Samples  of  Opposition  Letters
The Concerned Citizen Groups of Cloverly
PO Box 233
Spencerville, MD  20868

February 3, 2017

Elizabeth G. (Lisa) Feldt, Director,
Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
255 Rockville Pike, Suite 120, Rockville, MD  20850

Alan Soukup, Sr. Planner, Water & Wastewater Policy Group – Director’s Office
 Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
255 Rockville Pike, Suite 120, Rockville, MD  20850

Dear Ms.  Feldt and Mr. Soukup
The residents of Cloverly are opposed to the Preliminary Plan 120160040 (RCCG, Jesus House). The plan calls for a 1,600-seat place of public assembly and a 350-student school.  A facility this large is not consistent with the Cloverly Master Plan and does not conform to Montgomery County Council Resolution 14-334 as originally intended. 
The Master Plan clearly states that private institutional facilities are not to be allowed to connect to sewer in the RE-2 zones to maintain a low-density, rural character.  The following language is quoted from the plan:
“Provide sewerage service throughout Cloverly except in the RC and RE-2 zones to maintain a low-density, rural character. The extension of sewer service to residential, institutional, and special exception uses in the RC and RE-2 area (except to relieve public health problems or to address other specific Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan policies) is not consistent with this Plan because of potential impacts on the low- density character of both areas.”

The specific Master Plan guideline for the area in Cloverly where this project is located is the following:
“This area is identified in the Environmental Resources Chapter as a Regular Protection Area. In this protection area, a combination of low-density zoning, park acquisition, and standard environmental requirements to mitigate effects of new development is used to protect water quality. The ultimate subwatershed imperviousness levels should remain in the 10 to 15 percent range which is within the generally acceptable limits for the protection of cold water stream systems in Maryland. Individual developments with high site-imperviousness should be discouraged.”
The applicant’s project is an intense development in an area zoned for one residence on two acres (RE-2). The project proposed by the applicant has an impervious level of 27%. We also note that more recent studies of the effects of imperviousness indicate that a 10-15% subwatershed range does not adequately protect water quality. This project will create approximately 2.5 acres of impervious surface, which if not properly treated, may flood local roads, erode stream banks, and degrade water quality. The imperviousness of the Bryants Nursery Run subwatershed has increased nearly 60% in the past few years--from 7 percent in 2009 (source: DEP stream restoration report, 2009) to over 11 percent today (M-NCPPC, 10/25/2016).

The original applicant for the category change (99-CLO-02) applied on behalf of a development plan by the Southern Asian Seventh Day Adventist Church, plan number 7-97018, for a 750-seat place of worship.  The applicant requested that “In order to protect the sensitive environmental feature of the Forest Stand in the headwaters of the Northwest Branch, installation of an extensive underground Septic Field would require the destruction of Seven Acres of Mature Forest Stand.  This can be prevented by allowing a connection to the abutting sewer line.”  WSSC indicated that their policy did not allow non-residential development to connect to the line abutting the property; they specified a 1,250-foot-long sewer extension to an existing sewer in McNeil Lane for a proposed flow from the proposed development of 6,000 GPD.  Reviewing agencies, Council Staff, Executive staff (DEP), the Planning Board, and the Cloverly community recommended denial of the sewer category change.  The Council’s T&E Committee met on October 25, 1999 to review the request; the minutes of the meeting reflect the following discussion by committee members prior to their recommendation to approve the category change: “Noted that the County Executive, Planning Board and Council Staff recommend denial of the sewer change consistent with the Master Plan, and that preliminary septic testing has been done and it is likely that the church would be able to relocate to the property whether sewer service is approved or not; and that multi-unit septic service would have a negative environmental impact on seven acres of forested area on the northwestern portion of this site.”

The Montgomery County Council met to discuss the category change on November 2, 1999.  Prior to approving Resolution 14-334, Council discussion recorded in the minutes from that date includes the following:  “Councilmember Michael Subin pointed out that the church facility would be built using a septic system if the sewer category change is not granted . . . [and] if the facility is built without the sewer category change, the County will lose almost seven acres of heavily forested land;  Councilmember Marilyn Praisner pointed out that the language in the master plan is clear regarding no sewer extensions in this area and expressed concern that approval of the category change would affect other properties within the master plan area.  She expressed the concern that it would set a precedent;  Councilmember Isiah Leggett stated that he believes the T&E Committee recommendation for approval made it clear that this should not be viewed as a precedent, and that they respect the master plan language and the intent behind the master plan.  Following this discussion, the full Council voted 6-3 in favor of adopting Resolution 14-334 approving the category change, including a restriction that “the church will establish a covenant preserving the forested area which would have been used for the on-site septic system.”

 All of the preceding citations of minutes from the meetings indicate that the Council intended to preserve 7 acres of forested land.

The property was never purchased by the Southern Asia Seventh Day Adventist Church, nor was it developed by the Pentecostal Church of God, which purchased the site on April 27, 2001.  On February 14, 2011, the property was sold to Jesus House DC.  On August 1, 2014, Jesus House DC requested a water/sewer category change that asked for removal of the septic-based forest dedication requirement that was included in the original category change and in all Council discussions prior to approval. On August 15, 2014, WSSC projected that flow from the development would be 300 GPD for the sewer connection.  On November 24, 2014, Alan Soukup of the Water and Wastewater Policy Group notified the applicant that a water/sewer category change was not needed because the applicant could satisfy the Council requirement in Resolution 14-334 by setting aside a 4-acre area protected by a recorded covenant for the forest conservation easement in addition to “otherwise required forest conservation for this site.” The applicant subsequently withdrew the request for a new water/sewer category change, proceeding on the basis that they could meet the requirements of the original one.

