Tag Archives: 2013

Newsletter – December 2013

December 2013


WMCCA OPPOSES REZONING OF POTOMAC TENNIS CLUB

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

As a follow-up to the well attended November General meeting, on 11/24/13 WMCCA sent a letter to the Planning Board Chair:

Such was the case with the Brickyard school site, where the County Executive facilitated a lease for a soccer complex which violated our Master Plan and would have set a precedent allowing the same for every other area Master Plan. He did so without ever asking for our input as a community. The project was withdrawn by the combined effort of WMCCA, Brickyard residents, and other local citizens groups. It took two years of effort and multiple legal actions but we stopped it. By comparison, WMCCA supported Parks acquisition of the 200+ acre Serpentine Barrens and even prevailed in retaining the historical name for this rare geological wonder. In keeping with our belief in a strong central commercial core, we supported the expansion of River Falls Tavern in Potomac Village. Examples of our input are numerous and available in the ‘Archive’ section of our website.

Francoise Carrier, Chair

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission

WMCCA has been contacted by Mr. Charles Maier of Maier and Warner, a representative of the Potomac Tennis Club property, seeking input on possible rezoning of the approximately four acre site located off Falls Road between Manor Care and the Falls Road Golf Course. On November 13, he and Ms. Erin Girard of Linowes and Blocher discussed potential changes to the property. Over 65 people attended the meeting, many of them members of the popular tennis club for many years. Zoned RE-2, the property owner is exploring a change to RT – Residential Townhouses, using TDRs at four units per acre. Mr. Maier mentioned that both the Bullis School (across Falls Road) and the Revenue Authority which operates the golf course have been contacted and are interested in the property to continue use as a tennis facility.

Many long time members of the existing club expressed concern over loss of the facility and noted the significant value of the clay courts to older players. WMCCA has decided to oppose any rezoning of the site. We would like to see the property continue as a tennis club and we believe it is a viable option given the interest mentioned above. While WMCCA realizes we cannot prevent the property owner from utilizing the property to build two houses, we will strongly oppose any attempt to build townhouses on the site.

This puts our opposition in the public record before any plans to rezone are submitted. Any proposal from the property owner will need to go through review at the Planning Commission. Depending on the nature of the proposal, it may also need review before the Montgomery County Council and or the Board of Appeals. We urge individuals who wish to support retention of the Potomac Tennis Club to email Chair Carrier at: francoise.carrier@mncppc-mc.org

Since the underlying zone on the site is residential housing on two acres, WMCCA is not in a position to object to use of the property for that purpose. We would, however prefer to see its use as a tennis club retained. Members of the public attending our meeting made a compelling case for the value of this centrally located community amenity. Consultants to the current owner claim to have no set plans as of yet, but will be meeting with Planning staff in the near future. WMCCA will continue to provide any updates we receive.

Please plan to attend our January 8th General meeting. In addition to updates on the issues we are following, we plan to focus on the public water supply. Within the Potomac Subregion, threats to drinking water are making headlines. On River Road, the WSSC Water Filtration Plant will be seeking to install a mid-river intake in the center of the Potomac River. Why? Because the Watts Branch stream, which feeds the current intake where it enters the River is so laden with sediment pollution that in peak storm flows, the plant cannot keep up with sediment removal.

Installing such an intake will cost $25 million and represents a last straw effort to reach clean water that serves over 4.3 million people in the region. Further upstream, Seneca Creek has become the subject of a lawsuit to be filed by three environmental groups against the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) for discharging pollutants from their solid waste treatment operation into Seneca Creek. The pollutants are then carried downstream to the Potomac River. The pollution discharge enters Seneca Creek and flows into the Potomac upstream of the filtration plant. The Environmental Integrity Project, Potomac Riverkeeper, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calculate the Seneca Creek facility has added 18 to 30 million pounds of material to the river over the past four years. Further upcounty in Clarksburg, Little Seneca Reservoir, source for our emergency drinking water, has come into focus as development threatens the three streams that feed it, including Ten Mile Creek, considered the last, best creek in Montgomery County. These watersheds are all linked. What happens to one affects another. They are critical to all life in this region. Wouldn’t you like to know more about the water you drink? Join us in January. The public is always welcome.

Glen Hills Area Sewer Update by Susanne Lee

According to an official of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the DEP staff recommendations regarding sewering Glen Hills have been presented to DEP Director Robert Hoyt for consideration and decision. Director Hoyts determination will then be transmitted to County Executive Isiah Leggett for consideration and submission to the Montgomery County Council for decision. The timing of this process is unclear, but so far DEP has made it crystal clear that they will not provide any information or opportunity to comment by the Sewer Study Citizens Advisory Committee members, let alone the general public, regarding the recommendations submitted to Director Hoyt, County Executive Leggett, or the County Council. It is likewise totally unclear what public process the County Council intends to follow, if any, to ensure public disclosure and participation in its decisions regarding sewering Glen Hills. (susannelee1@hotmail.com; Telephone: 301-956-4535)

WMCCA Enters the Electronic World by Barbara Hoover

WMCCA is now encouraging our members and friends to accept electronic newsletters. You will still have access to the same excellent content each month, and now you can share articles of interest with your friends via email. Plus, electronic newsletters save trees and allow WMCCA to put more money in our legal fund to protect our “Green Wedge.” Please email Membership@wmcca.org if you are willing to accept our newsletter in an electronic format.

