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Forest Conservation Plan Amended for Germantown Development

More than 300 trees would be planted under agreement between Planning Board, Great Seneca Meadows Corporate Center developers.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Montgomery County Planning Board addressed concern that developments within the Great Seneca Meadows Corporate Center in Germantown had encroached on forests.

The vote amends the center’s preliminary and forest conservation plans and means that the developer, Minkoff Development Corp., would have to plant and maintain trees on the property and agree not to mow in forest conservation areas.

Great Seneca Meadows Corporate Center is bound by Interstate 270 to the west, Father Hurley Boulevard to the north, Seneca Meadows Parkway and Observation Drive to the east, and Germantown Road to the south.

According to county records, the southern two-thirds of the 156-acre site contains forest conservation lands.

Planning coordinator Katherine Nelson said Thursday that the introduction of phase four — whose lots include the proposed Wegmans site — unearthed problems from sites elsewhere in the center, Nelson said.

The fourth phase, Nelson said, would not need to be amended.

“What you have before you is in complete conformance to that requirement,” Nelson told the board.

As part of the resolution, the developer and planning board staff agreed to address several issues, including mowing and the location of a paved path, picnic benches and a generator shed in forest conservation areas. The developer would also have to plant and maintain more than 300 trees and nearly 100 shrubs on 3.23 acres of the site.

Much of the discussion over mowing involved a berm near Seneca Road. Gary Unterber from Rogers Consulting engineering firm said trees were planted on the berm 12 years ago. But not all of the trees survived, planning officials said.

Then came the thistle problem, Unterber said. In Maryland, thistle is considered to be a noxious, invasive weed that can be controlled with mowing and herbicide, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Periodic mowing was done to keep the thistle at bay, Unterber said.

Nelson noted that residents how lived on the other side of the berm had helped maintain the property and that the mowing has stopped — a sign that things could bounce back. Unterber said herbicides were being used to keep feral thistle at bay.

But during the meeting, a resident who lives on the other side of a berm said herbicides didn’t seem to be working.

As a result, thistle, wild rose and “some kind of vine growing all over everything,” Bernard Tapocik told board members Thursday, have created an “unsightly” landscape near his home, where his family has lived for 28 years.

“Our request is that you plant trees in this area, down along the flat lands,” said Tapocik, who also offered to help water them. He said neighbors also wanted some help with the thistle and the other invasive plants. Neighbors had been helping to maintain thier side of the berm as time passed, Nelson and Tapocik said.

“Whatever we need to do as residents,” Tapocik said.

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