By Ginny Barnes
For the last eight years, District 1 has been served on the County Council by Roger Berliner. The imposition of term limits and the election last November have brought us a new County Executive in Marc Elrich and a significant turnover in Council Members. The Council is made up of five districts and four at-large seats. As the legislative body of our County government, these nine members make laws and policies, approve funding and Master Plans, and even make changes to our Master Plans.
The public should keep a close eye on the Council agenda and work schedule. From cell towers and funding for our parks to sewer and water policy, they can alter our neighborhoods on a daily basis. As citizens, we have the right to lobby them and influence what they approve or reject. They in turn, depend on constituents to weigh in on issues affecting the quality of their lives.
WMCCA makes it a practice to work closely with elected and appointed officials on behalf of the Potomac Subregion. An opportunity to interact with these officials in a public forum is beneficial to all. Our community is wrestling with some weighty public health issues including the use of synthetic turf, impacts of stormwater runoff in our streams, and loss of tree canopy through development projects. Each of us has a responsibility to inform and monitor the decisions made by public officials. This is what makes democratic government function and serve the people it represents. Please come to our February meeting and be part of the government you elected.
HERITAGE GARDENS / SOUTH GLEN PROPERTIES, LLC
By Susanne Lee
At WMCCA’s January meeting, representatives of Wormald Homes and Sage Life Senior Living presented an overview of their proposal for a major townhouse development at 10701 S. Glen Road (previously the 4th Presbyterian School site).
Based on the information presented at the meeting, the WMCCA Board subsequently voted to oppose the proposal. The 30-acre site is zoned RE-2 (single family residential each on a minimum of 2 acres). Townhouse developments are not allowed by right or pursuant to a conditional use approval in RE-2 zones. Instead, it appears the applicant may be seeking approval for a conditional use under the category of Group Living and in particular as an “Independent Living Facility for Seniors or Persons with Disabilities.”
Based on the information presented, the proposal appears to be inconsistent with the requirements for such group living facilities and the Master Plan provisions regarding housing for the elderly. WMCCA looks forward to meeting with the staff of the Montgomery County Planning Board regarding their review of the additional specifics of the proposal.
SITE SELECTION FOR A NEW PUBLIC SAFETY RADIO COMMUNICATIONS TOWER IN POTOMAC
By Susanne Lee
The county identified areas in Potomac and along the river where existing radio coverage for public safety agencies is inadequate. As a result, as part of its Public Safety System Modernization Project, the county identified two sites where communication towers could be erected that could fill these coverage gaps and meet the county’s “95/95” coverage mandate: 95 percent coverage reliability in 95 percent of the county service area:
Fire Station #30, 9404 Falls Road, owned by the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Dept.; and,
Falls Road Public Golf Course, 10800 Falls Road, owned by the county.
If the proposed tower was a privately owned tower, e.g., Verizon, the zoning code would bar construction on the fire station site because it fails to meet the county’s minimum tower setback requirements established for health, safety, and neighborhood compatibility. It also violates the Master Plan requirements for the site. There are six structures that would fall within the setback and at least three of those are single family residential homes. Although taller, the golf course tower would not be adjacent to any homes and would easily meet the setback requirements.
There are no codified setback requirements established for public telecommunication towers erected by the county. In the absence of such standards, however, the county has always ensured that each of its towers meets the setback requirements established for private towers. Inexplicably, the county’s Department of Technology Services proposes to reject this policy and approve the fire station site. We have reached out to County Executive Elrich’s office to seek his intervention in ensuring that the health and safety standards necessary for private towers are applied in this case as well and the fire station site is rejected.
If you have any issues or concerns in your neighborhood, please contact WMCCA. We appreciate the input from our neighbors and are glad to review and address issues as they affect the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, zoning, and environmental threats to the “Green Wedge,” our creeks and water supplies, and the Agricultural Reserve.
District 1 Council Member Andrew Friedson will discuss his upcoming term and listen to concerns from members and guests at the next meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center. This is his first time on the County Council and WMCCA looks forward to meeting him, learning what he considers vital to the community, and educating him on what makes Potomac special in Montgomery County.
As always, the public is welcome to attend.
If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.