Tag Archives: 2016

Newsletter – December 2016

December 2016


Change Is Coming

President’s Letter – by Carol Van Dam Falk

While no one knows for certain what the priorities will be of the new administration, sweeping changes are expected at the Federal level regarding environmental protections. Therefore, we believe it is going to be more important than ever before to act locally to ensure the protection and preservation of our rivers and streams, our rustic roads and bridges, and our established neighborhoods.

The New York Times, Pro-Publica, and other media organizations have seen a surge in subscriptions in this post-election period. We hope that in that same vein, our members will recognize the importance of actively taking part in environmental watchdog organizations like WMCCA, to speak up when possible zoning violations occur in their neighborhood, and to notify their neighbors and question authority when it means protecting the character of a neighborhood or the health of a local stream, river, or piece of land. These are things that can be done and will be done if a community works together.

At the November WMCCA General Meeting, we heard from Barry Fuss, Chief of Bridges and Structures for Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, on various bridge improvements underway.

Mr. Fuss identified and described four bridges on rustic roads currently being evaluated for future rehabilitation. While the four described are safe, all bridges receive a Bridge Sufficiency Rating (BSR), ranging from Poor (0) to Very Good (100). Structurally deficient means an element of the bridge will soon need to be replaced and is eligible for federal matching funds. Functionally obsolete means an element of the bridge does not meet today’s standards. The beautiful Montevidio Road Bridge and the Mouth of Monocacy Road Bridge have been identified as “structurally deficient.” The Glen Road Bridge M-015 and a second Glen Road Bridge M-148 have been identified as “functionally obsolete.” Mr. Fuss is committed to repairing all four of these bridges while keeping their rustic character in place. That is a far cry from what happened with the Esworthy Road Bridge project some 20 years ago, which serves as a cautionary tale of horrendous results when local transportation officials ignore the pleas of the local community and refuse to listen to the advice of their own bridge structural engineers.


Oral Argument in Brandywine Senior Living at Potomac, LLC by Susanne Lee: On November 4, 2016, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton conducted oral argument in WMCCA’s appeal of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals (BOA) decision granting Brandywine Senior Living a conditional use (special exception) to construct a 140 bed assisted living facility in a residential (RE-2) zone. WMCCA joined with the Brickyard Coalition to appeal the decision citing violations of key provisions of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and the Montgomery County Zoning Code regarding placement of such intensive elderly housing developments and the conduct of hearings under the new Code. Abutting property owners Ronald and Toni Paul also appealed the BOA decision. Attorney David Brown represented WMCCA in what was a lively, thoughtful debate of the critical issues. We are now awaiting a decision by Judge Boynton.


Glen Hills Sewer Policy Implementation by Susanne Lee: Following the Montgomery County Council’s adoption of a new sewer policy for Glen Hills, WMCCA has been following the actions of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Council regarding its implementation. Based on recent actions, it appears the County is doing a very good job. Recent approvals and denials of requests for new sewer service have been following the new policy, including the abutting mains policy. Under this policy, a homeowner whose lot abuts an existing sewer line may request to be hooked up to that sewer line, however this hookup is limited to that one house and cannot be used for subdivision or to provide hookups to other houses. Furthermore, requests for broader sanitary surveys have been correctly denied on the basis of what appear to be thoughtful, fact-based analyses of conditions on the sites confirming their appropriateness for long term use of septic systems and the enormous costs of extensions (between $920,000 and $1,150,000 for one homeowner).


Help support our efforts in defending the Master Plan. Renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Look for your renewal notice in the mail or go to our website to download a membership form or join using PayPalhttp://www.wmcca.org


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 2016

November 2016


A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

President’s Letter – by Carol Van Dam Falk

Well over 250 people packed a Town Hall meeting on October 26th to hear what Montgomery County Council members had to say about plans to install more than 700 cell phone towers stretching 30 to 60 feet high in the front yards of Montgomery County residents, including many in the Potomac area, such as the one seen here on Brickyard Road.

Brickyard Road Tower

Council President Nancy Floreen and other Council members are pushing a special exception that would allow telecom companies to install the towers without prior notice to residents. Citizens of North Potomac and Gaithersburg are asking for a moratorium until the entire effort is scrutinized for its health and aesthetic impacts. Many residents assert that the Tower Committee, which is charged with approving the telecom applications, has not been doing its job and has not been following the law (Montgomery County Code 2.58E).

