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Column: A Still Very-Relevant Master Plan

WMCCA

By Shawn Justement, West Montgomery County Citizens Association

The 2002 Potomac Subregion Master Plan was developed with the clear goal of maintaining our area’s unique environmental resources and semi-rural character, with special attention to low-density zoning, protection of water quality, limited public sewer service, the two-lane road network, and a confined commercial core. The Master Plan was well-thought out, and it has served us admirably for 10 years. Today, though, it is being challenged by several measures pushed by our own county government.

  • The Master Plan called for a study of failed septic systems in Glen Hills to “ensure the long-term sustainability of septic service” in this R-1 zoned neighborhood. However, the county’s Department of Environmental Protection is doing a much broader study that seems designed to approve sewer extensions that are clearly in opposition to the Master Plan.

  • Glenstone, a private art museum located on Glen Road, received County Council approval for a connection to an existing sewer, despite being outside the sewer envelope. This has wide-ranging ramifications — if allowed here it could provide precedence for inappropriate expansion of the sewer envelope. The private sewer line will run under the Greenbriar Branch, a stream designated in the Master Plan for protection from sewer lines. Glenstone representatives have shown no reason why a state-of-the-art septic system can’t be used on its 127 acres. WMCCA has requested that the Maryland Department of the Environment reject the Council decision as inconsistent with the Master Plan, and awaits the response.

  • Without public knowledge or input, County Executive Ike Legget signed a 10-year lease for 20 acres of land on Brickyard Road to a private soccer club to develop soccer fields. The lease is for the club’s exclusive use of the property owned by the Board of Education. The Master Plan recommends that if the property is declared surplus, which it has not been, it should become a local park that anyone could use. The plan says nothing about handing the property to a private commercial entity.

WMCCA works to preserve the intent of the Master Plan and to see that its provisions are followed — and not set aside and ignored whenever convenient.

The Master Plan:

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/plan_areas/potomac/master_plans/potomac/potomactoc.shtm

The Sewer Envelope Map: http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/viewer.shtm#http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/plan_areas/potomac/master_plans/potomac/documents/MAP-D.pdf

Glen Hills Sewer Study Phase I Report :

http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/dep/downloads/ws/ghass-Final-Report.pdf

Updates on Major WMCCA Issues

A lot has happened since West Montgomery County Citizens Association’s last General Meeting in May. It has been part of several Circuit Court hearings over the summer on the Brickyard Road School site. The County Council granted Glenstone a sewer category change, despite significant opposition. Gov. Martin O'Malley wrote a strong letter of support for the Brickyard Educational Farm Proposal, and the Glen Hills Sewer Study has moved forward without regard for the Master Plan or community concerns. WMCCA is still working on Potomac Swim Club compliance with its Special Exception. WMCCA’s board of directors and committee chairs will update the membership on these and other important issues at its next meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center. The board welcomes input from WMCCA members and look forward to hearing concerns regarding the Potomac Community. The public is invited. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

GLEN HILLS SEWER STUDY

By Susanne Lee

The Phase I Report has been finalized. Good news — only nine of the 542 properties studied were identified as having a failed septic system, and of those at least one has already been approved for a hook up to an abutting sewer main. Bad news — notwithstanding these findings, the county is proceeding with Phase II focusing not on why these failures occurred and how to remedy them, but instead on sewering stream valley and other undeveloped lots, as well as lots with no history of failure. This clearly violates the Potomac Subregion Master Plan requirements for the Study, which state that this environmentally sensitive low-density area is not to be considered for sewer except for possible very limited extensions to address known failures identified in the Study. The Master Plan specifically excludes from the Study any consideration of stream valley and other undeveloped lots that are “environmentally sensitive.” Phase II further confirms that the Glen Hills study was hijacked from the beginning by development interest pressures and a sole source contractor whose area of expertise is sewer-line construction and not low-density development on septic systems.

BRICKYARD ROAD SCHOOL SITE

By Ginny Barnes

Following the Circuit Court decision in August which granted a Stay of the Board of Education lease of the site to the county and effectively returned control of the site back to the Board of Education until a hearing on the merits, plaintiffs in the case proffered a solution that could eliminate the need for further legal action if some basic conditions are met. Since the Board of Education has already spent over $200,000 in legal fees, it would seem a wise course to consider. If the Board of Education takes back the land (which it has a right to do under the lease to the county), engages in an open process with citizen input to determine best use, and considers an agriculturally-based and/or farm education solution that includes retaining organic certification of the land, the plaintiffs will drop legal actions now underway. With the Stay in place, and before any other legal actions are taken the time is right but limited to consider a solution that offers opportunity for an end to the now 18-month struggle to correct a very wrong decision.

Environmental Report

By Ginny Barnes

Glenstone Sewer Category Change – The County Council granted the 127-acre Glenstone site a sewer category change under the Private Institutional Facility (PIF) policy, despite the fact that museum expansion plans could be served by ample septic capacity. The Planning Commission agreed with our opposition as inconsistent with the Master Plan, but the County Executive also sided with the applicant. Glenstone is well outside the approved sewer envelope. WMCCA has requested that the State of Maryland reject the council’s approval. It is curious that the applicant made its case for the change on environmental grounds, since RE-2 zoned homes directly across Glen Road are developed on septic according to our Master Plan to protect the environment and the same Greenbriar Branch watershed that will be impacted by Glenstone's proposed sewer crossing.

2012 Park, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan - In July, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) approved the newest PROS Plan, a document that will guide our park and recreation planning policy to the year 2022 and beyond. It assesses needs and recommends strategies for recreation facilities, natural resource areas, historic/cultural areas, and agricultural lands. What distinguishes the current plan is a new emphasis on the importance of natural resource-based recreation such as hiking, bicycling, bird watching and environmental education activities, as well as an emphasis on creating new types of urban green spaces for county residents.