The Cloverly community does not understand these changing and contradictory numbers.  In the years since the original category change was approved, the amount of required forested land has shrunk from 7 acres to 4 acres, despite the fact that the original plan for a 750-seat place of worship has been superseded by a 1,600-seat place of worship along with a 350-student school. In a January 30, 2017 meeting with Gene von Gunten, Manager, Well and Septic, Cloverly community leaders learned that the guidelines for evaluating septic systems changed, so that the number is significantly lower than what the calculation would have been using 1999 guidelines.   So a 750-seat assembly hall in 1999 required 7.44 acres while a 1,600-seat assembly hall in 2017 requires 3.67 acres – in other words, an assembly hall more than twice as large requires less than half as much acreage!  There is nothing to indicate that the Council expected less than 7 acres of forest preservation, nor is there anything that adequately explains why a change in guidelines for evaluating septic systems justifies diminishing the clear intent of the Council to protect those 7 acres of forest in the northwestern portion of the site.

The Master Plan recommended that no institutional uses be allowed sewer service in this area and the Council approved sewer service only if the 7 acres of forested land they discussed was protected.  The applicant’s proposal is not consistent with the Master Plan or the intent of Council.  We urge you to recommend denial of the RCCG-Jesus House Plan.

Please contact Quentin Remein at 301 421-1152 if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

President, Cloverly Civic Association

Vice President, Good Hope Estates Civic Association

President, Peachwood Civic Association

President, Stonegate Citizens Association

President, Peachwood Estates HOA

Mitra Pedoeem
Adjacent and Concerned Resident




Sample letter 1

I am writing to express my outrage that this behemoth is even being considered for the quiet, RURAL, area along New Hampshire Avenue in Cloverly/Colesville.  According to the Cloverly master plan, this portion of the region is specifically supposed to be zoned for single homes on large lots.  I ask you, what is the purpose for setting aside an area to remain rustic/rural if you are going to then allow a stadium-sized church, serving a membership that lives miles away, to locate smack in the middle of it?  Not to mention that the church plans to cut down the vast majority of the forested area currently occupying the 15 acres.  The environmental damage, the community damage, the noise damage, the wildlife damage, the traffic damage: these are the consequences that the neighborhoods surrounding this monstrosity are supposed to bear.  How would you feel if this mega-church decided to locate right next to your neighborhood, or a mile down your road?

Those of us who live in neighborhoods along New Hampshire Avenue already have to deal with serious traffic issues on our little 4 lane road (not 6 lane, as erroneously noted in your so-called study), including dangerous left-hand turns onto New Hampshire Avenue to access shopping and schools.  This includes a large number of new and inexperienced drivers who attend Blake and Sherwood High Schools.  Already, they and the rest of us are forced to battle traffic to get to our destinations, while maneuvering around existing church over-flow parking along New Hampshire Avenue.  The volume that will be added to this nightmare by a 1600 person church meeting several times on Sunday, and a 400 child school meeting every day, in addition to other events throughout the week is mind-boggling.  Why the traffic study that was done to accompany this farce did not include a study of Sunday traffic is perhaps a question for a good lawyer.

Finally, I urge you to take a drive along New Hampshire Avenue.  It is so clogged with churches that don't pay taxes, it is unconscionable to consider placing such a large addition to the tax-free community in our midst.

I urge you to do what you should have done when first presented with this farce of a plan -- peruse it carefully and reject it.


Sample letter 2

Office of Zoning & Administrative Hearings
100 Maryland Avenue, Room 200
Rockville MD 20850
RE:  RCCG Jesus House DC----it is going to be huge
Zoning Officials:
I am writing this letter as a concerned tax paying constituent who feels that his local Montgomery County Zoning Administrators have not listened to the voice of the people in the Cloverly Master Planned Communities. 
The RCCG Church, with the help of their land use law firm and Montgomery County Officials, have pushed through zoning changes that will allow this Mega Church to be built without any consideration for the surrounding community and the impact that it may have on the existing infrastructure. 
It is my understanding that the property has in recent years gone through a series of owners.  With each new owner their proposed projects have increased exponentially in scale many times over the original approval for a 750-member church building.  The current RCCG facility will be for a 2,000 seat church, a K-12th grade school, a ball field, and a multi-purpose amphitheater.  The intent of the RCCG facility is to be a regional facility not one that serves the local community. 
Let’s break it down into several components that will make this project untenable for the local established neighborhoods and of course local tax payers.
1.  This project will not be serving the local Cloverly Master Planned Communities
2. This facility will be a use of local tax payer’s money by increasing the traffic on New Hampshire Avenue.   Heavier traffic means more accidents which then begets the need for more police, fire and ambulance services directed to the New Hampshire Avenue corridor. Furthermore, on busy event days it is expected that street parking will occur on New Hampshire Avenue which will spill over and into one of the lanes.  New Hampshire is 2 lanes each way in that area, not 3.  This will create an even greater public safety risk.
3. Environmental Impact:  In addition, such a large facility will have a negative effect on the environment.  Our sewers are not equipped to handle the storm water runoff from such a large facility, which will increase from 2% to 26.7%.   Its presence will damage the stream beds and remove acres of trees, thus negatively impacting wildlife and tree preservation—both contrary to county environmental goals.  We also anticipate overload on our aged water/sewer infrastructure, although the developer has yet to respond to requests on impacts and financial responsibility for any upgrades. 
Communication with area residents has been ignored.  As tax paying citizens, we ask that the detailed land use be looked at again because the plans have increased dramatically beyond the project as originally approved.  Would you want this structure in your neighborhood?



Sample letter 3

Dear Council Member 

I live on Bryants Nursery Road in Cloverly, Silver Spring in a community of 2-3 acre (RE-2) single family homes served by well and septic systems. I am reaching out to you as I am very concerned that the RCCG Jesus House, a DC church currently located in Downtown Silver Spring, is planning to relocate to a mega campus at 15730 New Hampshire Avenue (Dist 5) which is adjacent to my home.  