Ms. Floreen and her colleagues on the County Council say they want the emphasis to be on a streamlined process but they also claim they want to minimize adverse impacts upon citizens. Many in the community, including those working for the EPA, have raised concerns about the potential health effects on children whose brains are still forming, of placing towers in such close proximity to homes. These towers will hold 300-pound boxes of electro-magnetic equipment. Not surprisingly, residents are also concerned about the impact the towers will have on the market values of their homes.

The Tower Committee has already approved dozens of applications to install cell towers in Gaithersburg and North Potomac for a company called Crown Castle, which works for bigger providers such as Verizon and AT&T.

Council members at last week’s Town Hall meeting refused to make any commitments, arguing they have no choice with the “heavy hand” of the federal government, specifically blaming the FCC. Council Member George Levanthal claims the Council is forced to install these towers quickly, to be ready for the future, and 5g phones. Mr. Levanthal’s response to my Facebook posting on the controversy was, “My colleagues and I would like to protect homeowners against these things but Congress legislated with a heavy hand to ensure approval for telecommunications companies. We’re going to keep working on this but our options are limited under federal law.” However, we believe it is well within the Montgomery County Council purview to further scrutinize cell tower applications and place some restrictions on the locations of future installations.

The Tower Coordinator, rather than scrutinizing these applications, has done little more than provide brief summaries of the carriers’ own words to the Committee and advised the Committee to recommend approval or conditional approval. Not one application has been denied. In fact, some activists say the Tower Committee shuns and sometimes refuses public participation at the meetings, which could expose errors in the application process. Activists assert that the Tower Committee, which only meets once a month via teleconference, routinely fails to check locations of permit applications or land owner approval.

If a telephone pole or tower already exists in an easement area, the company is not obliged to inform a homeowner of plans to install the new equipment. But if a higher pole must be installed or an existing one modified, they need permission. Council President Floreen wants to do away with that law.

If you don’t want to see 30 to 60 foot cell towers installed in your neighborhood, get involved! Write or call Nancy Floreen and other members of the Montgomery County Council and tell them what you think. Momentum is building, but the only way to stop these towers from being installed is to speak up now. They are scheduled to go forward in November.


The October 12th WMCCA General Meeting had a last minute change in speakers: Susan Fitzpatrick, President, North Potomac Citizens Association, and Aaron Rosenzweig, City of Gaithersburg resident, both spoke to the attendees concerning the residential cell tower issue and notifed everyone about the 10/26/16 public meeting at Ridgeview Middle School.

Diana Conway of Safe, Healthy Playing Fields also spoke about the health risks and costs of synthetic turf vs. natural grass, and answered questions from attendees.


Help support our efforts in defending the Master Plan. Renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Look for your renewal notice in the mail or go to our website to download a membership form or join using PayPalhttp://www.wmcca.org


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 2016

October 2016


We Need Your Help!!

President’s Letter – by Carol Van Dam Falk

Well, what I can say? I’ve got big shoes to fill as WMCCA President Susanne Lee finishes her term this month, but thank goodness Susanne will remain a wise and trusted member of the WMCCA Board of Directors as Immediate Past President and Chairperson of the Committee on Planning and Zoning. Picking up from Susanne’s last President’s letter, I’d like to reiterate that while WMCCA is not a political body, we are most definitely committed to protecting the quality of our waterways and streams, and preserving the character of our neighborhoods by making sure that our locally elected representatives, developers, citizens, and county agency officials abide by the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and do not embark on actions that hurt our neighborhoods.

For example, members of the Board and residents of Glen Hills have worked tirelessly for years to track the Glen Hills Sewer Study, subsequent amendments and policy; to craft thoughtful testimony to present to Montgomery County and State agencies, and to meet with local legislators and county officials, as well as neighborhood groups in order to keep everyone abreast of potential changes to the Countywide Water and Sewer Plan. The WMCCA Board monitors what is happening, speaks up when rules and regulations are being violated or ignored, and reports back to concerned community members. The septic vs. sewer policy issues effect not only Glen Hills residents but property owners throughout the County and in some instances the State. It dictates whether or not rural neighborhoods will remain so, or whether higher density will be allowed to come in, causing further degradation of our streams, the Potomac River, and the drinking water supply. Significant changes to the policy could forever alter the character of our neighborhoods. The Board continues to follow these important developments and many others, but we cannot do it alone.

Your voice counts, but it can be strengthened and informed by coming to meetings, listening to speakers whose expertise directly impacts our communities, raising concerns, and becoming advocates for preserving and maintaining the Potomac sub-region. How do you do that exactly? Well, there are many ways. Besides attending WMCCA General Meetings, encourage your neighbors to come, invite them to become members, offer to help staff the WMCCA table at Potomac Day on October 22nd, offer to serve on various WMCCA committees, and write letters to your elected representatives on issues that matter to you. We know that there are many demands on your time. But the rewards of seeing tangible positive changes in your own neighborhoods are great – and we can’t do it alone.

