Potomac’s Citizens of the Year worked for two years to achieve the honor.
The Potomac Master Plan Advisory Group, 17 people from Potomac, North Potomac and Darnestown, developed the framework which will guide development in Potomac for the next 10 to 20 years.
“It was such a lesson in so many ways,” said Elie Pisarra-Cain who chaired the group. “When you have as much of your life vested in the community … you want to be a part of it.”
“It was such an education for me in how the County works,” said Diana Conway, a member of the group. “I think it’s a great process. It’s a great way to get people involved.”
The group’s tenacity, and the friendships she developed with other members are one of the things which Conway values most. “As tedious and argumentative as it was,” Conway said, “nobody dropped out of the group.”
The Master Plan dictates how much development may occur on many parcels of land, calls for the acquisition of many areas for parkland, preserves the area’s two-lane road policy, among many other things. “Our Master Plan did the best we could to protect us from the disasters of the past,” said Conway.
The aspects of the plan which make Pisarra-Cain most proud are those which will help the area to retain the character for which it is known. “It’s not a matter of ‘not in our backyards,’” Pisarra-Cain said. “How many areas are there like this? There’s just so much building and paving, you need a place to come and be quiet.”
Something that both Pisarra-Cain and Conway wished they had been able to do more about was transportation. Each identified the issues of allowing better facilities for bus-riders, such as parking, better bus shelters and a better sidewalk system.
“To me [not having a better system] is an insult to the people we ask to ride the bus,” Conway said.
Going into the process, the main hope was to preserve what Potomac has. “The apprehension was that we would lose some of the things we value most,” Pisarra Cain said.
Environmental concerns, in particular protecting the Potomac River which provides much of the area’s water, were the driving force behind much of the plan.
“The environment is what we really wanted to guide the Master Plan,” Pisarra-Cain said.
Conway echoed those sentiments, proud that the Master Plan recognizes the importance of Potomac being a “green wedge,” to serve as a buffer between more densely developed parts of the county and the Potomac River to the west and the Agricultural Reserve to the north.
The plan called for the acquisition of hundreds of acres of parkland, including two, Callithea horse farm and the Serpentine barrens, which have already been acquired.
“I’m probably happiest that the council agreed to all of the park acquisitions we recommended,” said Callum Murray, Potomac team leader for Park and Planning.
The plan also established the need and location for the North Potomac Community Center, renovation of the Scotland Community Center, and the need for road improvements at several congested intersections.