WMCCA: Governor Hogan’s Highway Folly

—Is there hope to stop it?

Since our November meeting plans were curtailed by snow, there has been some progress on the opposition front. On Monday, Dec. 17, the Montgomery County Delegation will hold a public hearing on a bill to prohibit Maryland from building "any toll road, toll highway or toll bridge" in Montgomery County without county authorization through local law. MC8-19, known as the Lexus Lane Bill, is the work of Delegates Al Carr, Jheanelle Wilkins, and three delegate elects. It is imperative that civic associations and individuals write the state legislature in support of this bill.

The widening of highways and creation of toll roads and bridges are but a symptom of development allowed to overwhelm available infrastructure. For the 25-plus years I've been an activist, the county government has proposed new development that promised alternatives to auto use but failed to provide it. In the early 1990s when WMCCA fought sewer, extensive new housing, and a conference center in the upper Piney Branch watershed, the projects were all supposed to rely on mass transit and provision of a Corridor Cities Transitway. In the end, Piney Branch was not spared sewer; the conference center was abandoned in favor of more retail and a university campus for Shady Grove, and the housing went forward. Shady Grove Road was extended and widened. What we did get was recognition of Piney Branch as a high water quality watershed that deserved expanded stream buffers. The rare geology of the Serpentine Barrens was recognized, leading to a new county park intended to protect what acreage remained. In the housing projects, tree canopy was enhanced and what was considered at the time to be "state of the art" storm water treatment installed. A portion of Piney Branch was even designated a Special Protection Area (SPA), limiting the amount of development allowed. Despite all the effort, we are still fighting threats to the water quality in Piney Branch.

But we've continued to rely on auto-based transportation. The “Science City” concept for Johns Hopkins and the Banks Farm was also supposed to have transit. Once again, our county leaders approve extensive increases in development instead of limiting it until we have the transit promised for all the projects already in the pipeline. Such a failure helps fuel a proposal from our current governor that will lessen the quality of life for our residents and the environment we all value. When do we stop this endless folly?

WEST MONTGOMERY COUNTY CITIZENS ASSOCIATION V. MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING BOARD

By Susanne Lee

On Nov. 9, 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.

PINEY MEETINGHOUSE ROAD SEWER REQUEST CORRECTLY REJECTED

By Susanne Lee

On Oct. 30, by a vote of 6-3, the Montgomery County Council correctly rejected a request to extend sewer to a vacant lot located in the 12000 block of Piney Meetinghouse Road (17-TRV-10A).

The applicant sought to obtain the extension under the county’s abutting mains policy, but the council correctly affirmed the provisions of the recently enacted Water and Sewer Plan and rejected it as not meeting those requirements.

At the same time the council correctly approved two sewer extensions that meet the newly enacted Glen Hills peripheral sewer policy: 18-TRV-02A -- 10125 Bevern Lane; 09A-TRV-02 – 13101 Valley Drive.

Next Meeting

Due to the weather cancellation of the Nov. 15 West Montgomery County Citizens Association’s General Meeting, the speaker — Brad German, Co-Chair – Citizens Against Beltway Expansion (CABE) — has rescheduled to provide his presentation at the Dec. 12 meeting.

Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a Beltway and I-270 widening to make room for four high-cost privately-owned, for-profit toll lanes (aka Lexus Lanes). A coalition of citizen organizations has joined voices to oppose the project. WMCCA is among the opposition because these Lexus Lanes threaten to cut a swath through neighborhoods and destroy businesses, parklands, and vital stream watersheds causing environmental damage. The daily toll cost to use the additional lanes could reach $45 a day. A study identifying various alternatives is currently underway. An alternative could be chosen early in 2019 when the state Department of Transportation completes the alternative study. The decision will rest with the Maryland State Legislature and Hogan. For more information, go to www.CABE495.org.

The meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 12, 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled. As always, the public is welcome.

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