Brandywine Senior Living at Potomac, LLC Appeal by Susanne Lee:

WMCCA joined with the Brickyard Coalition to appeal the decision of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals (BOA) granting a conditional use (special exception) to Brandywine Senior Living, LLC. The BOA decision would allow Brandywine to construct a 140 bed assisted living facility on land zoned for residential use next to the Falls Road Golf Course. Neighboring property owners have also appealed. WMCCA’s opening brief filed on August 26, 2016 in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County emphasized the failure of the conditional use to conform with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and key provisions of the Montgomery County Zoning Code. Oral argument is scheduled for November 4, 2016.

WMCCA Comments on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for WSSC’s Potomac Water Filtration Plant Proposed Mid-River Intake Submitted by Susanne Lee:

WSSC proposes a massive construction project at their filtration plant located off River Road on land within the C & O Canal National Historical Park (NHP). They propose to move their drinking water intake pipe further into the Potomac away from the pollution, primarily sediment, discharged into the Potomac from the Watts Branch and Seneca Creek. WMCCA joined with the Watts Branch Watershed Alliance and individual WMCCA Board Members to provide comments on the National Park Service (NPS) Environmental Assessment for the project.

WSSC’s comments concentrated on the substantial adverse impacts of the project including the permanent loss of national park land and the destruction of 5 acres of mature forest and an archeological site in the heart of one of the most visited sections of this very popular national park. The project will involve blasting and drilling, disruption and elimination of certain key visitor uses, destruction of cultural resources, and adverse impacts on the rich biological diversity of the Canal including hundreds of high value and protected species. We also proposed a new alternative – “no-build plus aggressive stream remediation of the Watts Branch and Seneca Creek” – that would have absolutely no impact on the C&O Canal NHP, would benefit the regional environment, and would provide a permanent solution, rather than the proposed temporary fix, to the problem of silt coming from those streams. The NPS is now considering all the comments they received and will then issue either a Finding of No Significant Impact or a determination that an Environmental Impact Statement is required.

Glenstone Museumby Ginny Barnes:

The State has issued Glenstone a permit to withdraw 9,500 gallons of well water per day to be used on a yearly basis and a daily average of 19,000 gallons for the month of maximum use for the purpose of running museum air conditioning. Glenstone is required to install water meters on the water system to document usage and submit semi-annual water usage reports to MDE. Additionally, Glenstone has applied for another permit to conduct stream restoration work in segments of the Sandy and Greenbriar Branch streams.

Old Angler’s Inn Proposalby Ginny Barnes:

The applicant continues to move forward with their conditional use application for a Country Inn on MacArthur Boulevard, uphill from the existing restaurant. A traffic study has been submitted to the Hearing Examiner and revised drawings show 80 parking spaces on the site. WMCCA is part of a coalition of community groups opposing the current application.

Help support our efforts in defending the Master Plan. Renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Look for your renewal notice in the mail or go to our website to download a membership form or join using PayPalhttp://www.wmcca.org



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 2016

May 2016


YES, It Often Is and Should Be Political

President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

WMCCA was called out by Montgomery County Council members during the April 18th meeting of the Planning, Housing and Economic Committee for somehow creating problems and causing sewer policy to be a “political” issue. Politics is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as “the activities of the government, members of law-making organizations, or people who try to influence the way a country is governed.” Keep in mind that WMCCA studiously avoids engaging in partisan politics. However, we take very seriously our role in communicating, educating, and yes influencing legislators about the impacts – good and bad – of decisions being made by governmental officials about our communities. Our primary focus is most often on environmental impacts, but always on the facts, sound science, and applicable laws and regulations.

Rather than shying away from the political process, we encourage our members to participate. The more light that shines on the process, the better the decision making. That is why we have been so adamant about disseminating critical, fact-based, information about the Glen Hills sewer amendments and policy. On May 9th, the County Council will vote on funding for a Master Plan Amendment to allow sewer expansion into Glen Hills, an environmentally sensitive low density area. Although done in the context of one neighborhood, this major change in sewer policy will have impacts on low density areas throughout the County. It comes on the heels of the Council’s recent text amendment declaring septic systems built prior to 1975 to be public health concerns triggering sanitary surveys and potential declarations as public health problem areas. These new sewer policies have grave implications for rural and low-density residential, watershed protection, and Agricultural Reserve areas everywhere in the County. They will likely impact almost all property owners now on septic. Such a fundamental change in land use protection must be done within the context of the Countywide Water and Sewer Plan with a fully transparent public process open to all. It should not be buried in a Master Plan process designed to focus only on the homeowners on septic in Glen Hills.

