Each year, the West Montgomery County Citizens Association devotes a meeting to a more complete discussion of issues being followed and offers the public a chance to bring topics forward which concern them. Through this process, WMCCA been able to help members with problems such as development proposals, illegal tree cutting, zoning code violations, and Special Exceptions (now called Conditional Uses).
Its directors and committee chairs will report on a range of current WMCCA issues, including: the recent threat of sewer sprawl via the Ten Year Water and Sewer Plan, development proposals in Rock Run and Piney Branch watersheds, and the proliferation of cell towers. If residents have issues in their neighborhood, WMCCA welcomes the opportunity to share its expertise and discuss residents’ concerns. WMCCA appreciates the input from neighbors and are glad to review and address issues as they affect the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and the neighboring Agricultural Reserve.
The meeting will be held Wednesday, March 14, 7:15 p.m.at the Potomac Community Center. The public is welcome to attend.
Our Master Plan identifies the Potomac Subregion as one of two residential "green wedges" considered environmentally sensitive because of our proximity to the Potomac River and the public water supply. The further we get from the adoption of any master plan, the more difficult it becomes to uphold the fundamentals that guided creation of it. Both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County have used sewer access as a planning tool to protect our local streams. But the agencies we rely on to uphold this policy are suffering from development pressure to sewer the entire county.
The County Council, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Planning Commission (MNCPPC) are all turning their backs on limiting the sewer envelope. Development proposals are being considered and even approved in wetlands, within floodplains and on steep slopes; areas once considered off limits.
The Piney Branch Special Protection Area (SPA) seems to have been forgotten by the very legislators who created it. Forest Conservation Easements are routinely violated and then adjusted to allow the violation to continue. From proposals for solar farms to country inns, Special Exceptions (Conditional Uses) in areas not suitable are a constant threat to our subregion. Since our founding in 1947, WMCCA has been committed to upholding our Master Plan and the characteristics of Potomac that make us want to live here. But we are all volunteers and can't do it without residents joining and working with us.
Please go to www.wmcca.org, become a member, come to our meetings and work with us so Potomac grows as our Master Plan intended.
GLENSTONE FOUNDATION FOREST CONSERVATION
By Susanne Lee
In a precedent-setting decision, the Montgomery County Planning Board recently granted approval to the Glenstone Foundation to allow the construction of pedestrian bridges, elevated walkways, art installations, lighting, security cameras, and emergency call boxes in a Category I Forest Conservation easement in the Greenbriar Branch stream valley.
Under the county’s Forest Conservation statute Category I conservation easements run with the land and are designed to protect forest and other natural features in perpetuity. No activity – no mowing, other disturbance, or structures, even swing sets, are allowed under the terms of Category I easements – until now. Glenstone’s mega museum site on Glen Road has engulfed over 200 acres of residential and farm land. This Planning Board decision was particularly egregious given that there are at least 150 other acres outside the stream valley conservation easements for museum operations.
WMCCA vigorously, but unsuccessfully, opposed the decision. However, in the course of the hearing we did confirm that there is a longstanding bridle trail easement open to the public for horseback riding and pedestrian hiking on the site even though the museum is currently closed to the public. The trail connects to trail easements on adjacent properties and eventually to the trails planned for the South Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park. Glenstone Foundation representatives stated that if the public wants to use this section of the trail, it can be reached from a spot on the south side of Glen Road just west of where Glen Road crosses over the Greenbriar Branch stream.
STOPPING SEWER SPRAWL INTO RURAL AND LOW DENSITY AREAS
By Susanne Lee
As reported in prior WMCCA newsletters, as part of the update to the Montgomery County Water and Sewer Plan, the County Council is considering measures to extend sewer lines to rural and low density areas throughout the county, including portions of the Potomac Subregion.
Not only will the astronomical costs of these lines be borne entirely by homeowners, sewering low density areas that have been designated for septic use leads to much more intense development, increased impervious surfaces, and ultimately dirtier water in our streams and lakes, the source of our drinking water.
In a related recent action, Councilmember Stanley Katz proposed immediately putting all of the Glen Hills area within the sewer envelope, notwithstanding the 2016 Council decision that Glen Hills should not be sewered.
WMCCA is a founding and very active member of the Coalition to Stop Sewer Sprawl. This broad-based group is requesting that the Council include 3 key elements in the Water and Sewer Plan:
Confirmation that septic is preferred over sewer in low density areas;
Increased outreach and technical assistance for homeowners on septic; and,
Limiting conversion to sewer to existing or imminent public health problems resulting from failed septic systems that cannot be repaired or replaced.
Time is of the essence since the council vote will occur in the next several weeks. Please tell the council that you oppose sewering low density areas by sending an email to the entire council at County.firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like additional information and proposed language you can find it on the Montgomery Countryside Alliance website: www.mocoalliance.org/news.