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Looking Ahead to Zoning Threats

President's Letter

Though the holidays are a joyful time of year, they are also a time of reflection and resolution. As I look ahead to the new year, I see as WMCCA’s focus our separate but related efforts to protect the Potomac Subregion, one of two residential "Green Wedges" designated in the General Plan to buffer and provide transition to the Agricultural Reserve from the more densely developed down-county areas.

There are threats on several fronts through dilution of the Master Plan precepts — threats that are real and dangerous to the integrity of Potomac Subregion zoning, its environmentally sensitive areas, and the green spaces that we cherish. We pledge to continue to inform our membership through this newsletter and the General Meetings, to work both formally and informally with individuals and agencies with responsibilities in areas of our interest, and, as we have done historically and in recent instances, to retain counsel to augment our efforts.

ONE OF MARYLAND’S premier green spaces — the C&O Canal National Historical Park — is in our back yard, and although the park is under federal rather than county jurisdiction, local citizenry have a role in assuring that federal laws for the protection and preservation of the natural scenery of the Potomac River and its adjacent historic C&O Canal and towpath are being enforced. It has been our understanding that cutting trees on park property is prohibited, and we know that twice Potomac residents have been fined for tree cutting on parkland, with one of the persons performing an alternative punishment to jail time. We are looking into the circumstances of the recent extensive tree cutting visible from the canal towpath near Swain’s Lock, and the role of the National Park Service in this incident.

We look forward to seeing Potomac area citizens at the January 12th WMCCA General Meeting.

Planning and Zoning — George Barnes

BOSWELL LANE — The Montgomery County Planning Board approved a subdivision plan on Boswell Lane that was the subject of an appeal by WMCCA to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Planning Division. This state agency had ruled that the subdivision did not comply with the Potomac Master Plan, and overturned the original approval of a sewer category change that the last County Council had approved at a lame duck session on the last day of that Council's existence. Attorneys for the developer have now managed to find a technicality — a minor procedural error by the Department — and have used it to overturn the decision denying the sewer category change. WMCCA has filed a written complaint to the MDE, and will file a formal appeal if one is possible. In the meantime, the development is proceeding.

POTOMAC INN — The new owners of the former Hunt property across from the Water Filtration Plant on River Road have filed an application for a re-zoning from the RE-2 zone to the Country Inn Zone. They propose to build a 16-room inn, small retail shops, a restaurant and banquet facilities. A traffic study submitted to Park and Planning as part of the application shows no adverse impact from the project on any of the nearby intersections — that is, the project will not raise traffic volumes to an unacceptable level of service as defined in the Master Plan. The project is known as the Potomac Inn Project. We will certainly be hearing more about this application as it proceeds.

WMCCA.org — Look on WMCCA’s website for the text of the recent WMCCA testimony before the Planning Board on the Stoney Springs Preliminary Plan for a residential development within the Agricultural Reserve to the northeast of our community. A development within active farmland contravenes the county’s Master Plan of Agriculture and Rural Open Space.