Protect the Reserve

On the 25th anniversary of the innovative agricultural reserve in upper Montgomery County, I think it's time for county officials to call a timeout so they can take a much closer look at the impact of new threats to this region that weren't anticipated in 1980.

With the county's overheated real estate climate, dwindling supplies of developable land and burgeoning population, many developers and other interests are casting their greedy eyes toward the 93,000 acres of rolling hills, planted fields and green pastures that make up the agricultural reserve in the Upcounty area.

The agricultural reserve was meant to help farmers keep farming and to provide rural open space. It also functions as an environmental buffer that has made Montgomery County such an attractive place to live and work.

Two proposed "megachurches," one in Germantown and the other near Laytonsville, are threatening to crack open the agricultural reserve and unleash a flood of urban sprawl. These projects go far beyond what the average person might envision as a church. It's like comparing the impact of a 7-Eleven to that of a Wal-Mart.

Montgomery County officials need to quickly enact a moratorium on nonagricultural building in the reserve so that they can take more time to carefully evaluate the compatibility and effects of megachurches and commercial projects before it is too late.

Stephen Gunnulfsen