Steve Silverman gave Potomac citizens reason to applaud. Many times.
"I know many of you worked long hours on this Plan. I know how hard you worked in putting together a plan that represents the goals of the community in which you live. That's a Master Plan we should respect," said Silverman, council president.
Silverman addressed approximately 200 citizens who packed the Potomac Elementary School gym on Jan. 23 to listen to him speak about Council intentions for the Potomac Master Plan, the 20-year blueprint for landuse in Potomac.
"The Master Plan you worked to create will probably end up largely intact," said Silverman, to more applause at the meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association. Silverman is a member of the Council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, making recommendations to the full Council which will vote on the Master Plan next Tuesday, Feb. 5.
<bt>Many of the questions Silverman answered had to do with Potomac's two-lane road policy. County executive Douglas Duncan and council staff both called for the widening of some of Potomac’s roads to four lanes.
Silverman gave Potomac confidence that the Council, which unanimously opposes the building of a techway bridge over the Potomac River, will protect Potomac's two-lane road policy, despite recommendations by Duncan to widen River, Falls and Piney Meetinghouse roads and council staff which recommended the widening of River Road.
"We, [the PHED committee] unanimously rejected … recommendations [to widen some roads]. I'm fairly confident that the Council in whole will protect the two-lane road policy in whole," said Silverman, who received his first round of applause. "Having said that, no one wants to be stuck in traffic. What I do think can make a difference is looking at intersections at Bradley and Piney Meetinghouse roads to see what options there may be."
<bt>Silverman also received applause when he reiterated the Council's unanimous opposition to a bridge crossing over the Potomac River here in Potomac and in Montgomery County.
"I am opposed to a techway. The County Council is opposed to a techway, 9-0. We are supporting a river crossing at Point of Rocks, not in Montgomery County," said Silverman.
"It's a very important issue that we have to stay solid on. Just because they did not plan well on the other side of the river is no reason we should go through pristine property and people's backyards," said Silverman.
Many citizens wanted to know what assurance Silverman could give that the Council, or any other entity won't widen River and other Potomac roads.
"I loved what you said about the Council position on widening River Road," said Byron Bloch, a Potomac resident and national vehicle safety expert. "But is this like we're talking to the mother, but when we go to the dad, Douglas Duncan, and then to the grandmother, the state, they'll say, 'I don't care what you said, we're going to make River Road nine lanes?'"
The County Council is in the driver's seat when it comes to these issues, according to Silverman.
"We are the absolute authority when it comes to fiscal and landuse issues. This Master Plan will last 20 years. The reality is it is pretty hard to change a Master Plan once it is put into place," said Silverman. "The state is a different animal. Historically, the state does not get funding for projects not supported by local government. One area which is a big loophole is when the state decides it is in the best interest in the state or region [for such a project.]"
<mh>It’s the Environment, Stupid
<bt>Silverman also brought up the necessity to uphold certain environmental principles in Potomac. Many of the themes in the Master Plan are structured around Potomac's responsibility to protect the water quality for drinking water for Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Creating a sewer envelope that limits the number of hookups to sewer is one of the efforts the Master Plan takes to reduce development and to retain the quality of water.
"Who saw China Town. C'mon, it's a great movie. It's all about water. It's all about water and sewer," said Silverman.
Silverman was asked a range of other questions from the number of trailers at schools, development in North Potomac, recreation centers and the Transportation Policy Report.
Tristram Kruger, of Potomac, asked why the Planning Board and Transportation Policy Task force would encourage more roads when the public supports transit options by two-thirds to three-quarter majority.
Silverman encouraged residents to testify before the Council on the Transportation Policy Report on Tuesday, Feb. 12 and Wednesday, Feb. 13.
"I believe we need a balance of roads, transit and but service but we have to put money into it. If we did the same thing with schools as we've done with traffic, we'd have 60 kids in each class."
<bt>Barbara Padden and Joyce Doria both pressed Silverman and the Council for more restrictions on special exceptions granted in Potomac. Close to 86 percent of applications for special exceptions in Potomac have been approved.
Silverman said he asked council staff about a request to a change in the law that would allow a special exception to go forward even when under appeal.
Silverman said he had not proposed a change to the law, nor would he, but he did say that some special exceptions are beneficial like elderly housing and if applicants want to take the risk to build them during an appeal process — knowing they might have to be taken down — maybe that should be up to them.