Tag Archives: 2005

Newsletter – December 2005

December 2005


President’s Letter – The C&O Canal – A National Treasure In Our Neighborhood

One of the most appealing things about living in the Potomac Subregion is easy access to the C&O Canal National Historic Park that forms our western border. County planners consider it a vital feature to our Master Plan and a photo of Great Falls Tavern graces the cover of that document. People of all ages enjoy it for the wonder of the Falls, a stroll through the leaves of autumn, a hike on the rugged Billy Goat Trail. They kayak the river, bird watch, fish, bicycle, paint the dream there. Boy Scouts earn a Canal Patch for hiking or bicycling the 184 miles of the C&O towpath.

Now the county is reaching build-out. Land is at a premium. Those who believe growth should be perpetual are casting about for ways to squeeze more development into a county bursting at the seams, with an overcrowded transportation infrastructure still based on the automobile. Master Plans for the various subregions of the county have always been vulnerable. Though a lot of work goes into the creation of them, they are still guidance documents and subject to the whims of politicians and the pressures of innumerable ambitions. Our job, as citizens and as civic organizations is to keep to the intent of our Master Plans and defend the usually thoughtful, long term planning that goes into charting a course expected to be valid for at least 20 years.

To many visitors, the park is simply a recreational trail along the Potomac River. But the ribbon of green from Cumberland to Georgetown is one of the most diverse natural areas in the United States. It passes through four major physiographic regions and protects the largest extant block of upland forest in Maryland’s Piedmont, known as the Goldmine Tract near Great Falls. The Park is home to a recorded 1200 vascular plant species, 192 species of birds, 64 of fish, 62 of reptiles and 47 species of mammals. The Potomac Gorge alone contains more than 200 globally or state rare natural communities. Yet 85 percent of the park lies in the one hundred year floodplain of the Potomac River and experiences major flooding every 12 years on average. Truly a wonder of nature, brimming with cultural and historic resources, yet the C&O Canal is constantly at risk, and sadly at times from those who use it most. Out of 386 National Parks in the federal system, the C&O Canal is one of the top twenty visited in the country with between three and four million a year – more visitors than Yellowstone

The National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit advocacy organization, in its State of the Parks Program identifies problems within our National Park system and generates support to resolve them. It developed a rating system to score the conditions of natural and cultural resources as well as the overall stewardship capacity based on budget and staff shortfalls, along with management issues caused by pressures like deer and increased imperviousness within the Potomac watershed. In the area of stewardship the C&O Canal NHP scored a poor 44 out of a 100, chiefly because of the park’s severe lack of funding and staff, flood damage, and maintenance backlogs. Species inventory in the park is incomplete simply because there is not staff to do it. Visitors cannot become strong advocates for resources they don’t know or understand. Quite naturally though, such a park inspires a host of helpmates like the Friends of Great Falls Tavern and other groups who raise money and provide volunteer labor for needs not being met.

We, the public, are the most vital stewardship component, and complacency the greatest threat. Yes, we have a right to expect the National Park Service to take care of this land in our name. But we have a responsibility to lobby federal officials for the funding necessary to do so and make it clear to our park officials that we don’t want conservation lands used for private development, polluted by adjacent property owners, or given over to clamoring interests or user groups. We owe it to ourselves to learn more about this park and to take responsibility for ‘noticing’ when something is amiss – and we need a structure and a response effort from the Park Service equal to our caring. To be blessed with a national treasure in our backyard is a privilege that should not be taken for granted.

Environmental Report

Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park: The Planning Board approved a Management Plan with access within the park limited to hiking, maintaining equestrian link trails that skirt the park, and confining interpretive activities to the South Serpentine. It agreed with our testimony, and rejected a staff recommendation to change the name to Serpentine Oaks.

Bill 27-05 Forest Conservation Penalties: On December 1, the County Council’s T&E Committee (Transportation & Environment) approved all the recommendations of the C&O Canal Task Force, and will transmit them to the full Council for action on December 6. They include significant increases in both minimum and maximum administrative civil penalties and the addition of criminal penalties of up to six months in jail for destroying forest in Montgomery County.

Preservation of the Agricultural Reserve: WMCCA has lent support to a number of issues before the Planning Board and County Council to prohibit extension of water and sewer and the incursion of large Private Institutional Facilities (PIFs) with increased imperviousness that threaten the viability of agricultural preservation lands.

Sidewalk Update

Carol Embrey, who has done so much to bring to completion sidewalks in the Village, shared recent correspondence on the acquisition process under the county’s Division of Capitol Development. Two of three property owners of the proposed sidewalk right-of-way on River Road have indicated willingness to enter into an agreement with the county. The third remains an obstacle. Since the Executive Order authorizing the project has been finalized, the county could put remaining properties into “Quick Take,” but is reluctant to resort to this measure.

Planning and Zoning – by George Barnes

Koh Property, Country Inn zoning change – The application for a zoning change from residential to the Country Inn Zone for this property has been indefinitely postponed. It had already been postponed four times and the Hearing Examiner’s office has taken this action until such time as the plan is “ready for review.”

