WMCCA – Celebrating 75 Years!
A Combined Effort Towards Many Controversies & Crises
President’s Letter by Barbara Brown
First of all, congratulations to the 75th anniversary booth WMCCA organized for Potomac Day, October 22, 2022. Meeting the community and presenting beautiful apples, grown locally, was a perfect welcome! Thank you, Barbara, Nancy, Susanne, and Carol.
At our November 9th General Meeting, our speaker will be Paul Tukey, Chief Sustainability Officer for Glenstone. If you desire to keep a beautiful lush green lawn WITHOUT using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, there are environmentally friendly ways. Glenstone does not use ANY chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides! Hear what Paul Tukey recommends to retain moisture and to fight weeds to care for a chemical-free lawn. He will cover: adding a thin layer of compost in the spring and irrigating deeply every so often; mowing at the high-setting, not low, to prevent deterioration; and, mowing less often in the summer when the grass is not active.
Planning Board Debacle Update
Submitted by Carol V. Falk and Ginny Barnes
In the past week, the County Council unanimously approved Thrive 2050. The controversial General Plan Amendment will essentially up-zone current single family communities to allow apartments, townhouses, and duplex, triplex, and quadruplex housing. The Plan Amendment will break the residential ‘green wedges’ of current 1 and 2 acre zoning. Purported to be a vision for the future, it will increase sprawl, threaten long standing environmental planning and the Agricultural Reserve, and it fails to address the most pressing public health issue we face: climate change. Diverse coalitions had been calling for a ‘pause’ in the Thrive vote to address complaints about inadequate public input, open meetings violations, and ongoing scandals.
Just two days later the Council hastily appointed five interim members to the Planning Board (PB) after asking for resignations of the entire Planning Board two weeks ago in the wake of the latest scandal involving Chair Casey Anderson and a toxic work environment fueled by infighting. The Council received 128 applications for the 5 seats. They chose Democrat Jeffrey Zyontz, a long time County employee who has worked on planning issues as temporary chair and Republican Amy Presley, a former PB member as temporary vice-chair. The Board can have no more than three members of the same political party.
Trust in the Board has been eroding for years under Anderson’s leadership, but it erupted into the open when Board members, minus Anderson who recused himself, fired longtime director Gwen Wright 3 months before she was expected to retire. Wright told the Washington Post “I believe their main reason for dismissing me was that I supported Casey Anderson in a number of the difficulties that he’s recently been in.” Anderson was also accused of maintaining a fully stocked bar in his office at the Board and offering alcohol to others, including employees.
The 3-year Thrive 2050 process took place amid a COVID epidemic that limited appropriate public input which led to indifference by officials and when the Plan Amendment reached the County Council for approval, Council members ignored petitions and pleas to slow down. The result of a bad process is an equally bad product. It would have been far better to keep our existing General Plan of ‘wedges and corridors’ which has served us well and build on it rather than approve what is not a General Plan at all, but simply ill-conceived housing policy.
County Council Throws Potomac Under the Bus
Submitted by Ken Bawer
By unanimous vote on October 25, 2022 the County Council essentially threw Potomac and other low density areas under the bus by voting to approve updates to the 2022-2031 Ten-Year Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan. We had urged all Councilmembers to not vote for the Plan’s amendments which resulted in special favors being granted to several sewer category change requests from septic systems to public sewer. None of these properties had failed septic systems. To hide the fact that special favors were being granted to individuals, the proposed amendments added language to the Water & Sewer Plan that was so narrowly crafted that few if any other properties would qualify for the same sewer category changes.
The worst part of the Plan update was the creation of a new Community Service for Commercial Land Uses (a.k.a. Commercial Sewer Service Policy) that will extend sewer lines to allow expanded, inappropriate commercial development in low density areas outside the sewer envelope. This was another special favor to the owners of the “old white house” and Potomac/Travilah Oak shopping center at Travilah and Glen Roads.
One case that was deferred is especially troubling. The owner has a sand mound septic system and reported that the system pumps have burned out several times. The problems appear to be electro-mechanical in nature, not a septic system failure, since replacing those components fixed the problem. Although this is not a total septic system failure and therefore does not qualify for a sewer category change, the Council seems poised to grant another special favor to this owner. These are examples of how our low-density areas are slowing being transformed by creeping public sewer line extensions. Absolutely no consideration is given to the environmental impact of sewer sprawl and increased density: increased structure sizes, increased impervious surfaces, increased stormwater runoff, and the resulting adverse impact on streams and the drinking water supply that will result from these special favors.
Of equal disappointment is that several of our letters and a phone call to our elected representative Councilmember Friedson went unanswered. The rule of law in Montgomery County has been replaced, it seems, by the rule of special favors.
County Council Votes Yes for Cell Antennas on Utility Poles 30 Feet From Homes
Submitted by Theodora Scarato
Despite heavy opposition, the County Council approved zoning text amendment (ZTA) 22-01, Antennas on Existing Structures. This ZTA changes the current wireless antenna setback from 60 feet to 30 feet for existing structures such as utility poles. There is no limit on height nor on the amount of equipment boxes attached to each pole. Last year, the Council passed a similar bill, ZTA 19-07, which allows cell antennas on top of street lights and replacement poles at 30 feet from homes and eliminates routine public notice and hearings. A coalition of thousands of residents has opposed this zoning for several reasons including aesthetics, property values, health, climate/environmental effects, and lack of community input into the decision making process.
The coalition has created a NEW petition calling for the Council to repeal the cell antenna ZTA’s and consider input from a working group of residents and stakeholders: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/moco-cell-towers/ .
Bullis School Seeks a Major Modification of its Conditional Use (S-687-H)
Submitted by Susanne Lee
The Bullis School has filed an application with the Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) for a major modification of its current special exception (now called a conditional use) in order to:
- construct a new Lower School building and internal access “loop” road, parking and related site improvements and facilities, including conversion of an existing field to artificial turf;
- increase enrollment by 21.7 % from 900 to 1,096 (grades K-12);
- add faculty and staff to accommodate the increased enrollment; and
- confirm previous approvals including unbuilt improvements under the 2004 Campus Master Plan will remain.
OZAH has set a hearing date of January 27, 2023. The application must first be reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Board. The full application as well a list of special exceptions granted to Bullis can be found on the Planning Board website. The current application is summarized here:
REMINDER IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY RENEWED: IT’S TIME TO RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP FOR 2022-2023!
We rely upon your membership to support our efforts! Please renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Go to our website https://wmcca.org/become-a-member/ to download a membership form or join using PayPal: Individual: $25 / Family: $50. We encourage donations to our Legal Fund. While we strive for positive results without litigation, sometimes it is unavoidable and highly effective. Contributions from members enabled us to join efforts to successfully address several issues as they affect the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, zoning, and environmental threats to the “Green Wedge”, our creeks and water supplies, and the Agricultural Reserve. If you have any issues or concerns in your neighborhood, please contact WMCCA. We appreciate the input from our neighbors. Thank you for your support !! Our Membership year runs from October 1st to September 30th.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P.O. Box 59335, Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President – Barbara Brown: President@WMCCA.org
Website: WMCCA.org – Thomas Fahey, Newsletter Editor – Nancy Madden