At the same time, WMCCA is happy to announce that we are now accepting PayPal for membership renewals and contributions as an option to checks, stamps, and paper envelopes. We invite you to join us, the oldest and one of the most effective citizens associations in Montgomery County. Memberships are only $25 for individuals and $50 for families. Become part of a community organization that works to protect your quality of life here in Potomac. Please consider supporting WMCAA by going to our website, http://www.WMCCA.org and clicking Join Us. PayPal is a secure way to pay with your credit card without sharing your credit card information with us. We believe that both steps will streamline our operations and save trees!


West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


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 2013

November 2013


Why Do We Care?

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

For over 60 years WMCCA has worked to protect the environment and monitored development in our community. Our Board of Directors reviews development plans, zoning changes, proposed legislation and compliance with zoning regulations, and then brings them to our monthly General meetings, featuring issues relevant to our membership. We meet with politicians and government agencies. When necessary, WMCCA testifies before government bodies and by doing so helps shape the Potomac we all love. Every large community needs a collective voice for their residents. WMCCA is that voice. Also, when issues are so far reaching they cause impacts touching the entire subregion or create precedents leading to harm in neighborhoods in other parts of the County, we are there.

Such was the case with the Brickyard school site, where the County Executive facilitated a lease for a soccer complex which violated our Master Plan and would have set a precedent allowing the same for every other area Master Plan. He did so without ever asking for our input as a community. The project was withdrawn by the combined effort of WMCCA, Brickyard residents, and other local citizens groups. It took two years of effort and multiple legal actions but we stopped it. By comparison, WMCCA supported Parks acquisition of the 200+ acre Serpentine Barrens and even prevailed in retaining the historical name for this rare geological wonder. In keeping with our belief in a strong central commercial core, we supported the expansion of River Falls Tavern in Potomac Village. Examples of our input are numerous and available in the ‘Archive’ section of our website.

Over the years, WMCCA, on behalf of our citizens has faced a lot of challenges and remained a strong voice in County decision making. We have new issues coming with the revision of the County Zoning code, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) proposal for a mid-river intake at the filtration plant on River Road, potential sewer expansions and Special Exception applications. As available land for development becomes scarce, proposals emerge in awkward and inappropriate places. Such is the case with a residential project called “Lake Potomac” which calls for five lots on 11 acres at the corner of Stoney Creek Road and Stony Creek Way. Steeply wooded land, driveways intruding into the stream buffer, development predicated on sewer while all adjacent residents are on well and septic – this kind of project violates the intent of our regional planning. The Potomac Subregion Master Plan is explicit: “This Master Plan strongly recommends that sustaining the environment be the preeminent policy determinant in a subregion defined by its natural resources.”

We all care about our homes and neighborhoods, but WMCCA tries to look further in order to alert our residents to issues on the horizon as we work diligently to ensure they have a voice in decisions affecting their lives. Our positions on issues are influenced by our membership. We need your insight and your help as we continue to be a voice for Potomac. Please join WMCCA as a member. Our General Meetings are open to everyone: November 13, December 11, 2013 and January 8, February 12, March 12, April 9, and May 14, 2014. You do not need to be a member to attend. Come see for yourself why and how we care.

Updates: Brickyard School Site / Potomac Elementary School – During the feasibility study for PES, an option was explored to relocate the school from the current River Road location to the Brickyard Road school site. After careful consideration of the both site options, the school will remain at the River Road location. However, the project has been delayed by one year to January 2019.

WMCCA Enters the Electronic World by Barbara Hoover 

WMCCA is now encouraging our members and friends to accept electronic newsletters. You will still have access to the same excellent content each month, and now you can share articles of interest with your friends via email. Plus, electronic newsletters save trees and allow WMCCA to put more money in our legal fund to protect our “Green Wedge.” Please email Membership@wmcca.org if you are willing to accept our newsletter in an electronic format.

At the same time, WMCCA is happy to announce that we are now accepting PayPal for membership renewals and contributions as an option to checks, stamps, and paper envelopes. Just go to our website http://www.wmcca.org and click on Join Us in the left column. PayPal is a secure way to pay with your credit card without sharing your credit card information with us. We believe that both steps will streamline our operations and save trees!

Glen Hills Area Sewer Study Calendar by Susanne Lee The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection has now posted the final Phase I and Phase II reports of the Glen Hills Sewer Study at the following:

Phase 1 Report

Phase 2 Report

Unfortunately, there are essentially no substantive changes from the draft reports that WMCCA and scores of Glen Hills residents have objected to over the last three years. The Phase I Report determined that of the 542 lots in the study area there are only nine current septic failures, but then proceeds to label 197 properties as not being suitable for septic use. It does so based on theoretical, planning level parameters and not on any actual site conditions. Contrary to the Potomac Subregion Master Plan requirements, the Report does not even provide specific information regarding why the nine failures occurred or the possible remedies, such as sewer line extensions, for those properties.

The Phase II report examines possible types of septic uses and sewer extensions for the 157 targeted properties. In fact, the Phase II report now indicates that almost all of the 157 they rejected for septic use because they might not be able to meet one theoretical requirement for deep trench systems, actually could use septic if they adopted other approved systems such as tile, sand mound, and drip systems. Notwithstanding that finding, the Phase II Report recommends 13 new sewer lines to serve all 157 properties using cost estimates that grossly underestimate extension costs to the large lot lines that characterize Glen Hills. In a neighborhood crisscrossed with streams and ponds, the Report also rejects the Master Plan requirement to exclude environmentally sensitive lots and, in fact, now recommends running sewer lines to undeveloped lots that are filled with wetlands and those in stream valleys.

