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Votes

20-Year Vision of Potomac Approved

County Council Votes 7-2 on Potomac Plan.

Protection of the natural environment.

Protection of the county's and region's drinking water.

Preservation of the two-lane road policy.

Rejection of a second bridge crossing over the Potomac River in Potomac.

Preservation of Potomac's role as a low-density buffer around the Potomac River.

Buffering of the County's Agricultural Reserve.

Designation of rustic roads, particularly in the Glen.

The addition of more than 200 acres of critical environmental areas to the county's park system.

Protection of Potomac's historic resources.

And limitation of sewer extensions to a sewer service envelope in the Potomac subregion.

These are just some of the highlights in Potomac's new and approved Master Plan.

"This Plan is the most important environmental statement the Council can make," said Howard Denis (R-1). "We can take pride in the document and can look forward to its implementation."

County Council formally approved the Potomac Master Plan, the 20-year blueprint for landuse in Potomac, by a 7-2 vote on Tuesday, March 5. Marilyn Praisner (D-4) and Michael Subin (D-At large) voted against the Plan.

"I think the County Council normally ends in the right spot and did today," said Callum Murray, Potomac team leader with Planning Board Staff.

Murray and the Planning Board started working with a citizens advisory committee over three years ago to develop the plan.

"We started out with the environmental aspect and ended up making decisions that protect the environment and the green wedge," said Arthur Holmes Jr., chairman of the Planning Board. "The other thing that was exceptional was the intensity of citizen participation. There was intense community involvement from the beginning until the very end."

<mh>Council Dissent

<bt>Praisner and Subin said they rejected the plan based on the lack of balance between road capacity and development and a lack of emphasis on affordable housing in the region.

"Every Plan before has been balanced between landuse and transportation. The Potomac Master Plan is not," said Praisner. "This is an egregious error and is inconsistent with County policy. No way can I support a Master Plan that rejects balance so blatantly."

As Denis voiced that the plan is in "balance with the environment," Praisner shook her head, saying "unbelievable."

Subin's opposition boiled down to one principle.

"I will vote against the plan because of affordable housing," said Subin.

County Council discussions the last month centered on affordable and elderly housing. The Potomac plan is the first to go before the Council after Council adopted a new Housing Policy last summer, which states the necessity for each planning area to have a variety of housing options, including affordable and elderly housing.

The Council agreed that school surplus sites — Brickyard Junior High, Kendall Elementary School, and Churchill Elementary — should all be considered for affordable housing if the school system ever deems them unneeded. Council also approved the redevelopment of Cabin John Center to include 135 housing units as long as 75 are reserved for affordable or elderly housing.

Despite concern that Potomac receives disparate treatment and does not account for its fair share of affordable housing, Murray said that the facts support a different conclusion.

"The Potomac Subregion has 8.3 percent of the County's total households and has 7 percent of the county's affordable housing units. When the currently-approved and pending affordable units are constructed across the county, including the Traville and Victory Housing developments in the Subregion, Potomac will have 8.08 percent of the county's affordable housing stock," reads testimony Planning Staff provided to the Council for the Council's last worksession on the Master Plan.

<mh>Recreation Centers

<bt>The Plan also includes the development of a site for a North Potomac Community Center as well as the expansion of the Scotland Community Center. Transit-services will be provided to residents of Tobytown, near Pennyfield Lock along the C&O Canal.

"These will help a lot of people," said Murray.

Murray said he would have celebrated after the approval vote but had to return the 21 calls he had received from the time the Plan was approved to the time he made it back to the Planning Board from the Council.

"The thing that has been very exhausting is the constant rebuttals to staff rebuttals, lawyers rebuttals — it's just non stop," said Murray. "I went in today and received a rebuttal of my rebuttal."

"Overall this is an outstanding document," said Denis.