The land for this project is three contiguous lots, approximately 15.5 acres just north east of my house.  This huge planned campus will include sanctuary seating for 1,600 with back-to-back services planned on Sundays, a K-12, day school for 350 students, office space, a multi-purpose facility, a gymnasium, a large rectangular ball field with bleacher seating for 300, parking for 400, and most recently added a future amphitheater.  No capacities and planned programming information has been provided about any of these facilities.  Looking at their current schedule (posted on their website) it seems that this church will be a very busy place, seven days per week, starting early in the morning and going until very late at night on some days.  There will be many vehicles coming and going for many separate scheduled group assemblies to the church. 
This proposed development will increase the net imperviousness of the existing site from less than 2%, to 17% of the total area.  This increased area is way over the lower limits of 8 or even 10% that are necessary to protect especially sensitive watershed areas in Northwest Branch such as this area. Based on recent studies performed by Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection total amount of impervious area in the Bryants Nursery Run sub watershed has increased by 60% in the past seven years. As you can see, this rapid increase of development is a threat to our streams and environment and will increase the rate of stormwater discharge to our properties.
Based on the proposed development plans, stormwater runoff will pass through our residential properties before it drains into the nearby stream and a culvert under a private road (Bryants Nursery) that is the only means of access for the four residents adjacent to this development.  The existing stream and culvert are already significantly degraded and experience flooding when it rains. Any damage to this private culvert and road is currently the responsibility of the four residents next to this road.
Our Community including all my neighbors on Bryants Nursery Road that are directly impacted by this new development are very concerned about this project because this is another example of the over-proliferation of Private Institutional Facilities ("PIF"s) on and near New Hampshire Avenue.  We have lists of infrastructure, environmental, community-character and financial concerns.  These PIFs do not help local residents that are negatively impacted by their construction as they do not bring jobs, tax dollars or new residents that can contribute positively to the community.  We are especially upset because aspects of this development application appear to be unrealistic, highly-problematic or misrepresented and yet, the plans seem to be getting approved. Example concerns with this project include, but are not limited to:  
Trying to use a water and sewer category exclusion that was approved many years ago for a 750-seat church -- clearly a MUCH smaller project.  
Including a K-12 School cramped with other church facilities, a youth center, gymnasium, etc. seems unrealistic when compared with other school sites in the vicinity.
Trying to significantly reduce the 8-acre ON-SITE forest conservation commitment contained in the County Council 1999 resolution CR 14-334 to something less than 5 acres.  Our understanding is that staff made an "administrative decision" to interpret and reverse a Council resolution.  
 Allowing the developer to cover their shortcoming of site forest conservation by providing 2.33 acres off-site reforestation. This does not benefit the local community and does not protect the headwaters in this sensitive area of the Northwest Branch.
Characterizing the stretch of New Hampshire Avenue in front of the church as a "6-lane major highway".  In fact, NH doesn't go to 6 lanes until just north of the ICC (about 2 miles south of the planned site).  At the site, New Hampshire Avenue currently has only two through lanes in each direction. 
Using a Thursday morning as the time for a traffic study, when the peak traffic time for the area (and for this project) will be Sunday mornings between the two services of potentially 1,600 each.  If everyone comes 4 to a vehicle (which is pretty unlikely), there will be 800 vehicles trying to access and exit the property in a 30 minute period.    
The master plan and the RE-2 zoning code call for "low density” for Cloverly. This plan force-fits a very high-density campus into what is supposed to be a low-density area. 
Capacity and programming Information has not been provided for most of the facilities planned for the campus.  
The community has submitted questions and concerns about the traffic study and other parts of the project plan, with no responses provided.
A ball field with 300 seat bleachers is planned just 150 feet away from my next-door neighbor which creates noise and light pollution.
The 4:1 people per vehicle assumption in terms of determining parking spaces seems unrealistic and the Z2 bus, which serves this area, doesn't run on weekends.  The consensus opinion is that 400 parking spaces will not be sufficient.  We are not aware of any plans by the church for overflow parking. 
Unfortunately, based on what we have heard and been told by staff it seems that this development is approved already despite many concerns raised by residents.  Large PIFs simply should not be allowed to pressure or finagle their way into the middle of a quiet & low-density areas as this one is trying to do. Why is smart growth not applicable to PIFs? Why can’t they be in the areas that are close to transit and public transportation?

We are requesting your help for the following:
Reject this over-sized project and negotiate a more sensible size project appropriate for this area of the master plan.
Require the applicant to go through a new water/sewer category change application process based on the plans for this project.  Currently, the approval is from a 17-year old study for a much smaller and less-complex project.
Reconsider the legal framework for allowing PIFs in residential areas where there is no benefit to residents.
Uphold the County Council’s earlier requirement for a minimum of 8 acres of perpetual forest conservation on this site.  (no off-site or arbitrary reduction in reforestation requirements should be allowed)
Address existing issues with the stormwater management facilities and require re-engineering and modifications to handle the additional runoff caused by the development.  Assess flooding and degradation of the culvert under Bryants Nursery Road and require financial commitment for maintenance.
Require incremental approval of each phase – not an up-front approval with a multi-year validity.  (I.e., Review school and ball field construction plans in a later date)
Require a traffic analysis that includes the real peaks (Sundays) and nearby non signalized intersections i.e. Bryants Nursey Road intersection with New Hampshire Ave.
Provide a plan for overflow parking that does not include parking on New Hampshire Avenue or neighborhood side streets. Currently there are major parking and traffic congestion issues during church events south of Norwood Road which is only a mile away from Jesus House.
Applicant must provide a list of programming and activities for the church for noise control purposes. No large private use/programming should be allowed that sacrifices the quiet and calm that neighbors presently enjoy in proximity to the proposed church.
If this new development is allowed in our neighborhood the quality of our lives will be degraded to a point that we may be forced to move out of our homes and Cloverly.
The removal of 5 acres of forest and its associated wild life will significantly impact the quality of our life due to losing our peace and quiet, due to degrading air and water quality and increased amount of stormwater runoff directed toward our properties; due to increased noise levels from church activities with a school population of 360 students and a large ballfield, due to the light pollution from the church and ballfield if it is allowed to be lit; and finally and not the least due to the additional traffic congestion and parking bringing people from other parts of the county. A development of such scale will greatly reduce the value of our properties in the immediate neighborhood.

