Next WMCCA Meeting
Ehsan Motazedi, division chief of the Department of Permitting Services for Montgomery County government, will be the guest speaker at the next West Montgomery County Citizens Association’s meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center.
WMCCA often fields concerns about what constitutes the commercial core of Potomac Village. The built commercial environment in its shopping centers usually have storefronts but there are other businesses cropping up beyond those spaces and they operate under different regulations. What are they? How and under what conditions are they sanctioned? Motazedi will discuss applicable zoning regulations, business and home occupancy requirements and signage. He will take questions regarding individual properties and ongoing problems residents may have noticed that go unreported.
As always, the public is most welcome to attend. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.
By Ginny Barnes, WMCCA President
Since the Potomac Subregion Master Plan (MP) was adopted in 2002, much of the anticipated development in our community has taken place. Two of the three Potomac quarries have been turned into housing. With a mix of high density housing and substantial retail, Fortune Parc is reaching completion. The Cabin John Center is under new management with additional modest retail underway. But what about the Potomac Village itself?
Intended to be the commercial heart of Potomac, defined by the crossroads of Falls and River Roads, the Potomac Village Center is zoned C-1 and covers 27 acres and about 337,710 square feet. Many recommendations in the MP for the Village itself have gone unrealized. Certainly we now have more banks, real estate offices, a mix of retail businesses and services, and some new restaurants.
But the Master Plan noted that the Village is not pedestrian friendly and consists mainly of strip centers divided by parking lots which make it too auto centric with poor circulation patterns. Given our designation as one of two residential "green wedges” intended to protect the public water supply, the Village itself is painfully devoid of tree canopy cover. Land use and design guidelines in the Master Plan included providing an attractive tree lined "Main Street" environment, specially paved crosswalks, and creating a green park like edge on the Village perimeter. Such improvements would require special planning and coordination among commercial owners. Not an easy task.
Some Potomac residents have worried that the Village is creeping outward on both ends of Falls Road. Houses that were once residences have become commercial. Under what circumstances is this allowed? Signage for these businesses are haphazard, often temporary and inconsistent with one another.
What is permitted in and around the Village and what is not? WMCCA tries to follow-up on complaints by residents but we lack sufficient knowledge. The county Department of Permitting Services (DPS) oversees zoning compliance, sign ordinances and business occupancy requirements. In the past, we have turned complaints over to them but we need a primer on how cases are investigated to reach an outcome. We are fortunate to have a speaker this month to help us understand the process DPS uses and how we can better work together with the county government to make our Village serve residents needs and expectations.
Glen Mill Road Proposed Subdivision in Piney Branch Special Protection Area (Preliminary Plan No. 120160180 – Parcel 833)
By Susanne Lee
WMCCA has submitted extensive comments to the Montgomery County Planning Board in opposition to the proposed subdivision of an environmentally sensitive parcel of land located in the Piney Branch Special Protection Area (SPA) on Glen Mill Road just east of the intersection with Boswell Lane and adjacent to and bordering the Glen Hills Park.
The Piney Branch stream channel runs through the 2.77 acre parcel which lies entirely within the Piney Branch SPA. Environmental constraints impact the entire parcel and include the stream bed, 100-year floodplain, wetlands, stream buffer, and two areas of steep slopes each with more than 25 percent slopes. It is heavily wooded — 1.54 acres are forest — and it contains 26 specimen and significant trees. Each of these features, and especially when taken together, so constrain the buildable area of the parcel that construction of one house would be difficult, let alone the proposed two house subdivision. Furthermore, because of the potential impact on Piney Branch water quality, development in this SPA is subject to heightened environmental standards.
WMCCA’s comments in opposition focused primarily on the failure of the proposal to conform to stream buffer and wetland protection requirements, the Piney Branch Sewer Agreement Covenant, and the Montgomery County Forest Conservation statute. We coordinated our comments with the abutting property owners who have been working hard to ensure the proper development of the site.