West Montgomery County Citizens Association News

West Montgomery County Citizens Association News

WMCCA Next Meeting

The December General Meeting meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association will be held Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center.

Kevin Brandt, the featured speaker, is superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. He will discuss the launch of a multi-year restoration of the first mile of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal. The goal is to preserve the history and charm of the area and bring back the mule-pulled canal boat rides. Phase one, which is expected to last 18 months, began on Nov. 28 and will reconstruct Lock 3 and repair Lock 4. The area around Lock 3 will be closed for the duration of the project, and the canal will be de-watered through Georgetown. Pedestrian and bicycle detours are posted to guide visitors around the construction zone. This spring, the National Park Service also plans to install a temporary dike and re-water the canal upstream from the Foundry Branch waste weir to Lock 5. The canal cannot be re-watered to its typical depth to ensure the safety of workers, but visitors will be able to canoe and kayak along this stretch of the canal.

While construction is underway, the public can offer ideas for a Comprehensive Master Plan to guide future improvements. The public is invited to come to the meeting, hear what Mr. Brandt has to say, and ask questions.

As always, the public is welcome to attend the WMCCA meetings.

If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

Federal Changes Are Coming

By Carol Van Dam Falk

WMCCA President

While no one knows for certain what the priorities will be of the new administration, sweeping changes are expected at the Federal level regarding environmental protections. Therefore, we believe it is going to be more important than ever before to act locally to ensure the protection and preservation of our rivers and streams, our rustic roads and bridges, and our established neighborhoods.

The New York Times, Pro-Publica, and other media organizations have seen a surge in subscriptions in this post-election period. We hope that in that same vein, our members will recognize the importance of actively taking part in environmental watchdog organizations like WMCCA, to speak up when possible zoning violations occur in their neighborhood, and to notify their neighbors and question authority when it means protecting the character of a neighborhood or the health of a local stream, river, or piece of land. These are things that can be done and will be done if a community works together.

At the November WMCCA General Meeting, we heard from Barry Fuss, chief of Bridges and Structures for Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, on various bridge improvements underway. He identified and described four bridges on rustic roads currently being evaluated for future rehabilitation.

While the four described are safe, all bridges receive a Bridge Sufficiency Rating (BSR), ranging from Poor (0) to Very Good (100). “Structurally deficient” means an element of the bridge will soon need to be replaced and is eligible for federal matching funds. “Functionally obsolete” means an element of the bridge does not meet today’s standards. The beautiful Montevideo Road Bridge and the Mouth of Monocacy Road Bridge have been identified as "structurally deficient." The Glen Road Bridge M-015 and a second Glen Road Bridge M-148 have been identified as "functionally obsolete."

Mr. Fuss is committed to repairing all four of these bridges while keeping their rustic character in place. That is a far cry from what happened with the Esworthy Road Bridge project some 20 years ago, which serves as a cautionary tale of horrendous results when local transportation officials ignore the pleas of the local community and refuse to listen to the advice of their own bridge structural engineers.

Oral Argument in Brandywine Senior Living at Potomac, LLC

By Susanne Lee

On Nov. 4, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton conducted oral argument in WMCCA’s appeal of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals (BOA) decision granting Brandywine Senior Living a conditional use (special exception) to construct a 140-bed assisted living facility in a residential (RE-2) zone.

WMCCA joined with the Brickyard Coalition to appeal the decision citing violations of key provisions of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and the Montgomery County Zoning Code regarding placement of such intensive elderly housing developments and the conduct of hearings under the new Code. Abutting property owners Ronald and Toni Paul also appealed the BOA decision. Attorney David Brown represented WMCCA in what was a lively, thoughtful debate of the critical issues. We are now awaiting a decision by Judge Boynton.

Glen Hills Sewer Policy Implementation

By Susanne Lee

Following the Montgomery County Council’s adoption of a new sewer policy for Glen Hills, WMCCA has been following the actions of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Council regarding its implementation.

Based on recent actions, it appears the county is doing a very good job. Recent approvals and denials of requests for new sewer service have been following the new policy, including the abutting mains policy. Under this policy, a homeowner whose lot abuts an existing sewer line may request to be hooked up to that sewer line, however this hookup is limited to that one house and cannot be used for subdivision or to provide hookups to other houses. Furthermore, requests for broader sanitary surveys have been correctly denied on the basis of what appear to be thoughtful, fact-based analyses of conditions on the sites confirming their appropriateness for long-term use of septic systems and the enormous costs of extensions (between $920,000 and $1,150,000 for one homeowner).