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New Battleground in Boswell Lane

Citizens fight sewer line extension.

A little-used provision of the state code might prevent the extension of a sewer line along Boswell Lane.

In November, the County Council approved an extension of a sewer line to a property along Boswell lane in Potomac. The extension, in violation of both the Potomac Master Plan and the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy. Potomac activists were outraged last year when the County Council voted to approve the extension on the last day of session before the new council was seated, and without public notice.

West Montgomery County Citizens Association opposed the extension, citing concerns that the approval might set a precedent for future sewer policy changes, bringing greater density and environmental problems.

West Montgomery submitted a request with the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny the request.

“They have to approve any amendments to area plans,” said Susanne Lee, President of West Montgomery. According to the state code, the department may refuse to allow the sewer line if it violates a local master plan.

But the prospects of state intervention do not look good.

“We’ll most likely approve it,” said Ray Anderson, Water Management Administrator with the DEP. The state has only turned down such amendments on very rare occasions, and when it has, usually changes disapproval to approval on appeal.

The county did not submit the plan for approval until early Feb. The DEP almost always takes some kind of action on items submitted, according to Anderson. “If we don’t respond within 90 days, it is approval by default,” he said.

Anderson delegated the study of the Boswell Lane issue to Laverne Gray at the Maryland Department of Planning for further review. Gray did not return calls by the Almanac’s Tuesday deadline. Gray has until April 14 to make her report to Anderson. The DEP then has until May 5 to make its final decision.

Lee said that West Montgomery has asked for support from County Councilmembers Howard Denis (R-1) and Phil Andrews (D-3) and Del. Jean Cryor (R-15). Neither Denis nor Andrews returned calls by the Almanac’s Tuesday deadline.

Cryor was cautious about lending her support to West Montgomery in an issue that may set a precedent on local control.

“I’ll certainly look at the proposal,” Cryor said. “I know that I don’t particularly want the state to be involved case to case. I don’t like to give up local control.”

Even if the line does gain the approval of the DEP, it still must win approval from the water and sewer agency, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, in order to proceed. The landowner, R.A.M. Investing, has not applied for that approval.

“We are still waiting for them to provide the detailed plan so we can conduct our hydraulic analysis,” said Chuck Brown, spokesman for WSSC.