Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Planning Board approves Homestead Farm child lot

Two homes along Blacks Hill Regional Park OK’d

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The Montgomery County Planning Board definitively stated its policy on sand mounds in the Agricultural Reserve and commended a longtime farming family for appropriate use of child lot regulations at its meeting last week.

The board unanimously approved Ben Allnutt’s request to build a single-family home on 1 acre of the family’s 229-acre Homestead Farm just outside Poolesville at its May 8 meeting. The house, which would be served by a sand mound septic system, would be occupied by Allnutt and his wife to help facilitate the transfer of the family farm from his mother, according to Planning Board documents.

‘‘It meets the standards and policy objectives that we’ve been trying to achieve in the Agricultural Reserve, and the Allnutts have, for generations, been exemplary stewards of the land,” Board Chairman Royce Hanson said.

The pick-your-own farm is subject to a 1985 state agricultural easement preserving the property in perpetuity that prohibits subdivision of the site except for the property owner’s children to continue farming, according to the documents. Sand mound septic systems, which filter waste through an above-ground knoll and work in areas where traditional septic systems cannot be used, have recently become the subject of controversy because of the concern that they will allow suburban sprawl to further encroach on the 90,000-acre reserve.

‘‘It is consistent with the policy that has been stated by this board that sand mounds are not inappropriate for a legitimate child lot,” Hanson said of the family’s request.

‘‘I’d like to echo the chair’s position so there is no misunderstanding,” Vice Chairman John Robinson said. ‘‘...We will not consider [sand mounds] where we believe the use of child lots as being a subterfuge for residential or commercial development.”

The board also unanimously approved two new single-family homes on Black Hills Road just north of Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds.

The 4.5-acre site, which will be divided into two lots and is already occupied by an existing single-family home, lost more than 500 feet of right-of-way when 2.79 acres along Black Hills Road were given to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1985 as part of the approval process for the subdivision, called Black Hills Estates, according to Bill Gries, a county land acquisition specialist. The dedication of the right-of-way to the park resulted in one of the lots not having the required frontage on a public street, though the board made an exception due to the unusual circumstances.