Thanks to everyone who made it to the well-attended June 6 Commissioners Meeting. It was standing-room only, with an unofficial head-count exceeding 75 people. Judging by audience comments, it appears that a strong majority of people in attendance have serious concerns about the proposed 96-home development.
We learned that once the Planning Commission vets the plans they will officially go to the town commissioners. The Planning Commission meeting is June 15.
However, it was announced yesterday that the developer has canceled the presentation that was on the Planning Commission meeting agenda. The town announcement stated that the “development team heard the comments Monday night and want to regroup.” It is safe to assume that our strong town presence made a difference in terms of the developer going back to the drawing board. The meeting is still scheduled to take place on the 15th (only this one agenda item has been removed). We continue to encourage town participation.
Property owners can develop their land as long as it’s in accordance with zoning, adequate facilities, and other regulations. Without the new “Village Overlay” zoning, however, the maximum number of homes that could be built is 1 home per ½ acre, which would be 26 homes for this property. The property owner/developer needs to apply for the Overlay zoning change. The Overlay zoning is to meant to apply to all empty lots in the commercial/residential zone, not just the property next to Town Hall. The Overlay zone opens the door to negotiation for higher density.
There were a number of questions from the town audience about why we would want to encourage the high density permitted by the “Village Overlay” zoning. We understood these to be the commissioners’ reasons:
- There are design standards for the overlay zone, this creates a baseline for architectural design throughout town.
- By limiting high density housing on the outskirts of town, density is concentrated in the center of town and encourages a certain streetscape.
Several in the town audience questioned why higher density in the center of town is desired, especially given our current traffic issues. Many voiced concerns about pedestrian safety on Fisher Ave. and expressed worry that higher density—instead of improving walkability—would compromise safety with an increased number of cars on the road.
We understood there to be some confusion about our current town population numbers. An approximate number of 5,400 residents seems to be the working number. An approximate number of 175 houses currently under construction was offered, which would put our approximate population at 5,960 (using the common 3.2 people per household equation). Many in the audience expressed a desire to not rush towards the 6,500 population cap as stated in the Master Plan (and questioned what would happen when we do reach that cap).
School enrollment numbers were discussed as a reason to encourage development. However, we learned the important news that the Board of Education is currently working to clarify a rural schools written policy that will not hold schools in the Agricultural Reserve to the same student number threshold that applies to other Montgomery Schools.
Concern about water reserves was expressed from several in the town audience. We learned that Well 10 is shut down because of a bacterial problem and there are no current plans in place to fix it. There are two new wells in the planning phase. There was concern expressed from the audience about the cumulative draw-down from those wells and whether they would draw too much from our groundwater table. All of our wells depend on our groundwater. The EPA designated Poolesville a SSA (single source aquifer).
Thanks again to all who made it out to the meeting: you made a difference! We hope to see you all on June 15th at Town Hall!