Normandy Farm, Country Inn zoning change – The long awaited hearing on this application will be heard on December 19. We will testify on our concerns on the accessory uses that accompany the zone.

Council Bill SRA 5-04 – This bill introduced by Council Members Floreen, Knapp, and Denis to transfer site plan enforcement from Park and Planning to the Department of Permitting Services is of grave concern to WMCCA. There is an excellent chance that the change would make the situation much worse, and would deprive citizens and communities of the limited remedies now available to them. We will discuss this in more depth at our December meeting.

Bolger Center – The Bolger Center, using the Federal facility status enjoyed for so long by the Postal Service, is operating a for-profit restaurant, hotel, and conference business without any inspections, fees, or taxes that other similar institutions in the county are subject to. We understand that the county has billed the property owner for back taxes, and has rescinded their non-profit status. This could obviously end up in Federal Court for a long time, but it is an encouraging sign that the county is taking the issue seriously.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 2005

November 2005


President’s Letter – How Strong is our Master Plan? – Ginny Barnes

Montgomery County has a General Plan for how we will grow over the course of time. Under that General Plan are subregions, each with their own master plan and function within the larger vision. Our General Plan uses a wedges and corridors concept to identify concentrated areas of growth. The amount of development is determined by zoning and access to sewer. If you look at a map of Montgomery County, development is dense in the down county, near Washington D.C. and sparse in the upper county closest to what we now call the Agricultural Reserve. In the eastern and western areas adjacent to it are two residential green wedges which buffer the Agricultural Reserve, prioritize water quality and make a transition to the more urban down county areas of Bethesda and Silver Spring, now served by transportation corridors that include mass transit. As the westernmost, residential green wedge, Potomac, with primarily 1 and 2 acre zoning also buffers the Potomac River, the source of drinking water for 2 counties.

Now the county is reaching build-out. Land is at a premium. Those who believe growth should be perpetual are casting about for ways to squeeze more development into a county bursting at the seams, with an overcrowded transportation infrastructure still based on the automobile. Master Plans for the various subregions of the county have always been vulnerable. Though a lot of work goes into the creation of them, they are still guidance documents and subject to the whims of politicians and the pressures of innumerable ambitions. Our job, as citizens and as civic organizations is to keep to the intent of our Master Plans and defend the usually thoughtful, long term planning that goes into charting a course expected to be valid for at least 20 years.

The recent Potomac Master Plan revision is now almost 3 years old. The Agricultural Reserve has just celebrated 25 years of being not just a collection of farms but a defined open space we are committed to preserving well into the future. We are seeing the same pressures that have eaten into the eastern and western residential green wedge buffers begin to lay siege to farmlands. Large, private institutional facilities called PIFs want to locate there, bringing sewer, high imperviousness and increased traffic. Large lot developments of even bigger mega mansions than those popping up in Potomac threaten to scar the rural face of our agricultural heritage.

Worst of all, the sleeping dragon of a second crossing over the Potomac has only been enjoying a short doze. Beyond Montgomery County, interests that never gave up have been working to further the goal of a Techway from Virginia, across the Potomac, linking to the now approved InterCounty Connector (ICC). Multi-jurisdictional transportation bodies are embracing ideas to study this proposal and political candidates in Virginia are using it in their campaigns. One of the many routes discussed crosses the Potomac River at Blockhouse Point, right through the conservation heart of Potomac. Our Master Plan is emphatic that a second crossing cannot be accommodated and is inconsistent with the Plan as written. For over 50 years, WMCCA has protected our environmental foundation, upheld our zoning, the limited sewer envelope and a 2 lane road system so that we remain a green wedge and retain a quality of life in keeping with our rural character. But threats are increasing. Our Master Plan is not enough to protect us. We need to join forces with our neighbors. We need to be watchful and vigilant. We need your support.

Environmental Report

In the aftermath of the Swains Lock clear cutting and a settlement with MNCPPC under the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law that included a substantial Conservation Easement and a minimal financial fine, there has been a widespread call for greatly increased administrative civil penalties. To that end, the County Council introduced Expedited Bill 27-05 which has gone to public hearing and will now go before the Transportation and Environment Committee (T&E) in early December. A number of scenarios are under discussion in shaping this bill. How high should penalties be to create the necessary deterrents? Should there be a category for particularly egregious violations? Should there be a tiered approach, raising the minimum fee-in-lieu as well as the maximum penalty per sq. ft. destroyed?

The C&O Canal Task Force, created by Congressman Chris Van Hollen is devoting time and the considerable expertise of its membership to exploring the possibility of criminal penalties in addition to the large monetary fines proposed. WMCCA maintains that any penalties considered must be large enough and serious enough to be the No Trespassing sign to potential violators since the forest destroyed in these acts cannot actually be replaced.