Now that the Reports are final, the stage shifts to County Executive Ike Leggett to make recommendations to the Montgomery County Council. On the basis of these high priced and highly flawed Reports, they will decide the future character of the Glen Hills neighborhood, the burden to be placed on property owners, and ultimately water quality in the Middle Watts Branch and Piney Branch streams. All of this will be occurring smack dab in the middle of what promises to be a very interesting election year in the County. WMCCA looks forward to fulfilling its time honored role of educating our elected officials – those incumbents in power now and the candidates that may replace them next November – concerning the Glen Hills study and its ramifications. This will include working with the Potomac Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a Candidates Forum specially tied to issues of interest to our area. If you would like to participate in any way in the Glen Hills issues, please contact Susanne Lee at 301-956-4535 or susannelee1@hotmail.com.


West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


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 2013

October 2013


Endings and Beginnings

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

For the last two years, WMCCA has been deeply committed to saving the Brickyard School site from becoming a commercial sports enterprise on public land. We worked with Brickyard Road neighbors and other local citizens groups in an all out effort, including multiple legal actions, relentless fundraising and untold hours of volunteer time. Finally, County Executive Ike Leggett withdrew the County from the Board of Education lease, ending Montgomery Soccer Inc. (MSI) plans to build a soccer complex on the site. Although the organic soil it took 30 years to create lies fallow and the BOE has been silent on its fate, the Brickyard Coalition, of which WMCCA was an integral part, has elected to carry on as a member-driven organization (Brickyard Coalition Inc.) that continues to monitor the school site and other proposals of concern to the Brickyard community. WMCCA has transferred to them the remainder of funds donated through a Brickyard fund we administered during our long collective effort. We will continue to work together toward preserving our Master Plan and the rights of citizens to be informed and involved.

WMCCA is an all-volunteer 60+ year old civic association, and with Brickyard so all-consuming, we’ve come late to the zoning code rewrite. We have been embroiled in another potential Master Plan precedent; the Glen Hills Sewer Study is about to be finalized by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and sent to the County Council. What the Council does with results of this study could have a major impact on water quality in Watts Branch our largest watershed and a drinking water source for 40 percent of the Washington region. In early August, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) held a joint scoping meeting with the National Park Service at Potomac Elementary School to announce and elicit public comments on their proposal to seek a mid-river intake to reach cleaner water for the filtration plant on River Road. Sediment loading in Watts Branch, which enters the Potomac River at the current intake, overwhelms filtration capacity, particularly in peak flow storms.

WMCCA has major concerns about the damage to the C&O National Historical Park. We must also question what happens next as the regional demand for drinking water increases and the powers-that-be have put the last straw in the river to reach cleaner water while doing nothing to help the Watts Branch recover from long-standing development impacts?

Lastly, we bid a sad goodbye to our excellent Secretary, Mike Denker, who passed away in late May. Mike was a good man gone too soon. In the last year we lost a beloved former Treasurer and long time WMCCA member, Meredith Williams. His daughter, Nancy Madden, was recently elected our Newsletter Editor so nice to have a family tradition of service to the community continue. Please join us at the October 9th meeting and consider what skills you might bring to the association that guards our residential green wedge and has done so since 1947.

Glen Hills Sewer Study – the Slumbering Beast is About to Rear Its Ugly Head

by Susanne Lee – Recall that in the prior draft of the Phase 1 report, DEP declared, based totally on flawed, hypothetical factors, that over 240 homes were not sustainable on septic, even though there are only nine septic failures among the 500 houses within the study area. Based on this data, the Phase 2 draft report proposed 13 new sewer lines be constructed, with their enormous costs borne totally by the abutting property owners. Now DEP is using these reports to prepare recommendations that will be submitted to County Executive Leggett for submission to the County Council. DEP plans to meet with Leggett in mid-October and anticipates that his transmittal and recommendations will be before the Council before their end-of-year break. The DEP spokesperson states that its unclear what the County Council will do with the study and the recommendations, including the public process, if any, they will utilize in determining the fate of the Glen Hills neighborhood.

At its last meeting on June 3, 2013, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), of which WMCCA is a member, demanded that it be allowed to review the revised Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports before their final publication and, most importantly, that they be allowed to see and comment on the recommendations before they are submitted to Leggett and the County Council. Given the extensive comments that have been made on the prior drafts, the CAC also asked that all comments from the CAC and the public be included in the package that is submitted to Leggett and the Council. To date, DEP has refused all these requests.

Barring a miracle, we presume that the same flawed, damaging, property value-lowering data and conclusions will be included in the final report and recommendations. It is outrageous that the CAC members, some of whom even support limited extensions, are barred from seeing and commenting on whatever final product comes from DEP. This is particularly egregious in light of the critical role the Master Plan mandates for citizen representatives and the hours of effort and expertise CAC members have already dedicated to the study.


West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


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 2013

May 2013


Tree Canopy – It’s Important

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

Several of this years WMCCA meetings directly or indirectly focused on our areas tree canopy. There is good reason for this attention to tree canopy everything from the quality of our streams to our enjoyment of the outdoors is dependent on trees. The need for trees to remove pollution from the air and water, reduce flooding and limit the heat-island effect cannot be overstated. Already under considerable stress from age, deer damage and the effects of pollution, our tree canopy is experiencing a net loss from ongoing infill and redevelopment, a loss exacerbated by Pepcos extensive tree removal.

