West Montgomery County Citizens Association News

West Montgomery County Citizens Association News

WMCCA Meeting

The next meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association is Wednesday, Feb. 8, 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center.

Speakers will be Brooke Farquhar, master planner, Park and Trail Planning, Montgomery County Park Planning and Stewardship Division, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), and Cristina Sassaki, project manager for Energized Public Spaces Functional Master Plan, Montgomery Parks, M-NCPPC.

The meeting is open to the public. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

Working To Protect Parks

By Carol Van Dam Falk

WMCCA President

Parklands have become increasingly popular with Montgomery County residents. Vision 2030, an intensive public survey process conducted in 2010, provided statistics showing that park trails are one of the most significant aspects of recreational activities. In fact, trails ranked higher in use and concern with citizens than organized sports. We tend to assume that parkland is there, protected in perpetuity. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Like the rest of the county, parks are governed by policy documents and budgets, which require updates from time to time. This process benefits greatly from public comment. Changes may occur that we need to monitor closely. Brooke Farquhar will give a presentation and ask for input on the Park Recreation and Open Space Master Plan (PROS) revision and Cristina Sassaki will speak on the new Energized Public Spaces Plan. Anyone who loves and uses our parks will benefit from this meeting.

In addition, recently the Maryland Catering Company requested a postponement of the hearing scheduled to be conducted by the county’s Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) on Maryland Catering’s conditional use application to allow construction of a banquet facility on land zoned residential near the Old Angler’s Inn and directly across from the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

WMCCA, together with the River Falls Homeowners Association, the Woodrock Homeowners Association, the Civic Association of River Falls, and the Brickyard Coalition sent a letter this past week to OZAH strenuously objecting to a postponement of this hearing, currently scheduled for Feb. 24. As these five associations have argued, many clients and witnesses have been lined up well in advance to attend the scheduled hearing, and changing the date would be disruptive and likely impair WMCCA’s and other groups’ participation at any future hearing.

Maryland Catering agreed to the February 2017 date in August 2016, giving it six months to prepare. WMCCA and other organizations are on record opposing the banquet facility on a number of fronts, not the least of which are: inconsistency with the County Zoning Ordinance; adverse impacts on the national park; excessive noise and traffic in a residential neighborhood; and, inappropriate parking and transportation services for such a facility. The adjacent C&O Canal Park is already overburdened with a large influx of visitors arriving by car, attempting to park on MacArthur Boulevard during peak weekend hours — exactly the same time of high usage for a proposed banquet facility.

Prior to the OZAH hearing, the Montgomery County Planning Board must submit its recommendations on the request to OZAH. Any and all opposition to this proposed facility should be directed to Casey Anderson, Chairman, Montgomery County Planning Board at MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org and to the OZAH Hearing Examiner Lynn Robeson, Esq, Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850, or Lynn.Robeson@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Brandywine Senior Living at Potomac

By Susanne Lee

WMCCA scored a partial, but very important, victory before the Circuit Court for Montgomery County in our 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.

On Jan. 17, Circuit Court Judge David Boynton agreed with WMCCA’s position and ruled that the Hearing Examiner had failed to correctly apply the standards of the RE-2 zone, particularly with regard to Master Plan compliance and adverse economic impact on the adjoining property owners.

While the Court affirmed other elements of the BOA decision, it reversed and remanded the case back to the Hearing Examiner for further proceedings on this critical issue. It is our understanding that Brandywine intends to appeal the decision.

Glen Hills Sewer Policy Implementation

By Susanne Lee

Under Montgomery County’s sewer policy, including the new sewer policy for Glen Hills, the County Council may approve sewer service for areas that have been declared “public health problem areas.”

A sanitary survey is required to determine if these areas are truly “public health problem areas.” According to the county’s Well and Septic Division, nine property owners requested such a survey for an area along Overlea Drive in Glen Hills. The county expanded the area to cover 24 properties. Preliminary information on the lots was presented at a recent public meeting, but it is unclear whether any of these lots individually or together present public health problems or what the county conclusions will be. It does not appear that there are any failing systems. In addition, WMCCA is concerned that only 12 of the 24 property owners included have responded to the county’s decision to conduct the survey. As a result, they may not be aware of the potential negative impact on their property values and flexibility in replacing and repairing existing systems if they are declared within a “public health problem area.”

Once an area is redesignated as such and eligible for sewer, a homeowner cannot replace a septic system and must hook up to sewer. It is totally unclear how many new lines would be constructed and financed since WSSC no longer constructs them. The county indicated that extensions to these properties could be as long as 1,400 ft. in this low density area and at $500-$700 per sq.ft. could therefore cost upwards of $980,000 in addition to house hookup of $20,000.