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Column: Supporting Incorporated Brickyard Coalition

WMCCA Meeting

The West Montgomery County Citizens Association

will meet at the Potomac Community Center on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7:15 p.m. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled. The speaker will be Pamela Dunn, planning coordinator for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The current zoning code for Montgomery County is 30 years old and runs to more than 1,500 pages. Considered antiquated, redundant and lacking in tools to guide future growth, the zoning code rewrite project initiated by Park and Planning has been underway for several years. It has already passed through review by the Planning Board and is currently undergoing review at the County Council. Potomac citizens have a Master Plan based on environmental resources, low-density zoning and limiting sewer capacity to control growth. How will the zoning code rewrite change the way our community looks and functions? There are county citizen groups closely following the rewrite that fear major negative impacts on neighborhoods. Will our RE-1 and RE-2 zoning be altered? Will the concern about the addition to the code of a new building type, the general/residential building, that could be built “by right” with no public input in the middle of residential neighborhoods affect us? What about allowing incompatible nonresidential and institutional uses without notice to nearby neighbors? Will our carefully crafted Master Plan be weakened by the new zoning code? Dunn will tailor her presentation on the zoning code revision’s impacts to the Potomac Subregion Master Plan to help citizens prepare for and comment to the County Council when their public hearing is held on Nov, 12. The public is welcome to attend.

— For the last two years, WMCCA has been deeply committed to saving the Brickyard School site from becoming a commercial sports enterprise on public land. We worked with Brickyard Road neighbors and other local citizens groups in an all out effort, including multiple legal actions, relentless fundraising and untold hours of volunteer time. Finally, County Executive Ike Leggett withdrew the county from the Board of Education lease, ending Montgomery Soccer Inc. (MSI) plans to build a soccer complex on the site. Although the organic soil it took 30 years to create lies fallow and the Board of Education has been silent on its fate, the Brickyard Coalition, of which WMCCA was an integral part, has elected to carry on as a member-driven organization (Brickyard Coalition Inc.) that continues to monitor the school site and other proposals of concern to the Brickyard community. WMCCA has transferred to them the remainder of funds donated through a Brickyard fund we administered during our long collective effort. We will continue to work together toward preserving our Master Plan and the rights of citizens to be informed and involved.

WMCCA is an all-volunteer 60-plus year old civic association, and with Brickyard so all-consuming, we've come late to the zoning code rewrite. We have been embroiled in another potential Master Plan precedent; the Glen Hills Sewer Study is about to be finalized by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and sent to the County Council. What the council does with results of this study could have a major impact on water quality in Watts Branch — our largest watershed and a drinking water source for 40 percent of the Washington region.

In early August, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) held a joint scoping meeting with the National Park Service at Potomac Elementary School to announce and elicit public comments on their proposal to seek a mid-river intake to reach cleaner water for the filtration plant on River Road. Sediment loading in Watts Branch, which enters the Potomac River at the current intake, overwhelms filtration capacity, particularly in peak flow storms.

WMCCA has major concerns about the damage to the C&O National Historical Park. We must also question what happens next as the regional demand for drinking water increases and the powers-that-be have put the last straw in the river to reach cleaner water while doing nothing to help the Watts Branch recover from long-standing development impacts?

Lastly, we bid a sad goodbye to our excellent secretary, Mike Denker, who passed away in late May. Mike was a good man gone too soon. In the last year we lost a beloved former treasurer and long time WMCCA member, Meredith Williams. His daughter, Nancy Madden, was recently elected our newsletter editor — so nice to have a family tradition of service to the community continue. Please join us at the Oct. 9 meeting and consider what skills you might bring to the association that guards our residential “green wedge” and has done so since 1947.

GLEN HILLS SEWER STUDY: The Slumbering Beast is About to Rear Its Ugly Head

No news is never good news when it comes to the Glen Hills Sewer Study. After months of silence and no engagement with the Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee, let alone the general public, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) indicates that it is about to finish the Phase 1 and Phase 2 Reports and make them final.

Recall that in the prior draft of the Phase 1 report, DEP declared, based totally on flawed, hypothetical factors, that over 240 homes were not sustainable on septic, even though there are only nine septic failures among the 500 houses within the study area. Based on this data, the Phase 2 draft report proposed 13 new sewer lines be constructed, with their enormous costs borne totally by the abutting property owners. Now DEP is using these reports to prepare recommendations that will be submitted to County Executive Leggett for submission to the County Council. DEP plans to meet with Leggett in mid-October and anticipates that his transmittal and recommendations will be before the Council before their end-of-year break.

The DEP spokesperson states that it’s unclear what the County Council will do with the study and the recommendations, including the public process, if any, they will utilize in determining the fate of the Glen Hills neighborhood.

At its last meeting on June 3, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), of which WMCCA is a member, demanded that it be allowed to review the revised Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports before their final publication and, most importantly, that they be allowed to see and comment on the recommendations before they are submitted to Leggett and the County Council. Given the extensive comments that have been made on the prior drafts, the CAC also asked that all comments from the CAC and the public be included in the package that is submitted to Leggett and the Council. To date, DEP has refused all these requests.

Barring a miracle, we presume that the same flawed, damaging, property value-lowering data and conclusions will be included in the final report and recommendations. It is outrageous that the CAC members, some of whom even support limited extensions, are barred from seeing and commenting on whatever final product comes from DEP. This is particularly egregious in light of the critical role the Master Plan mandates for citizen representatives and the hours of effort and expertise CAC members have already dedicated to the study.

— Susanne Lee