Many trees are lost in older neighborhoods as the small houses built a half-century ago are replaced with much larger houses, and, with the countys decreasing inventory of buildable lots, there is more pressure for infill development. Montgomery Countys Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is endeavoring to switch large areas of the Glen Hills neighborhood from septic systems to sewer service. If this change is approved, the infill development will thin the lush Glen Hills tree canopy as well as damage sensitive stream valleys. And it seems that DEP is looking at bringing sewer into neighborhoods similar to Glen Hills.

The Maryland Public Service Commission, in an attempt to improve reliability, has directed Pepco to increase tree cutting along power lines. At our April meeting Pepco representatives told us that, in the past, trees were pruned sufficiently to last two years before needing to be trimmed again. The current standard is now four years, and trees that can’t be cut back enough to last four years need to be removed. The resulting tree removal has been substantial, and the power companys drastic pruning may stress many trees too much for survival.

Two bills being considered by the County Council are designed to limit the loss of tree canopy by providing incentive to preserve trees where possible and bringing in funds to replant trees when removal is necessary.

  • Tree Canopy Conservation (Bill 35-12, proposed by County Executive Leggett and sponsored by the Council President) endeavors to limit the amount of tree removal when properties are redeveloped or new development occurs. Legislation would not prevent a development from being approved, but if trees on a property cannot be saved, a fee would be collected to provide funds to replant trees, either on the same property or elsewhere.
  • Roadside Trees Protection (Bill 41-12, sponsored by Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich) would require a permit and ensure protection of trees in the right-of-way. As in Bill 35-12, if a tree cannot be saved, a payment to a tree-planting fund would be required to replace the lost tree canopy.

Efforts to slow the loss of tree canopy are essential. The two tree bills being considered by the County Council work together to reduce canopy loss and provide protections to trees not covered by the Forest Conservation Law. The proposed bills are facing opposition. These bills are an important step in slowing canopy loss and need our support.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg made some very pointed comments in a recent Court order regarding the Brickyard dispute. The Court found that … [T]he entire episode left the oft-stated and under-exercised notion of government transparency with a black eye. The Court added the actions of the county government and the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) resulted in an enormous waste of private, county and state resources. Describing the last minute decision by the County Executive to rescind the Brickyard lease and return the property to the BOE, Judge Greenberg wrote, After many months of litigation, and on the cusp of a final decision by the court, the county suddenly decided that the lease initially claimed to be so beneficial that it had to be rammed through the Board of Education before a more thorough and thoughtful public discussion could take place was not quite so vital to the county and its soccer-playing youth. The Court order rhetorically reflected, Why county officials suddenly changed their minds is unknown to the court, and suggested that perhaps the decision to abandon the lease was a matter of political expediency, or maybe county officials read the judicial tea leaves and believed the county would ultimately not prevail before this court.

The Brickyard Coalition is pleased to note that Court has pointedly told the County and the BOE that their process was not transparent, and resulted in unwarranted governmental expenditures. It is our hope that the BOE and the County will heed the Courts findings and will follow an open and transparent process in their future actions.

Glen Hills Sewer Study

by Susanne Lee -Close to 200 residents of Glen Hills and surrounding neighborhoods attended Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection public meeting on the Glen Hills Sanitary Study on April 18th. As with all past meetings, DEP used it to provide information on what it has done in response to the $350,000 appropriation by the County Council for the Master Plan study of failed septic systems in Glen Hills. Once again DEP failed miserably in providing any meaningful forum for public input. Residents again asked pointed questions about violations of the Master Plan study requirements, the disastrously flawed study design and application of the results, and the impact of these bogus results on property values. And once again DEP representatives failed to concede that there were any problems with the study. When asked whether residents who have fully functioning septic systems are legally required to tell potential home-buyers that they have been declared not sustainable based on this bogus study, DEP representatives said they couldn’t answer that question without consulting County legal counsel!!! WMCCA is submitting detailed written comments on the Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies again. The studies and DEP recommendations then go to County Executive Ike Leggett for transmittal to the County Council, the ultimate decision-making authority regarding the fate of Glen Hills.

Potomac Elementary School Modernization

by Curt Uhre Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) staff held the first public meeting regarding the modernization of the Potomac Elementary School (PES) since the decision was made by MCPS to consider building a new PES at the Brickyard site. Approximately 50 people attended. Traffic concerns and the added travel time for the students to the Brickyard site was the top concern expressed. About 90 percent of the PES students would be traveling through the congested Falls Road/River Road intersection during morning rush hour traffic. The lack of public notice of the decision to consider Brickyard as a school site was also raised by many attending. Most citizens preferred building a the new PES at the current site rather than moving the school to the Brickyard site. There were no votes for the Brickyard site in a straw poll taken by the MCPS.

Election of WMCCA Officers and Board

The Nominating Committee proposes the following slate of Officers and Directors to the membership for a vote at our May 8th meeting. Nominations may also be made from the floor.

Resident: GINNY BARNES
President Elect: CURT UHRE;
Vice President: SUSANNE LEE;
Immediate Past President: SHAWN JUSTEMENT
Treasurer: GEORGE BARNES;
Secretary: MIKE DENKER and BARBARA HOOVER;
Newsletter: NANCY MADDEN

Directors serving second year of a two-year term:
BARBARA BROWN, BETSI DAHANELIE PISARRA CAINALISON MROHS

Nominees for a two-year term:
KATHY PETTITCAROL VAN DAM FALK,LOIS WILLIAMS,JOHN YASSIN


West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


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 2013

April 2013


Where Have All Our Trees Gone?

