WMCCA: The Good, Bad, and Truly Dreadful

WMCCA: The Good, Bad, and Truly Dreadful

You may have noticed our General Meeting night has changed this month from the second Wednesday to the second Thursday of November. We took this extraordinary step in order to honor one of our own at WMCCA. Susanne Lee, frequent president and zoning chair, will be honored by the Potomac Chamber of Commerce as 2018 Citizen of the Year. The awards banquet is being held on Nov. 14 and many of our BOD want to be present to attend and honor Susanne. I have the pleasure of presenting her with the award that evening. As an environmental lawyer, she has guided WMCCA through many a legal tangle at the County, State, and even Federal level. We couldn't be effective without her. It is so good to see those who volunteer skills quietly and consistently over the years rewarded for their contributions.

Meanwhile, WMCCA joined the Montgomery Countryside Alliance (MCA) and other citizen advocates in opposing ZTA 18-03 - Alcohol Distribution Facilities. We asked that the vote be postponed until Park and Planning completed a study in progress on agrotourism which would identify issues to address in the proposal. The Council refused and recently voted to approve it. While billed as an agricultural use, the deception is that breweries and distilleries would only have to grow 1 acre of ingredients on the farmland they occupy and could source the remainder from anywhere else. Each facility can host events up to 50 days per year, with nine that serve more than 300 with no provision for how large the facilities can be. Imagine bicycling in the Agricultural Reserve on a fine weekend when people who have been drinking leave events in their cars and take to the bucolic Rustic Roads.

Perhaps worst of all, the ZTA is silent on mitigating water/septic use for these facilities. Alcohol production is a water intensive process now being sited in an area with a Federally Designated Sole Source Aquifer. All Ag Reserve properties (by design) are on septic, not County sewer. There has been no evaluation of the cumulative impact these facilities could have on rural roads, water quality, and existing farms. This is strictly a way to site event venues and tasting rooms on land preserved for farming — a dreadful precedent. We are still advising concerned citizens to write the Council urging caution and reminding them of our numerous concerns.

Update on Ten-Year Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan

By Ken Bawer

On Oct. 2, 2018, the County Council voted 8-1 to approve (G. Leventhal voted against) the Ten-Year Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan. The WMCCA has worked over the last 12 months as a member of the Montgomery Coalition to Stop Sewer Sprawl to improve this Plan — submitting recommended text changes and meeting with County Councilmembers, their staff, and Department of Environmental Protection staff. Getting the Water and Sewer Plan right is important since pushing sewer service into rural and low-density areas is the top enabler of density and urbanization — and its associated stream and drinking water quality degradation.

The Montgomery Coalition to Stop Sewer Sprawl (consisting of Watts Branch Watershed Alliance, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, Conservation Montgomery, and WMCCA) acknowledges and appreciates the improvements in the latest draft Water and Sewer Plan that was approved. Among these improvements are changes we had requested that limit the criteria for septic survey initiation to properties with failed septic systems for which on-site remedies have been exhausted, the ability of property owners to “opt-out” of surveys, and the recognition that septic system repairs may include an improved maintenance schedule or the use of practices compatible with onsite systems. A septic survey is a method by which whole areas can be switched from septic to sewer systems. Before now, a survey could be started by DEP with no objective criteria to justify it — as was done in the Glen Hills area — both the South Overlea Drive and North Potomac Highland septic surveys.

However, we still find major problems in the latest draft approved on Oct. 2. Among these are the criteria by which additional properties may be added to a survey once it has been initiated by a failure. As written, it still encourages sewer sprawl by allowing open-ended inclusion of additional properties to a survey once it has been initiated by a property with an actual failure. Plus, it continues to allow the open-ended recommendation of sewer category changes for properties with fully-functioning septic systems. We continue to request that these problems be fixed.

We sincerely appreciate the attention and efforts of staff and Councilmembers in responding to some of our concerns and making some of the changes we requested. We see clear improvements to the Water and Sewer Plan. Going forward, we will continue to seek the additional changes to the Plan that we have requested. This will enable us to continue to build on the progress represented in the current version of the Water and Sewer Plan.

Next Meeting

Brad German, co-chair of Citizens Against Beltway Expansion (CABE), will speak at the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, Thursday, Nov. 15, 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center.

Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a Beltway and I-270 widening to make room for four high-cost privately-owned, for-profit toll lanes (aka Lexus Lanes). A coalition of citizen organizations have joined voices to oppose the project. WMCCA is among the opposition because these Lexus Lanes threaten to cut a destructive swath through neighborhoods, destroy businesses, parklands, and vital stream watersheds causing environmental damage. The daily toll cost to use the additional lanes could reach $45 a day. A study identifying various alternatives is currently underway. An alternative could be chosen early in 2019 when the Maryland Department of Transportation completes the alternative study. The decision will rest with the Maryland State Legislature and Hogan. For more information, go to www.CABE495.org.

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