PATH Powerline, Good News from Frederick County

Issue Update (10/21): Another setback for PATH and a win for concerned residents and farmers!

As of October 20th, the Planning Commission has now found both the Mt. Airy substation and the line crossing southern Frederick County connecting to it incompatible with the Comprehensive Plan.Allegheny Power, the power company behind PATH, did not even send a representative to the meeting, leading Commissioner Floyd to observe, “The absence of the applicant exhibits their arrogance.” As residents rattled off the dire health effects of living under these lines and looked in vain for answers to their more technical questions, we agree with Mr. Floyd: By not showing up, Allegheny Power spoke volumes about their lack of respect for our community.

MCA submitted this testimony.

We wait to see how the Planning Commission’s powerful recommendations against the Substation and Line are acted on by the Board of County Commissioners.

Issue Update: Due to hours of diligent cross examination of PATH experts by concerned residents, the BOA proceedings on a special exemption for the Kemptown Substation will continue on October 14th at 7pm in Winchester Hall, 12 E. Church St in Frederick. Press Coverage. The Planning Board will take up the issue of the whole line’s compatibility with the Comp Plan on October 20th, same time and location. Stay Tuned.

Breaking News (9/15): The Frederick County Planning Commission voted unanimously to find the proposed substation in Mt. Airy incompatible with the Comprehensive Plan. We heartily agree, click here to read MCAs testimony from the hearing.

Next up, PATH goes before the Frederick County  Board of Appeals for a special exception hearing September 29 1-5pm and September 30 from 7-11pm. All meetings at Winchester Hall, #12 Church st. in Frederick. Please see Sugarloaf Conservancy’s site for more information. For background on this project, read on…

The Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH, is a massive powerline project covering at least 3 states terminating at the largest substation ever built, a proposed facility of 42 acres sited among 1,300 homes in Mt. Airy, MD. Despite the claims of the energy companies behind this proposal, independent government research shows that there is no dire need to increase power transmission rates in the region in the coming years. In fact, regional power use is projected to continue declining, as it has since 2008.

The Sugarloaf Conservancy has been working tirelessly to get answers from Allegheny Power and its partners as the proposal moves through the State Public Service Commission in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. Allegheny has not been forthcoming with information. For instance, why Sugarloaf Mountain does not appear on the proposed Route Map. As anyone who loves the mountain knows, it should occupy the white space just north of the Montgomery County Line, right below the proposed power line route.  As anyone who has hiked to the top can tell you, this is one heck of an oversight.

Concerned local residents finally have the opportunity to be heard as the project comes before the Frederick County Planning Commission and Board of Appeals. These meetings will investigate the consistency of PATH with the FredCo comprehensive plan.

The Planning Commission meeting is September 15 at 7pm
The BOA hearing is September 29 from 1-5pm and September 30th from 7-11pm.

All meetings take place in Winchester Hall, 12 East Church Street in Frederick.

Testimony from concerned residents is very much needed at these meetings. Please visit Sugarloaf Conservancy to learn more.

A map of the proposed powerline. Notice that it cuts directly through Frederick County’s proposed Environmental and Natural Resource Reserve, an area set aside for protection because of its unique environmental and cultural resources.  It also cuts within a few miles of Sugarloaf, but you will just have to trust us on that as the PATH map does not indicate a mountain there.

Monocacy Elementary Will Stay Open…the Fight for Reserve Schools Continues

Breaking News: Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Weast has released a recommendation that Monocacy Elementary, a popular school within the Reserve threatened with closure, should stay open.

While this news causes relief across the Reserve community, it does not go far enough. Monocacy was slated for closure because it had fewer students than non-Reserve schools. This policy ignores the fact that the rural area feeding the school has limited development and population by design. There is no way for these rural cluster schools to keep up with enrollment standards that govern the rest of the County. More than a resource for students and parents, in the County’s rural areas schools are often the only public meeting areas, hosting meetings, events and generally serving as a community center. Having these buildings serve double-duty this way saves the County money.

While Monocacy is off the chopping block, a formal rural schools policy is necessary to make sure that the entire Reserve cluster of schools is not faced with closure as a result of incongruous enrollment standards. We will be pushing this issue with the School Board as public hearings on this recommendation take place next month. Stay Tuned!

The Whole Recommendation

MCA Files Petition for Reconsideration on Barnesville Oaks

MCA is challenging the Planning Board’s approval of a large suburban-style development on the last largest remaining farm in the Reserve,MCA filed a petition asserting error in the Board’s decision and respectfully asking them to revisit the matter. MCA challenges conformity with the Master Plan citing State legislation passed in 2009 that strengthens the requirement that land use decisions support and do not conflict with governing Master plans.

Breaking News:  Developer has filed opposition to sending (remanding) the case back to Planning Board for their review and decision on MCA’s Petition for Reconsideration!  Unbelievably, their filing claims that because the developer quickly  filed their  notice of appeal of the condition regarding tenant houses and density first…MCA’s petition for reconsideration should not be addressed.  In other words, they are trying to prevent the process that allows for the Board to exercise their authority to reconsider matters when properly petitioned.  This move is a real slap in the face to the community who merely seeks to ensure that the Board has fully evaluated the subdivision in light of the Master Plan and existing law.