Extending public sewer lines into rural areas is a virtual guarantee of increased density and pollution of our clean drinking water supplies. The cost of sewering 1 and 2 acre lots is excessive per house and the environmental benefits are non-existent and could be made worse with sewer—both in construction and later when there is a leak or a failed pump station. Moreover, putting such areas in such a service category makes them vulnerable to requests for rezoning to higher densities, claiming a change has occurred in the character of the neighborhood and that the cost of service is too high unless houses are closer together. The low-density zoning and continuing use of septic systems are complementary and mutually reinforcing. Take away one and you undermine the other.

So yes, this process must be political. As a result, we are working with the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance in urging the County Council to:

  1. Address any Glen Hills septic-sewer policy issues within the Countywide Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan.
  2. Keep Glen Hills out of the Planning Board’s Work Plan; and,
  3. Renew and reaffirm the County’s commitment to protecting drinking water supply watersheds, the Agricultural Reserve and other rural and low-density areas, through continued and strengthened use of the entire range of protection tools, laws, and policies, including those that prohibit placement of public sewer lines in sensitive watersheds. It is an environmental benefit to utilize and maintain functioning septic and other waste treatment systems. These tools are vital in retaining agricultural, rural residential, drinking water supply, and other low-density areas of our County.

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 11th meeting. Nominations may also be made from the floor.


President: CAROL VAN DAM FALK
Immediate past President: SUSANNE LEE
President Elect: GINNY BARNES
Vice President: MARK ISREAL
Treasurer: KATHY PETTIT
Secretary: BARBARA BROWN
Newsletter: NANCY MADDEN
Directors serving second year of a two-year term: GEORGE BARNES
Nominees for a two-year term: ALISON MROHS, BARBARA HOOVER, KEN BAWER
Nominees for a one-year term: JOHN YASSIN, JILL PHILLIPS

Help support our efforts in defending the Master Plan. Renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Look for your renewal notice in the mail or go to our website to download a membership form or join using PayPalhttp://www.wmcca.org



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 2016

April 2016


The Master Plan’s Wild Rollercoaster Ride

President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

Montgomery County took the Potomac Subregion Master Plan out for a spin this past month. Unfortunately, it was a very rough ride. But the events did underscore how critical the Master Plan is in managing growth in our neighborhoods

  1. On March 8, 2016, the Montgomery County Council approved a text amendment to the Countywide Sewer Plan that will allow for further expansion of sewer into the environmentally sensitive Glen Hills neighborhood. The original text amendment proposed by the County Executive provided for limited expansion under several scenarios, including to “specifically designated public health problem areas” when necessary to address “area-wide public health hazards” and “larger-scale, chronic public health problems.” WMCCA supported the original text amendment because it was consistent with the Master Plan, the Countywide Sewer Plan, and State statutes on sewering low density areas. It would have put Glen Hills homeowners on an equal footing with others on septic throughout the County.

    However, at the last minute, the Council added 62 new lines of text, applicable only to Glen Hills homeowners, that so expanded the standards and process for declaring “public health problem areas” that almost all Glen Hills properties, all with functioning systems, are now “septic concerns” triggering sanitary surveys leading to designations as public health problem areas. (See WMCCA’s February, 2016 Newsletter for a further description of the text.) Maryland’s Departments of Environment and Planning now have 90 days to review and approve or disapprove the Council’s actions. WMCAA has joined with the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance in urging the State agencies to disapprove the new 62 lines of text for failure to provide adequate notice and opportunity to comment via a required public hearing and because the text violates the Master Plan, the County Sewer Plan, and Maryland’s smart growth statutes.

    The Master Plan, however, did stop the Council from approving developers’ proposals for immediate wholesale conversion of Glen Hills to sewer. Even the Council recognized they could not do that under the Master Plan. However, in a clear bow to development interests and other proponents of increased density, they took the unprecedented step of directing the Planning Board to produce an amendment to the Potomac Master Plan just for Glen Hills, presumably to be able to allow the wholesale sewering of the entire area. This first cracking open of the Master Plan foretells a very rough ride ahead and WMCCA will be actively involved in the process.
  2. In another wild ride, on March 21, 2016, County Hearing Examiner Martin Grossman approved the conditional use application for the 140 bed Brandywine Senior Living facility to be constructed on a four acre parcel in an RE-2 zone (2 acre residential). The location is the current site of the Potomac Tennis Club adjacent to the Falls Road Golf Course on the big bend on Falls Road. In so doing, he rejected WMCCA’s arguments that such intense commercial facilities cannot be placed everywhere in residential zones throughout the Potomac Subregion.

