August 2011: Still nothing scheduled before the FC Planning Board. Yet, we understand that the applicant has met, behind closed doors, with the FC Health Department staff. Apparently, GMC is working to back into the restriction of 4999 gpd discharge for their septic system. So, they go in and indicate that they will have less seats in the dining hall and less seats in the worship hall and several less classrooms. Now, will that work? Question has been raised as to whether the amount of alteration to the site plan then becomes a new application thus requiring public process/hearing. And how does this downsizing on paper jive with the stated (in writing and testimony) desire to have a really big church for a really big congregation? Remember, GMC went to court to battle for a septic system much larger that the 4999 gpd. They lost. Will keep you posted.
June Update: Nothing yet scheduled before the Planning Board in Frederick. MCA has made inquiry with MC Planning Commission regarding permits on the MC side and whether they are current and/or in conflict with standing master plans. Moreover, we have contacted the FC Health Department and expressed concern that the applicant may try to use “meeting” with health department staff to push through modified versions of their plan amounting to new application review without public process. The applicants history is a checkered one…with small proposals growing…mega. Donations to the legal fund are welcome as we will likely have to mount a legal case based on zoning, local, state and federal statutes. Make sure you note that your donations is for the Mega Church Legal Fund.
Just in: Decision upholds the Board of Appeals reversal of the denial of the Global Mission Church’s site plan! Read the full court decision here. The Frederick County Attorney’s office will seek guidance from the FC Board of County Commissioners as to whether to pursue further appeal. Allowing this decision to stand would jeopardize the Planning Board’s authority in land use decisions. The FC Health Department’s denial of the septic system for this facility was based on fact: current and projected numbers of congregants and building capacity far exceed the septic carrying capacity at this site! In addition to holding Frederick Planners and Health Department officials to there obligations to ensuring compatibility of land uses to zoning and septic limitations, MCA is evaluating challenges on the Montgomery County side with regard to the road and bridge crossing over fragile Little Bennett. Opportunities for challenge under both State and Federal statutes exist and will be vigorously pursued by groups and community members if necessary.
MCA attended a hearing (Jan. 19, 2011) in Frederick Circuit Court to address the FC Attorney’s appeal of the FC Board of Appeal’s reversal of the Planning Board’s denial of Global Mission’s site plan application. Wow…that sounds complicated. Basically, the Frederick County Attorney filed an appeal of the decision to overturn the Planning Board’s decision. This was the hearing of that appeal.
The short report is that no action was taken by the Judge; we expect a decision on the proceedings in the next 30 days. We will, as always, be providing updates on the process as they become available.
The Hearing began with FC Attorney Wendy Kearney laying out the months and years of proceedings in this case, emphasizing at each turn that GMC was not willing to downsize their project to bring it into compliance with the 5,000 gallon/day wastewater discharge limit, to this day the proposed building remains “a 10 pound building on 5 pound septic system”. She noted that the real crux of the argument is that until the building can be properly scaled to be within the 5,000 gpd cap, the health department can’t approve it, and as a result under state law the Planning Commission can’t approve the site plan.
To head off the violation of due process claims from GMC, Ms. Kearney noted that the BOA hearing (many MCA members will remember this 11 hour hearing) did not focus on the record but was instead a de novo (do-over, all new) hearing that would fix any slights GMC thought they got at the hands of the Planning Commission. Those who were there will remember the hours of cross examination, even cross examination of members of the public. The decision in that hearing came a few weeks after that marathon session, the record had been closed but one BOA member brought new EPA documents he found in an internet search into the decision making process. Despite the BOA Attorney’s cautionary advice, mention of these documents appeared in the final decision. This is not only sloppy practices, it is grounds for reversal- which is why when a motion to reconsider (and either add those docs to the record to disregard them) was denied by the BOA, the FC Attorneys had to take the matter to Circuit Court.
Ms. Kearney having caught the judge up on the back story, GMC’s counsel Danny O’Connor spoke on the County’s attempts to, “play gotcha with my client, put them in a catch 22.” Mr. O’Connor made a number of statements that misrepresented prior hearings, the main theme of his argument being that the Health Department changed the formula by which gallons/day were calculated, and did so days before a Planning Commission hearing. In her rebuttal to Mr. O’Connor’s comments, Ms. Kearney explained what anyone following this case knows to be true; that the Health Department was working with a reported number of sanctuary seats, assuming one or two services per Sunday. When they made the first calculations they did not know about a.) the 6 services planned each Sunday b.) the extra three story building holding 67 classrooms. Once FC Health Department Staff learned the true scope of the project, they revised their calculations up to reflect the increased use the building would get (6 gallons per day per sanctuary seat instead of 3 gpd). Obviously, the increased use meant increased wastewater discharge, taking the building far above the allowable 5,000 gallons/day. Again, “a 10 pound building on a 5 pound tank,” as Ms. Kearney said.
