When County Council President Michael Subin came to speak to members of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association last week, he already knew he would face an audience with a grievance.
After working literally for years on the Potomac Master Plan, members of West Montgomery were outraged when County Council voted to alter a provision of the just-approved plan without opportunity for public comment.
“You have a legitimate gripe in terms of how this went down,” said Subin. Subin voted against passage of the Potomac Master Plan earlier in 2002, citing concerns about traffic and affordable housing. He also voted in favor of a provision extending sewer service to two properties in November, on the previous Council’s very last day in session.
While he defended Council’s right to decide to extend sewer service whether or not it adheres to the guidelines of a master plan, he admitted that the vote should not have taken place without notification allowing comment from West Montgomery or other interested parties.
Subin came to the Feb. 12 meeting, and addressed other issues including the budget, school overcrowding and security in addition to taking heat for the November decision.
“Sewer and Water Category changes are part of a system at the Council,” Subin said. He described the process by which changes are made, and explained that the Boswell Lane change took place within these the limits of the process. “If that system is a system folks don’t like, you can surely try to get it changed,” Subin said.
The system’s shortcomings were what angered residents. “You made it sound like an orderly process,” said Potomac resident Diana Conway. Conway believed, however, that the process is flawed. In the case of Boswell Lane, when the change was approved, the item had one public hearing. It was then amended, but no further hearing was held. The change was then approved by the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee, and brought to the Council the next day. However, it did not appear on either committee’s published or interment agendas. “This particular one had all of the elements that drive you nuts,” said George Barnes.
Subin pledged that no such measure would come before county Council for a vote without a public hearing during his watch as Council president.
“There will be no Sewer and Water Category Changes or amendments to Sewer and Water Category Changes that will go before the Council without an additional public hearing,” Subin said.
Since Subin is the president of the Council, he can ensure that will happen for the remainder of the year, when his term as president expires. Several people at the meeting dubbed the pledge the “Subin Policy.”
Subin also said he would propose changing the procedure so such a scenario would not occur in the future. “I will try to make it a permanent change,” Subin said. In order to do that, he would need a Council vote to adjust current rules.