect until (and if) an implementation plan is specifically approved by the Planning Board. They also expanded the plan for a historical interpretive center to be located at Callithea Farm to include ecological education that would help future visitors understand the conservation values of the Park.

WMCCA Special Project –

WMCCA encourages young people to go outdoors for science. We invite students who have done an activity at a local site to show us their report, poster, collection, scout project, or science fair project. A WMCCA representative will be at the Potomac Library to review projects for an hour before the General Meeting each month (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.), including November 10, 2004. Call Lois Williams, 301 299-7236.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Carol Van Dam Falk
301 963-6779


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 2004

October 2004


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

As your new President, I hope to draw on the vast experience of our past President George Barnes and other equally effective past Presidents, some of whom still serve on the board of WMCCA as well as our other able and experienced board members. I also want to extend a most cordial invitation to new members, potential new members, and existing members dedicated to responsible growth in the Potomac Subregion Master Plan area. That civic responsibility includes keeping a watchful eye on our elected representatives and civil servants. It also means doing our share to protect the Green Wedge.

We can’t do it alone. Now is the time to step up to the plate and join us in protecting our Master Plan, which has come under attack in various forms of legislation by the County Council. On November 2, you will vote on Ballot C, which would do away with the at-large seats on the County Council. The WMCCA Board voted to remain neutral on Question 5. There are pros and cons to this issue. Some say we need these at-large members so we can work with each of them on a broad range of issues that affect our area and the entire county. Others say the at-large members are beholden to no one but developers. A brief report will be presented at the October general meeting.

On MPDUs, George Barnes testified before the Council and argued that while some of the proposed changes were viable, others did nothing to enhance affordable housing but would in fact jeopardize all of the county Master Plans, including ours, and subject us all to increased density, more traffic congestion, more developer buy-outs, and reverse years of innovative planning as set forth in the 1980 and 2002 Master Plans for the Potomac subregion. On the Seven Locks school issue, an appeal is now before the Maryland Board of Education. As Seven Locks transcends typical school issues and crosses into land use issues, we are following its developments and are encouraging interested parties to raise money and hire a lawyer to pursue the Administrative Procedures Act as an appeal mechanism.

Help us to fight the good fight. Join us on October 13th to learn about what is at stake for our County’s future, and encourage your friends and neighbors to come as well.

Planning and Zoning – George Barnes

Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU’s) and Accessory Apartments – WMCCA testified at two recent hearings before the County Council on a series of Zoning Text Amendments and bills introduced by a number of different council members with different ideas and philosophies on the MPDU program in Montgomery County. How the Council decides to modify this program could have radical impacts on all areas and zones in the county and could conceivably reduce the role of Master Plans in determining densities throughout the county. WMCCA has urged the Council to protect the Master Plan process, the role of the Planning Board and the planning process and to not allow the zoning ordinance to trump master plans and allow increased density and denser housing types if MPDU’s are included in development proposals. We have asked for an end to the buyout policy that has resulted in the net loss of most of the MPDU’s created since the program was started in the late 80’s. We have cautioned against removing accessory apartments from the jurisdiction of the Board of Appeals (i.e. the Special Exception process) and putting it in the hands of a housing authority, thereby eliminating notification, public hearings and an inspection policy that exists under current law. We will work with other Citizens Associations to lobby Council members in the coming weeks on these issues and will certainly ask our members to write and call the Council.

Special Exception hearing – Srour property, Falls Road – A hearing will be held on November 15 on an application for a Special Exception for a Medical Practitioner’s office for use of other than a resident of the building. This property is next to the Bank of America building on Falls Road, and it has been operated as a dentist’s office as a home occupation for several years. The special exception would allow two dentists, a hygenist, one dental assistant and two part time employees (one full time equivalent employee) who will serve as the receptionist and perform other front office duties. One day a week there will be a maximum of four employees on site at one time. Prior to this application, one dentist was a resident of the building and it was a permitted use as a home occupation. WMCCA has sought to confine commercial enterprises to the commercial zone and prevent businesses from moving out into the residential zones surrounding the Village. The use of the property as a home occupation does not create a presumption that a special exception at this location is permissible. Such an exception will be subject to all of the requirements for parking, landscaping, set backs, traffic impacts and the impacts on the surrounding neighbors.

Normandy Farm rezoning application to Country Inn Zone – A hearing will be held on November 19 on the application of Normandy Farm for a rezoning from the R-200 zone to the Country Inn zone. WMCCA is concerned with the possible accessory uses permitted under this zone in the zoning ordinance. While the owners have maintained that no accessory uses are contemplated, we would like to have some sort of more binding assurance that no such uses will be permitted. We are also concerned with the landscaping, new building, parking reconstruction, afforestation of the site and the preservation and restoration of the spring on the property that is in the headwaters of the Kilgour Branch.