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

Our tree canopy is already under considerable stress. Age, disease and pollution have taken a toll on the areas mature trees, deer are destroying the young understory trees that replace trees as they die, and trees are lost as additions and bigger houses are built in older neighborhoods. For some time, Pepco has been pruning roadside trees, and there has long been concern that trees are pruned so heavily that survival is unlikely. Now trees are being cut down regardless of health and Pepco is dramatically increasing the removal of trees along power lines not only trees under the power lines, but also trees near power lines. Pepco claims that this level of cutting is necessary to improve reliability.

A Washington Post analyses in 2010 showed that Pepco ranked as one of the worst utility companies in the country when it comes to keeping power on and restoring it after an outage. Pepco representatives claim that our region has the fourth-most dense canopy of metropolitan areas in the United States, and the higher number of trees is the cause of the high number of power outages. Forestry expert David Nowak of the U. S. Forest Service disputes Pepco’s claim, noting that our areas tree canopy cover is about average, and cities with denser canopy have better reliability.

Forester Mark Gavin of the nonprofit Casey Trees charged, “Pepco has turned vegetation into a convenient villain. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to say trees are bad than to upgrade equipment. The Post, citing internal Pepco records, found that most sustained power outages were caused by equipment failures, not trees. Pepco began a five-year $250 million reliability enhancement plan in September 2010. While there has been some improvement in reliability, how much is due to equipment upgrades? How much to increased tree cutting?

County Council members Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner introduced a bill that would ensure proper trimming and require written approval of homeowners to remove trees, but their attempt to limit tree cutting failed, when County Attorney Marc Hansen ruled that the County can not regulate utilities. The only authority able to regulate Pepco is the Maryland Public Service Commission. Pepco maintains that it is being directed by the state, but what is the level of oversight?

Homeowners receiving notice that Pepco wants to do tree work on the property or find their trees marked with blue dots can call Pepco. The number for Pepco’s Forestry Department is 202-833-7500, and a forester will be sent to review the trees designated for cutting. If you have trees that you don’t want removed tell them so if you don’t call, Pepco maintains the right to remove what it sees fit. If trees are removed, request vouchers from Pepco for new trees to replant. While it will take many, many years for a sapling to replace the tree that was cut, planting a new tree might make you feel a little better.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – The Board of Education has voted to adopt policy guidelines for the leasing, licensing and use of property held for future school sites, including the Brickyard site. The Policy Committee of the Board of Education to draft these policy guidelines, and may use task forces, work groups, public forums and other venues to seek public input. The Brickyard Coalition Inc. has written to the BOE Policy Committee requesting the opportunity to present information to the Committee relating to the development of these policy guidelines. After the Policy Committee has concluded its work, it will provide a draft policy for the leasing, licensing and use of BOE properties to the BOE for consideration, and the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed policy guidelines.

Breaking News

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is currently conducting a feasibility study for the modernization of the Potomac Elementary School. WMCCA has just learned that the study scope has been expanded to explore the possibility of relocating Potomac Elementary School to the MCPS property known as the Brickyard Road Site. The work session meetings for the inclusion of the Brickyard Road Site are open to the public and we encourage you and your neighbors to attend and participate in this process. The work sessions are: Thursday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 30th, with a final PTA/Community Presentation Wednesday, May 15th. All meetings will be held at the school at 10311 River Road at 7:00 p.m.

Glen Hills Sewer Study
by Susanne Lee – Montgomery County Government continues to amaze first the outrage that was Brickyard and now the Glen Hills Sewer Study! The Phase 1 and Phase 2 Study Reports confirm the County appears poised to jam sewers lines and their attendant costs and increased development down the throats of Glen Hills residents who are overwhelmingly opposed to and do not want or need public sewer. The Glen Hills Study Phase 2 report proposes construction of 13 unneeded sewer lines at a cost to property owners of close to $6 million dollars. After the County branded over a third of the community as not likely to be sustainable on septic, real estate agents are asking how they can market and sell property to potential Glen Hills homebuyers.

The Reports, yet to be made available to the general public, confirm:

  • Blatant disregard and misrepresentation of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan. The Master Plan limits the study to well-documented septic failures and limited extensions to relieve them.
  • March 25: Last day for CAC comments on Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports.
  • Violation of the Piney Branch Special Protection Area.
  • Sham public participation scope of the study decided behind closed doors, meaningless meetings designed to ensure lack of genuine participation, and failure to respond to public comments.
  • County confirms only nine properties (out of 542 properties in the study area) have failed septic systems. Of those nine, five already abut an existing sewer line, including one approved for hook up.
  • Relying on totally theoretical planning level data that it admits is not conclusive and is not based on any actual conditions on any lots the County declares that 223 properties (none of which have failed septics) are likely not sustainable on conventional septic systems.
  • Thirteen new lines are proposed costing $6,000,000, and not one of the lines will service the nine properties purported to have failed septic systems.
  • County defends its failures by saying the $350,000 appropriated for the study was not enough to collect any actual data regarding Glen Hills lots.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We w

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.

Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.

