An overflowing loose-leaf binder, the size of an unabridged dictionary, documents a nearly 40-year effort by residents of Potomac's Fawsett Road to persuade Montgomery County to pave their street.
Doing so not only would remove the ruts and gullies that front their wooded, acre-plus lots, residents say, but also would end their responsibility of having to pay for the upkeep of the narrow, gravel-strewn cul-de-sac.
Located off MacArthur Boulevard near the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, in an area known as Fawsett Farms, Fawsett Road is a county-owned road that does not pass county road code. Because Fawsett Road fails that test, the county won't take care of it, leaving the job and expense to the residents.
Steve Suprata, project manager for construction and maintenance contracts for the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, said Fawsett Road is in this quagmire because multiple builders have been involved in the construction of its homes. The result is an eclectic mix of 17 Colonials, contemporaries and ramblers ranging in age, size and presentation, in which Fawsett Road residents revel -- and a road upkeep situation in which they do not.
"Normally the developer builds the street to county standards and then turns it over to the county for maintenance. I don't know what the solution would be here. It may be time to revisit the problem," Suprata said.
On that, there is agreement.
Peggy Dennis, who has lived on Fawsett Road since 1990, said the road has gone from one "we could maintain reasonably well" to "one we can't."
Dennis and her neighbors say encroaching development is adding to a decades-old problem of runoff. As more nearby trees and brush give way to manicured lawns and driveways, the amount of storm water rushing down Fawsett increases, residents say. That leads to ruts and gullies that are difficult not only for their cars to traverse, but also for school buses and delivery, mail and trash trucks.
"There was a time when crevices, too deep for low-clearance vehicles to negotiate, ran down the center of the road. That was when the folks . . . created the Fawsett Road Maintenance Fund to create a crown in the road to allow water to run down the sides, not the middle," said Alan Squier, a retired administrator for International Business Machines Corp. who has lived on the street since 1977.
Squier said the fund, which was established in 1983, also covers snow removal, monthly grading and new gravel when necessary. Residents voluntarily pay from $180 to $200 annually depending on what needs to be done. Even so, maintaining Fawsett Road remains a challenge, Squier said.
"When there's a heavy rain, we're out there with shovels moving the gravel back to where it is supposed to be," he said.
The latest encroachment is occurring on Fawsett where it joins MacArthur, and along Falls Road, which joins MacArthur just above Fawsett. That is where Rockville-based Potomac Heritage Homes cleared about four acres of wooded land to begin building four luxury houses. A company representative said that two of the homes have already been sold and that the other two are offered at $2.2 million each.
The situation has led Fawsett Road residents to again ask Montgomery County to pave their street and take over maintenance. It is a request fraught with complications. Bonnie Barker, a real estate agent who has lived on Fawsett since 1991, is the current keeper of 36 years of correspondence with various county officials and agencies relating to that appeal. The reasons listed for lack of resolution vary from budget constraints, the county not knowing how many of its 2,600 miles of roads are in similar straits, and a lack of consensus between the county and the homeowners about what exactly should be done to Fawsett Road.
Barker said administrators have told Fawsett Road residents that they must pick up the tab for curb, sidewalk and pavement installation before the county will take over the cul-de-sac's upkeep. She said estimates for doing the work are topping $800,000.
Barker said the county is asking for too much.
"All we want is a reasonable standard," Barker said.
Edgar Gonzalez, deputy director for transportation policy at the Department of Public Works and Transportation, said that in 2007, the county will conduct an inventory of its roads. Once that is completed, plans will be made for Fawsett Road, Gonzalez said.
"They could expect relief within five years," Gonzalez said.
Fawsett Road residents also pay for trash removal and individual well and septic systems. Despite the lack of public services, they say Fawsett Road is a desirable place to live. They like its wooded ambience and location. Fawsett Road is less than two miles from Clara Barton Parkway, making it a downtown commuter's dream, and less than two miles from shopping. It is also right across the street from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
Elizabeth Gray, a retired administrator with Montgomery County Public Schools, said life became less hectic for her family when they came to Fawsett Road in 1986.
"We moved here from Darnestown to cut [her stockbroker husband's] commute to downtown K Street by 30 minutes," Gray said.
She said she and her husband bought their four-bedroom Colonial with its two full baths, two half-baths and full basement because Fawsett Road was "inside River and Falls roads," had a "country look," and offered abundant wildlife sightings.
Birds, deer and foxes are common visitors around her house, Gray said.
Based on the proliferation of canoes and kayaks in driveways and garages, it appears Fawsett Road residents also take advantage of the C&O park and the adjacent Potomac River. Boating, fishing and scenic walking are regular outings, but without the hassles of driving and parking.
"One of the biggest things that keeps me here is the proximity to . . . the canal. My wife and I walk almost daily along the path there," Squier said.
The downside is that park lovers who don't live nearby often leave their cars on Fawsett, which adds to wear and tear, residents said.
Despite the irritants, the pluses of living on Fawsett Road far outweigh the negatives, residents said.
"At night, there are no streetlights. You get the full impact of the moon and stars," Dennis said. "There's a social path through the woods that the deer use and we use. It's peaceful, but it is dusty."