Update on Circle Drive Ash tree – Susanne Lee

The 240 year old Ash Tree Lives on at least for now. The Montgomery County Planning Board has soundly rejected the developers current proposal to demolish a house and construct another on top of the majestic ash on Circle Drive. The tree is protected “in perpetuity” by a conservation easement imposed under the Countys Forest Conservation statute. It was an important test case of whether the County will in fact enforce these easements. A key element in the Boards decision was the undisputed expert testimony of Keith Pitchford, the arborist hired by WMCCA, that the proposal would in fact kill the tree. The developer failed to provide basic information on how he proposed to protect the tree prompting Board members to sharply criticize the developer and the staff for even bringing the issue to the Board and likening the situation to Clarksburg, an improper delegation of critical decisions to staff. Other issues raised by WMCCA included the PB lack of jurisdiction to lift the conservation easement and the developers past violations and unpaid fine for prohibited activities within the easement. Although the PB voted to defer thereby giving the developer the opportunity to submit additional material, it did so with strong language indicating that it doubted whether any future proposal impacting the tree would be acceptable. WMCCA will continue to monitor any future proposals for the site. This was one of the few times when we have hired an expert to evaluate developers claims and it was money well spent. In the absence of any meaningful analysis by the developer or the staff, WMCCA was able to provide the factual information necessary to demonstrate the adverse impact on the tree, critical information for the Boards decision.

Planning and Zoning Report – George Barnes

Special Exception – A special exception request on Glen Rd. for a riding stable, (Equestrian facility in a residential zone) is scheduled for a hearing before the Hearing Examiner on November 7. We have reviewed the application file and the planned facility is in accordance with the requirements of the zoning ordinance. The barn, paddock and a substantial portion of the necessary fencing are pre-existing, but not visible from Glen Rd. and a Special Exception for this use was issued to the Barr family in the 60’s when they owned the property. The property is in excess of 10 acres and the requirement is for 1 acre per horse, five are requested in this application. The Dept. of Permitting Services has said that the use will not impact the stream or wetlands and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will not require a nutrient management plan even though the area is in a special protection area of the Piney Branch. We will not plan to testify unless neighbors have other concerns.

Rezoning cases: The application for a zoning change to the Country Inn Zone for the Koh property on River Rd. across from the filtration plant on River Road is scheduled for Monday Nov. 28 at 9:30 AM.

The application for a similar change for Normandy Farm on Falls Rd is now scheduled for Monday Dec. 19.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 2005

October 2005


President’s Letter – Ginny Barnes

Look around. Our landscape is changing. The trees we take for granted as part of the Potomac Subregion are either disappearing, under threat, or poorly protected from destruction by our existing laws and regulations. River Rd has seen painful losses of forest. At the edge of Potomac Village, on Falls Rd., old shade trees, landscape screening and all the trees on a lot under new house construction have been cut down this summer while you were on vacation. A specimen Ash tree on Circle Drive, thought to be protected in perpetuity is awaiting a Planning Board decision that may mean its doom. New residents are buying existing homes or building lots and destroying the trees that have been there for half a century or more because they do not understand or appreciate their value.

The Potomac Subregion Master Plan Revision, completed in 2002 reasserted the environmental basis of our planning as a low-density ‘green wedge’ vital to protecting the public water supply of the Potomac River and creating a buffer for the Agricultural Reserve. The major component of our environmental function to water quality is the existence of forest. Trees absorb rainwater, their leaf canopy protects the land from damaging run-off and our streams from toxic pollution and sediment. Efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay start right in our back yards with trees.

The recent settlement of the forest clear-cutting violation at Swains Lock by Park & Planning Commission legal staff has created outrage over the inadequacy of monetary fines under our current Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law (FCL). Several members of the County Council have responded by introducing a bill to increase fines. The bill is silent on how much of an increase and certainly does not address the many other faults in the current law. With an election on the horizon, jumping on a single aspect of a complex issue does more to promote the political hopeful than the long term protection of trees. A comprehensive effort to update our Forest Conservation Laws at both the County and State level is what we sorely need and it cannot come soon enough.

Trees make Potomac a ‘green wedge’ in a rapidly urbanizing county. They are, in large part, our insurance against increasing development pressures. Justice William O. Douglas, to whom we owe credit for the wondrous C&O Canal National Historical Park which forms the NW border of our Subregion believed that trees should have legal standing. Until that day comes, we must speak on their behalf.

Environmental Report

Two different new County parkland additions located in the Potomac Subregion are moving through the planning process.

  1. On 9/8/05, the Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the Forest Conservation Plan and the Facilities Plan for Greenbriar Local Park, a 25 acre site on Glen Road between Piney Meetinghouse and Travilah Rd. By definition, local parks contain recreational facilities for the community. Though this park will have a soccer field, basketball and volleyball areas as well as a loop trail, 65% of the site will be left undeveloped and natural to protect environmental features and the Rustic designation of Glen Road.
  2. Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park – Consisting of 2 parcels, the North and South Serpentine were acquired under the Legacy Open Space (LOS) Program. The North Serpentine is a 258 acre tract located on the southern side of the Rockville Quarry west of Piney Meetinghouse Rd., north of Palatine Dr. and bisected by the Pepco power lines. It is characterized by old growth forest, numerous rare, threatened and endangered plant species and unusual upland wetlands. The South Serpentine consists of 65 acres dedicated as parkland under the Greenbriar Preserve development along Glen Rd. Under the terms of LOS, both sites are undergoing management plans to determine public access and potential facilities. A final Management Plan will come to Public Hearing at the Planning Board by the end of 2005.