Cloverly Civic Associations and residents have similar issues and many of them have already sent you their concerns. I am requesting when you review this development to consider the above requests and ask the developer to revise their proposal accordingly. Do you want this development in your neigborhood?


Sincerely, 

Mitra Pedoeem
Bryants Nursery Road
Silver Spring MD 20905
301-580-1309

PS:  Also please check out www.stopmegachurch.com for project plan details, community objections and objectives, samples of objection letters, etc. 



Sample Letter 4

We have lived in Stonegate since 1968 and one of the reasons we bought our home was because of the natural beauty and rural nature of this area.  Of course we have seen some commercial changes throughout the years and have no problem with the houses of worship  near us on New Hampshire Avenue.  However we do have great objection to the proposal of building the RCCG Jesus House DC.  There is too much traffic for us to deal with now and the building of this huge facility will create safety issues besides changing the complexity of the area in which we live.  This was not the projected use of this land, intended for single family homes.  There are already enough houses of worship here (New Hampshire Avenue at this location is referred to as “Church Row”) and the last thing that is needed is another enormous church and school with the many issues it will bring.  Please honor the wishes of our area and see that this proposal is projected elsewhere where it would not create such a negative impact on an established community.
Thank you

Sample Letter 5

I have lived in Stonegate since I married a long-time resident six years ago.  My husband has lived here for more than 35 years, and has seen generations of additional houses and increased traffic without complaint as the natural course of things.  And notwithstanding the memories expressed at neighborhood get-togethers about how a meadow used to be in back of our house, after a lifetime of condo living, the Stonegate neighborhood still seems idyllic to me.

When I first heard of the proposed arrival of the mega-church off New Hampshire Avenue just a mile or two up New Hampshire Avenue, I didn't really pay attention, as I depended on you, the public servants entrusted with making wise and appropriate decisions on behalf of us, the citizens of Montgomery County, to do the right thing.  It never even occurred to me that you would in your wisdom allow not only a massive and environment-damaging overdevelopment of pristine acreage, but also an unbearable burden on road traffic already stretched to the point of fairly frequent vehicle accidents and even some deaths.  And yet...  

New Hampshire Avenue traffic during rush hour on weekdays is quite dense, every bit as heavy as the road was designed to bear.  And on Sundays and other holy days, my husband and I simply don't drive anywhere until mid-afternoon, such is the state of "Church Row," as New Hampshire Avenue is affectionately known throughout the area.  But now there is a proposal not only for the massive church and parking lot and athletic field, but we discover that it is to operate all week long as a school as well! 

Hello??  Can whoever is in charge over there please think for a moment about whether it is right or fair or morally acceptable to completely destroy the peaceful way of life of thousands of faithful taxpayers?  This area was developed as single-family homes with large yards in which to enjoy a peaceful and reasonable life.  Please reconsider this issue and reconfigure this development to comport with what you know is right.  Thank you for your urgent attention to this issue.


Sample Letter 6

Mr. Gerald Cichy Commissioner, Montgomery County Planning Board 8787 Georgia Avenue, Suite 211 Silver Spring, MD 20910
Dear Mr. Cichy:
I recently learned that a mega-church with a sanctuary for 1600, a K-12 school for 300, an athletic field, gymnasium, amphitheater and paved parking for 400 vehicles, is being planned for the Cloverly area where I am a resident. I believe construction of such facilities would be highly detrimental to our community and the environment. I am therefore writing to urge you to take whatever action you can to insure that this project, as currently proposed, is not approved.
When I heard the details of this project from my citizens association I wondered how something of this magnitude could be built in Cloverly? Wouldn’t it violate the zoning rules I thought? I also wondered whether this proposal was consistent with the master plan for Cloverly. I have since learned that there is a huge loophole in the zoning rules that enables projects like the one now being proposed to be built even though the project may not be consistent with the master plan.
Although the mostly-forested 15-acre site where this mega-church and school would be built is zoned RE-2, which I understand permits single family homes on 2 to 3 acre lots, I also understand that, alternatively, the zoning rules for RE-2 allow an institution, such as a church, to use such land. It is that alternative use permitted by RH-2 zoning that provides, what seems to me, to be a giant loophole in the zoning restrictions. Apparently there are almost no restrictions on what an institution can do on land zoned RH-2 and therefore the planning board has a lot of discretion in what they can allow. This puts the planning board in the position of having little basis, based on any currently specified zoning restrictions, for turning down proposals no matter how inappropriate the proposal might be for a given area.
Although the master plan drafted many years ago allowed for churches, I doubt the planners ever envisioned the mega-church/K-12 schools with full athletic facilities being proposed
today. They therefore may not have seen any reason to impose significant limitations on churches, such as on church capacity, parking lot size, lighting, or on the type or extent of ancillary facilities.
This failure to spell out in detail exactly how an institution might use RH-2 land left the door wide open for institutions to construct facilities never envisioned by the master plan. The result is that the residents of our community are left vulnerable to developers eager to exploit this loophole. The project now being proposed for Cloverly is a case in point.
The answer to this situation is for the planning board and other involved officials to assert their discretion and to ensure that projects proposed for Cloverly are consistent with the master plan. As I see it, the mega-church now being proposed is clearly not in keeping with the intent of the master plan. At a minimum, the plan should be scaled down to make it more appropriate for this area. It should also reflect the importance of preserving, as much as possible, the now standing forest on the proposed building site. Longer term, the zoning regulations need to be revised to specify, in detail, the parameters that an institution would need to meet in order to comply with RH-2 zoned land.
Sincerely,


