Meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021
at 7:30 p.m. via ZOOM, Topic: Rustic Roads
or call in with 301-715-8592 (Meeting ID: 836 2406 2646, Passcode: 285633)
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdP13X1cuH
A recording of this meeting, and hotlinks within the Newsletter, will be available on our website: www.WMCCA.org
SPEAKER: Laura Van Etten
Laura Van Etten, a farmer and Chairperson of the Rustic Roads Advisory Committee (RRAC) is our speaker for the November General Meeting. Laura will describe what the Rustic Road designation means, why they are so important, and how the RRAC interacts with the County Executive, the County Council, Planning Board, and the Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding roadway classifications, policies, and regulations. As always, WMCCA General Meetings are open to the public.
Protecting Rustic Roads
Protecting Our Rustic Roads
President's Letter by Carol Van Dam Falk
This past month it came to our attention that a highway inspector with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (DOT) had recommended installing asphalt curbs and gutters on a section of South Glen Road – an Exceptional Rustic Road - where there have been periodic runoff and drainage issues due to heavy rains. It was suggested that the County’s DOT install 100 feet of curb and gutter down a hillside to the low spot in the road, then re-grade the swale at the low point of the road with Rip-Rap stone to alleviate the flow of runoff water. Members of WMCCA pointed out that asphalt curbs and gutters do not address the problem, only push the water further down the road, and often lead to larger erosion problems in area streams, especially the Watts Branch. Curbs and gutters are an inappropriate remedy for such drainage issues when there are environmentally friendly alternatives.
As past WMCCA President Ken Bawer put it, “Armour-plating the swales with Rip-Rap stone does nothing to decrease stormwater volume and only forces the water along so it ends up firehosing into the nearest stream. If feasible, and if the best solution at this specific location, DOT should install bioswales and/or bioretentions, which absorb the water within the swales instead of shunting it downhill.” WMCCA has recommended bioswales and bioretention mechanisms to address the problem on South Glen which hopefully will be carried out, but attempting to fix runoff issues with ‘armour-plating’ is not just a local issue; it unfortunately is the preferred course of action on designated rustic roads, and other roads, all over the country, and that is a frightening trend. It is also alarming to realize that if this had not been a designated Rustic Road, neighbors would not have been consulted and the asphalt curbs would likely have already been installed.
On top of the environmental concerns of installing curbs and gutters on a wiggly, rustic road such as South Glen, a high curb here could be hazardous to bicyclists who often traverse this road, especially on weekends. Another scary thought.
We are grateful DOT is working through these issues with the local community and thank them for starting the patching and repaving work that is proceeding now. It makes our Glen roads much safer.
Update on Thrive Montgomery 2050, Submitted by Ken Bawer
The New Montgomery County General Plan
WMCCA had testified and also submitted written comments on the “Public Hearing Draft Plan” for Thrive Montgomery 2050 back on November 19, 2020 at the Planning Board’s public hearing. Subsequent to that, the Planning Board did an almost complete re-write of that draft Plan. The new document became the “Planning Board Draft” and included an entirely new organization, different chapters, and missing chapters. This “Planning Board Draft” was then submitted by the Planning Board to the County Council, and the Council held their own public hearing on July 7, 2021. Again, we submitted our comments. We said that the long-term consequences of the pandemic are unknown. The current draft plan could be inappropriate for the reality of a post-pandemic County. As a result of our shared experiences during the pandemic, personal and professional choices may change. People may favor less dense housing arrangements for health reasons. Transportation preferences and commuting patterns may change dramatically if workers continue telecommuting after the pandemic.
Continued high levels of telecommuting may cause a drastic downturn in the commercial office market. Therefore, we recommended pausing the finalization of this plan at least until the consequences of the pandemic start to become clearer. We objected to the designation as a “growth corridor” of River Road from the District line all the way to Potomac Village. We were never consulted on making River Road in our area a “growth corridor” nor in designating Potomac Village as a “potential center of activity”. MacArthur Boulevard has also been designated a "growth corridor" with no consultation from the neighbors. We don’t know if these are necessarily good or bad things (bad, we suspect), but we objected to the Planning Board inflicting their vision on residents with absolutely no collaboration – this speaks to the lack of public transparency in the process of developing this plan. Does this mean that River Road would need to be expanded from 2 to 4 lanes all the way to Potomac Village? We completely rejected the premise that the County will inevitably become more urban.