Threatened specimen Ash tree – Susanne Lee

A magnificent 213 year old white ash on Circle Drive is about to be destroyed to permit the construction of a new house, notwithstanding the fact that it is the subject of a Category II forest conservation easement that was to preserve it and “run with the land in perpetuity.” The tree is about a foot from the existing 100 yr. old farm house and its massive roots extend under and around the house. The developer and the county tree staff are asserting that the existing house can be razed and a new house constructed on the same spot as the existing house while still preserving the tree. We just didn’t believe that was possible. Because of the importance of this issue and because it involves the analysis of technical data, West Montgomery hired a noted arborist who is an expert in tree preservation. He has confirmed that the demolition and construction of the new house will result in excessive root damage and the death of the tree. The proposal will be presented for approval by the Montgomery Planning Board on Thursday, September 29th. West Montgomery plans to testify in opposition. If approved, this will set a terrible precedent and deal a major blow to the use of conservation easements, a major element of the forest conservation statute, to actually protect trees.

Planning and Zoning Report – George Barnes

Normandy Farm – Country Inn Zone – The long awaited hearing on the zoning change for Normandy Farm has been postponed again, this time until mid December. We will plan to testify at the hearing about our concerns regarding the accessory uses which are permitted in the Country Inn Zone. The current owners have assured us that they do not intend to employ those accessory uses. Our concern is based on the fact that the uses are part of the zone, not a site plan or condition of approval which in the case of a subdivision or special exception would be binding on any future owner of the property. The plans which the owners have submitted, which do not include these other uses, are not binding on either these owners or possible future owners of the property.

South Glen Road – A subdivision plan has been submitted for four lots, one existing house and three additional houses at 11111 South Glen Rd. The property is within the sewer envelope and therefore does not require a sewer category change. An easement across a neighboring property would be necessary. One of the lots would have a 42,000 sq. ft. Cat. 1 Conservation Easement which would preserve a number of the specimen trees on the property.

Special Exception: An application has been filed for a Special Exception pursuant to Section 59-G-2.49 ( Equestrian facility in a residential zone) for 5 horses, a 2 story 2400 sq. ft. Barn, fencing and paddock areas. The property is located at 11001 Glen Rd. A hearing date has been scheduled for early November.

Sewer Category Change Requests – The Council will hold a public hearing on sewer Category change requests in our area will be held on Sept. 29. WMCCA will testify on several. We will update the membership on the outcome at the Oct. meeting.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 – May 2005

May 2005


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

It is said that April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately, showers can sometimes turn into downpours and downpours can turn into major problems – especially in new developments where proper drainage is lacking and local streets become rivers of rainwater, sediment and garbage. We have heard several complaints from neighbors in the Potomac Subregion about lack of erosion control, excessive runoff, and clogged sewers, including those near the intersection of Glen and Piney Meetinghouse Roads, along River Road in Potomac Village, on Esworthy Road, and on several other roads where new subdivisions and clusters of new homes have recently been built. Often, the runoff overflows road storm drainage structures.

  • For state roads, call Charlie Watkins, District Engineer, District 3, Maryland State Highway Administration, 301-513-7300 or 1-800-749-0737.
  • For county roads, call Robert Hubbard, Director, Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS), 240-777-6363 (Robert.hubbard@montgomerycountymd.gov) or William Boyajy, Assistant Director, 240-777-6362 (William.boyajy@montgomerycountymd.gov).

The origin of most runoff problems, however, is inadequate provision for drainage in the in the site’s Storm Water Management Plan. There is a Montgomery County Land Use Control Process, but many feel the permitting process is set up to primarily serve developers, while complaints from concerned residents, particularly issues regarding runoff, are all but ignored. The Montgomery County Planning Board, together with the county’s Department of Permitting Services and the department’s Sediment/Stormwater Plan staff (240-777-6320 or 6343), is supposed to determine whether a proposed subdivision satisfies the recommendations of an area’s Master Plan, Zoning Ordinance Subdivision Regulations, and the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Whether it actually performs that task in every instance is debatable.

DPS must approve a stormwater management concept plan for the proposed development. During this process, the public is supposed to be able to evaluate the negative affects of a proposed subdivision on their neighborhood. The process begins when the applicant files either a pre-preliminary plan or a preliminary subdivision plan for review and approval. A public hearing is necessary if the plan is to be considered by the Planning Board. After the Planning Board, it goes to the Preliminary Plan process. At that point, the Planning Board may approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application. Planning Board approval is required before a Record Plot can be filed and a Building Permit issued.

