Think Longscapes, Not Landscapes

Think Longscapes, Not Landscapes

WMCCA Meeting

The next meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association will be held at the Potomac Community Center on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 7:15 p.m. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

The speaker will be Mark Etheridge, manager, Water Resources Section of the Department of Permitting Services. Montgomery County has a Forest Conservation Law which applies to properties of 40,000 sq.ft. or larger. But smaller properties, particularly in older neighborhoods now undergoing redevelopment, have seen tree loss severe enough to affect community character. In the summer of 2013, the County Council passed two pieces of legislation intended to provide additional protection for trees on smaller lots (Bill 35-12, Tree Canopy Conservation) as well as trees in the roadside right of way (Bill 41-12). Both went into effect earlier this year. How do each of them impact your property, the street where you live, or any plans you may have to make structural improvements on your property? Etheridge is currently responsible for compliance with these bills and will talk about how they function, who they apply to, and how they are being enforced. The public is welcome to attend.

Trees: What’s not to love? They provide amazing beauty, shade, and moisture to cool our homes and photosynthesis to provide food for wildlife and people. They filter our drinking water and air; trap nutrient-laden sediment run-off before it reaches the Potomac and the Bay; stabilize stream beds; sequester pollutants; increase biodiversity and property values; and, remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air.

And wow — do we have trees. The Potomac Subregion is home to not just the C&O Canal, stream valley and other local parks, but also very good neighbors who value trees, plant them, and fight to protect them. But this year, in addition to tree loss due to land development, PEPCO’s tree removal and trimming activities have left great holes, and in some cases, changed the entire character of portions of neighborhoods, even prompting some neighbors to file legal action for violating their property rights.

We leave aside the lingering question of whether the gigantic amount PEPCO continues to spend for cutting trees and installing new taller poles could not have been better spent, at least in some neighborhoods, on just burying the lines. Instead, we at WMCCA are redoubling our previous efforts to not just maintain our “green wedge,” but increase it, especially the tree canopy and forested areas. We are influenced by the many who have documented the benefits of “greening up,” not just particular spaces such as the Potomac Village, but encouraging connectivity, corridors, between green spaces, especially canopied forested areas.

E.O. Wilson, the preeminent evolutionary biologist (think ants) and champion of biodiversity, in an interview in the September 2014 Smithsonian Magazine, promotes the concept of setting aside half the earth for protection of species other than humans. He and others have proven that separate tracts of land, even if very large, are in essence like isolated island habitats. Over time, they are inadequate to preserve species. Instead, what has proven successful, and what he and others advocate, is linking up national and local parks and private land in cores and corridors — longscapes not landscapes — to increase the possibilities for plant and animal biodiversity and their successful adaptations to climate change. We cannot begin to engage on the scale Wilson is promoting; however, the concepts hold true on smaller parcels as well.

Fortunately, the Montgomery County Planning Department already has excellent tools for identifying key environmental features, such as tree canopy, and ways in which to identify and address critical environmental issues: WMCCA plans to use this information to better inform our decisions about what future activities and actions would be most effective. We begin with a program in October on the important new tree canopy protection statutes. Given the adverse impact of deer on the forest understory, the speaker for the November meeting will address the new deer hunting statute. Please join us at our monthly meanings. In the meantime, we challenge you all to plant more trees, protect the ones you have, and in at least a little portion, if not half of your property, “to get your wild on.”


By Ginny Barnes:

* Horizon Hill - Glen Mill Road and Red Barn Lane - The development proposal for four lots has been stalled because the applicant does not wish to use Red Barn Lane for all the needed driveways and seeks an additional driveway off Glen Mill Road parallel to an existing driveway which serves several homes. Because Glen Mill Road is a Rustic Road, the Rustic Roads Advisory Committee reviewed the request but did not support the single driveway, nor did the planning staff. The applicant wishes to move forward and let the Planning Commission decide in an upcoming hearing, but there is a specimen tree subject to a waiver. The waiver application needs approval from the Department of Environmental Protection. WMCCA opposes the additional driveway and the waiver to remove the tree.

* Hannibal Farms - 12001 Glen Road - Proposed development across from the Glenstone Museum that is currently being expanded. The majority of this large, RE-2 zoned property has already been through subdivision for 15- 17 lots though none have been sold. Moving forward would require that additional roads be constructed. However, a remnant portion along Glen Road, which did not previously perc, is being retested by the owner with an eye toward further subdivision. The applicant is also seeking public water. The property is outside the sewer envelope and will be on septic.


By Susanne Lee

According to Alan Soukup, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection staff director for the Glen Hills Sewer Study, DEP has finalized its recommendations regarding the study. The next step is a meeting to present them to County Executive Isiah Leggett for his decision regarding forwarding them to the Montgomery County Council. He stated that the recommendations are still secret and have not been disclosed to anyone outside DEP. They will not be shared with the public, any members of the County Council, or even the Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by DEP, until the County Executive decides when and in what form to do so.