Safeway expansion in Potomac Village – The management of the shopping center presented a plan to the WMCCA Board for an expansion and remodeling of the Safeway in Potomac. The addition would consist of a mezzanine above the rear portion of the store to house receiving, food preparation, offices, an employee lounge and rest rooms, and would allow increased floor area on the first floor for sales and display. The addition would add some 3000 square feet to the area of the store. Entry and exit from the store would be through one set of doors on the front of the store next to the hardware store. The Board expressed some concern about the potential for increased congestion in this area of the center with both ingress and egress and car loading in this area. No increase in the number of parking spaces is contemplated to offset the increased square footage of sales area in the center.

WMCCA Special Project

WMCCA encourages young people to go outdoors for science. We invite students who have done an activity at a local site to show us their report, poster, collection, or science fair project. A WMCCA representative will be at the Potomac Library to review projects for an hour before the General Meeting each month (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.), starting October 13, 2004. Call Lois Williams, 301 299-7236.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President, Carol Van Dam Falk
301 963-6779


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 2004

March 2004


President’s Letter – George Barnes

Our March meeting will again provide our members an opportunity to discuss ongoing issues of concern to us, which seem to pop up in an unending stream. It would be nice some month to sit down to write this letter and announce that nothing was happening and we could take the month off. Alas, there are always zoning problems, road problems, subdivisions, hearings, meetings, environmental threats, and this month is no exception. Many of our members have been through all of these things many times, but some have not, and I hope that a meeting where we can talk over issues and strategies, the agencies and government bodies which influence our lives and community, and maybe a little about what makes us keep trying will help all of us to understand the complicated community we live in and the forces which shape our future. So please join us on the 10th and bring your issues and questions.

On another front, the Montgomery County Civic Federation is beginning a petition drive to place an initiative on the ballot to change the way the County Council is structured. The Civic Fed proposal is for all council members to be elected from an increased number of districts and to do away with at-large seats on the Council. The concern as expressed by MCCF President Kari Lamari is that the tremendous cost of running an at-large campaign in today’s political environment creates a situation where only those candidates with access to large contributions from special interests can hope to win election, thus leading to council members being beholden to special interest groups instead of the voters. The Civic Fed proposes nine districts with no at large members instead of the current five district and four at large members. A petition drive has been started to collect the 10,000 signatures necessary to place this proposal on the ballot in the next general election.

WMCCA will testify before the Montgomery County Board of Education concerning the request by the County Executive that two school sites in the Potomac planning area be declared surplus and turned over to the County. These sites are the Kendale Rd elementary school site and the Brickyard Rd. middle school site. These are the last two school sites of any kind left in the cluster. We believe that such a surplus declaration would be extremely short sighted. The School Board needs to realize that sites such as these are no longer available in this area. WMCCA has a long institutional memory and we have seen the school system change and grow tremendously. There is no reason to believe that it will not continue to do so, particularly given the pro growth and pro development mind set of the current Council. The Superintendent is only looking at school enrollment 11 years in the future. Given the current overcrowding in the cluster and the potential for further development and redevelopment this limited view cannot be justified. The Executive’s goal of providing affordable housing can be met in other ways without jeopardizing the future of our school system.

Ongoing Issues:

  • Hall Road – extension
  • Lloyd Road – development
  • Normandy Farm – rezoning
  • Greenbriar Park – park development plan
  • Quince Orchard Road – improvements
  • Bullis School
    1. special exception modification
    2. upcoming summer camp modification
  • school sites – surplus declaration

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 – February 2004

February 2004


President’s Letter – George Barnes

There have been times in the past few years when the Chair of the T&E Committee has controlled decisions which have had major impacts on the Potomac community. Sewer Category change requests are the first and frequently the defining decision in the early stages of proposals for new development in our community within the framework of the Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan. All development which is not built on septic systems must be granted inclusion into a category, S6, which allows connection to an existing sewer line or the construction of a new line if one is not already present. Simply having such an S6 classification is enough for WSSC to construct a new line even if it is extremely expensive to build. The sewer line constructed along Falls Rd built to serve the new houses at the corner of Falls and MacArthur Blvd is a case in point. Frequently, the change request is the first indication we have that a new development or a new house on an existing lot is in the works. Projects which fit within the Sewer System plan are frequently granted a change through an administrative process which if we are not eternally vigilant will occur without any input from the community at all. Sometimes these requests turn on interpretation of environmental regulations or existing environmental features where the role of the T&E committee is vital as it is this committee which will recommend approval or disapproval to the full Council. Roads issues are often decided this way as well. New roads or major intersection improvements can create significant change in a neighborhood. Bear in mind that individual subdivision projects are handled at the Planning Board level and the Council’s input is through the adoption of Master Plans, changes in the subdivision regulations via zoning text amendments or the various budgets.