On another topic, WMCCA is pleased to join with the Montgomery Countryside Alliance for its “Celebrate Rural Montgomery,” highlighting the 25th Anniversary of Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve.

Environmental Report – Ginny Barnes

National Park Service/C&O Canal tree cutting update: Representative Chris Van Hollen has agreed to our request that he sponsor a public meeting to air the concerns and dispel some of the mystery surrounding a two-acre clearcut that took place in November of 2004, in violation of the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law. The meeting will take place in late May or early June but a confirmed date has not been set as of this writing. The meeting will be held in Potomac and all of the concerned parties will be invited to participate, including Federal, State and County officials, civic, environmental and cultural history advocacy groups, and the public. Emad property – This property on Glen Road in the Glen has applied for a subdivision for two lots on 1.9 acres, with the existing house to remain and one additional lot. The very steep and heavily forested property is in an environmentally sensitive portion of the Watts Branch stream valley. The hearing, scheduled for April 28th, was postponed. When rescheduled, WMCCA will testify on behalf of the neighbors of the property and the Glen.

Planning and Zoning Report – George Barnes

Congressional Forest: An application has been made for a re-subdivision of an existing lot with one house for two lots with two new houses. We will have more information by our next meeting.

Glen Mill Road at Red Barn Lane: This application is for five dwelling units on 15,000 square-foot lots, applied for under the RE -1 Cluster option. The majority of the property is within the 100-year flood plain boundary of the Piney Branch, and therefore unbuildable. Three of the lots would front on Glen Mill Road, with two more just behind them. Three lots would be reached by a cul-de-sac off Glen Mill, with an additional two driveways on Glen Mill. We have serious concerns about the use of the RE-1C zone for this property, as well as compatibility and environmental concerns. The plan would also have an extremely undesirable affect on the character of the Rustic Road designation of Glen Mill Road, which is Exceptional Rustic from Red Barn to the Glen, and Rustic from Red Barn to Circle Drive.

WMCCA Nominating Committee Report

The Nominating Committee, chaired by George Barnes, is pleased to submit the following slate of Officers and Directors to the membership for a vote at the Annual Meeting. The Nominating Committee has placed in nomination the following slate – nominations may also be made from the floor.

Vice President – Barbara Boykin, Treasurer – C. O. North, Secretary – Betsi Dahan, Newsletter – Lois Williams

Directors: Don McNellis, Jonathan Burnworth, Mike Danker, Tony Barclay

Directors continuing in office: Scott Bender, Barbara Boykin, Elie Pisarra Cain, and Diana Conway

As always, the President Elect becomes President, and the Vice President becomes President Elect:

President- Ginny Barnes, President Elect- Susanne Lee, Immediate Past President – Carol Falk

Enjoy Potomac’s parkland and public woods!– by Lois Williams

Walking near my Thrush Lane home a few days ago, I stopped where Logan Drive crosses Rock Run to check on the tiny fish there. A patch of golden ragwort beckoned me, and I followed the stream’s flood plain on a faint path through the woods. There were spring beauty in abundance, and, yes, jack-in-the-pulpit! In time, a blue heron sensed my presence, and I only saw him as he flapped away. He may have interested in the same fish as I, and perhaps the crawfish I had seen upstream behind the Giant a few days earlier.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 – April 2005

April 2005


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

Over the past year, we in the Potomac Subregion have faced a number of what, on the surface would seem to be disparate, but important issues – from affordable housing and so-called “surplus” school sites to the newly designated “Country Inn Zone” to the clear cutting of tens of thousands of square feet along a steep hillside adjacent to the historic C&O Canal.

Traditionally, WMCCA does not track local school issues. However, when Montgomery County School Board officials conspire with County officials to deem valuable land “surplus” school property so that it can later be identified as a suitable site for development of housing we take notice. Early on, when not many people were aware of this land use issue, we weighed in strongly against high density housing on this site. Read on for more on this from Board Member Barbara Boykin.

If the Montgomery County Planning Board and eventually the County Council approve a change in zoning for property such as the Potomac Inn on River Road to a Country Inn Zone, it would mean the new owners could construct a myriad of shops, restaurants, banquet facilities and hundreds of parking spots along a very narrow strip of land. This could happen even though the County has never clearly defined what it means to have a Country Inn Zone. If this zoning change is approved, others will undoubtedly be lining up to follow suit.

As for the tree cutting controversy, if the National Park Service begins selling views to the Potomac, there’s no telling where that trend could lead. As Environmental Chair Ginny Barnes tells us, it is our goal to make sure that such an arrangement never happens again. It may not be your school targeted this year to be surplused and eventually turned into affordable housing. It may not be your neighborhood that suddenly sprouts a mini-mall disguised as a Country Inn. It may not be your cherished view in a National Park that has turned barren. But one day it very well could be. These are all things that could soon be coming to a theatre near you. It is WMCCA’s role to be attuned to – and take action on -precedent setting issues with potential for community-wise impact. Become a WMCCA member and add to the effectiveness of our organization.

