A Montgomery County planner has predicted rapid development along a portion of Rte. 29 in the wake of a decision by the state health secretary to lift a ban on all sewer connections in the Anacostia Basin area.
It was thought originally that the ban was lifted for the time being only on permits for sewer hookups that had been issued but not used because of the state restriction. Vera Berkman, chairman of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), said that the official notification she received this week said that "all previous orders of the department (the state health department) in the Anacostia Basin are hereby rescinded."
An immediate result of last week's announcement was a flood of telephone calls into the offices of the WSSC in Hyattsville and the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission in Silver Spring.
"We got about 110 calls Friday," said WSSC planner William Ancell. "Everybody called -- citizens, developers, real estate people, lawyers."
The callers wanted details on what the decision meant for construction in Silver Spring, Colesville, White Oak and along Route 29, one of the two main corridors of development in Montgomery Country. Those communities make up the area serviced by the Anacostia sewer drainage basin.
The ban on sewer hookups, issued on May 20, 1970, had severely limited development in parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Royce Hanson, chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board, estimated that about 9,000 new housing units could be built as a result of the lifting of the ban.
Construction work along the mid one-third of Rte. 29 in the county probably will start "in the next three to six months," said Donald Spivack, chief community planner for eastern Montgomery County. That is the Randolph Road and Briggs Chaney Road area, southwest of Calverton.
The upper third of Rte. 29, around the Burtonsville and Spencerville area, will come in more slowly, he said, adding that the lower one-third is largely "built out."
"We have to get a handle on what kind of development is sitting there, ready to go as soon as the moratorium is lifted," said Spivack. "Then we have to decide if we should concentrate on key areas and get the planning done for those parts first."
Spivack said that county officials had to expect the moratorium to be lifted in 1982 and have not completed revision to the original 1968 master plan for development in the county. He said he will first take inventory of the subdivision and commercial complexes that developers are waiting to start building.
"My guess is you'll see townhouses, single-family detached homes, and small garden apartments and midrises," said Spivack, referring to development along Rte. 29. "They will be low-profile buildings and less on the high-rise side."
He predicted that Rte. 29 development also would include commercial complexes serving the local areas, such as supermarkets and department stores, landscaped office buildings and light industry.
Lifting of the moratorium does not necessarily mean that the price of a house, which now averages $70,000 in the county, will necessarily drop, according to Hanson.
"Housing prices depend on too many factors outside of the sewer moratorium," he said. "What the lifting of the moratorium will do is permit locational competition to flourish again. People will have more choice of area where they want to live. They can look in Colesville, White Oak, Silver Spring, the Route 29 corridor, instead of just in Olney, Potomac ad the I-270 corridor."
The order to lift the sewer moratorium in the Anacostia Basin came from Neil Solomon, head of the State health department, almost eight years to the day after he set it.
WSSC officials had asked several months ago that the moratorium be lifted in the Anacostia Basin because a new relief sewer line will extend from the basin into Washington and connect with lines going to the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant.
"We now feel that WSSC can handle their own affairs," said Earl Quance, chief of the division of water and sewerage in the state health department.
It's up to the local government to design procedures such that there are no more overflows (of the sewer pipes)," said Solomon. He originally levied the moratorium after several sewage lines in Montgomery and Prince George's counties began to overflow.
"Crud was literally flowing into the waters," said Solomon.Moratoriums still hold for the Litle Falls Basin in Chevy Chase and the Rock Creek Basin in the mid- and lower-county areas.