Sample Letter 7
This letter was written to Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection by the original owner of the property that the Jesus House is located on.
.
Dear Mr. Soukup:
At the time that I sought a sewer category change (hereinafter WSCCR99A-CLO92, I had conducted extensive Water Table Testing and Perc Testing on the property and all calculations and engineering was conducted by Wittmer Associates, Gaithersburg, MD.
It was discovered that the wet season water table on this property lies 10.5 feet below grade.  Witmer Associates calculated that to service a 750 seat Church ( Southern Nation Church), with the then State Guidelines of a Six Foot Buffer between the bottom of trench and the required soil cover above the septic trench system, the trench depth allowable following the guidelines was 3.5 feet.  
The test results of the perc tests was that the soils passed percolation tests, thus 7.4 acres of land was required to construct a 3.5 foot depth of trench to service a 750 seat church.
With sewer nearby, I offered to place 8 acres into a Conservation Easement in Perpetuity and the T and E Committee agreed, recommended and ultimately, the County Council accepted this contingent agreement.  It made no sense to denude a sensitive and pristine Forest Stand at the headwaters of the Northwest Branch.
The Sewer Category Change was granted with the understanding and agreement that 8 acres of Forest Stand would be entered into perpetual conservation.
Southern Nation never went forward with their construction, having found a more suitable site on Randolph Road.  Now comes Jesus House, attempting to use the same criteria that Southern Nation Church used, which at the very minimum required 8 acres of Forest Conservation Easement.  Jesus House stipulation and misrepresentation that only four acres is required for septic trench is a gross misrepresentation and contradicts the granting of the sewer category change by the County Council  with Contingencies.
A 1600  hundred seat church would require double the amount of trench than that which Witmer and Associates calculated with the water table at 10.5 feet below grade, in other words, 14.8 acres of septic trench.  
The misrepresentation by Jesus House that only four acres is required to service a 1600 seat church is flat out incorrect.  That is a number that is pulled out of the air without any calculations taking into account state regulations as well as the high wet season water table on this property.
At the time of my application for a sewer category change and the ultimate acceptance with conditions by the County Council, the specific contingency was saving the Forest Stand that would be destroyed if the on site percolation system was installed, that was specifically 8 acres. 
The Forest Conservation Contingency was to save 8 acres of Forest Land for a neighborhood church, Southern Nation Church, and certainly not a regional facility church such as Jesus House.
The Contingency by the County Council that, the Forest Stand that would be destroyed by installing the onsite septic system must be honored.  At a very minimum, 8 acres of Forest Stand must be placed into a perpetual easement.  Jesus  House should be required to recalculate the area that is required for a 1600 seat church, not the 750 seat church that the 8 acre calculation is based upon,  That was the intent of the County Council in granting and agreeing to the category change.   The high water table results of this property mandate protection of the headwaters of the Northwest Branch and the Forest Stand must be protected.
Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.
Truly yours,

Gxxxx

Sample Letter 8

I am writing to you as a homeowner in Cloverly on Bryants Nursery Road. I know that memebers of our community  have already contacted you regarding the proposed relocation of RCCG Jesus House of DC to 15730 New Hampshire Ave in Silver Spring.
My property is adjacent to this development. My neighbors and I are extremely concerned that a very large scale church with a sanctuary seating of 1600, a k-12 school that can accommodate 360 students, a youth center, an amphitheater, paved parking for 400 vehicles, and an athletic field with bleachers seating 300 (taking up a total SF 185,000) is being developed right next to our houses. This Walmart-size development is being built in a RE2-3-acre neighborhood, against Cloverly master plan recommendations and under PIF policy. Unfortunately, the PIF policy ignores the fact that there are already at least 70 similar facilities in the Cloverly area. At least 7 of these PIFs are within a one-mile radius of our homes.
Five and half  acres of a ten acre wooded area next to my house is being removed despite the fact that in 1999 under a water and sewer category exclusion for another facility in this same location, 7.5 acres of this wooded area was to be preserved. Please refer to County Council Resolution no (CR 14-334) and above letter. The covenant put on this property by the County Council must be honored and cannot be transferred to RCCG Jesus House. We strongly believe it is inappropriate for staff to administratively transfer the same categorical exclusion to a much larger PIF, particularly after more than 15 years with no input from public.
My neighbors and I were given no opportunity to express our opposition to allowing a PIF of this magnitude in our residential neighborhood, particularly given that the proposed facility will provide absolutely no benefit to local residents. With a congregation of this size moving from a downtown Silver Spring location, the majority of the congregation and school population will be commuting from well outside of the Cloverly neighborhood. This will create additional grid lock and parking nightmare for Cloverly residents and residents of neighboring communities. The parking problems and traffic congestion, along with the impact on the environment and local ecosystems, the potential for flooding on side roads that are the only egress into our homes, and significant noise pollution in a quiet residential neighborhood, will significantly diminish the value of our properties and negatively impact our quality of life.
I am requesting that RCCG Jesus House of DC be required to submit a categorical exclusion request for water and sewer for their proposed development. The process for approving such an exclusion will give community residents the opportunity to speak out with the hope of scaling down the size of this development.
Thank you for considering my request.

Sample letter  9
This letter was submitted 10/5/2016.
To: Members of the Montgomery County Council and
The Montgomery County Planning Board and
Respective Staff Members
Re: Subdivision Staging Policy Updates

Dear Council and Planning Board Members and Staff,
Our interest in this update to the Subdivision Staging Policy is especially driven by the proliferation of Private Institutional Facility ("PIF"s), development applications being approved in our community and in neighboring communities. We do not feel there is adequate consideration being given to the associated environmental, infrastructure and community-character impacts.
Abundant examples exist on and near New Hampshire Avenue. Some of the PIF applications are for very large and active complexes. The results exceed the infrastructure and are directly counter to the Master Plan. Here is a case in point:
There is currently a PIF development application for a new campus in the low-density, "residential wedge" of the plan area. This is with the County’s Planning Department. The campus will include: A 1,600-seat sanctuary, office space, 400 parking spaces, a K-12 school, a gym, a ball field, bleachers, a multi-purpose facility, and an amphitheatre. While the capacity and program plans of most of the sub-facilities have not been provided to the community, we do know they are planning two Sunday AM services with just a short break between them. This means they are planning for 800 vehicles (3,200 people) to access or exit the narrow-frontage property during a very short time frame.