    The Master Plan carefully delineates where more intense uses are to be located while maintaining the overwhelming character of the Subregion as a residential green wedge. The Plan specifically lists five sites to be used for senior housing: Potomac Village, Stoneyhurst Quarry, Cabin John Shopping Center, Fortune Park, and a site in Avenel. The Brandywine site is clearly not one of them, nor does it have any of the characteristics that make these other sites suitable for such development. It also violates the Master Plan provisions regarding excessive concentrations of special exceptions (conditional uses) and the Plan’s noise restrictions.

    WMCCA joined with the Brickyard Coalition and engaged the law firm of Knopf and Brown for an appeal of the decision in the form of a Request to Present Oral Argument before the County’s Board of Appeals. The request was filed on March 31, 2016, as was a similar request by abutting property owners.

Help support our efforts in defending the Master Plan. Renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Look for your renewal notice in the mail or go to our website to download a membership form or join using PayPalhttp://www.wmcca.org

Artificial Turf Update Submitted by Carol Van Dam Falk:

Members of WMCCA and the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition testified on March 11th in Annapolis before the Ways and Means Committee in support of Delegate Aruna Miller’s Warning Signs Bill HB 883. The Bill would have simply required that warning signs be posted in front of synthetic turf fields used by public elementary and secondary schools describing precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as follows: ALL THOSE USING THIS SYNTHETIC TURF FIELD SHOULD TAKE THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDED PRECAUTIONS:

  1. KEEP BEVERAGES CLOSED AND IN BAGS OR COOLERS WHEN NOT DRINKING TO MINIMIZE CONTAMINATION
    FROM FIELD DUST AND FIBERS.
  2. BE AWARE OF THE SIGNS OF HEAT–RELATED ILLNESS AND DEHYDRATION. THIS FIELD CAN GET EXCESSIVELY
    HOT ON WARM, SUNNY DAYS. TAKE ALL NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS.
  3. WASH HANDS AND EXPOSED BODY PARTS AGGRESSIVELY AFTER USING THIS FIELD.
  4. REMOVE SHOES AND CLOTHING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER USING THIS FIELD TO AVOID TRACKING DUST AND INFILL TO OTHER LOCATIONS.

Unfortunately, Anne Kaiser, Chairperson of the Education Sub-Committee refused to even bring HB 883 up for a vote. Kaiser and others on the Sub-Committee have synthetic turf fields being built in their districts at public schools, and don’t want that activity to stop. It appears that many lawmakers believe the untruths being disseminated to them by the synthetic turf industry; that it’s just as safe (untrue) and more cost-effective (untrue) than natural grass fields.

There are many known toxins in the infill and plastic blades of these fields, and until further research and tests are completed by the federal government, we believe that, at the very least, signs should be erected to warn parents and players about the potential health risks, as they already are doing in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia. The health risks from elevated temperatures and other related health effects from playing on artificial turf fields are also well documented. As Bailey Condrey of the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition (safehealthyplayingfields.org) has pointed out: “Great durable grass can be grown that benefits both the users and the environment… It can be done at the county’s high schools and elementary schools, but there is no commitment to make it happen.”

We urge you to write to your locally elected representatives and request that they press for a vote on HB 883, and further investigation of the toxins in synthetic turf. Help our locally elected officials realize that we can grow great durable grass fields with maintenance costs kept well below that of the cost to install and maintain synthetic turf fields.



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 – March 2016

March 2016


A Big Shout Out – Many Thanks

President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

WMCCA tries to stay abreast of the environmental and land issues impacting the Potomac Subregion, but we cannot begin to cover all aspects of those in play at any one time. Collaboration with other organizations and affected neighbors is essential as it expands available resources and increases our collective effectiveness.

So as we provide this update on current issues we are following, we take this opportunity to thank the organizations and individuals who have provided their outstanding subject matter expertise, advice on strategy, and firsthand knowledge of site conditions. Final outcomes may not be known for some time, perhaps years, but we believe the quality of the decision-making process has been improved enormously because of these efforts.

