The Montgomery County Council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 pm tonight on Councilmember Hans Riemer’s resolution titled “Transportation Solutions for Northwest Montgomery County” which would instruct the County Planning Board to ignore M-83, the long planned road which would connect the Mid-County Highway in Gaithersburg to Snowden Farm Parkway in Clarksburg.
According to Riemer, M83 will remain part of the Master Plan, but the Planning Board will not make judgements based on the roadway being built. “The council will still decide in the future what will or won’t be built when it comes to M83,” said Riemer who stated that he is opposed to completely removing the Mid-County Highway Extension. I am totally opposed taking a highway away.”
Riemer said, “What this resolution does is leave the road on the master plan of highways, but since there is no agreement to build it, we are going to stop adding more development in master plans where that development doesn’t work unless you have the road.”
The public hearing will take place at 7:30 pm tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 17) in the Council Chambers in Rockville.
Part of that hearing will include testimony from Cherian Eapen, representing the Coalition for the UpCounty. In his testimony, which was sent to Germantown Pulse, Eapen will tell Council members, “The community and C4U are demanding that the Council stop this continuing tax-payer funded circus on M-83 and get on with the completion of Snowden Farm Parkway extension. We urge the Council and the County Executive to stop acquiescing to all the unsubstantiated, false narratives that is being put out by local special-interest groups and to fund the project immediately,” wrote Eapen.
The resolution being considered also invokes the County’s support of the Paris Climate Accord. “Montgomery County is committed to protecting our environment and doing our part to stem the carbon emissions that are driving global climate change.” It points to the Council’s adoption of a resolution in June to reaffirm Montgomery County’s commitment to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Those goals include, reducing County-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent reduction every 5 years through 2050.
When the resolution was made public last month, Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, asked if the Council was planning to stop building new roadways in the County.
“The County has environmental assessments in place to ensure the protection of our climate. If those environmental assessments are inadequate, there should be legislation directly related to that process. But to invoke the Paris Climate Agreement for any project that someone may disagree with is a very slippery slope,” said Balcombe, who is also one of 16 candidates for one of four open At-Large seat on the County Council. “Does this proposed resolution mean that we are never building any more roads in the County?”
The old issue of the fate of M83 promises to be an important part of the 2018 election for County Council as three At-Large seats including Riemer’s are on the ballot. Riemer has filed to run for reelection. While Berliner, Elrich, and Leventhal are all running for the County Executive’s seat being vacated by Ike Leggett.
In February, the Council received the results of an independent study which was to help determine if the County should move forward with plans to build M83 or fund the proposed Bus Rapid Transit program along the Rt. 355 corridor.
To the chagrin of some Councilmembers who do not support building M83, the study found both to be beneficial to residents of the UpCounty.
The Supplemental Report, dated Feb. 10, 2017 stated, “As a basic finding, this analysis shows that both projects are beneficial and neither project substantially replaces the benefit of the other. Rather, the benefits of the projects are cumulative.”