Newsletter – March 2013

March 2013


Citizens Prevail on Brickyard

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

Just two years ago, at WMCCAs March 2011 meeting, we learned that there was to be a commercial soccer complex on Brickyard Roads twenty acres owned by the Board of Education as a future school site and used as an organic farm for the past thirty years. The County Executive announced that the property was to become a soccerplex, with the Board leasing the land to the County, which in turn would sublease to a soccer club a plan developed in closed-door meetings involving the County Executive, the Board and a private group, starting in 2009. All of this was done without the communitys knowledge, with no opportunity for input, and bypassing the Countys processes to determine land use. We were told that this was a done deal, with community input limited to the number of fields and parking spaces. In fact, there were to be four soccer fields and 300 parking spaces, as well as concession stands and bathrooms a development that, under normal circumstances, zoning laws would not allow.

This news resulted in a large public outcry from supporters of the farm and opponents to a soccerplex in a residential neighborhood. Shortly after learning of, and in opposition to, the soccerplex, the Brickyard Coalition was formed, including WMCCA, the Brickyard Road Citizens Association, the Civic Association of River Falls, and over 2000 members of the community. While this issue had important ramifications for the farm and surrounding community, there were bigger issues at play no public input or transparency in the process, violating the Potomac Master plan and the Countys zoning laws, and providing public land to a private corporation for its exclusive use. This plan, if allowed to go forward, would set a dangerous precedent, and no community would be safe from covert planning and private development on public land.

After two years, the Brickyard Coalition has been successful in halting the soccerplex, with a dedicated group of community activists spending hours and hours in meetings and hearings. Critically, the Coalition initiated a series of legal actions seeking public documents under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) related to two years of secret dealing by our county government documents which by law are to be made available to the public upon request. The Coalition also entered into two lawsuits, with WMCCA part of the MPIA action as well as a Plaintiff in the second lawsuit.

Finally, the citizens prevailed. The County has surrendered the lease, and the land is back in the control of the Board of Education. It should not take this level of organization and lawsuits for residents to have a voice in this type of decision. One good outcome of this challenge is Bill 11-12 passed by the County Council, requiring the County Executive to seek approval before disposing of county real property through sale or long-term lease. If Potomacs ordeal results in a more open and responsive county government with more checks and balances, then everyone will have benefitted.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – It has taken two years, but the Brickyard Community has prevailed in its mission to stop the proposed soccerplex at the Brickyard school site. The Coalition opposed the soccerplex because (i) it did not comply with the Potomac Master Plan; (ii) the decision was made in secret and not in a competitive and transparent manner, and (iii) the proposal did not meet applicable zoning regulations.

Montgomery County has now surrendered the lease granted by the Board of Education for this property. The Board of Education has rescinded the lease and further, at our suggestion, nullified their authorizing resolution of March 8, 2011. There is no doubt that Coalitions multiple lawsuits caused the County to surrender the lease which now permits the BOE to restart the process. The Brickyard Coalition would like to thank its 2000+ members for their enthusiastic support and assistance. We stood together and we prevailed.

As we have received all of the relief requested in our legal suits, Judge Greenburg has now dismissed the BOE appeal as moot. We expect similar action in the other lawsuit. However, we still retain the option to make an application for part of the legal fees expended in this fight. We understand that the Board of Education has decided to conduct a review of its process for the use of the Brickyard site and other similar BOE properties and develop policy guidelines for their future use. We look forward to working with the BOE as they undertake this important task.

Glen Hills Sewer Study
by Susanne Lee

  • March 18: Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), 7:30 p.m.
  • March 25: Last day for CAC comments on Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports.
  • March 28: DEP posts revised Phase 1 and draft Phase 2 reports for public review.
  • Week of April 15: Evening public meeting at Frost Middle School.
  • Week of April 29: Last day for public comments on Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports.
  • Late May: DEP completes and posts final Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports.
  • June: DEP sends Glen Hills study reports and staff recommendations to the County Executive.

Artifical Turf

by Carol Van Dam Falk – Two bills related to synthetic infill turf fields (artificial turf athletic fields) have been introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates, one disallowing use of some forms of public money to finance such fields and the second requiring signs at artificial turf facilities warning players and parents to take precautions. Carol Van Dam Falk, WMCCA Board member and former president, testified at a hearing for the first bill in early March, saying I have discovered that there are several environmental, health and financial concerns too large and too serious to overlook, and no amount of industry-funded pamphlets can put my mind at ease regarding these issues. She spoke to three important issues no long-term studies have been ordered by local, state or federal government authorities to assess the risk of the carcinogens in recycled tire crumb; polluted stormwater runoff from the semi-impervious surface finds its way into local streams, the Potomac River, and Chesapeake Bay; and properly constructed and maintained natural turf permits as many playing days as artificial turf at a cost considerably below that of artificial turf.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We w

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.

Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.

Newsletter – February 2013

February 2013


Trees Matter

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

There are many reasons that we should look to protect trees add value to properties, reduce energy costs and control stormwater runoff, all while cleaning the air we breathe and the water we drink. Trees have the psychological and social benefits by improving the quality of life in communities and providing recreational areas. In Montgomery County we have a Forest Conservation Law that protects forest on larger tracts of land, but there is little to address the protection of roadway trees or trees on smaller properties, and particularly to discourage the common practice of clearing trees from small lots during redevelopment. Two bills now before the County Council will help protect the urban tree canopy. One bill (Bill 35-12) addresses trees on smaller tracts of land and another (Bill 41-12) covers street and roadside trees located in the right-of-way.