Environmental Report – Ginny Barnes

National Park Service/Snyder Easement: Last month we reported that WMCCA had written Representative Chris Van Hollen’s office outlining our concerns over the clear cutting of more than 30,000 square feet of forest on steep slope within a scenic easement abutting the C&O Canal National Historical Park just upstream of Swains Lock. Mr. Van Hollen has responded with a letter directed to the NPS covering the issues we raised and requesting answers to a number of questions. Among them – whether overall easement policy changes have been made, whether NPS has procedures to ensure compliance with state and county regulations, and whether any policy changes complied with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the National Environmental Policies Act (NEPA). In addition, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which has jurisdiction under the Forest Conservation Law, has assured us they have issued a citation and are proceeding with an investigation “with due urgency” into the extent of the violation.

Legacy Open Space (LOS) Acquisition in the Glen: The Planning Board has approved the acquisition of an 8.3-acre site in Potomac’s historic Glen. Known locally as the Cahoon property, it has long been considered a missing link in the contiguous Watts Branch Stream Valley Park, which is already a narrow corridor where the one-lane bridge crosses Watts Branch at the terminus of South Glen Road. It was acknowledged in the Potomac Master Plan as a desirable park acquisition and nominated as such when the LOS program was initiated in 2000.

Greenbriar Local Park: The Potomac Subregion has a number of large conservation oriented tracts of parkland, while smaller local parks are in short supply. Purchased in 1992 by M-NCPPC in response to citizen requests for a “local park” instead of additional residential development, this 25-acre tract is located on Glen Road near the intersection with Travilah Road. Local Parks, by definition, include recreational facilities, and the Master Plan process cited a shortage of ball fields in the Potomac area. The facility plan for this park is now completed, and includes a ball field, basketball court, and playground located in the open field or early succession/low priority forest area, while the more environmentally sensitive portions that include steep slope and stream buffer areas remain protected. The site will also include a 1/3-mile paved loop trail, a gazebo/overlook and a picnic area.

Update on Seven Locks Elementary School – Barbara Boykin

WMCCA has been involved in the Seven Locks Elementary School issue from the very beginning, over eighteen months ago. Because this is a complex issue with a number of decision points, what follows is a summary of everything that has happened to date, what decisions are outstanding, and where citizens can get involved.

In 2003 the County Executive asked the School Board to identify any school sites that could potentially be developed into affordable housing. The School Board identified Seven Locks Elementary School as one of those sites. The School Board proposed that SLES, which was slated for renovation, be closed and a much larger replacement school be built on Kendale Road that would take the SLES children plus the overflow from the very overcrowded Potomac Elementary School. Despite massive neighborhood opposition, the School Board recently approved the plan to close SLES and build a replacement school on Kendale.

In order to construct affordable housing on the SLES site, the School Board must now declare that SLES is a “surplus” school site, meaning that it will never be needed for educational purposes. This will undoubtedly be the next step in the process, which will clear the way for the County to develop high-density affordable housing on the corner of Seven Locks and Bradley.

WMCCA is strongly opposed to the surplusing of school sites and has gone on record several times in 2003 and 2004 in opposition to the surplusing of ANY school sites-including Seven Locks Elementary. Once these sites are “surplused” out of the school system they can never be regained, and large parcels located in residential areas appropriate for schools no longer exist in this County. If sites are given away today, the County will be short land for school children in the future.

Although we have lost the battle to keep Seven Locks Elementary open, we can still fight to keep the site from being declared surplus and available for high-density affordable housing. If this site is taken away from our neighborhood, we will not only lose a much-used community facility, but it will set a very dangerous precedent for the County in controlling land use against the neighboring homeowners’ wishes. On May 5 the Facility Plan for the Seven Locks replacement school on Kendale will be reviewed in a hearing before the Planning Board. We urge you to join WMCCA at this hearing and express your opposition to the surplusing of this and any other school site.

Potomac Village Sidewalks: WMCCA has long campaigned for adequate sidewalks in Potomac village, and we are proud of the tenacity and effectiveness of the WMCCA Sidewalks Chairperson, Carol Embry. With other WMCCA members, Carol Embry testified at a county hearing urging completion of Potomac’s sidewalk network by building a sidewalk along River Road between the Post Office and the crossroads. Her testimony outlined the years of requests for sidewalks, the “walk thrus” with county politicians and staff, and the promises of quick action – to no avail – but now, the anticipation that this construction will complete the sidewalk network. The project is in this year’s budget, and scheduled for construction this summer.

WMCCA Nominating Committee: The membership will be asked to elect the Nominating Committee at its April meeting. The Committee will present a slate of officers and directors for the coming year at the May meeting to be voted on by the membership. The committee consists of George Barnes, Chair, Barbara Boykin, C.O. North, Betsi Dahan, and Susanne Lee.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 2005

March 2005


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

I once had a nationally renowned park planner tell me Montgomery County is the envy of all other county park and planning organizations when it comes to our Legacy Open Space program. It was years ago, back when I was gathering research on whether communities fare better or worse after major freeway widening and expansions like I-270. His statement caught me by surprise, but I soon realized he was right. Despite our frustration with the increasing amount of commercial development and zoning changes that pave the way for more residential development in our area, we should be proud that our county planners realize the importance of this valuable program.

