Potomac: A Brilliant Success with One Exception

Potomac: A Brilliant Success with One Exception

The Potomac Subregion Master Plan has for the most part been a brilliant success story. Much of that success is due to the genius, commitment, and enormous hard work of Callum Murray, our December speaker who is retiring from his position with Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) at the end of December. With its primary focus on preserving the area’s extensive environmental resources, the Master Plan is an invaluable document and the key to the future of the entire Potomac Subregion and our individual neighborhoods.


Everywhere we look we see the impact of its successful implementation: a two, not four, lane highway to Potomac; no outer beltway through Block House Point and the C&O Canal; the preservation of stream valley parks and rustic roads; the establishment of the Serpentinite Barrens Conservation and Greenbriar Local Parks; and, protection of the low density “green wedge” characteristics of the Subregion. That is not to say that we don’t mourn the acres of woodland lost to new construction or regret the McMansionization of established low density communities and the “Castle-lization” of others, or long for a more walkable Village and more bike paths. There are massive developments at the site of the Stoneyhurst Quarry site on River Road and at Forturne Parc on Montrose Road just west of I-270, but the Master Plan provides for such concentrated development next to major transportation corridors, while protecting other portions of the Subregion. As a result of the Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program we sacrificed our last large farms (including the Clagett and Hanson farms) to higher density development as contributions to protect the Agricultural Reserve.

There is, however, one exception — the Glen Hills Sewer Study. Glen Hills is a low density, environmentally sensitive area, partially within the Piney Branch Special Protection Area, that functions as a critical recharge area for the Watts Branch. The Master Plan acknowledges its unique nature and seeks to protect it by limiting sewer extensions and their adverse environmental impacts. It calls for a study “of the septic failures in Glen Hills to develop the measures necessary to ensure the long term sustainability of septic service for new home construction and existing home renovations, and to address the need for limited sewer extensions if needed.” The Master Plan requires the study to include six basic elements, including the “delineation and possible reasons for known failures.” The study, however, was conducted by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, without regard to the requirements of the Master Plan, and with what appears to be little or no input from the M-NCPPC staff. Instead of identifying actual failures, studying the causes and proposing limited extensions to address them, the study ignores the plain language of the Master Plan and proposes sewering the entire area through the construction of 13 new, enormously costly and environmentally damaging, sewer lines. In the history of its implementation, there has been no other such blatant disregard of the Master Plan requirements.


Representatives of WMCCA and the Glen Hills community will meet with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Council Member Roger Berliner on Dec. 3 to voice their concerns regarding the conduct of the Glen Hills Sewer Study.