  1. Glen Hills Sewer Text Amendment pending before the Montgomery County Council. WMCCA supported the County Executive’s original text amendment providing for additional limited expansion of sewer into Glen Hills. However, as discussed in the February Newsletter, last minute additional text was adopted by the Transportation and Environment Committee that, among other things, erroneously and arbitrarily results in labeling almost all of Glen Hills as an area of “septic concern” increasing the potential for its designation as a public health area of concern. Many thanks to the Glen Hills residents who have spent years on these issues and to the Montgomery Countryside Alliance and the Audubon Naturalist Society, all of whom have joined WMCCA’s recent efforts to convince the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, the County Executive, and the full Council to delete the new language and adopt the original text. The tentative dates of the full Council vote are March 1st and March 8th, 2016.
  2. Brandywine Senior Living application for conditional use for a 140 bed assisted living facility in an RE-2 (two acre residential) zone on the current site of the Potomac Tennis Club next to the Falls Road Golf Course. After four days of hearings over a three month period before Montgomery County Hearing Examiner Martin Grossman, the record was closed on February 19, 2016 and the parties await his decision. WMCCA appeared in opposition focusing primarily on the fact that its location is inconsistent with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan requirements for the location of senior housing. The more detailed opposition arguments were made by Ronald and Toni Paul, abutting property owners, their attorney William Chen, and Curt Uhre with the Brickyard Coalition. Many thanks for their work on multiple complex site plan issues.
  3. Artis Senior Living application for conditional use for a 72 room residential care facility at 8301 River Road, 1200 feet west of the Stoneyhurst Quarry in an RE-2 zone. The application was approved by County Hearing Examiner Lynn Robeson and residents from neighboring Carderock Springs appealed to the Board of Appeals (BOA). The BOA remanded the case to the Hearing Examiner for further fact finding regarding the traffic safety along River Road and at the intersection of River Road and Carderock Springs Drive. The hearing on remand was February 11, 2016 and the parties are awaiting the Hearing Examiner’s decision. We thank the Carderock Springs residents for their outstanding work opposing the application and in particular raising the traffic safety issues that make this a terrible location for this type of commercial use. They also raised the Potomac Subregion Master Plan provisions directing that senior housing be located at the Stoneyhurst Quarry location, not in this surrounding RE-2 neighborhood. Because of timing issues, WMCCA did not participate as a party, but I did testify in opposition as an individual at the remand hearing.
  4. Old Angler’s Inn: At the request of the applicant Maryland Catering Co., Inc., the hearing on the request for a conditional use to construct a wedding/meeting venue and overnight units behind Old Angler’s Inn on MacArthur Boulevard was rescheduled to September 9, 2016. Over the past year, WMCCA has been part of a collective of civic groups and homeowners associations (HOAs) working to oppose the request. The Potomac Subregion Master plan does not envision such a project and traffic in and around the Old Angler’s Inn access point to the C&O Canal National Historical Park is already too dangerous to support another use in the area. We thank the Civic Association of River Falls, the Brickyard Coalition, the River Falls HOA, and the Woodrock HOA who along with WMCCA have been monitoring the application.

WMCCA NOMINATING COMMITTEE
The following individuals are proposed to serve on the Nominating Committee and will be voted upon at the March 9, 2016 General Meeting. They in turn will nominate officers and directors to be voted upon at the May 11, 2016 Annual Meeting:
    Chairperson – Ginny Barnes
    Members: Mark Israel, George Barnes, John Yassin, and Carol Van Dam Falk



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 – February 2016

February 2016


THE REVISED GLEN HILLS SEWER AMENDMENT – AN EPIC HOODWINKING

President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

It appeared to be a good decision by the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (T&E), but in fact it was outrageously bad. It was a hoodwinking of epic proportions. If not corrected by the full Council, it will have immediate adverse impacts on Glen Hills homeowners and ramifications on land use policy throughout the County. On a vote of 2-1 (Councilmembers Berliner and Hucker for, Councilmember Floreen against), the T&E Committee sent to the full Council a recommendation to adopt Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposal for what had been the limited expansion of sewer into the Glen Hills neighborhood. The vote followed months of committee deliberations including a T&E public hearing, submissions of hundreds of pages of testimony, and multiple work sessions that raised a variety of important, complex questions regarding the use of septic vs. sewer in low density areas such as Glen Hills. Although raised in the context of Glen Hills, the issues have broad impacts on sewer and land use policies throughout Montgomery County. The consensus seemed to be that these issues should be decided on a County-wide basis, not by singling out Glen Hills homeowners for different treatment.

