Piscataway Hills residents organize to save Fort Washington neighborhood -- Gazette.Net


Wearing T-shirts and stickers declaring “Save Piscataway Hills,” residents displaced by a landslide in their Fort Washington community took a unified stand July 16 to demand repairs to a damaged road and the ability to remain in their homes.

Since the last community meeting June 30, neighbors have organized into teams to brainstorm solutions to the slope failure that damaged sewer and water lines on Piscataway Drive in May, said resident Dawn Taylor, who leads the communication team.

“I don’t think either side was getting much accomplished,” Taylor said. “We knew we needed to form some type of structure to look at this situation and collaborate with county government officials to get this done.”

More than 30 residents, including children, wore T-shirts with the “Save Piscataway Hills” logo, which features a Maryland flag design, during the community meeting. Speaking on behalf of his neighbors, resident Mike Kutzleb told county officials, including County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), that his community had two priorities — first, that the road is fixed, and second, that the road repair takes into account residents who want to “stay in their homes before, after and during the project.”

Kutzleb also requested a meeting with county officials and key members of the community to develop a “close working relationship with the county” and come up with a mutually beneficial solution. That meeting, which will be closed to the public, is scheduled for July 24.

Shortly after county officials agreed to meet with the community, residents left the meeting en masse. Taylor said there was no reason to stay because residents got their message across.

“For the citizens of Piscataway Hills, that was kind of it for us,” Taylor said. “We have families and we are just getting home from work. It wasn’t this walkout; that was it.”

During the meeting, county officials announced a fifth road repair option. Darrell Mobley, director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation, explained a plan to stabilize the road that would include the acquisition of five homes on top of the slope and cost $15 million.

Cherie Cullen, 38, lives in one of the homes on top of the slope and said she hopes to receive what she paid for the house if the county purchases it. She said it has been difficult to come to terms with losing her home, especially as her son prepares to start kindergarten in the fall.

“You know your home is important. It’s an investment. You don’t realize how many decisions in your life are based on where you live,” Cullen said.