Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. via ZOOM
or call in with 301-715-8592 (Meeting ID = 870 3064 3694, Passcode: 928364)
A recording of this meeting, and hotlinks within the Newsletter, will be available on our website: http://www.wmcca.org/
SPEAKERS: District 15 Delegation: Maryland Sen. Brian Feldman; Delegates Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo. Each year following the legislative session we invite our District delegation to update us on their work in the Maryland General Assembly.
“Our Members Speak Out”
submitted by President Ken Bawer
First of all, long time Board member and current Secretary Jill Phillips has resigned from the Board. We thank her for her many years of service to WMCCA and the community.
Our April General Meeting was an “open mic” session which generated lots of good discussions and information:
- Diana Conway raised the issue of synthetic turf fields in public schools. Diana made the points that they are hot, toxic, expensive, have a higher injury rate, and are unsustainable and unrecyclable. Synturf is also a source of microplastics pollution. Plus, there are no companies in the US that will recycle old synthetic fields. Kathy Michaels posted a set of links on this topic in the chat. Diana also brought up the County’s Climate Action Plan, which WMCCA submitted comments on, and noted the lack of measurable metrics to meet the stated goals. Diana posted emails to get involved with County activists.
- Don Libes asked about PFAS chemicals in WSSC’s drinking water. These are a class of so-called forever chemicals that are very persistent in the environment and accumulate over time in the human body. Don said WSSC reports that the PFAS in their water is below EPA safe level amounts. Theodora Scarato said that PFAS chemicals are endocrine disrupters. She recommended the movies “Dark Waters” and “The Devil We Know” and posted links in the chat.
- Theodora Scarato brought up the newly proposed Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) related to 5G cell towers which would mean that these towers could be installed as close as 30 feet from homes with no notice or public hearings, and the Hearing Examiner could allow them to be even closer. This could be voted on by County Council this summer. She posted a link for a letter-writing campaign (not a WMCCA initiative, although we have previously expressed our concerns).
- Regarding the proposed Heritage Gardens Senior Living Facility (on the previously 4th Presbyterian School property on S. Glen Rd. near Norton Rd.), ZTA 20-08 was introduced (as promoted by Heritage’s attorneys) to redefine senior living facilities to allow the Heritage facility. The next step is a decision by the County Council regarding whether or not to enact the ZTA. Our issue is not with senior living facilities, but we oppose changing the zoning to allow increased density in low density residential zones under the guise of senior housing using the special exception process.
- Susanne Lee reported the proposed Spectrum senior living facility on River Road at the former Behnkes and current Plants & Petals site got approval from the Hearing Examiner. However, the sale of the site, which we believe was contingent on conditional use approval, still has not gone through. This would be Spectrum’s first facility on the East coast.
- Susanne also raised the issue of trees being cut in our area with only minimal tree planting to replace them and the issue of violations of forest conservation easements. She also brought up the issue of the violation of wetlands protections by developers. The Planning Board has admitted that they have no expertise in this area and continue to allow violations of State regulations.
- Regarding the sewer category change request by Potomac Oak Center (a.k.a. Travilah Oak Shopping Center) and “the old white house” at Travilah Rd & Glen Road, DEP has yet to make a recommendation. WMCCA opposes the request since it would set a dangerous precedent and encourage higher density development.
What Happened with HB 857
submitted by Carol Van Dam Falk
There is good and bad news to report on HB0857, the Maryland bill aimed at regulating the disposal chain of used synthetic turf fields. The good news is it passed overwhelmingly by the Environment and Transportation Committee (ENT) 19-3, which is a huge victory for all of its supporters including WMCCA. In addition, it attracted strong bipartisan support.