But no, in the end, a last minute “clarifying” change in language, that was not in the County Executive’s (CE’s) proposal and was never subject to public comment, was adopted by the Committee. The “clarifying” language in fact establishes a different process and new standards for Glen Hills for designating public health problem areas. Even though the County has repeatedly stated that there are no public health problem areas in Glen Hills, these new standards, taken together, target the entire community as one of “septic system concern” triggering a new sanitary survey of all properties. Not only does this “clarifying” change negate the CE’s proposal, turning it upside down, it trashes the facts and sound science, and resurrects the discredited, bogus Glen Hills sewer study. Implementation of the language would be inconsistent with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, Montgomery County’s Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan and Policy, and Maryland’s land use policies and laws. It will greatly increase the probability of sewer lines costing upwards of $100,000 per household and negatively impact the value and marketability of Glen Hills houses.

The CE’s original proposed text amendment carefully tracked the requirements of the Master Plan and the specific applicable sections of the County’s sewer policy. The proposed amendment provided for sewer expansion in three circumstances: septic system failures; properties that abut existing sewer mains; and, “[p]roperties included within a specifically designated public health problem area” pursuant to Sections II.B.5.a (area wide public health hazard) and II.E.2 (larger scale, chronic public health problems) of the Countywide Sewer Plan. Properties located in the Piney Branch Watershed would continue to be subject to the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy. WMCCA strongly supported the CE’s proposed text amendment. It was reasonable, logical, reflected the actual conditions in Glen Hills, and was consistent with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, the Countywide Sewer Policy and Plan, and Maryland’s Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act.

Instead of following the County’s established procedures governing the designation of public health problem areas, the T&E Committee adopted a brand new policy that only applies to Glen Hills, but has implications for all low density areas. It is clearly designed as a back door way to fast track sewering all of Glen Hills, presumably even the portion in the Piney Branch Restricted Sewer Service Area. Contrary to the County Sewer Plan, there is no requirement for documentation that a true area wide public health hazard or a larger scale chronic health problem exists. Even if a property owner has no septic problems, they can request a sanitary survey just because they have “septic system concerns.” It doesn’t even have to involve their property or impact their property. Under this new policy, the existence of a septic system permitted before 1975, even if fully functioning, is now de facto determined by the T & E Committee to be a “septic system concern.” Given that 52% of the Glen Hills systems were permitted before 1975, any property owner could force over half of the homeowners into a sanitary survey by just listing those dated before 1975. (Since half of the 22,000 septic systems in the County may have been built before 1975, such a de facto designation would have major impacts if applied Countywide.)

All properties that are currently functioning and have just one feasible replacement system are also now a “septic system concern.” The condition of unimproved, undevelopable lots, many of which are in wetlands, stream valleys and flood plain, will be considered. Added to this is the fact that priority will be given to properties in the infamously flawed Review Areas, predominantly flood plains and stream valleys, and all properties adjacent to them as well. With such flimsy, all-encompassing and scientifically unfounded criteria, within minutes the entire Glen Hills area could be designated a potential health problem area, thus triggering a sanitary study of the entire area. Wasn’t that just what the County should have accomplished when it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Glen Hills Study?

Conspicuously absent in this new Glen Hills text amendment is any requirement that a health hazard or chronic health problem must actually exist before approval for sewer will be granted. There are no standards of any kind, but instead a focus on how quickly sewer can be granted. It contains nothing with regard to the rights of homeowners who do not want or need sewer and who have been erroneously and unjustifiably targeted as a “septic system concern” or a health problem area. There are no procedures for public notice and input regarding the process and the definition of critical terms. Yes, it was a last minute epic hoodwinking that we will urge the full County Council to reject.

‘NO’ TO BRICKYARD ROAD INDUSTRIAL SCALE SOLAR FACILITY

Larry Bowers, the Interim Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools, has decided not to recommend that a utility grade solar facility be installed at the Brickyard Road school site. He also rejected similar proposals for school sites in Laytonsville and Olney. In so doing, he cited public opposition to the proposals. Over 120 people attended the public meetings and more than 110 written comments, including those of WMCCA, were submitted with 80% opposed to the proposals. The specific reason given for rejection of the Laytonsville site was its current use as a golf course and for the Olney site it was its proximity to houses and their view onto the site, a feature of the Brickyard site as well. The reason given for the Brickyard Road site: “SunEdison made a business decision to withdraw its proposal to develop PV systems on that particular site.”



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 – January 2016

January 2016


President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

Yes, indeed. It was a very busy year. Many thanks to all the citizens who took time in 2015 from their busy schedules and personal obligations to take on a variety of very interesting, but challenging and time consuming, issues critical to ensuring environmental integrity and the overall quality of life in the Potomac Subregion.

