Council Closes the Barn Door

Council Closes the Barn Door

A change to the county's comprehensive water and sewer policy should insure that lame duck County Councils will no longer make sewer and water category changes.

The issue was highlighted last November when a lame-duck Council, on the last day of its session, voted to extend sewer service to a property on Boswell Lane. The sewer extension was in violation of the Potomac Master Plan, and has been rejected by the state and WSSC. The Council had not posted the item on its Internet site or published agenda.

Two changes, introduced by Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-3) will make such changes impossible in the future. "To go the extra mile to ensure the public that no permanent action will be taken," Andrews said.

The County Council and its committees will no longer be permitted to hold public hearings or take action on sewer and water category changes after Oct. 31 in an election year.

The changes will also strengthen the public notice provision.

One Councilmember thought that Andrews may not have gone far enough. "We may want to look at extending that time period," said Marilyn Praisner (D-4). Praisner noted that primary elections may also have an effect on the Council.

Both Andrews and Praisner voted against the sewer category change.

THE COUNCIL VOTED to allow a home, which plans to be a church, on River Road to receive sewer service.

Councilmember Howard Denis (R-1), who represents Potomac, wanted to send the proposal back to committee for further study because of the last-minute introduction of conditions, and an “open-ended” discussion about the way the county treats churches in general with regard to land use.

The site is currently a single family home. The church has volunteered not to have access to the site through Fox Hunt Lane, which abuts the rear of the property, and to limit its future expansion to a maximum of 180 seats.

Denis did not think it appropriate to introduce new material in the middle of a vote. “All the more reason to send this back to committee,” he said.

Councilmembers George Leventhal (D-At Large) and Tom Perez (D-5) both agreed with Denis that the item should be deferred, but the council voted against the motion.

The site will be allowed to have sewer service, with the conditions they suggested.

The Council also voted to extend sewer service to a different house on Boswell Lane, just a few hundred feet from the controversial location.

The Council did not mandate a specific alignment but did require that the sewer line be developed in the most environmentally sensitive way possible.

Engineers will now have to determine if that means crossing the Piney Branch stream or using a grinder pump.