For a long list of environmental, infrastructure and community character reasons, the community is VERY opposed to this massive development. But the County Planners say their hands are tied…?
This problem project is a good example for discussing policy and planning issues. Since a fundamental objective of the SSP is to set forth rules that ensure adequate public infrastructure (including roads), we assert that the Council needs to consider the effects of its PIF policies, some of which make exceptions to the SSP rules. These exceptions result in "unforeseen" infrastructure overloads, when any one PIF is too large or if there are too many PIFs in a particular area.
Acknowledging that some of the issues we present below point primarily to zoning codes or other parts of the law, we request your review for Subdivision Staging Policy changes that either address the issues directly or lay the groundwork for subsequent code (or other) changes.

ISSUE 1: Dissimilar Entities are included in a Single Zoning Code
Referring to the referenced project, this PIF purchased land zoned RE-2, which allows low-density residential build-out or some PIF build-outs. If the land tracts including in this development were built-out as residential, then, according to the zoning code, the maximum development would be seven single-family dwellings. If each single family had three vehicles, there would be 21 new vehicles on the area roads. In contrast, the PIF is planning parking for 400 vehicles. (And since that assumes each vehicle carries at least four people, it is likely that there will be many more than 400). These are vastly different density outcomes. Why are they on the same code?
Proposals for Issue 1:
Most neighborhood lots should be zoned for residential ONLY (which MAY allow small, light traffic, owner-occupied home-based operations).
For any lots zoned for residential and/or PIF, the code must limit the use density and infrastructure loads (including traffic) and other impacts to approximate a residential build-out of the lot.

ISSUE 2: Weekends are Exempt from Traffic Analysis
Many of the PIFs coming to our area produce intense traffic peaks associated with scheduled group assemblies -- performances, meetings, worship sessions, festivals, classes, programs, etc. Large facilities draw significant traffic to the area, some weekly, daily, or multiple-times during the day. Weekends and especially Sunday mornings are popular for group assemblies and in some cases produce significant volumes of traffic individually and cumulatively between PIFs with similar schedules. Weekend (and evening) traffic impacts ARE relevant and need to be included in the traffic analysis.
Proposals for Issue 2:
Traffic studies need to include 7 days x 24 hours.
Traffic studies need to include aggregation for the area and projected over time.

ISSUE 3: Some PIFs are Granted Special Exemptions
There seems to be special exemptions for churches. We have heard from civic leaders who have preceded us, and even from the planning staff, that it is pretty much a futile effort for citizen organizations to try to challenge any "church" development plans.
We are generally aware of and respect constitutional protections. But it goes beyond constitutional protections when organizations are able to bully their way into a community over the concerns of the residents of that community.
Proposals for Issue 3:
The PIF policy review process needs to require a more rigorous concept plan review for any proposed PIF. The review would include an assessment of the potential effects on the surrounding neighborhoods, community input, a clearer (and perhaps tighter) set of contingencies under which approval is given, and revisiting the review process if there is a significant expansion of a PIF proposed.

Other Concerns/Questions:
Here are several other observations/questions we have that may have policy implications:
The policies, plans, codes and other laws need to produce results that agree with the Master Plan for each area. If an area is designated for low-density, then large, high-density, high-traffic PIFs should not be allowed in the area.
There are many similar PIFs on and around New Hampshire Avenue and numerous application notices posted. It is not apparent that the cumulative impacts are being projected and monitored.

In the county planning circles, there is discussion about "Smart Growth principles" which include the ideas that large institutions should be near transit and near the people they serve. Counter to these principals, we are seeing
PIFs based in other jurisdictions bringing in significant traffic from other jurisdictions.
Multiple major PIFs being approved on two- and four- lane roads.
Multiple major PIFs being approved prior to the availability of mass transit. The Z-2 bus that serves New Hampshire Avenue operates on a limited weekday schedule, while many of the PIFs generate their peak traffic on the weekends (and some evenings).
Regarding Storm Water Management, it seems that there are many exclusions in the surface-coverage calculations. This allows more surface coverage than is tenable for adequate stormwater management.
The community perception is that the laws and the Council’s sentiments are skewed too far in favor of the PIFs. Some of these operations are of little or no benefit to the local community.

New Hampshire Avenue and near-by roads seem to be the "Tax-Free PIF Zone". As much as we’d prefer residential neighborhoods, at a minimum, it seems a policy of collecting "Payments In Lieu Of Taxes" ("PILOT"s) to cover the costs associated with these PIFS and to off-set some of the lost property tax revenue should be implemented.
Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.
Respectfully,


Sample letter 10
This letter is written to the County Council Staff requesting
The new Mega Church has to apply for a new Water and Swer Category Exclusion

The Jesus House project cannot be compared to the project that Mr. Gxxxx  made an application for a Water/Sewer category change and that Council approved in 1999 CR 14-334.  The Jesus House project is double the size, adds a school to the property and there have been significant changes in regulations, rules, and procedures over the past 17 years. 

Mr. Gxxxx’s clearly stated in the application that he wanted to preserve 8 acres of virgin forest land on the property.  In 1999, if Mr. Gxxxx could get the Water/Sewer Category approval, the PIF, the Southern Asian Seventh-Day Adventist Church planned to build a facility of 750 seats, plan number 7-97018.  One of the conditions approved by Council is “the church will establish a covenant preserving the forested area which would have been used for the on-site septic system.”  The church never purchased the property and the exact area of the preserved forested area at that time is not known.

