Addressing 5G and Thrive Montgomery 2050 Concerns
President’s Letter – by President Carol Van Dam Falk.
We hope all of you survived the nor’easter which evolved into a “bomb cyclone” last weekend and are staying warm and dry. The weeks of frigid weather we’re experiencing may well be due to climate change. According to the Washington Post, several studies link higher snowfall amounts in the eastern United States to changes in the Arctic. “When the Arctic is warm, one study found, cold blasts and heavy snowfalls in the eastern U.S. are two to four times more likely to occur than when the Arctic is cold.” As we warm our toes by the fire and contemplate the future of our neck of the woods, we thought now would be a great time to hear from the folks who have been urging the Montgomery County Council to revise the Thrive Montgomery 2050 document, to make it more environmentally friendly and less focused on development. In late October, the County released the “Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee Draft of Thrive Montgomery 2050,” an update to the County’s general plan. Unfortunately, it ignored all of the concerns and ideas we and others had raised in 2021. In December, the Council asked the County’s five Citizen Advisory Boards to hold talks with members and communities about the Plan at their January meeting. The Thrive site mentioned a Western Montgomery County Advisory Board Committee meeting at 7:00pm on Jan. 27th, but offered no other information, including no link to the meeting. Along with WMCCA, Scott Plumer, of the Darnestown Civic Association, has been actively involved in trying to revise the document to better protect our area and the green wedges north of us from overdevelopment. We look forward to hearing Scott’s recommendations and how we can make our voices heard on Thrive Montgomery.
The second half of our meeting will be devoted to a discussion of 5G plans for Montgomery County. The Council passed two resolutions on January 25, 2022 related to rules and fees for ZTA 19-07 fast tracking the deployment of 5G, 4G and new wireless networks in County residential areas. Last summer, the Council passed zoning amendment ZTA 19-07, which removes routine notice and hearings for short “small” cell towers in residential areas. That means poles can be erected in your front yard or directly adjacent to your yard, so long as the pole is 30 feet or more from your home. The ZTA streamlines the ability for telecommunications companies to access public rights of way in residential areas. Several thousand residents went on record opposing the ZTA. Theodora Scarato, our newest WMCCA Board member and an expert on the subject, will discuss the latest developments concerning 5G in the County.
As always, the general meeting is open to the public. Bring your questions and invite your neighbors!
Council Passes New Rules on Short 5G Cell Tower Deployment into Residential Areas
Submitted by Theodora Scarato
The new rules govern fees and rules for ZTA 19-07. Fees are set at levels intentionally well below processing costs, leaving residents/taxpayers to subsidize the wireless industry’s OZAH waiver and hearing processes for small cell towers. The second resolution sets rules that govern expedited conditional use processes for small cell towers – such as cases where the companies want to erect their cell tower poles closer than 30 feet. The new rules limit participation in critical pre-hearing matters. On January 31, 2022, the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee will have a briefing on the status of the master licensing agreements for 5G deployment. If you want to stay updated on new permits for wireless antennas, sign up for the County esubscription newsletter: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/cable/Towers/calendar.html
Join the residents campaign to bring public notice and hearings back at: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/stop-zta-19-07
2021 Water and Sewer Plan Update Submitted by Ken Bawer
Per the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection web site, “DEP staff are currently preparing the 2021 triennial comprehensive update of the Water and Sewer Plan as required by the State of Maryland. The initial staff draft is under development and is expected to be completed for agency review by the end of February. As this update moves forward, this webpage will provide schedule information on this process.” In theory, the Water and Sewer Plan establishes policies that emphasize the use of on-site septic systems in lower-density areas like ours; this keeps our areas low density to protect our watersheds from high density-related pollution.
In practice, however, the County has allowed changes to the sewer category of many properties that will allow creeping extensions of public sewer lines throughout our low-density area, which grow each year. Example: the “Glen Hills Area Sanitary Sewer Study” that created a loophole to grant sewer category changes from septic to public sewer for several properties with fully functioning septic systems.
Another example: the Potomac area “peripheral sewer service policy” which allows properties to connect to public sewer simply because they are adjacent to an existing “sewer envelope.” This defeats the whole purpose of containing sewer lines within the sewer envelope. While this action does not automatically expand the envelope, it only takes a small leap of imagination to envision the sewer envelope being expanded to include peripheral policy properties, then allowing even more properties to be hooked up to sewer. Public sewer lines are the pre-requisite to higher density development leading to the degradation of public water quality as large parts of our area drain into the Potomac River upstream from the WSSC Filtration Plant on River Road. We are working to have this Potomac Peripheral Sewer Service policy removed since it is a senseless loophole that applies to no other part of the County.
We will continue to oppose changes which grant special favors to developers, including the one at Travilah Oak (a.k.a. Potomac Oak) Shopping Center. Both the shopping center, which is on septic, and the “old white house” across the street at Travilah and Glen Roads, have each asked for a 5,300-foot public sewer line extension along Travilah to their properties. County Executive Marc Elrich’s office and the Planning Board both recommended denial but the Council’s T&E Committee voted for a deferral. We believe the Committee took this action to allow staff time to consider how to modify County policy to approve such developments. We will fight such action.
Heritage Gardens Land, LLC’s Proposed Townhouse/Senior Care Community at 10701 South Glen Road – Conditional Use Application No. CU202201 Submitted by Susanne Lee
The conditional use application hearing before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) for the townhouse/senior care community proposed for the 30 acre lot (RE-2-minimum 2 acre residential) at Norton and South Glen Road began on January 28, 2022. The Hearing Examiner heard oral argument regarding whether a traffic study is required but has yet to rule. Heritage Gardens began the description of its proposal. The Hearing Examiner then scheduled the next two days of hearings for February 14th and February 15th. Heritage Gardens will continue with its witnesses and then West Montgomery and the Greater South Glen Neighborhood Assn. (GSGNA) and other neighbors will present our testimony and exhibits. In order to ensure that other members of the public have an opportunity to testify, the Hearing Examiner specifically set aside time at 9 am at the beginning of the Hearing on February 14th for anyone to testify, even if they had not signed up before.
The hearing is conducted remotely via Teams. To participate by testifying at 9 am on the 14th or to just watch click on the hearing link for Heritage Gardens on the OZAH website (see link below) on the lower left hand corner under Hearing Schedule and also at Public Hearing Remote Access and Exhibits. Unfortunately the link is only good for the next case that OZAH will hear so they won’t include Heritage Gardens again until closer to February 14th. If you want details about the project, some exhibits are still posted on the Montgomery County Planning Board website:
The OZAH link that will have the hearing link at a later date is here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ozah
West Montgomery continues to join with the abutting neighbors and the GSGNA to oppose the development as it is currently proposed. If you would like to support these efforts, we urge you to send donations for legal and consultant expenses to GSGNA at 11021 Dobbins Drive, Potomac, MD 20854, or by Venmo to @Neil-Goldman-9. GSGNA will provide a receipt for all contributions.
Mark Your Calendars – The WMCCA March 9th General Meeting will feature District 1 Councilmember Andrew Friedson as our Speaker. This will be his first presentation to a WMCCA General Meeting since he became our representative on the County Council.
Finally – WMCCA NEEDS A NEW WEB ADMINISTRATOR! We have updated the website and are poised to turn it over to a new provider. Would you be interested in performing this important task for the organization? It would require uploading the monthly newsletter, occasional testimony by Board members, and the like. If you’re interested, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Carol Van Dam Falk – resident@WMCCA.org
Website – WMCCA.org – Peter Poggi, Newsletter Editor – Nancy Madden