0
Votes

Boswell’s Back Door

No formal appeal will be filed in denial of sewer service, but there will be an appeal.

The Maryland Department of the Environment doesn’t like it.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) doesn’t like it.

The Montgomery County Council wants to let it die.

But a sewer line, proposed to extend to a parcel known as the R.A.M. Investing property on Boswell Lane might get another look.

“The Executive Branch has sent a letter to the [Maryland] Department of Planning asking for their reconsideration,” said Alan Soukup, senior environmental planner with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

Last November, a lame duck County Council approved the extension without posting the item on its agenda. Sewer changes are routinely sent to the Maryland Department of the Environment for review.

The Department of the Environment rejected the change based upon the findings of the state Department of Planning that it violates the Potomac Master Plan.

When approved by council, this change also included language stating that the alignment must be found acceptable by WSSC.

WSSC rejected the plan because it preferred another alignment.

If an appeal was to be issued it would have to come through the council. “The formal appeal would be through the body which made the decision [the County Council],” Soukup said.

“The council does not have any plans to formally appeal,” said Keith Levchenko, legislative analyst for the County Council.

IN spite of all that, the plan for a sewer line is continuing to move forward through an informal process. Soukup met with representatives from R.A.M. Investing and is sending a letter to the Department of Planning based on their requests. “[R.A.M. said] a letter from the executive branch clarifying the issues would effect the changes they would like to see,” Soukup said.

Steve Orens, attorney for R.A.M. Investing, declined to comment on the issue.

A representative of the Maryland Department of Planning could not be reached for comment.

The Western Montgomery County Citizen’s Association has been opposed to the sewer extension since its initial approval. The group didn’t like the unadvertised vote on the extension or the fact that it violates the Potomac Master Plan and the Piney Branch Restricted Sewer Access Policy.

They aren’t happy with the back-door approach to an appeal, either. “We believe that if the county is requesting that the decision be modified, that it go through the proper channels,” said Susanne Lee, planning and zoning chair for West Montgomery.

If the Department of Planning changes their opinion, the Department of the Environment may revise their decisions, said Soukup.

Even if the state changes their opinion, there is still the issue of WSSC not approving the alignment.

Further complicating the sewer extension is R.A.M.’s neighbor, the Warner property. Located just a few yards from the R.A.M. property, the Warner property is also applying for a sewer line.

While the R.A.M. property is seeking sewer so that it can develop the land and add houses, the Warners have a failing septic system.

The public health concerns involved in a failing septic system would justify putting in a sewer line.

The alignment approved by WSSC would run along Boswell, in the direction opposite the R.A.M. investing property. West Montgomery is not opposed to the line in principal, but it does not approve of the placement of the sewer line.

“It looks like it is going to go along the shoulder of the road,” Lee said.

There are many trees along the shoulder. “Those trees are either going to come down or be so weakened that they come down,” Lee said.

The other possible alignment would bring the sewer line past the R.A.M. property. Property owners are allowed to hook up to an abutting sewer line. “It may only qualify [R.A.M.] for one hook-up,” Levchenko said.

The R.A.M. property currently has two houses on it. Their plan calls for tearing down one of them and putting three up, creating a net increase of two houses, Levchenko said. “For them to achieve their development, they would have to get approval for all those properties,” Levchenko said.