After each side laid out their arguments, the Judge asked about the implications of upholding (allowing the, in our eyes faulty, BOA decision to stand) or denying this case (letting the Planning Commission’s denial stand, our preferred option). The Judge was surprised to learn that GMC could have started over with a new site plan at any time. GMC’s lawyers explained that there were a number of new site development regulations in effect that the plan would be held to if they re-started the process, not to mention the cost of re-doing the plans. FC Attorney Kathy Mitchell clarified that GMC would be subject to new waste water rules even if they stuck with their current plan. In favor of denial, Ms. Kearney pointed out that the voluminous record in the case (which took three Courthouse staffers to move), would only grow larger with more hearings as the result of upholding the BOA.Additionally, both the BOA and Planning Commission each have two new members that would have to either re-hear the case or spend many, many hours reviewing the record.
Ms. Kearney made the most compelling argument of all based on what she identified as the most important fact in this case; unless GMC is willing to drastically downsize the size of their buildings, hearings could continue to drag on with no approval of their site plan.
Read on for more info and a link to the archives…
The saga continues as Global Mission Church (GMC) attempts to build a 135,000 sq ft mega church off rt 109 in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain with little regard for the rural community and its natural and historic resources. Take note: GMC is ultimately seeking a facility in excess of 200,000 sq. ft.!
On March 25th, the Frederick County Board of Appeals (BOA) voted 4-1 to send the decision on the GMC site plan back to the Planning Commission for further proceedings. Despite excellent testimony from residents and FC staff, and supported by a record demonstrating that GMC had ample opportunity to present and discuss their plan, the BOA wanted to give the church more time to meet with county staff to discuss the site plan.
MCA disagrees with the BOA’s decision because:
»The Church had already been granted customary and reasonable staff consultation time.
» Despite being told that the plan would exceed the septic capacity of 4,999 gallon per day, the church has failed to significantly change their plan in any way that would bring it into compliance.
»The Planning Commission voted to deny the GMC site plan because they were bound by law to do so. If the Health Department does not approve a septic system to be associated with a project, the Planning Commission is required to deny the site plan application.
The Frederick County Attorney’s office agrees with us on these points and is seeking to appeal the BOA decision in the Frederick Co. Circuit Court. In the BOA proceedings, County Attorney Wendy Kearney said that this was the most clear cut case for denial of an appeal that she has ever seen. And still, the BOA found in favor of the Church.
The FC Attorney’s office Petition for Reconsideration is wending it’s way through the process, including a 30 day window for those who may file in opposition. We are monitoring the process closely and will update you when the court decides whether to take the appeal. We understand that parties may file friend of court statements, at appropriate time, in support of the County Attorney’s office. Please update us on any news you may have, including any activity at the proposed building site.
To read previous posts on GMC, click here and scroll down.
Pete Menke, longtime Mayor of Barnesville recently passed. Click here for a remembrance from the Poolesville Blog.
A Gazette article reports, “A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary Church in Barnesville followed by a gathering at the town’s pavilion”
Word of the closure of the County’s longest operating, family owned general store hit folks hard. Whether farmer, hunter, rider, cyclist, birder, gardener or nearby Reserve resident, the thought of a world without Poole’s store was just more than many could bear. Where to get feed and the other essentials of country living nearby from a family that we have known and done business with for decades?
The good news: Collaborative efforts of Reserve residents, activists and staff at Park and Planning have assured continued use of the historic property to support the needs of the community. For those laboring to ensure a working landscape and robust farming community in the Ag Reserve, the continued operation of this general store and other suppliers within the Reserve is critical.
See below for update from Gene Giddens from Park and Planning:
Subject: Poole Store Open House and Scheduled Public Meeting
This is in response to the many inquiries regarding the Poole Store and the Parks Department Public Meeting date. We will continue to keep our website updated under “Announcements”: http//www.montgomeryparks.org.
In the meantime, I wish to inform you that the Parks Department will conduct an “Open House” at the Poole Store, 16315 Old River Road, Seneca, MD on Saturday morning, January 29 between the hours of 10:00 am – 12 Noon. This open house will provide the public with an opportunity to walk through the store, view the adjacent out-buildings and tour the premises. Senior park staff will be available to assist with the tour and answer questions.
A public meeting has also been scheduled for that afternoon to receive community input, commencing at 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm, at the UpCounty Regional Services Center (Room A) located at 12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown, MD.
I am also happy to inform you, that a short term lease agreement has been finalized between the Parks Department and Farm and Home Service, Inc. for supplying the community with a retail sale and distribution of animal feed, seed, fertilizer, farm supplies, lawn and garden supplies, and similar goods. Farm and Home Service, Inc. will operate from of the storage sheds on the Poole property and have asked both Marilyn Poole and Joanne to work for them. We expect this business to commence within the next ten days.
Your concern and interest regarding the use of this property is appreciated.