Conservation Montgomery 

February 12, 2012

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First public forum set for Feb. 14


'Streamlining Development' Presents 

Prime Issue for Citizen Involvement 



digging dirt
A Jan. 20 press release issued by County Executive Isiah Leggett has left community members scratching their heads about the impact the proposal could have on green space. County taxpayers have waited six years for the Executive to make good on a 2006 campaign promise to improve the county Forest Conservation Law (FCL), three years for the Department of Environmental Protection to produce a much-heralded urban tree bill, and several years for a separate bill to protect street trees.  But the Executive's proposal to streamline building permits appeared out of the blue and in warp speed.  


As written, the press release was confusing and seemed to indicate that there will no longer be requirements for field inspections of a building site in order to fully apply and to enforce the Forest Conservation Law prior to issuance of a building permit: 


"Modification of the process for the MCPB's review of building permit applications. Building permits are issued by DPS, but Planning Board staff also reviews these applications and performs field inspections related to approved forest conservation plans. Inspections associated with an approved forest conservation plan will still be required, but they will no longer be required prior to issuance of a building permit. Implementation of the approved plan will be addressed in the field in the ordinary course of inspections - just as adherence to other approved plans is addressed in the field. This will help to streamline the permit issuance process without compromising the requirement that developers adhere to approved forest conservation plans. This change is effective immediately."  


Planning Department officials are trying to clarify the information. "The Planning Department will release our hold on the building permit if the only outstanding requirement is the need to have a pre-construction meeting," wrote Mark Pfefferle, Acting Chief for Development Applications and Regulatory Coordination at the Planning Department, in an e-mail.  "In the past, we held the building permit until the pre-construction meeting and tree protection devices were installed.  Every other requirement will remain in place and is still required before the Planning Department will 'release' the hold on the building permit. " 


Pfefferle noted that typical requirements include satisfying all Planning Board conditions of approval, the need for a certified site plan, plat recordation, recordation of conservation easements, adequate public facilities and financial security submission. Specific to enforcement of the FCL, Pfefferle said: 


  • Applicants will still need a pre-construction meeting with Planning staff for properties subject to the FCL before any land disturbance occurs.
  • Applicants still need to implement tree protection and have it inspected by Planning staff for properties subject to the FCL before any land disturbance occurs.
  • Applicants still need to post financial security (performance bonds, letter of credits) with the Planning Department when there is a planting requirement before any land disturbance occurs.
  • Applicants still need to record conservation easements, if required, before any land disturbance occurs.
  • Applicants who move forward without a pre-construction meeting will continue to be issued violations and/or stop work orders.
  • Applicants who move forward without an approved FCL plan, certified site plan, recorded plats, etc. will continue to be issued stop work orders.
  • The building permit is not equivalent to Sediment Control Permits.  They are separate tracks.
  • It is still the applicant's responsibility to request pre-construction meetings with Department of Permitting Services and Planning staff.
  • Planning staff continues to enforce all aspects of the FCL.

Residents who have expressed concern about the proposal to date recommend strong public participation in a series of upcoming meetings on the permit streamlining plan.  


"It is imperative to attend the public meetings on this since more authority is being shifted to DPS," said Conservation Montgomery Vice Chair Ginny Barnes of West Potomac.  Her concerns were echoed by others, including Lydia Sullivan, a member of the Kensington Town Council, and Conservation Montgomery Secretary Arlene Bruhn.  


"In theory, there is no problem here as long as planning takes place first. In practice, this new program could be very beneficial -- or disastrous -- depending on whether or not field inspectors are willing to step in and halt bad behavior, said Bruhn.  "When it comes to trees, the damage has usually been done, and covered up, by the time an inspector arrives."  



A website set up by DPS can be accessed here.  