Legacy Open Space works to protect and preserve exceptional lands and to bring them into the public domain. The program creates unique partnerships with local, state and federal government entities and private organizations to acquire lands that may be historic or of other value to the public. County funds spent on acquiring Legacy Open Space sites have a chain reaction effect, leveraging other public funds and private contributions to bring more valuable land into the program. Legacy Open Space acquisitions include tranquil places to visit, sites of special botanical or geological interest, and properties that can educate future generations about Maryland’s history.

We hope you can join us for the March general meeting. We invite your input on conservation, tree cutting, and other issues before the WMCCA.

WMCCA Special Project – As a follow-up to our March program on Legacy Open Space, the April 12th WMCCA General Meeting will showcase outdoor student science projects carried out at Potomac-area sites. A WMCCA reviewer will be at the Potomac Library from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. on March 9th to meet with students working on environmental science projects.

Planning and Zoning – George Barnes

Special Exception on Falls Road: The special exception requested for the Srour property on Falls Road next to Potomac Village has been withdrawn. We will try to have some information about the reasons for the withdrawal at the March 9th meeting.

Subdivision plan, 10830 Pleasant Hill Drive: A pre-application plan has been filed to re-subdivide an existing 5.64 acre lot with an existing residence into two lots, the existing lot to become 2.9 acres and the new lot to be 2.7 acres. The existing zoning is RE 2, which permits lots of this size.

Environmental Report – Ginny Barne

For the past two months, WMCCA has been looking into the consequences and implications of an incident at 11900 River Road, where nearly two acres of forest on steep slope within a scenic easement bordering the C&O Canal National Historical Park was clear cut. The tree clearing was in violation of the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law, and the Maryland Circuit Court issued a fine of $1000. Inspectors from Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission were sent to measure stumps and investigate. Under our Forest Conservation Law, the Planning Board has the authority to levy an administrative civil penalty, which can take any number of forms, from an additional monetary fine to off-site reforestation. In a letter to the Planning Board Chair dated February 9, 2005, WMCCA has urged the group to exercise its authority.

What is troubling is the use of the existence of exotic species as an excuse to clear cut more than 30,000 square feet of forest, when at least 20 of the trees removed were native species. The National Park Service has, in the past severely punished property owners who attempted to cut trees within their scenic easements. The Park Service has made an exception in this case, and that exception heralds a whole “new” approach to scenic easements along the Maryland side of the Potomac River. The Park Service is now inviting other property owners to do the same. Any negotiation that includes the ability to clear cut steep slopes is both precedent-setting and dangerous. The bargain struck here marks a sea change in policy regarding scenic easements negotiated with property owners that protected the viewscape from the C&O Canal for more than 30 years. The new arrangement gives this property owner unprecedented control over cutting of trees, and favors the property owner’s view of the Potomac over the protection of our national treasure.

We are currently working with Representative Chris Van Hollen’s office. Our goal is to stop the National Park Service from further implementing this “new” policy, and we are requesting an investigation into the development, implementation and cost to the public of such a policy.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 – February 2005

February 2005


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

WMCCA is a watchdog group for zoning and environmental issues that impact our entire corner of Montgomery County – the area that is bounded by Seneca Creek, I-270, I-495 and the Potomac River. The Potomac Subregion Master Plan recognizes that protecting the public drinking water supply and buffering the Agricultural Reserve as a residential “Green Wedge” are critical roles for our community. To that end, WMCCA has worked diligently to keep commercial development within the bounds of Potomac Village.

We must be wary of plans for projects that are not a suitable fit for the area, or that are inappropriate for the neighborhoods within our boundaries, or that violate Master Plan restrictions. It is imperative that we as an organization protect our Master Plan whenever its language is in danger of being watered down or overlooked – or ignored – in favor of Special Exceptions, zoning changes, site density increases and even major highways cutting through our community.

Countywide policy changes in areas such as the recent MPDU legislation passed by the County Council and development threats to the Agricultural Reserve have far reaching implications that affect our future as a community and our role in the General Plan for Montgomery County. During our more than 50-year history as a civic association, WMCCA has gained a reputation for vigilance and integrity in keeping our planning area as the Master Plan intends, as well as supporting other communities in their efforts to do the same.

Planning and Zoning – George Barnes

The following plans for sites within our area await approval. We invite questions on any of these projects at the February 9 WMCCA General meeting.

  • Normandy Farm – Country Inn Zone
  • Potomac Inn proposal – Country Inn Zone (see above)
  • Safeway expansion
  • Lake Potomac – subdivide one existing lot into two lots (this is the property visible across the stream behind the Potomac Inn site on River Road, and the former Hunt residence.)
  • Glen Estates – two lots proposed on 4.85 acres off Glen Mill Road in the 11700 block.
  • Dental Office on Srour property next to the Bank of America in the village. A hearing is scheduled late in February.