WMCCA members, working with other organizations and government officials, were particularly focused on these continuing issues:

  • Glen Hills sewer policy;
  • Unwarranted tree cutting by PEPCO and the National Park Service;
  • Conditional use applications for construction in residential zones of an event venue adjacent to Old Anglers Inn and Brandywine Senior Living’s proposed senior housing facility adjacent to the Falls Road Golf Course;
  • The hazards of artificial turf playing fields;
  • Implementation of the new County Pesticides Law;
  • A proposed utility scale solar facility on the Brickyard Road school site; and,
  • Commercial uses and signage in residential zones. Individual WMCCA Board members also assumed increased duties aimed at strengthening the organization.

We look forward to an equally interesting, challenging, and productive 2016. As always, WMCCA’s focus will be on unbiased fact finding; the application of sound science; compliance with laws, regulations, and the Potomac Subregion Master Plan; and, effective and transparent communications between citizens and government officials.

“Trending” areas of emphasis likely will include:

  • Implementation of the new Montgomery County zoning code. How County officials interpret and implement the new zoning code is already impacting the Old Angler’s Inn and Brandywine conditional use applications;
  • Talk- yet again- of a bridge crossing through the Agricultural Reserve;
  • Public transportation options to serve the Tobytown community and surrounding neighborhoods;
  • C & O Canal easement restrictions, e.g., tree removal, construction of structures and paths;
  • Potential use of the Brickyard School site as an educational farm;
  • Interpretation and enforcement of Montgomery County forest conservation requirements;
  • Trails policy for environmentally sensitive park lands, in particular the Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park; and
  • Proposed subdivisions on Glen Mill Road: Justement Woods and Parcel 833 (near Boswell Lane)

We welcome any and all who would like to work on these issues. Contact us via our website at http://www.wmcca.org or send an email to susannelee1@hotmail.com or call 301-956-4535.

BRANDYWINE SENIOR LIVING, LLC CONDITIONAL USE APPLICATION         

Submitted by Susanne Lee:

CU-16-01 – The next hearing date for this application for a senior housing (assisted living) facility in an RE-2 zone adjacent to the Falls Road Golf Course is scheduled for 1/15/16. At the request of the Hearing Examiner, Brandywine submitted a revised plan and the Hearing Examiner requested that the Technical Staff of the Planning Department submit their comments on the revised plan by 1/8/16. WMCCA continues to oppose the application because it conflicts with the Potomac Master Plan restrictions regarding where senior housing should be located.

GLEN HILLS SEWER POLICY        

Submitted by Susanne Lee:

The Montgomery County Executive’s recommendations regarding the extension of sewer into Glen Hills are under consideration by the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committee prior to transmittal for action by the full Council. The next T&E Committee meeting is scheduled for 1/21/16 with an additional date of 1/28/16 scheduled, if needed. WMCCA supports the County Executive’s recommendations and, along with Glen Hills residents, is meeting with Council members to discuss the proposed recommendations.

ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT        

Submitted by Ginny Barnes:

NPS Tree Cutting at Swain’s Lock Campground – In early November, at the urging of concerned citizens and Councilmember Roger Berliner, C&O Canal NHP Superintendent Kevin Brandt held an on-site meeting about the plan to remove a number of what arborists consider hazardous trees at three locations. The proposal stunned park volunteers and advocates who had no previous knowledge of the plan until chain saws started cutting at the end of October. The public attending raised the need to engage more than arborists in such a sensitive area. Swain’s Lock campground sits right on the Potomac River and while a beautiful place to camp, it is in the river floodplain, subject to flooding and soil compaction around trees. As a result of the meeting the NPS engaged a hydrologist and biologist to look at the site. While there may be little decrease in the number of trees ultimately trimmed or removed as hazardous, there will now be a replanting plan focused on increased species diversity and clustering plantings to protect the soil. WMCCA helped engage an independent arborist to assess the site. We hope this experience will bring greater transparency to such proposals. The public is watching. Many local canal based groups oversee volunteer work to aid the park and we citizens should have been part of the conversation at an early stage.

Old Angler’s Inn – Proposal for a Country Inn/Wedding venue – For the past year WMCCA has been part of a coalition of local citizens and HOAs keeping track of the proposal to build a banquet hall/motel facility for special events on the hill above Old Angler’s Inn. Weddings, conferences, etc. with overnight guest rooms presents multiple concerns. Proximity to the congested and dangerous parking situation and pedestrian traffic at the C&O Canal NHP is paramount. Noise, environmental impacts, and compliance with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan are also significant concerns. The Country Inn request involves a hearing before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) as well as the Planning Board. It has been rescheduled from 1/11/16 to 9/9/16.



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.