Keeping an Eye on Development in Montgomery County

Keeping an Eye on Development in Montgomery County

WMCCA v. Montgomery County Planning Board.

The West Montgomery County Citizens Association joined neighbors on Cutters Lane in Potomac in an appeal of the Montgomery County Planning Board approval of two home sites on a 2.77-acre lot on Glen Mill Road at Boswell Lane.

The hearing took place Friday, Feb. 8 before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Schweitzer.

In urging citizens to attend the hearing, the WMCCA characterized the appeal as questioning, “… the Planning Board's erroneous approval of housing construction in the Piney Branch Special Protection Area stream buffer.”

The citizen’s association’s February 2019 newsletter further explained:

“On November 9, 2018 WMCCA filed its opening Brief in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County challenging the Planning Board’s decision to approve a subdivision in the Piney Branch Special Protection Area (SPA) on Glen Mill Road adjacent to the Glen Hills Park. The appeal has been consolidated with and coordinated with an appeal brought by the neighbors most adversely impacted by the proposed development. The site is very environmentally sensitive, and any development is constrained by steep slopes, wetlands, stream buffers, and flood plain that cover approximately one-half of the site. These constraints made development with even one house problematic and the Planning Board has approved two. In so doing they adopted staff calculations of stream and wetlands buffers that are dead wrong and in violation of the plain language of the County’s Environmental Guidelines governing development in SPAs. They also ignored the provisions of the Piney Branch Sewer Agreement Covenant governing the owner’s use of the property and erroneously applied the requirements of the County’s Forest Conservation Statute. WMCCA is particularly concerned that the Board’s failure to enforce these requirements will result not just in further degradation of water quality in the Piney Branch, but, if not reversed, also sets a dangerous precedent for SPAs throughout the County.”

The hearing proceeded as scheduled, with Attorney David Brown representing WMCCA West Montgomery, Attorney Nicholas Dumais representing the Montgomery County Planning Board and Attorney Sue Lee-Cho, who represented the landowner, Sara Vazer. Thomas Gaspard, a neighboring property owner, spoke on behalf of the surrounding property owners.

WMCCA had several points to make in its court filing heard Friday.

Specifically, the group claimed the … “Montgomery County Planning Board’s approval of a new Glen Mill Road subdivision in the Piney Branch Special Protection Area next to the Glen Hills Park … [contained] errors that, if not reversed, will have profound, adverse environmental impacts not just at this site, but throughout the County, particularly in the statutorily established and protected Special Protection Areas. The four most glaring errors are:

“* Failure to cite, let alone address, the County’s Environmental Guidelines that govern all such developments;

“* Blatantly erroneous calculation of the required stream buffer resulting in housing construction on steep slopes adjacent to the stream;

“* Failure to delineate and provide for wetland buffers required by State law; and,

“*Failure to ensure the establishment of stream buffers required by the Piney Branch Sewer Agreement Covenant.”

“It was a good discussion of the arguments,” said Susanne Lee, WMCCA member and former president. “We wanted to know which standards the Planning Board were following. It’s important because [the reason] you have protection is for water quality.”