Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ February 2019

President’s Message

By Sharon Canavan

Happy New Year!  The weatherman’s prediction for the first snowfall of 2019 was a bit conservative.  To quote Jimi Hendrix, “Now if 6 turned out to be 9” or even the 11 inches measured on my deck!  Although a bit late, this is a chance to remind everyone that unshoveled sidewalks are much more than a simple inconvenience.  Children need to get to school safely and cleared sidewalks allow us to enjoy our walkable community.  NextDoor and the NFCCA listserve turned out to be handy resources to connect with individuals who wanted to earn extra money shoveling snow.

At the December meeting, we heard from our Council member, Tom Hucker, who was re-elected in November and will continue to serve on the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, and Environment Committee, as well as on the Public Safety Committee.  After a brief overview of the County Council and its operations, he discussed the County budget and steps to develop a savings plan to address the county’s $44 million budget shortfall.  He also highlighted upcoming legislation, including a ban on outdoor smoking at restaurants, licensing for Airbnbs, and small cell towers.

In particular, Hucker’s remarks focused on the Council’s previous legislative efforts to address the placement of small cell towers that support 5G and other advanced wireless infrastructure.  Longstanding federal law restricts local governments’ ability to prohibit cell towers.  Hucker explained the Council considered a bill addressing issues related to small cell towers, and he was able to secure amendments to preserve residential protections and prohibit placement near child care centers and other sensitive sites.  Ultimately, Council President Hans Riemer withdrew the bill from consideration last October when the Council was unable to reach a consensus on final legislation.  However, this issue is expected to arise again in the new session.  Hucker specifically underscored his support for providing transparency, ensuring nearby residents receive notice and the opportunity for a hearing, and preserving residential setbacks and height limits for small cell tower placement.

With the holiday giving season in full swing, the December agenda also included a presentation by Michelle Whittaker, the Communications Manager at Manna Food Center, who described the organization’s charitable initiatives, one of which is active in our community.  Every month, on the second and fourth Saturdays, volunteers at the Manna Choice Pantry — located in the Four Corners Campus of the Silver Spring United Methodist Church — distribute nonperishable food items, meat, and fresh produce to dozens of Montgomery county residents.  Manna’s Choice Pantry model offers a shopping experience for families who can select the foods that are best for them based on what is available.

In other news, in late October, Maryland officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that will run on Route 29 from Burtonsville to Silver Spring.  The BRT, or “FLASH” as it is now being called, is expected to be up and running by 2020.  The bus platforms in Four Corners will be separate from the existing bus stops for Metro buses and Ride-On buses.  The southbound stop will be on the sidewalk adjacent to the 4 Corners Pub parking lot between the gas station and shopping strip, and the northbound stop will be next to Blair High School.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), however, is working on the “U.S. 29 Mobility and Reliability Study” to evaluate conceptual alternatives to run FLASH buses in a dedicated roadway located in the median from White Oak to Sligo Creek.  Although a median busway could attract more riders by improving the run time for FLASH buses, drivability in Four Corners could be seriously impacted depending on which of the concept proposals is ultimately adopted.  Specifically, the study will evaluate concept proposals to restrict left turns from Route 29 into our community and nearby neighborhoods and to add four additional traffic lights between Lockwood Drive and the Beltway.

I always urge everyone who lives in our community to join us at the NFCCA meetings.  But this time I mean it.  In February, we will have a speaker from MCDOT who will discuss the “U.S. 29 Mobility and Reliability Study” and the various concepts proposed in the study.  This is your golden opportunity to come out, look at the proposals, and provide your feedback to the local government staff who will evaluate the impact these proposals could have on traffic in and around our neighborhood.  This meeting will be on Wednesday, February 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Forest Knolls Elementary School.  And while you are at it, mark your calendar for the second Wednesday in April, June, October, and December for NFCCA’s other upcoming meetings this year.    ■

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