Trees have a tangible economic value. Mature trees can add 15 to 20 percent to the value of a home, and a single mature tree can be worth from $1,000 to $10,000. Trees that shade in the summer and block winds in the winter can reduce air conditioning costs by 30 percent and heating costs by eight percent.

The environmental impact of trees is substantial. One acre of forest sequesters six tons of carbon dioxide and releases four tons of oxygen. A single tree can filter out 60 pounds of pollutants in a year, and a mature tree can absorb 760 gallons of rainwater, thus reducing storm water runoff. Trees prevent sediment and chemicals from washing into streams and the Chesapeake Bay. They reduce flooding, recharge the aquifer and improve water quality. And more trees reduce the need for construction of artificial storm water management infrastructure.

The Forest Conservation Law covers tracts land of an acre or more, and was written to address protection of forest stands on large lots. Currently the county has no protection for trees on smaller lots or for roadside trees. The urban canopy is an important part of the overall tree canopy in Montgomery County. With the increase of infill development and PEPCOs drastic tree cutting, it is important to protect the remaining urban canopy. Bill 35-12, covering smaller properties, and Bill 41-12, covering street and roadway trees, are designed fill in where the Forest Conservation Law leaves off. It is important to note that these bills will not prevent any development or remodeling of a property. Instead, the goal is to provide incentive to preserve trees where possible and to provide funds to replant trees when removal is necessary.

The urban canopy provides many benefits to communities. Any home, road, sidewalk or parking lot is much more pleasant when shaded by trees, and communities with a mature tree canopy can be as much as 11 degrees cooler in the summer than communities without trees. We need to act to protect existing trees and replant new trees to replace ones removed to prevent a continuing net loss of tree canopy in Montgomery County.

Artifical Turf

by Carol Van Dam Falk – There is a move afoot in Montgomery and Fairfax Counties to install an artificial turf stadium field at each high school and other complexes in the two counties, despite disturbing potential health and environmental risks noted by scientists and researchers. And in Prince Georges County, one lawmaker has introduced legislation mandating that all Prince Georges high schools have artificial turf by 2015. There have been no long-term studies performed on the potential environmental or health risks associated with artificial turf fields, yet one Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) staffer who advocates the conversion of all county high school natural grass fields into artificial turf recently deemed all such fields safe. Now his testimony, without the backing of any research, is being quoted by other school districts nationwide in support of artificial turf.

The MCPS Board of Education recently approved Wootton High School as the latest candidate for an artificial turf field, at a cost of $1.1 million dollars. The WHS Booster Club submitted a letter of commitment to raise and contribute $200,000 toward the installation of its field. During the Wootton High School Back to School Night, the principal promoted the artificial turf field over the schools public address system, beckoning all parents to make a contribution toward the fields cost at the nearest Booster Club table, insisting the money was urgently needed.

A local group, the Safe, Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, is working to counter this rush to artificial turf. The Coalition believes we need more accurate and science-based assessment of the true health risks of the exposure of young players to such fields small particulate and off-gassed chemical compounds, along with toxicity assessment of field runoff. The Coalition is working with a Maryland state senator to introduce a bill to the Maryland Senate Committee on the Environment that would ban any Open-Space Funds or other public funds from being used to purchase or install synthetic fields, or to replace existing ones every eight to ten years.

The Coalition, with the help of WMCCA and other like-minded organizations such as the Sierra Club, is calling for: 1) Placing an immediate moratorium on outdoor artificial turf installations; 2) Ending the use of tire crumb on both on-order and existing artificial turf fields; 3) Identifying and using safe, healthy and less expensive infill alternatives to tire crumb; 4) Promoting high-quality natural surface fields built with best practices including pre-installation below-ground drainage and soil engineering.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – A hearing is scheduled February 8th in Montgomery County Circuit Court to hear argument on the appeal of the Board of Education Brickyard school site lease to Montgomery County.

Glen Hills Sewer Study

by Susanne Lee – After citizen pushback, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cancelled both the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and the General Public Meetings that had been previously scheduled for January 2013. DEP promises a CAC meeting towards the end of February, with time in advance of this meeting for the CAC members review of the draft Phase 2 report and the revised Phase 1 report, and a public meeting the third week in March.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We w

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.

Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.

Newsletter – January 2013

January 2013


Our Master Plan – Still Timely Today

President’s Letter – by Shawn Justament

In a transition zone between Marylands piedmont and coastal plains, the Potomac Subregion has a unique geology and biodiversity. The stream valleys that feed into the Potomac River water supply for the region are environmentally sensitive areas, and as our region changed from an agrarian to a suburban area, these ecosystems have come under more environmental pressure. The first Potomac Subregion Master Plan was written in 1965, and the goal of its latest revision in 2002 is to protect the subregions rich natural environment and unique ecosystems and to maintain and reaffirm a low-density residential green wedge. WMCCA devotes much of its effort to assuring that our Master Plan achieves this goal.

One way the Master Plan works to protect the environment is by limiting the amount of development that can occur. Larger lot sizes (one- and two-acre, i.e., RE-1 and RE-2) for much of the area minimize the impact of development, and in areas outside the sewer envelope only septic systems can be used. This limits development and protects the stream valleys from the installation of sewer lines that disrupt habitat and the natural hydrologic system, and over time develop leaks, causing contamination.

