JANUARY 13, 2014logos  

 

Community Updates 

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In this issue
Speak for the creek! Council Sessions Begin TOMORROW on Ten Mile Creek
Update on M-83: County Planning Board Batting Zero on the Environment
 
Time to speak up for the creek
Ten Mile Creek - a Pivotal Election Year Decision for Current County Council 
  
From Board Reports 

 

 

The Montgomery County Council is poised to begin a series of committee work sessions which will lead to a decision on the Ten Mile Creek Area Limited Master Plan Amendment.  Over the past year, concern over  the environmental impact of proposed development on the watersheds feeding Little Seneca Reservoir, particularly Ten Mile Creek -- a biologically superior reference stream considered the 'last best creek' in Montgomery County -- has consumed Planning Board meetings and activated community groups throughout the county.  

 

 

In early December during two nights of packed and tense County Council hearings, a majority of 60 out of nearly 80 speakers testified in favor of protections for Ten Mile Creek.  Several titans of planning and public policy were among those speaking on behalf of environmental protection:  Dr. Royce Hanson, a nationally renowned land use expert and former Planning Board Chairman; and former Council Members Scott Fosler and John Menke as well as Ephraim King, the former head of Science and Technology for the EPA office of Water. Mr. Menke is also a former Director of the County Department of Environmental Protection. 

 

In his testimony, Dr. Hanson said: "Some suggest that too much [development] has already happened to stop now.  But inertia is not planning and it's not illegal to get smarter." He added that, "Speculative investments are not vested," noting the speculative nature of the large-scale building projects that Pulte Homes and the Peterson Companies are proposing for the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg.  Hanson, Menke and Fosler used a tag-team approach to addressing the Council on Dec. 5th.

 

 "What we are requesting of the Council is really quite simple: Honor the county government's responsibilities to protect the drinking water supply of our citizens, and don't renege on our obligations to our regional neighbors," Fosler said. He has provided the County with an outline for a possible study of Little Seneca Reservoir, the importance of which was largely overlooked by the Planning Commission in their recommendations.

 

Mike Gravitz, who chairs the Conservation Committee for the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) which is part of the Save Ten Mile Creek coalition of more than 23 organizations, called the upcoming Council decision, "the litmus test of environmental stewardship in this election cycle."   He cautioned the Council to be mindful that the environmental community will work this spring to inform voters if a decision is made to approve large development projects that will pollute the headwaters of their backup drinking water supply.  "We will say you rolled the dice on our drinking water," said Gravitz.

 

Three Planning Board work sessions were held in September and October culminating with Chair Carrier's directive for staff to review any new technical issues raised by experts at the hearings, reach out to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) to elicit input on the safety and security of the region's back up water supply in Little Seneca Reservoir and meet with property owners and stakeholders to explore any new information that might affect the staff draft report.  Chair Carrier has announced over the past week that she will not seek another term as Planning Board Chair when her term expires in June of this year.

 

The Planning Board recommendations were submitted to the County Council for final decisions on the future of Ten Mile Creek.  A Council vote is anticipated as early as February after a series of joint Transportation and Environment and Infrastructure Committee and Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee work sessions. These will be held Monday, January 13th - 2 p.m., Friday, January 17th - 9:30 a.m. and Friday, January 24th - 9:30 a.m.  Note to readers:  Please plan to attend as many of these sessions as you can - these work sessions are open to the public.

 

The 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan vision recognized the unique nature of Ten Mile Creek and provided a pause after Stages I - III triggers were met to revisit the Plan before finalizing it, and before allowing any further development to encroach on the pristine Ten Mile Creek watershed.   The Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition, consisting of almost two dozen environmental, civic and faith-based groups -- has garnered wide support for protecting Ten Mile Creek as the cleanest source of water to Little Seneca Reservoir, the region's close-by emergency drinking water supply in times of drought.

 

Last week, County Executive Isaiah Leggett showed support for Ten Mile Creek in a letter delivered to Coalition leaders. He pledged to forego any further development on the 128-acre County/Clarkwood site and will not build the proposed addition to the County Correctional Facility. These properties amount to over 400 acres, representing a significant reduction in potential impervious surface which would cause impairment to the watershed. The move sets an example for the County Council in putting the destiny of an irreplaceable environmental resource above the considerable investment in potential development. (see letter).

 

The recent chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia has caused damage to the water supply for thousands of nearby residents and points up the need to pay close attention to emergency drinking water sources like Little Seneca Reservoir. 

 

"It's important for residents to weigh in on this issue now that it's before the Council," said Diane Cameron, who leads the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition in her role as Conservation Director for ANS.  

 

Click here to find out how to contact Council Members and weigh in on this issue.  Or simply e-mail them at County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov

  

You're invited to a community social event for Ten Mile Creek Sunday, Jan. 18th.  Details here...
 
Satellite map shows cleaner water farther away from development in the Little Seneca and Ten Mile Creek watershed. 

 

Rolling the dice with drinking water?    Say it ain't so...

Latest media coverage

    
County Planners Render 
Disapppointing Vote on M-83
 
Highway project threatens Ag Reserve
and Day Spring Creek 
 

The Montgomery Planning Board continues to disappoint residents.  And following a holiday recess, the County Council is being handed another tough decision.

 

"M-83 would cause severe, irreversible environmental damage between Montgomery Village and Germantown," said Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-3), and a candidate for County Executive.  "Its enormous cost would require delaying much-needed and cost-effective road, transit, bicyclist and pedestrian projects for many years. 

 

"The opportunity cost of M-83 would be massive. I strongly oppose it. " Andrews added. 

 

Civic activists fighting M-83 are  writing to the County Executive to ask that there be no funding for the project in the FY15 CIP budget until M-83 receives its environmental permit, and until the County Council and Executive have selected their preferred alternative. 

 

In late November, the Planning Board voted to approve the Mid-County Highway (M83), which runs between Clarksburg and Gaithersburg despite a staff recommendation and four hours of public testimony and discussion. The Planning Board voted 3-1 for an Alternative 9, the "master plan alignment" of M83 even though a transit alternative has never been evaluated, and although MCDOT has not received federal environmental approval. The Board ignored staff's recommendations to evaluate a transit alternative, and ignored a majority of public testimony against the new highway.

 

Opponents with the TAME Coalition (Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended) made up of citizens and organizations who are opposed to proposed Mid-county Highway Extended (known as M-83) being built through the heart of the affected communities, call the master plan alignment "the most expensive ($350 million of County money)... with the greatest environmental and community impacts," and one which provides little traffic relief."

 

TAME notes that, "We can spend $350 million on a new highway that will fill up with traffic in months, or invest in a Rapid Transit System on 355 to Clarksburg that would provide long lasting relief for Upcounty commuters.  We should not be building 1960s highways in 2013. We don't have the money, it won't solve our congestion problems, and it will only degrade our environment further.  We can do better, and we have the transit options that have never been evaluated alongside M83." 

 

"TAME will be watching Leggett's presentation of the CIP next week very closely," said TAME organizer Margaret Schoap. "We have sent a letter to him asking for no money in the CIP for M-83 because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has many questions for the Department of Transportation to answer before they will consider a wetlands permit for the road."

 

She said TAME will be hosting M-83 Walks through Montgomery Village in March, and along the proposed M-83 route through North Germantown-Greenway Park in April. 

 

"These walks will raise public awareness as to what county residents will lose if this road is constructed." said Schoap. 

Dayspring Creek

 

 
   

 
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