Public forums are listed below: 


Date:  Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time:  2:30pm - 4:30pm

Location:  Executive Office Building,

101 Monroe St. Lobby Auditorium, Rockville, MD 20850


Date:  Friday, March 9, 2012

Time: 1:30pm - 3:30pm

Location:  Executive Office Building,

101 Monroe St. Lobby Auditorium, Rockville, MD 20850



parks matter 

School Siting on Park Land Continues as a Community Dilemma



The Help Save Our Park Coalition held a public meeting on January 29 at the Coffield Community Center to provide information to the community about the second site selection process for a new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster. Over the past year, the site selection has been problematic due to the lack of available space for the new school and the targeting of parkland as candidate sites by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).  Although it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, about 50 residents attended for an update on the site selection process.  Also in attendance was Gabriel Albornoz, Directorof Recreation, Mike Riley, Deputy Director of Parks, William Crane, manager of the Forest Glen Garrison, and Casey Anderson, Commissioner from the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).

Parks Dept. Deputy Director Mike F. Riley speaks to residents who live adjacent to Rosemary Hills-Lyttonsville Park on Jan. 29


Silver Spring resident Roger Paden explained why a new site selection is taking place. Following the selection of Rosemary Hills-Lyttonsville Local Park by the first Site Selection Advisory Committee (SSAC), Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier wrote a letter noting that park land is not available to MCPS.  The Board of Education then voted to use Rock Creek Hills Local Park as the alternative site.  As this park had once housed a school, MCPS retained the legal right to claim the land for educational use.  However, the Rock Creek Hills Homeowners Association immediately raised three objections.  First, they filed complaints about violations of the Open Meetings Act. They raised other procedural complaints and also questioned whether the use of Program Open Space (POS) funds in Rock Creek Hills Park would prevent the conversion of parkland into a school site.  Last November, MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr announced a new start on the site selection for the middle school.  Restarting the process allows MCPS to conduct business openly. Dr. Starr hopes to address open meeting and other procedural complaints.  (Continued..Click the next link.)



Background Links:  

April 27, 2011 Letter from the Planning Board Chair to the BOE Chairman  

November 8, 2011 Letter from MCPS Superintendent Starr on the site selection process

Patch Story on the new process starting again for site selection

Summer 2011 Gazette Story published as Kensington fought for their park




md flag

 The 2012 Maryland General Assembly reconvened on January 11th.  Over the next 3 months as many as 2,000 bills will be considered, including the budget.   Here are a few bills related to green space, plastic bag waste reduction and protection of our County Agricultural Reserve.

The Community Cleanup and Greening Legislation will add a 5 cent fee on plastic bags use across Maryland. This method has proven to be a winner in reducing plastic bag use and the associated problems.  On January 1st, the Montgomery County Bag Bill became effective.  Find a fact sheet here



Right to Farm Legislation that will protect farmers' rights in the Agricultural Reserve, which includes conservation easement protection.  Find the Montgomery Countryside Alliance notice here. so you can take action.  Find the legislation here. 


New Legislation on Gas Leaks and Trees 

County resident Barbara Schubert and a representative  from Washington Gas will address the county Forest Conservation Advisory Committee on Feb. 21st at 7 p.m. to discuss the problem of gas leaks damaging and killing community trees. Find a summary of what led to legislation to be introduced by Del. Al Carr here.


For a comprehensive summary of all state environmental issues, read the Issue Papers prepared by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services for the General Assembly.  Skip or scroll to page 229 to read current information on environmental issues.  Or visit the Maryland League of Conservation Voters site to read about environmental legislation in Annapolis.


moco flag


 foot drag


  • There is no apparent action and no update available on pending and long-awaited county legislation to protect street trees or separate legislation to protect trees that are not covered by the existing Forest Conservation Law.  
  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is gaining traction as an answer to the county's traffic congestion problems.  The Council recently endorsed BRT as a preferred mode for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) in light of a study showing a greater economic benefit to the County if the project is built sooner. Find an analysis commissioned by the county at this link.

Conservation Montgomery is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education education and action to make a connection between the stewardship of local natural resources and community quality of life.  Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the IRS code.  To donate or sign up as a member.   


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