There are a number of areas of concern which we may discuss with Nancy. Affordable housing comes up in two areas of community concern. The School Board is considering declaring surplus two school sites which it owns, one on Brickyard Rd. and one on Kendale Rd. Should the School Board declare them surplus, they would be available for other uses within the County government systems or even sale to developers. PTA’s in our community are very concerned over the loss of potential building sites for new schools to relieve crowding in our existing schools. Neighbors are concerned about impacts on their communities from various types of housing which might occur there. The county’s MPDU buyout policy and the use of TDR’s has come under question in a development proposal on the Stoneyhurst Quarry site. A contentious plan to improve Quince Orchard over the objections of the community, and a plan to restructure the Fire and Rescue companies have parts of our community in an uproar. So, please be with us on February 11, it will certainly be an interesting evening.

Planning and Zoning: The WMCCA Board met with representatives of the Bullis School who presented their plan for a special exception modification to incorporate a new master plan for the school which would be implemented over the next 10 years or more. The new plan would raise the number of students from 600 to 900 and calls for the construction of two new classroom buildings and the renovation of one existing building as well as the replacement of the tennis bubble with a permanent structure and the addition of a new indoor pool, a new indoor practice facility, a rebuilt grandstand (same size and location) and general parking, traffic flow and stormwater management facilities upgrade. The plan would be funded through gifts and donations and the timing of those will determine the timing of the construction and to some extent it’s order, although some of the order will be driven by logistical concerns. The plan is ambitious but seems to have been carefully thought out and the school continues to be extremely concerned about the concerns of it’s neighbors. The school has over 70 acres of land and the new facilities will have only a very slight impact on their forest cover which they are eager to protect. We would be happy to hear from any of our members who have concerns about this project. It will be presented to the Board of Appeals in May or June.

Stoneyhurst Quarry: A preliminary plan for a development of five large apartment buildings with approximately 90 units has been proposed for the quarry site on River Road. This is the plan which has raised the issue of an MPDU buyout. These are projected to be very expensive units. Parking will be underground for the most part.

Environment: Greenbriar Local Park. A new public meeting has been scheduled for this park due to an error in notification. Some 300 notices were not mailed by Park and Planning and they will hold another meeting on March 24 at 7:00 PM at Travilah Elem. School. Snow date will be March 31. Some changes to the plan have been already incorporated as a result of the last 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 – January 2004

January 2004


President’s Letter – George Barnes

On behalf of the Officers and Board of WMCCA, I would like to wish all our members Health and Happiness in the New Year. Your commitment to WMCCA is what makes it possible to for us to continue to protect our Master Plan and the character of our neighborhoods, our parks and stream valleys, and our roads, and we look forward to seeing more of you at our meetings in the coming year. Your participation, ideas and comments keep us a powerful and respected voice in the halls of the County Council and the Planning Board.

Our first meeting of 2004 will be for you, our members. We will not have a guest this month. Instead, we invite you to come and bring your concerns and questions about issues, processes, procedures, anything that you would like to see us work on in the coming year. We will have updates on a number of ongoing issues. So please plan to join us on the 14th.

Our thanks to Wayne Goldstein of the Montgomery County Civic Federation for making us aware of a development plan for the Stoneyhurst Quarry on River Road. The developer is seeking to buy out of his requirement for MPDU’s (moderately priced dwelling units). Under current county policy a developer may make a contribution to the county’s housing fund in lieu of building the required units. There are several problems with this policy both in general and specific to this site. During our Master Plan approval process and since then on several occasions during discussions of MPDU’s at the County Council, several members have sited Potomac for not having it’s ‘fair share’ of the affordable housing stock in the County, and in fact insisted on designating a former school site on Brickyard Road as a potential affordable housing site in the Master Plan over the wishes of the neighborhood that the site become a park. We will talk over the other problems with the buy out policy at the meeting and we will certainly bring these issues to the Planning Board when the plan comes before them and to various members of the Council as well.

Issues and updates:

  • Planning and Zoning:
    • Bullis School expansion
    • Hall Road
    • Lloyd Road
  • Environment:
    • Blockhouse Point Master Plan
    • Greenbriar Local Park

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.