The following open letter was addressed to Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board.
On behalf of the board of directors and the 2,000 members of the Brickyard Coalition, I am writing in strong opposition to the application of Maryland Catering Company, Inc. for Conditional Use to build a “country inn” at 10801 MacArthur Blvd in Potomac (hereafter “Project”). This Project is located near the intersection of Brickyard Road and MacArthur Road in Potomac.
This Project would be constructed adjacent to existing residential homes in River Falls in an established community of approximately 500 homes in Potomac and is also adjacent to the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and the Potomac River.
- Project is not a “Country Inn” as defined in Section 3.5.3.
Pursuant to County Code Section 3.5.3 “Country Inn means an establishment for dining in a rural area . . .” The proposed project is located in a residential area that is zoned residential R-200 — not a rural area. In short, the Code does not permit this Section to be used for a project located in a residential area and thus no authority exists to grant a “conditional use” for a Country Inn in a residential area. Accordingly, the application should be dismissed and/or denied.
- Project does not substantially conform to Potomac Master Plan.
The applicant’s property is located in a solely residential neighborhood and is zoned R-200. There are no commercial businesses between the MacArthur Plaza in Cabin John and Potomac Village except for the existing Old Angler’s Inn, which is owned by the applicant. The Potomac Subregion Master Plan recognizes that most of Potomac is residential with a few commercial centers. The Master Plan discusses the desire to maintain the residential nature of the area and that special exceptions, now called conditional uses, should be limited in order to protect “residential communities from incompatible design of special exception uses.” Accordingly, the Project does not substantially conform to the Potomac Master Plan.
- Project is not harmonious with and will negatively alter the character of the neighborhood.
The applicant’s proposal to build a (125 ft. long x 72 ft. wide by 38 ft. high) wedding reception, banquet and business meeting facility to accommodate 240 people, an accompanying road, and a lighted 80 space parking lot is wholly incompatible with the residential purpose of the community and should be denied.
- Project will cause undue harm to the neighborhood.
We are very concerned about the increase in traffic and noise, the accumulation of garbage, the impact on neighborhood safety, and environmental damage that this proposal could cause. MacArthur Boulevard is a heavily travelled road connecting the I-495 beltway with Falls Road and River Road in Potomac Village. The proposed road entrance to the property is at a curve on a hill with poor visibility from both directions. Cars frequently speed up and down the hill, sometimes crossing the median line.
The application proposes 80 parking spaces for 240 people. We believe that this ratio of three people per vehicle greatly underestimates the number of cars that will be coming and going to the facility and that many of these vehicles will park on MacArthur Boulevard, in the C&O Canal parking lot, or in our neighborhood. At a minimum, an independent traffic impact study should be performed.
- Storm Water Management and Forest Conservation Plan.
At present, the subject property is old growth forest with steep topographic changes. Running North-South through the property is a large stream with a 100-year flood plain and wide stream buffer. These portions of the property are unbuildable and should not be included in the development plan. The proposed building, road, and parking areas would replace at least an acre of forest with impervious surfaces. Because most of these surfaces are at the apex of the property, this would have a significant impact on erosion and storm water management on the actual buildable portion of the property and the protected areas. We urge you to require a full environmental impact assessment of this proposal before considering the conditional use application.
- No demonstrated need for project.
The applicant states that this project will fulfill a demonstrated need for private event venues in the local market. There are many existing venues for wedding receptions and banquets in or near Potomac including hotels in Bethesda and Tysons Corner, the Bolger Center, the Rockwood Community Center and numerous country clubs. Not only is there no unmet economic need for the facility, but there is no economic benefit for the surrounding residential community.
We strongly oppose this proposal. In summary, we respectfully urge you to recommend against approval of this application for conditional use for all of the reasons stated herein. Allowing the applicant to build the proposed country inn on this site would ruin the character of our neighborhood, threaten our peace and tranquility and economically damage our neighborhood.
Brickyard Coalition Inc.