The Jesus House project did, in fact, make a new water/category change request in 2014.  This was the correct decision since the previous project is not compatible with their project. This allows Council to consider a new application for the water/sewer category change to provide an accurate and up-to-date comprehensive analysis of the Jesus House application.   However, DEP, DPS and M-NCPPC Development Review Committee (DRC) have decided instead to compare the Jesus House project with the project approved by the Council in 1999, CR 14-334.  This comparison is difficult if not impossible. Alan’s response highlights and details, even more, problems for comparing the two projects.  The following are some areas where the comparison fails including some of Alan’s responses that indicate that Council’s 1999 requirements do not compare to the new applicant’s requirements:
1.First comparative data a does not exist.  Alan states, “DEP does not have the septic flow calculations used for the 1999 church proposal on this site.”
2.The first project did not propose a school and no calculation of the school’s septic use was even made. Alan says, “M-NCPPC staff is contacting the applicant to obtain information needed to determine required septic system capacity for the school use. “
3.In a meeting with Rose Krasnow, Deputy Director, M-NCPPC, staff stated that if there was high ground water on the property a larger septic field would be required.  This was omitted from the comparison and would have doubled the size of the forest conservation area.  No one kept copies of the PERC tests, although there are engineer drawings showing the larger required conservation area.
4.Are the school and the church never going to use the facility at the same time?  Alan assumes that they would never be used at the same time and states, “If the school’s needed septic system capacity is less than that calculated for the church’s use, the 8,000 GPD septic system will represent the peak septic capacity flow needed for the entire facility.”
5.There are changes in the regulations between 1999 and now.  Alan states that septic requirements have changed because of the requirement. for Kitchen/Warming Kitchen,  “DPS Well and Septic staff have advised DEP and M-NCPPC that the County’s septic flow values for places of worship were modified several years ago to reduce calculated peak septic flows for facilities using either a warming kitchen or no kitchen.  … I have requested more detailed information from DPS staff about when this modification took place.”
6.The two projects cannot be compared as Alan states, “Regardless, without having information about the septic capacity assumptions used in 1999 for this site, it is difficult to provide a septic capacity comparison of the two projects.”


A comparison between the two projects cannot be done and the applicant should be required to resubmit the PIF application for a water/sewer category change.  The missing data should be recalculated such as the PERC tests since properties in the area are known to have a high water table.  Council needs to make a determination on this project meeting the PIF requirements.

Sample Letter 11

This letter was sent to all the county and council officials listed on the "Contact Officials" page on this website.

Dear Colleagues,
Our family lives at xxx  Bryants Nursery Road, Silver Spring, MD.  We moved to the Cloverly neighborhood in 2015 because of its scenic, tranquil setting, set amid lush foliage, rolling meadows, and acres of pristine forestland.  We are therefore deeply troubled to learn of the proposed development in our immediate vicinity of RCCG Jesus House, a 1,600-seat mega-church with an associated K-12 school, athletic field seating 300 spectators, and parking for 400 vehicles.  
We are not opposed in principle to the building of a religious institution in our neighborhood.  There are any number of churches and mosques in Cloverly, including one minutes from our home at the corner of Bryants Nursery Road and New Hampshire Avenue.  Our grave concern has to do with the enormous scale and size of Jesus House, the widespread destruction it portends to the ecology and abundant wildlife of the area, the misrepresentations concerning the sewer category change, the noise and traffic congestion, and the implications for those living in the neighborhood.
More than five acres of a ten-acre wooded area next to our home stand to be destroyed on the basis of a misrepresentation by Jesus House concerning a water and sewer category exclusion for its site.  In 1999, at least 7.5 acres of this wooded area was to be preserved under a water and sewer category exclusion for another facility proposed for the same location.  Please refer to County Council Resolution CR 14-334 and the following letter from Mr. Michael Grodin, excerpted below:
“At the time that I sought a sewer category change, I had conducted extensive Water Table Testing and Perc Testing on the property and all calculations and engineering was conducted by Wittmer Associates, Gaithersburg, MD. . . Witmer Associates calculated that to service a 750 seat Church (Southern Nation Church) . . . 7.4 acres of land was required.  With sewer nearby, I offered to place 8 acres into a Conservation Easement in Perpetuity and the T and E Committee agreed. . . The County Council accepted this contingent agreement.  It made no sense to denude a sensitive and pristine Forest Stand at the headwaters of the Northwest Branch.  The sewer category change was granted with the understanding and agreement that 8 acres of forestland would be entered into perpetual conservation.

Southern Nation never went forward with their construction, having found a more suitable site on Randolph Road.  Now comes Jesus House, attempting to use the same criteria that Southern Nation Church used, which at the very minimum required 8 acres of Forest Conservation Easement.  Jesus House’ stipulation and misrepresentation that only four acres is required for septic trench is a gross misrepresentation and contradicts the granting of the sewer category change by the County Council...

A 1,600-seat church would require double the amount of trench than that which Witmer and Associates calculated with the water table at 10.5 feet below grade, in other words, 14.8 acres of septic trench.  The misrepresentation by Jesus House that only four acres is required to service a 1600 seat church is flat out incorrect.  That is a number that is pulled out of the air without any calculations taking into account state regulations as well as the high wet season water table on this property.”