ENT and its chairman Kumar Barve had the primary jurisdiction of the bill. Unfortunately, the bill also went before the Maryland Economic Matters Committee, which voted it down. In order to move to the floor, a bill must get through all of its assigned committees, which normally is just one committee. It is not clear why the Economic Matters Committee voted against the legislation, given that Del. Mary Lehman, the sponsor of the bill (D21 PG County), had both the Synthetic Turf Council and the Tire Industry Association on board with her amendments. HB 857 was a straightforward bill; tell us where the synthetic turf field was when you had it, and tell us where it went next. That was the extent of each owner’s reporting responsibility; no strings attached. In any event, the bill will be back next legislative session.
Update on Wetlands & Forest Destruction at 13417 Valley Drive in Glen Hills
submitted by Susanne Lee
First a bit of background. On July 16, 2020, WMCCA member Sam Stavis reported to the Montgomery County Planning Department (MPD) what appeared to be illegal clearcutting of forest on this vacant lot. MPD Forest Conservation Inspector Stephen Peck immediately examined the site and found not just destruction of the forest stand, but wetlands as well. He determined that more than 17,000 square feet of forest, including portions of a forest stream buffer, had been cut and cleared. The County issued a citation that included a $1,000 fine and required submission of a Natural Resource Inventory/Forest Stand Delineation (NRI/FSD) and a Forest Conservation Plan. He also referred the matter to the Maryland Department of the Environmental (MDE) for wetlands violations. According to Mr. Peck, MDE issued a formal report and required the wood chips that were dumped within the wetlands to be hand removed. The initial restoration of the stream buffer, including hand removal of the wood chip piles, and planting was to be done in the Fall, 2020.
As of today, absolutely no restoration has occurred on the site, so we reached out for an update. The NRI/FSD documenting extensive wetlands and 2 streams was submitted on Dec. 18, 2020. The Forest Conservation Plan was not submitted until much later and review was completed by MDP in mid-March. With regard to the wetlands, according to Sean McKewen with MDE, recently he and Mr. Peck met on-site with the current property owner, the contract purchaser, and the developer’s consultant “to discuss restoration at the…site, as well as their future plans …. Appropriate vegetation … must be replanted within the area identified as nontidal wetland and the mulch must be removed from within the wetland and wetland buffer …. As for any future plans they have to apply for a Joint federal/State authorization for any activity that will impact nontidal wetlands, and/or the 25 -foot nontidal wetland buffer.” Although we still have not received the requested information regarding whether and what compliance action the State took against the owner for the initial violations, the State appears to be requiring compliance with the Federal and State wetlands regulations.
The County, however, even after determining that a major portion of the lot is composed of streams and wetlands and that “[t]he challenge is a delineated wetland and wetland buffer bisect the lot” has stated that because it is an “existing platted residential lot, the Planning Department has to allow for construction of a home.”
Not only does this sound crazy, it is. The reason this lot has not been developed, even as much of the rest of the Glen Hills was built out, is because it is composed almost entirely of sensitive wetlands. These are so significant they were identified in the Potomac Subregion Master Plan environmental studies as critical components of the Middle Watts Branch tributary system and as such should be protected. Currently the biggest elephant in the room appears to be that the lot also doesn’t meet the requirements for septic and the property owner has requested both public water and sewer connections. However, the sewer request must be denied because the lot clearly falls outside the approved sewer envelope for Glen Hills enacted by the County Council in the County Water and Sewer Plan.
2021 ELECTION OF WMCCA OFFICERS AND BOARD of DIRECTORS:
The election of the WMCCA Officers and Board of Directors will occur at our May 12th General Meeting. The Nominating Committee proposes the following slate of Officers and Directors to the membership for a vote.
Nominations may also be made from the floor.
President: CAROL VAN DAM FALK
Treasurer: BARBARA HOOVER
Immediate past President: KEN BAWER
Secretary: KATHY PETITT
President Elect: BARBARA BROWN
Newsletter: NANCY MADDEN
Vice President: SUSANNE LEE
Nominees for a two-year term: DONNA PERLMUTTER and THEODORA SCARATO
To serve 2nd Year of their two-year term (no action needed): GINNY BARNES