WMCCA.org – Look on our website for the text of the WMCCA president’s testimony on January 5, 2005 before the State Highway Department in opposition to the Inter County Connector.

Roads – Diana Conway

Montgomery County is planning to abandon its right-of-way for a “paper street” named Ronald Drive, which lies in a heavily wooded stream valley between the 10200 block of Falls Road and Gary Road. The Gary Road portion of Ronald Drive was abandoned in 1978 in a similar proceeding when the County gave up all but a 20-foot wide strip of its easement. The current abandonment has been approved by the Planning Board, again with retention of a 20-foot wide strip of land. These retained portions are slated to become a bikeway/sidewalk connection, although no plans exist for its construction.

WMCCA has taken an interest in this proceeding since the County’s easement is roughly aligned with the forested and sensitive headwaters of the Rock Run, as they cross beneath Falls Road at the road’s lowest point just north of Potomac Village. There is also a sewer line along this right-of-way. Although this request for abandonment from abutting neighbors does not say so, it seems likely that the petitioners are seeking a future subdivision for an additional lot, or possibly more. Park & Planning has very clearly told the petitioners and their attorneys that any future owners MUST stay out of the 200-foot-wide buffer (100 feet on each side of the stream bed), with absolutely no tree cutting. The County Council must still approve the request for abandonment. WMCCA will continue to monitor this process, and its impacts on our forests and water quality.

WMCCA Special Project  

WMCCA Reviewers will be visiting some school Science Fairs and the Montgomery Area Science Fair to honor projects done outdoors at a site within the Potomac Master Plan area. Exemplary projects will be showcased as part of the April 13th WMCCA General Meeting on the topic of Environmental Issues in Our Community.

WMCCA Special Project  

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 – January 2005

January 2005


President’s Letter – Carol Van Dam Falk

Though the holidays are a joyful time of year, they are also a time of reflection and resolution. As I look ahead to the new year, I see as WMCCA’s focus our separate but related efforts to protect the Potomac Subregion, one of two residential “Green Wedges” designated in the General Plan to buffer and provide transition to the Agricultural Reserve from the more densely developed down-county areas. There are threats on several fronts through dilution of the Master Plan precepts – threats that are real and dangerous to the integrity of Potomac Subregion zoning, its environmentally sensitive areas, and the green spaces that we cherish. We pledge to continue to inform our membership through this newsletter and the General Meetings, to work both formally and informally with individuals and agencies with responsibilities in areas of our interest, and, as we have done historically and in recent instances, to retain counsel to augment our efforts.

One of Maryland’s premier green spaces – the C & O Canal National Historical Park – is in our back yard, and although the park is under federal rather than county jurisdiction, local citizenry have a role in assuring that federal laws for the protection and preservation of the natural scenery of the Potomac River and its adjacent historic C & O Canal and towpath are being enforced. It has been our understanding that cutting trees on park property is prohibited, and we know that twice Potomac residents have been fined for tree cutting on parkland, with one of the persons performing an alternative punishment to jail time. We are looking into the circumstances of the recent extensive tree cutting visible from the canal towpath near Swain’s Lock, and the role of the National Park Service in this incident.

We look forward to seeing Potomac area citizens at the January 12th WMCCA General Meeting.

Planning and Zoning – George Barnes

Boswell Lane – The Montgomery County Planning Board approved a subdivision plan on Boswell Lane that was the subject of an appeal by WMCCA to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Planning Division. This state agency had ruled that the subdivision did not comply with the Potomac Master Plan, and overturned the original approval of a sewer category change that the last County Council had approved at a lame duck session on the last day of that Council’s existence. Attorneys for the developer have now managed to find a technicality- a minor procedural error by the Department – and have used it to overturn the decision denying the sewer category change. WMCCA has filed a written complaint to the MDE, and will file a formal appeal if one is possible. In the meantime, the development is proceeding.

Potomac Inn – The new owners of the former Hunt property across from the Water Filtration Plant on River Road have filed an application for a re-zoning from the RE-2 zone to the Country Inn Zone. They propose to build a 16-room inn, small retail shops, a restaurant and banquet facilities. A traffic study submitted to Park and Planning as part of the application shows no adverse impact from the project on any of the nearby intersections -that is, the project will not raise traffic volumes to an unacceptable level of service as defined in the Master Plan. The project is known as the Potomac Inn Project. We will certainly be hearing more about this application as it proceeds.

WMCCA.org – Look on our website for the text of the WMCCA president’s testimony on January 5, 2005 before the State Highway Department in opposition to the Inter County Connector

WMCCA Reviewers will be visiting some school Science Fairs and the Montgomery Area Science Fair to honor projects done outdoors at a site within the Potomac Master Plan area. Exemplary projects will be showcased as part of the April 13th WMCCA General Meeting on the topic of Environmental Issues in Our Community.

WMCCA Special Project  

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.