West Montgomery County Citizens Association

West Montgomery County Citizens Association


Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. via ZOOM

WMCCA Meeting (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88978882296) or call in with 301-715-8592 (Meeting ID = 889 7888 2296)

No advance registration required.

We will record this meeting for future viewing.

SPEAKERS: November speakers are Guy Semmes and Robert Eisinger. They will present their plans for future development of the Potomac Oak Center and the white house at Travilah and Glen Roads, including their sewer extension request. WMCCA has previously opposed such an extension, but we look forward to a discussion of their current proposals.

Playing Whack-a-Mole For You

By President Ken Bawer

This past month our Board members have been busy working on issues that impact our quality of life. It feels like we are playing whack-a-mole because some of these issues had been put to rest (or so we thought) only to pop up again!

Potomac Oak Shopping Center (sometimes called the Travilah Oak Shopping Center) and Transquest LLC’s white house at Travilah Road & Glen Road: The owners of these two properties have asserted the only way to make them more commercially viable is to have sewer lines extended to each of them. The shopping center has always been on septic, as is the much larger Harris Teeter supermarket a few miles away on Route 28. Transquest states it wants to turn the house into a Country Inn through the Conditional Use process. After failing to get approval in 2008 for the shopping center, in large part because of the fact that these properties are well outside of the sewer envelope, this issue has popped up again. Allowing this extension of the sewer line outside of the sewer envelope could result not only in a dramatic increase in commercial activity inconsistent with the Master Plan requirements for this low density area, but also set a dangerous precedent, as it would invite the argument from developers that if the County can do it for one property here, they can do it for others. Attend our virtual General Meeting on Nov. 18 to hear their presentation and ask your questions.

Heritage Gardens Townhouse Development on South Glen Road: Last January, the developer withdrew their application for a Conditional Use (formerly, and more accurately, called a zoning special exception) after we and the Greater South Glen Neighborhood Association argued before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) that the proposed development did not meet the County’s requirements for an Independent Living Facility for Seniors. The consensus is that they knew they were going to lose on the motion to dismiss it because it didn’t meet the definition and was simply a glorified townhouse development. Now this issue has popped up again – see the article below.

Forest Conservation Easement violations: This issue has popped up on Valley Drive and another on South Glen Drive. In both cases the cutting of trees was reported and determined to be illegal by the Forest Conservation Inspector. The Valley Drive property was issued a citation for cutting and clearing more than 17,000 square feet of forest including portions of a forest stream buffer. The citation included a $1,000 fine and required a Natural Resource Inventory/Forest Stand Delineation and Forest Conservation Plan (FCP) to be submitted for approval. The Citation requires the FCP to be approved and the planting requirements to be implemented this Fall 2020.

We are following developments at the proposed Spectrum Retirement facility on the old Behnke’s / Potomac Petals & Plants site on River Road.

WMCCA is also investigating if tax incentives can be obtained by putting part of a property into a conservation easement with a land trust. Please email President@WMCCA.org if this interests you – we want to understand the level of interest in the community.

Other work by the Board includes preparing WMCCA comments on the County’s draft for the new General Plan, called Montgomery Thrive 2020. You can comment as individuals in writing and/or sign up to testify at the Nov. 19, 2020 Public Hearing.

On a lighter note, there is some interesting native plant activity even as we approach Winter. Our latest blooming tree Witch Hazel is in flower. If you are lucky enough to spot them, two of our native orchids have new leaves: Putty Root and Cranefly Orchid. Plus, our area is full of fall blooming native flowers including goldenrods and asters. I encourage you to go see these and other native plants in our parks and neighborhoods. Consider native plants for your gardens as well – they are needed to feed our native insects which the birds depend on.

Oh No - Please No More Heritage Gardens / Senior Living Zoning Busters

By Susanne Lee

On Oct. 29, 2020, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved for transmittal to the County Council a Zoning Text Amendment to change the definition and therefore requirements for a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). West Montgomery joined with the Greater South Glen Neighborhood Association to oppose the ZTA. In addition to turning the concept of a CCRC upside down, like Heritage Gardens, it appears to be another effort by the building industry to use age restrictions to end run around the prohibition on townhouses, duplexes and triplexes in low density zones and double or triple the allowed density of the land.

Without getting too far into the zoning ordinance weeds, but in a large nutshell, planning staff introduced the ZTA describing it as a response to an aging County population that wants more housing options and doesn’t want to be limited to living in large nursing homes. While certainly a laudable objective, the County Planning Department itself recently conducted an extensive study of senior housing needs and existing and proposed facilities. The study also contained multiple recommendations to address future needs. [Meeting the Housing Needs of Older Adults in Montgomery County (2018)] What is clear from the study is that there are already many housing options with still more under construction.

Rather than focusing on the study results and the changes in the zoning code proposed there, in what can only be described as bizarre, the ZTA changes the definition of just one type of housing – Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). CCRCs are unique in that they provide “long-term uninterrupted care that includes independent living units, residential care/assisted living services, and skilled nursing care, usually in one location, and usually for a resident’s lifetime. CCRCs allow residents to ‘age in place’ as they typically sign a contract for lifetime care.” Housing Needs study at p.15. There are also specific state law requirements for CCRCs. The study identified nine in the County. They provide multiple levels of services, including nursing care, to over 4,000 seniors in a variety of housing types, including townhouses and detached single family, e.g., Friends House, The Village at Rockville, Asbury Methodist Village, Ingleside at King Farm, etc.

Likewise, the County requirements currently define CCRC as a “building or group of buildings providing a continuity of residential occupancy and health care for senior adults.” It “must include dwelling units for either independent or assisted living or both, plus a nursing home of a suitable size to provide treatment or care of the residents.” Emphasis supplied. The new ZTA would require both independent living and assisted living, but totally eliminates the requirement for nursing home care, making it optional. This change turns the basic concept of CCRCs - ensuring lifetime care - on its head.

It appears, however, to solve the problem of at least one of the clients of Lerch, Early & Brewer, the law firm the staff report indicates is “interested in the introduction and adoption of the potential legislation.” The firm represented the Heritage Gardens townhouse development on South Glen Road. More recently, in a Feb. 28, 2020 Advisory Opinion provided to Lerch Early, the Director of the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings stated that Lerch Early’s client’s proposal that included building 45 duplex and triplex buildings could not be approved as an Independent Living Facility or alternately as a CCRC because it didn’t include a “a nursing home and comply with State law.” By eliminating the nursing home component, the ZTA would remedy their client’s problem and presumably via a conditional use allow construction of these duplexes and triplexes in low density zones.

REMINDER: IT'S TIME TO RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP FOR 2020-2021! Please renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Go to our website http://www.wmcca.org/ to download a membership form or join using PayPal: Individual: $25 / Family: $50. We also welcome donations to our Legal Fund.