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Large Turnout for Coalition for UpCounty Town Hall

Maybe it is because of the increased population in the UpCounty. Maybe it is due to the increased frustration. Maybe it because residents see the huge opportunity the 2018 elections offer to the UpCounty to restructure the makeup of the County Council if one or more voices from the UpCounty are elected. Or, maybe folks are fed up with the traffic and are getting to the point where they need to let their elected officials know about it, but Monday’s Town Hall meeting with County elected officials attracted a very large turnout.

Monday’s event, which was held at Wilson Wims Elementary School in Clarksburg, attracted over 160 residents. Two people remarked that it was the best attended civic-minded gathering in the UpCounty they’d ever seen.

The Town Hall event was organized by the Coalition For UpCounty (C4U), a Clarksburg-based organization to advocate for issues that matter to residents and businesses in the UpCounty area of Montgomery County.

The event featured a panel of elected officials, including At-Large County Councilmembers Hans Reimer and Nancy Floreen, along with State Delegates Eric Luedtke (District 14), Aruna Miller (District 15), Kirill Reznick (District 39), and State Senator Nancy King (District 39).

While the big issue discussed was transportation issues — traffic in the UpCounty and the need for M-83 to be completed — the C4U also outlined a number of other concerns which residents of UpCounty want the County to address. Those issues included, education and need to for more and varied magnet and choice programs at UpCounty middle and high schools, an improved recycling program in the UpCounty.

It was pointed out in the C4U’s presentation that there is just one magnet program in UpCounty middle or high schools, while there are two magnet programs in middle or high schools in the Down County Consortium. The result is that UpCounty students are required to travel hours to attend these schools. When it comes to Choice Programs, there none in the UpCounty, while students in the Down County Consortium have 23 different program options.

Once the topic turned to transportation — specifically the fate of M83 — the crowd became more energized. Longtime UpCounty resident and proponent of M83, Charles Tilford presented a history of the status of the road dating back to when it was first proposed as a “Ladder Arterial” on the County’s Master Plan in 1967.

The latest chapter in the saga of M83 was the introduction of a resolution, written by Councilmember Hans Reimer, to instruct the Planning Board to not take the possibility of M83 being built into consideration when discussing future development in the UpCounty area. That resolution was introduced at the Sept. 19 meeting of the County Council.

“You guys need to understand,” said Sarwar Faraz, with the Coalition for the UpCounty, to the residents, gathered, “when these things are going on at the County Council you need to be aware of this. You guys have paid for this road. You need to be aware that this road is part of your development, part of your community. When your community was planned this was the road that was supposed to service you.”

He said the growth of homes and development in Clarksburg depends on M83 being built. “When (the County) creates these communities and fill them up with people and schools, and then take away the road it creates an island,” said Faraz. “Everyone is stuck on I-270. You are stuck on 270, not because nobody planned it properly but because the plan is not being implemented. You have to speak up. You cannot allow lobbyist groups to take away your right. M83 is your right. M83 should cost zero dollars because it has already been paid for it. You paid for it in your taxes and the cost of the homes which the developer added into the price to pay the County for the right to build the community.”

“M83 is not a broken promise,” said Faraz. “M83 is a betrayal of trust. It is 5.6 miles.”

Once the Town Hall Panel began, the topic of M83 was the first addressed, and Councilmember Reimer stepped up to explain his position and the need for the resolution which he had proposed to the County Council last week.

“I am opposed to taking away a solution and not having another solution in this place. Therefore, I am opposed to removing M83 from the Master Plan. I don’t think that is responsible or fair. It is not something that I would ever agree to do. But at the same time, I am concerned that there is no Council support to build the Master Plan alignment, and we would continue to add rooftops. We don’t want to add more housing and more development that only works if the Master Plan alignment (M83) is actually built. If there is no consensus to build the Master Plan alignment, why would we keep adding density that only works if it is built.”