Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Del. Al Carr (D-18) on an issue that the Planning Board is taking up today.
The Montgomery County Council approved the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan in 2013 after a lengthy process of gathering public input.
The plan contains environmental provisions requiring developers to restore the local tree canopy which has been ravaged over the years by road construction, development, Pepco, and clear cutting for the Purple Line. It requires that utility wires be buried allowing for the planting of large overstory trees. A healthy tree canopy is vital to protecting water quality in Rock Creek and its tributaries.
Unfortunately, the Montgomery County Planning Board quietly waived these environmental provisions for the well-connected developer in 2017. The developer successfully lobbied to be released from the requirement to bury the wires on the east side of Connecticut Ave. As a result, the developer is not planting tall overstory street trees on Connecticut Ave and Manor Rd to maximize the restoration of the tree canopy.
In the 2017 staff report, planning staff used the following rationale when recommending the waiver: “Although undergrounding of utilities is typically required for site plan applications in Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan area, this application is not required to do so because the electrical utilities along the property frontage are high-voltage transmission lines that are not routinely buried.”
However the exact same “high-voltage transmission line” was recently buried immediately to the south where the purple line bridge will cross Connecticut Ave. Identical lines are routinely being buried in the county including in Silver Spring (Linden to Sligo project) and in White Flint (new substation).
There is a long-shot opportunity to correct this mistake when that same developer returns to the Planning Board on July 23rd for amendments to their plan. The Planning Board has the opportunity at that meeting to mandate that the wires be buried at the developer’s expense and that tall overstory trees be planted where possible along the site frontage on Connecticut Ave and Manor Rd.