Certainly, the County will become more urban if this plan is implemented as written. However, the authors presented this outcome not only as a fait accompli, but as the desired outcome based upon their personal preference (and developer interests) for a more urban county. We reject that a more urban county is an outcome that we should strive towards. The mantra expressed in this plan is growth, growth, growth (whether economic, business, or population). Instead, this plan should be designed around the mantra of “sustainable growth”. That is, how can we grow our quality of life in a sustainable manner within the physical limits of our environment? Not adhering to sustainable growth is how we ended up with the global warming crisis, why the Chesapeake Bay is polluted, our air quality is poor, we have traffic gridlock at times, we have contaminants in our drinking water, and we have degraded natural areas. There were many other areas we commented upon. On Sept. 20, 2021, the Council’s Planning, Housing, and & Economic Development (PHED) Committed held a session to discuss the Plan (additional sessions were planned as well). The good news is that they removed River Road outside of Beltway as a "growth corridor” from the "Growth Map". What is disturbing, and what lays bare the blatant push towards over-development, is that the 1993 General Plan's urban ring has exploded up along I-270, Rt. 28, and Rt. 29 like an amoeba engulfing the County. Calling this ever-expanding blob "corridor focused" growth is disingenuous.
Heritage Gardens, 10701 South Glen Road
Conditional Use Application No. CU202201
Submitted by Susanne Lee
They’re back – property owner South Glen Properties, Winston-Salem NC, contract purchaser Ken Wormald/The Wormald Companies, Patricia Harris, Lerch, Early & Brewer, and now aided by Councilmember Friedson who supported their Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-08 adopted by the Council on May 11, 2021.
Their last attempt at a townhouse development on this site was clearly illegal under the Zoning Code and they withdrew it on Jan. 31, 2020. Now under the guise of a residential care facility/senior care community, they are proposing an even larger and more destructive development on these 30 acres of environmentally sensitive land in this low density (minimum 2 acre) residential zone. The core of the proposal is still a high end townhouse development – 45 privately owned townhouses – 11 triplexes and 6 duplexes. Each with 3 bedrooms/2 baths and it appears starting at approximately $1.25 million. In addition they’ve now added a large 4 story “lodge” building containing parking and 102 units/141 beds consisting of 29 independent living units, 45 assisted living units, and 28 memory care units. They still propose a Clubhouse and other disturbances in the stream valley buffer.
The proposed development of the lot is so intensive that it will destroy a portion of multiple forest stands and in particular will destroy 42 of the 128 spectacular large specimen trees that are to be protected under the Forest Conservation statute. It will adversely impact 11 other large specimen trees and they admit it will even adversely impact 10 large specimen trees offsite on neighbors’ properties.
We believe the proposal still fails to meet the zoning code requirements for group living in a residential care/senior care community. And it is clearly an environmental, traffic, and, with private townhouse ownership, an enforcement disaster. WMCCA is working with the surrounding neighbors to oppose it.
The proposal was submitted to the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) on 8/17/21 for their required conditional use approval. It is currently pending before the Planning Board for their review and recommendation but no staff report has been posted or hearing date noted on their agenda. The OZAH hearing is scheduled for Dec. 13, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. Information regarding OZAH, including information regarding participating in the process, is here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ozah/
Documents describing the proposal can be found here on the Planning Board site:
MEMBERSHIP: Go to our website www.wmcca.org to download a membership form or join using PayPal: Individual: $25 / Family: $50. We encourage donations to our Legal Fund. While we try mightily to get good results without litigation, sometimes it is unavoidable and highly effective. If you have any issues or concerns in your neighborhood, please contact WMCCA. We appreciate the input from our neighbors.