We must honor the County Council covenant to preserve 8 acres of forest stand and place them into a perpetual easement.  At a minimum, Jesus House should be required to recalculate the preservation acreage required for a 1,600 seat church. That was the intent of the County Council in granting and agreeing to the category change.
We strongly believe that staff cannot administratively transfer a categorical exclusion from a 750-seat church to 1,600-seat church, plus K-12 school and athletic field, without any testing, analysis, or justification for the exclusion, particularly after more than 15 years, and with no input from the public.
My neighbors and I were given no opportunity to express our opposition to allowing a property of this magnitude in our residential neighborhood, particularly given that the proposed facility will provide absolutely no benefit to local residents.  With a congregation of this size moving from a downtown Silver Spring location, the majority of the congregation and school population will be commuting from well outside of the Cloverly neighborhood.  This will create additional gridlock and parking congestion for residents of Cloverly and neighboring communities.  The parking problems and traffic congestion, along with the impact on the environment and local ecosystems, the potential for flooding on side roads that are the only egress into our homes, and significant noise pollution in a quiet residential neighborhood, will significantly diminish the value of our properties and negatively impact our quality of life.
We respectfully request that RCCG Jesus House of DC be required to submit a categorical exclusion request for water and sewer for their proposed development.  The process for approving such an exclusion will give community residents the opportunity to speak out with the hope of scaling down the size of this development.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,




Sample Letter 12

December 7, 2016

To Council Member Hucker and all other Council Members: 
I am the current President of the Peachwood Citizens Association which represents the civic interests of the subdivisions of Peachwood, Colesville Park, and Windridge Acres.  Our community of about 200 single family homes is located on the east side of New Hampshire Ave., just south of Briggs Chaney Road and north of Good Hope Road.  We are within walking distance of the Clovery area where there is a plan by a church group called Jesus House to build a large church/school/ballfield campus complex at 15730 New Hampshire Avenue.  We oppose this plan because the project as proposed would negatively impact the residents of our community.  Many of our concerns, which mirror the concerns of all of our neighboring communities and their representative civic associations, and the residents of the Clovery area that will be heavily impacted by this project, fall in the categories of Transportation, Infrastructure, & Environment.   I understand that you and the other Council members, as well as other County decision makers involved with this issue have received letters expressing these concerns.
Rather than reiterate in detail the nature of our concerns, I would like to summarize why we are opposed to the Jesus House plan as currently proposed:  The project is grossly over-sized for the site and for existing transportation and other infrastructures.   There are also numerous environmental concerns related to the general location and to the site itself which currently is a tree filled space.  The church facilities would have to be be force fit into the existing property and we feel strongly that the project issues are not getting sufficiently rigorous review. Additionally, we are concerned that if the Council is not aware, in advance, of the issues and the significant community opposition to the project as proposed, that the Council will be pre-disposed to follow a Planning Board recommendation to approve the project.  
We understand that this project should be brought up before the Council sometime in January.  
For further information about this church project, please refer to the website at www.stopmegachurch.com that was created to detail project information and the concerns of the neighboring residents and communities.  
Please be sure that all of your fellow Council members are provided with a copy of this letter.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

President
Peachwood Civic Association

Opposition Letter 13

Decemebr 29 2016
Office of Zoning & Administrative Hearings
100 Maryland Avenue, Room 200
Rockville MD 20850
RE:  RCCG Jesus House DC----it is going to be huge
Zoning Officials:
I am writing this letter as a concerned tax paying constituent who feels that his local Montgomery County Zoning Administrators have not listened to the voice of the people in the Cloverly Master Planned Communities. 
The RCCG Church, with the help of their land use law firm and Montgomery County Officials, have pushed through zoning changes that will allow this Mega Church to be built without any consideration for the surrounding community and the impact that it may have on the existing infrastructure. 
It is my understanding that the property has in recent years gone through a series of owners.  With each new owner their proposed projects have increased exponentially in scale many times over the original approval for a 750-member church building.  The current RCCG facility will be for a 2,000 seat church, a K-12th grade school, a ball field, and a multi-purpose amphitheater.  The intent of the RCCG facility is to be a regional facility not one that serves the local community. 
 Let’s break it down into several components that will make this project untenable for the local established neighborhoods and of course local tax payers.
1.        This project will not be serving the local Cloverly Master Planned Communities
2.       This facility will be a use of local tax payer’s money by increasing the traffic on New Hampshire Avenue.   Heavier traffic means more accidents which then begets the need for more police, fire and ambulance services directed to the New Hampshire Avenue corridor. Furthermore, on busy event days it is expected that street parking will occur on New Hampshire Avenue which will spill over and into one of the lanes.  New Hampshire is 2 lanes each way in that area, not 3.  This will create an even greater public safety risk.
 3.       Environmental Impact:  In addition, such a large facility will have a negative effect on the environment.  Our sewers are not equipped to handle the storm water runoff from such a large facility, which will increase from 2% to 26.7%.   Its presence will damage the stream beds and remove acres of trees, thus negatively impacting wildlife and tree preservation—both contrary to county environmental goals.  We also anticipate overload on our aged water/sewer infrastructure, although the developer has yet to respond to requests on impacts and financial responsibility for any upgrades. 
Communication with area residents has been ignored.  As tax paying citizens, we ask that the detailed land use be looked at again because the plans have increased dramatically beyond the project as originally approved.  Would you want this structure in your neighborhood?
Sincerely,

Tax Payer
Stonegate Area/New Hampshire Avenue


Sample Letter 14

12/30/2016
Greetings:
My family lives in the  greater  xxxx     neighborhood and appreciates the wonderful diversity of houses of worship along New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring.  It makes me  proud of my country to see these buildings.  I am also a happy member of the xxxxxxxxx.

But this new proposal for the mammoth RCCG Jesus House DC is too much.  I am asking you to significantly scale it down in order to maintain the quality of life for existing residents and visitors to our area. 
New Hampshire Avenue is busy on weekdays during the regular commute.  On Sundays and festival days it is gridlock and accidents waiting to happen.  Cars park all along the New Hampshire Avenue and side streets including in traffic lanes when the shoulder becomes too narrow.   We have to stop abruptly, with no warning, when the police are directing traffic out of the facility.   This is incredibly dangerous and frustrating.  I cannot imagine how much worse it will get on ALL days with this complex, 7-day-a-week facility. 
We have borne more than our fair share of major institutions in a very concentrated area. I have lived in Montgomery County since moving here in 1987 and I am not trying to keep it as it was then.  But this is NOT the intended use for this land, which was supposed to have single family homes on large lots.  Your job is to protect people from unjust and inappropriate developments, and this is unfair to the residents as well as others trying to use the area. Please scale down this huge development
Thank you.