The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) met at the Potomac Community Library on Monday, Nov. 20. Residents at the lightly attended meeting of raised concerns about delays in maintenance issues, problems with the special exceptions process and construction of a bike or pedestrian path along Seven Locks Road, among other issues.
"Our purpose tonight is to focus on the needs of the residents of Potomac and Seven Locks area of Bethesda," said board member Sue F. Knapp at the outset of the meeting.
The WMCCAB is an advisory board to the County Executive that meets periodically with citizens in the Western reaches of the county to listen to and address their concerns. The 14-member board outnumbered the audience, but addressed pertinent issues, particularly backlogs in county permit and work orders.
TED SEARS, president of the Potomac Swim and Tennis Club, expressed concern over the county’s backlog of special exception permits. His club has plans to remodel its facilities, but their current plan would stretch one of their buildings past their zoned boundary by six feet.
"When I approached the county," said Sears, "they told me that it would take at least a year to get the permit and that there was no way to expedite the process because technically we are a commercial enterprise even though we are a non-profit organization."
The board acknowledged that the process of expediting such exception permits existed for residential properties but not for commercial properties. Board member Larry Gordon suggested he speak with Reggie Jetter in the Department of Permitting Services about his specific concern.
RICHARD BLUMSTEIN, a member of the WMCCAB and the president of the Regency Estates Citizens Association raised concerns over trees that the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) recently removed from that neighborhood. When Blumstein contacted the county to find out when the stumps would be taken out he was told that there was a three-year backlog for tree stump removal. "I was told they have a 2,000-stump backlog," said Blumstein.
"The budget has been set with contractors," said board member David M. Smith, "and within that budget tree removal takes priority, but tree and stump removal are in the same budge as tree trimming — like trimming trees away from power lines and stop signs." Smith explained that the nature of such a fixed budget with priority expenditures inevitably created backlogs for orders that were not priority issues.
Thomas Pogue, spokesman for DPWT, attended the meeting and noted that such backlogs occur in part because they are not hot-button political topics.
"It’s not a real sexy issue – it’s hard for someone to run for (County) Council and say they filled 2,000 more potholes this year to 1,000 potholes last year," said Pogue. According to Pogue, however, the county does track and analyze each backlog.
"MAINTENANCE IS always a challenge and is not very glamorous," said Knapp, "but it helps for citizens to pass their concerns along to the council."
Blumstein also addressed the current study being conducted by DPWT for a potential pedestrian and bicycle path along Seven Locks Road between Montrose Road and Bradley Boulevard.
"This is a major concern for people who live along there who would lose footage on the front of their properties," said Blumstein.
That possibility is at least three or four years removed from becoming reality, according to Pogue. Once the study is finished a cost estimate would need to be completed before the proposal would go before the County Council for approval.
Before the meeting concluded Lieutenant Melanie Nickelson of the Montgomery County Police reminded everyone present to take safety precautions during the holiday season. She suggested that residents leave some lights on in their homes when they go out and that they arrange for their mail to be picked up by neighbors or held at the post office when they go out of town. She also added that people should make sure not to leave any valuables laying in open view when they park their cars.
"Even coming [into the Potomac Library] tonight I put my purse in the trunk," said Nickelson.
The WMCCAB meets next on Jan. 16, 2007 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.