Important Court Victory

The case of Montgomery County v. Butler was decided in the County Court of Appeals last week. It is a case dealing with a special exception to run a landscape business on a very narrow lot close to  many other homes along Peach Tree road. After a number of appeals on both sides, ending with finding this landscape business to be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood and therefore not receiving a special exception, the decision could be come a useful tool for those seeking to keep development appropriately scaled to the surrounding area.

The case begins:

“This case invites us to revisit our modern cases exploring the essence of “special exceptions” and their role in the regulatory scheme of zoning…”

In other words, Boards of Appeals must look at the particulars on the ground when granting special exceptions, each case needs to be taken into consideration on its own irrespective of the use being reasonable elsewhere. That is what makes these exceptions “special”, each situation is different.

You will find the full text of the decision here.

Sounds of the Season…music in the key of preservation!

Historic St. Paul Church glowed brightly Sunday, December 12th as the guests were treated to an eclectic and flowing series of performances. Church trustee and historian, Gwen Reese, shared some history of the Church and the historic Sugarland Forest Community.  Then,  Dominique Agnew and Becky Ross of Violinsanity brought both classical pieces and traditional holiday favorites to life with exquisite original arrangements.  The crowd joined in song and called for more.  MCA Board member and AmKolel Sanctuary founder, Reb. David Shneyer answered with his fine acoustic set of folk and spiritual songs, punctuated with tales of environmental activism and trips to the hoosgow.  Wrapping up the evening, Bob Israel and his Total Eclipse band members, Chris Battistone and George  Hyde  offered up some soulful, smooth and festive jazz.  The horn solo of Silent Night was extraordinary.

Event goers called for a repeat in 2011…and so we shall.

What a way to celebrate the season and join together for preservation!  The evening’s proceeds will go to both MCA and St. Paul Community Church.

Violinsanity kicked things off with a carol sing-a-long

"Rockin" Rabbi David

Members of Total Eclipse, George Hyde, Bob Israel and Chris Battistone

George Hyde on Bass

Chris Battisone with a moving "silent night"

White’s Ferry, Scenic Reserve Transportation (Video)

The Ag Reserve’s White’s Ferry Road takes you from Maryland to Virginia, the only difference from other roads is the Potomac River runs in the middle of it. Whites Ferry is the very last cable ferry on the eastern seaboard and it makes for a serene trip to the Ag Reserve any time of year.

Tickets are $4 one way and $6 round trip for cars, cheaper for bikes.

The 24 hour hotline  has the most up to date info – 301- 349-5200

Click here for more info on the ferry.

See MD Farmland Loss and Sprawl Up Close with PlanMaryland

PlanMaryland is the name given to Governor O’Malley’s Statewide Comprehensive Plan for sustainable growth and development.

From their website:

Why do we need Plan Maryland?

Because sustainable quality of life in our communities and rural areas is at stake.

Because we are on track to lose approximately 560,00 acres to development by 2030

The 560,000 acres of projected growth is equal to an area the size of:

* 175 Antietam National Battlefields

* 40 Patapsco State Parks

* 14 Assateague Islands

* 112 Cunningham Falls State Parks

* 84 Patuxent River State Parks

* 144 Deep Creek Lakes

Or, roughly, the equivalent of the total land area of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties combined.

PlanMaryland is, ultimately, a plan for a more livable, greener, healthier and sustainable Maryland.

PlanMaryland has put together some sobering maps and charts showing present and future land uses. Click through those here. The Map below shows Land Use/Land Cover. You should be able to pick out the Ag Reserve as the green space perched on the cusp of newer development (since 1973).  The Outlines of the Reserve are distinguishable in most of the maps at the link above and it has a big role to play as our region grows; providing food to the masses, a green space for recreation and serving as the lungs of a more and more built up area.

Comus Market on Discovery News

Click here to see a Discovery New story about Dave Hiesler’s Comus Market and the fantastic pumkins he grows.

In the Reserve and Nation, a Shortage of Large Animal Vets

A story on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning described what area farmers already know to be true, when livestock gets sick, it is hard to get it taken care of without a long drive.

The nearest comprehensive large animal vet is at the Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a good two hours drive from the Reserve.The problems this can cause for farmers and their sick or injured animals are best illustrated in a story from Star Gazing Farm.  Farmer Anne writes about her “Home for Wayward Goats” and other creatures. If her stories do not reach your inbox, you are surely missing out.

Click here to read about Rosalita the goat (pictured above with her “sweetheart” Spencer) and Farmer Anne’s trip to PA with her. (Might be a bit sad for younger readers)

Regional opportunities to become a large animal vet abound, at University of Maryland and The Virgina-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) based out of Virginia Tech.