Stay tuned…

Announcing the 2010 Royce Hanson Award Winner, Tony Cohen!

Tony on the porch of Button Farm's historic Farmhouse

MCA is pleased to announce the 2010 Royce Hanson Award winner: Tony Cohen of Button Farm Living History Center!

Tony has long  been a thoughtful steward of Button Farm, preserving both the structures and history of this 19th century slave plantation. Tony makes history come alive for visitors with hands-on history programs depicting slave life and the escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. The farm is also very much in the present, growing heirloom vegetables, providing Community Sponsored Agriculture Shares and growing food for Manna Food Bank.

This year’s Royce Hanson award acknowledges Tony’s joyful enthusiasm at bringing the cultural and agricultural  history of our region to life.

Please Join us to Celebrate Tony’s accomplishments!

Anthony Cohen is an historian, author, and explorer of the American past.  His love of history has led him to embark on two historic expeditions retracing routes of the Underground Railroad; the first in 1996 from Maryland to Amherstburg, Ontario and again in 1998 from Alabama to Canada, by foot boat and rail along wilderness trails and waterways. 2011 will bring his third and final expedition as he followed the route of his great-great grand uncle who fled slavery in Savannah, GA for freedom in Canada in 1849. This journey will be chronicled in a documentary, Patrick & Me, to be released nationwide in 2013.

Cohen has served as a consultant to the National Parks Conservation Association, Maryland Public Television, and NASA among others and trained Oprah Winfrey for her role as Sethe in the 1998 motion picture Beloved.  He is has published articles in national magazines and is Founder and President of The Menare Foundation, Inc., a national non-profit working to preserve the legacy of the Underground Railroad through the Button Farm Living History Center in Germantown, MD.

He received his B.A. in American Studies from American University. A native of Washington, DC he makes his home in Olney, MD.

Button Farm~ Have your History and Eat it Too!

Old Seneca Artisans Festival a Huge Sucess!

Greg, Shawn and Nick of Rocklands Farm may have only been farming a year but they seem to have mastered the weather, it was a beautiful fall day to be out on the farm. Special Thanks to Potomac Farmers Market, Linganore Winery, Chef Paul from Interfaith Works, Cazuela’s Bakery, and especially the Rockland’s Boys and everyone who volunteered to make this a great event.

Here at MCA we like our food local, now we can get our news local too. At the event we met Jillian from the online news service Patch.Her beat is only North Potomac and Darnestown, can’t get more local than that. Here is her coverage of the event.

Lymphoma Research Riders enjoy the Ag Reserve

On October 3rd, the Ag Reserve was the site of the Lymphoma Research Ride, a 25 and 50 mile bike ride to fund research into the Lymphoma disease. Bikers are just one group that comes out to the Reserve for the rural character and beautiful landscape. Click here to read one bikers story about biking the Reserve’s Rustic Roads.

Right now the Reserve is at its most beautiful and bountiful, the leaves are changing and orchards trees are heavy with apples, fields are full of pumpkins. Click here for the best pickin’s!

Council gets update on School Veggie Gardens

First Lady Michelle Obama with some local Elementary Students in the White House Garden

Issue update: More info on last week’s meeting coming soon from our friends at Montgomery Victory Gardens. Read MCA’s testimony here.

Montgomery County Schools have a lot of teaching tools at their disposal, however as far as hands on experiences go, anyone who has ever tried to grow their own food can tell you that there is no better education in the workings of the world. School gardens have been shown to cause healthier food choices in children, even if school menus do  not change.

Why then have MoCo schools been banned from putting in school gardens?

Our friends at Montgomery Victory Gardens, Moco Master Gardeners, and numerous PTAs have been asking this question and it has lead to a pilot program between the schools and Parks department to test out school gardens.

Tuesday, October 12 the Council will recieve an update as to how this is going, Gordon Clark of Montgomery Victory Gardens will provide testimony. There will be no other public testimony but written letters are needed to show support  for taking this pilot program to all the schools.

Read the full action alert from MVG here.

Child Lot Zoning Text Amendment- update

Child Lots Zoning Text Amendment

 We asked for help and the emails to the County Council poured in.  Not boilerplate letters either- these were heart felt, fact based, solution aimed communications that clearly resonated with the Council and their Staff.  The hearing brought broad support for strong, enforceable standards for lots for children of farm owners in the Reserve. The ZTA will go to Council Subcommittee on October 11. A bit more  work remains, most notably, whether to grandfather  applications now in the pipeline.  It may be possible to grandfather with conditions that will prevent abuse of this provision.


 Many thanks to Park and Planning staff, and now Council staff, for their diligent efforts aimed toward consensus and sound legislation that will provide  protection of the Reserve’s working landscape.


Stay tuned for more!