The Master Plan designated the Piney Branch Stream Valley as a special protection area (SPA). This sensitive stream valley is adjacent to the low-density RE-1 Glen Hills neighborhood. Both are outside the sewer envelope. Glen Hills is the quintessential “green wedge” neighborhood envisioned in the Master Plan. It is located between areas of massive new development and crisscrossed by small streams and wetlands. As such, it serves as a vital recharge area for the water quality of both the Piney Branch and the Watts Branch. The Master Plan called for a study, now underway, of septic failures in Glen Hills “in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of septic service . . . minimizing the need for future sewer service extensions.” The study was expanded to examine all lots, even some outside Glen Hills, and now includes sewer extensions to about 240 properties, including vacant, environmentally sensitive lots. This goes way beyond the plain language of the Master Plan and will result in maximum build-out and its attendant adverse environmental consequences.

The Forest Conservation Law covers tracts land of an acre or more, and was written to address protection of forest stands on large lots. Currently the county has no protection for trees on smaller lots or for roadside trees. The urban canopy is an important part of the overall tree canopy in Montgomery County. With the increase of infill development and PEPCOs drastic tree cutting, it is important to protect the remaining urban canopy. Bill 35-12, covering smaller properties, and Bill 41-12, covering street and roadway trees, are designed fill in where the Forest Conservation Law leaves off. It is important to note that these bills will not prevent any development or remodeling of a property. Instead, the goal is to provide incentive to preserve trees where possible and to provide funds to replant trees when removal is necessary.

The Brickyard School site is mentioned in the Master Plan as a potential site for a local park if declared surplus property by the Board of Education. There is a current proposal for the County to lease the land to a private company to build a commercial soccerplex. This lease is the subject of several lawsuits expensive to both the County and the residents trying to protect their community. The County claims that this soccerplex fits the Master Plan, but if the language of the Master Plan had been followed from the beginning, these lawsuits would have never occurred.

The Potomac Subregion Master Plan is clear in its intent: This Master Plan strongly recommends that sustaining the environment be the preeminent policy determinant in a subregion so defined by its natural resources.

Environmental Report: Two Tree Bills Introduced

by by Ginny Barnes – After two years of waiting, the County Executive has sent to the Council an urban tree bill Bill 25-12, the Montgomery County Urban Canopy Bill. The purpose of the legislation is to discourage the common practice of clearing trees from small lots during redevelopment. Unlike the County Forest Conservation Law, in effect since 1992, which addresses protection of forest stands on large lots, this bill focuses on the continued canopy depletion in urban areas where the loss of individual and small stands of trees has been both significant and cumulative. It requires that fees be collected whenever tree canopy is disturbed on any lot where a sediment control permit is required. The fees are paid directly into a mitigation fund and used to plant native trees in the same sub-watershed where canopy is lost. In some areas of the County canopy, coverage is down to just eight percent, and continuing to decline.

A second piece of legislation, Council Bill 41-12, the Montgomery County Streets and Roadside Tree Protection Bill, introduced by Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich, will require a county permit for any work in the County Right-of-Way (the strip of land between the street and any private property line) that will damage trees. The Department of Permitting Services (DPS) would work with the Chief of Tree Maintenance in the County Department of Transportation (DOT) to determine if a tree can be saved, and if not, the applicant would contribute to a tree fund to insure replacement. A Public Hearing before the County Council on both bills is scheduled for January 17th.

Brickyard Road School Site Update

by Curt Uhre – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals denied the Countys motion to overturn the Stay issued by Judge Greenberg in the Brickyard Board of Education lawsuit. The Court Stay prohibits the Board of Education from moving forward with the Brickyard lease to the County until the Court decides the matter on the merits. The County had appealed Circuit Court Judge Greenbergs decision to issue the stay to the higher court. The Circuit Court has scheduled a hearing in the BOE appeal for February 18th.

Glen Hills Area Septic Study Update

by Susanne Lee – The Phase I study report was taken down from the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website, supposedly in order for DEP to respond to citizen demands concerning the Report’s designation of their lots as not being sustainable on septic. So far the County’s response has been abysmal. At the December 17th meeting of the Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee, DEP passed out a revised map for the Phase I Report that, according to their handout, was supposed to “address the language and mapping concerns raised by Glen Hills residents.” The only change from the previous map was that individual lot lines had been deleted. However, all of the same areas were shaded and are now labeled as Areas where conditions may require the use of alternatives to conventional deep-trench septic systems. The proposed sewer extension maps from the Phase II Report still show the same shaded areas with specific lot lines for properties for which sewer extensions are being proposed.

Deleting the lot lines on some maps does absolutely nothing to address the real concerns of residents. The underlying problem remains the same that DEP has determined, without notice and without any assessment of actual conditions, that these lots are not suitable for conventional septic systems. Their revisions may make it a bit harder for the property owner, potential home-buyers, and real estate agents to connect the dots to individual lots, but the shaded “areas of concern” are still there. If anything, DEP has made it even more confusing and difficult since each property owner and potential buyer will have to first determine exactly where the shading and lot lines begin and end and then how the amount of shading impacts their particular lot. It is still impossible to determine what theoretical parameter triggered the fact that a lot can’t be continued on conventional septic, and a sewer line extension is now proposed for the property. Furthermore, DEP states that the only way to counter their conclusion is for the individual homeowner to pay for actual percolation and other appropriate testing supervised by the Department of Permitting Services. DEP states it will conduct a public meeting in January, but it has yet to release to the public the revised Phase I Report or Phase II Report or provide public notice of the date.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Ginny Barnes 301 762-6423
Newsletter – Lois Williams


The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We w

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.

Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.