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Precedent-Setting?

Will this be the last sewer change?

The controversy continues.

"Public sewer service here has always been controversial. I can't think of a time when there wasn't some controversy over sewer service in the Piney Branch basin as long as I've been here, and that's been since 1987," said Alan Soukup, of the County Department of Environmental Protection.

Last November, on the last day of the last Council's session, Council approved a controversial application of R.A.M. Investing, Ltd. for sewer service to a parcel of land along Boswell Lane.

The Council was informed “that the application had been opposed by Planning staff, the Planning Board, the [County] executive and that it was contrary to the Restricted Access Sewer Policy, to the Council's Water and Sewer Plan and to the recently adopted Potomac Master Plan,” said Callum Murray, Potomac team leader at Park and Planning.

It also contradicts the sewer envelope policy in the Potomac Master Plan, which was approved by the same Council in March of 2002.

"We believe Council's action calls into question the Council's respect for and commitment to the recently adopted Potomac Subregion Master Plan. We believed the approved Master Plan would be the defining document for future development in our communities and that we could trust it to guide your decisions," wrote members of the Potomac Subregion Leadership Group to the Council. The group includes West Montgomery County Citizens Association as well as the Darnestown, North Potomac and the Willows and Neighbors citizens associations.

The Council voted to approve the application on Nov. 26 despite inconsistencies with its own policies. The Council resolution contains language that "this approval represents an exception to the Piney Branch Sewer Restricted Access Policy and is not a precedent for possible future exception requests."

However, the application could be referred to by future developers hoping for sewer service.

"I'm sure that somewhere down the road that we will get a category zone request in the Piney Branch that will cite this as an example,” said Soukup. “At that point, it will obviously go to the County Council and we will place before them all this history.”

"I can't recall a parallel circumstance," said Murray. "For me, it's a disturbing precedent. For the moment, I don't know what effect it would be on subsequent applications in that vicinity. It is conceivable that we could receive applications pointing to it as a precedent.

"It's more than just the Master Plan. It's the Council’s Water and Sewer Plan and its [Restrictive Access] Sewer Policy which by its very title and definition is restrictive," he said.