12 May 2012 | Approved: 11 May 2013
TOWN COUNCIL REPORT FY 2012-2013
Mayor Georgette Cole welcomed everyone and called the 76th Annual Town Meeting to order at 8:07 p.m. There were over 50 residents in attendance.
Approval of Minutes
It was moved and seconded that the minutes from the 2011 Town Meeting be approved. The vote was unanimous.
State of the Town Report
Mayor Cole reported that there were many challenges during the past year.
- Lower Ridge Road – The build out of the Toll Brothers development is going well. The buffer area will need replanting in the fall and a low spot across from 346 and 350 Ridge Road will be addressed this summer. The Toll managers are being cooperative with the Town.
- Washington Grove Meadow – Mayor Cole explained that Town Attorney Bill Roberts advocates the use of the Parks Department’s name: the Washington Grove Conservation Meadow Park. He advises the Town to use Washington Grove Meadow on documentation, rather than LOS, now and in the future. The W.G. Meadow Committee, chaired by Ernie Kawasaki, has done a great job working with M-NCPPC liaison Brenda Sandberg to develop a maintenance plan for the area.
- EMOC (Casey 6 & 7) – This project moved faster than expected this year. The County facilities near the Shady Grove Metro will be relocated to the Casey 7 site. Shelley Winkler and a small group of residents are working with the site managers to help protect Washington Grove and the surrounding areas.
- Deer Park “Humpback” Bridge: The Bridge Advisory Group, chaired by Ann Briggs, has been working hard with CSX to identify and mitigate issues with the proposed project that could adversely affect the Town. The Town will meet with CSX again in June. At some point in the near future, a Special Town Meeting will be called to fully inform residents of the situation.
- Towne Crest Apartments: Towne Crest, LLC withdrew their first proposal for redevelopment which included a zoning change to PD-60. They will have another plan for review next week. The Mayor praised the Town Planning Commission for their hard, thorough work identifying aspects of the plan that are not in the best interests of Washington Grove and the surrounding community. We hope to continue to have productive interactions with the County Area II Planners.
Mayor Cole asked for a round of applause for Town employees Mary Challstrom (Treasurer), Kathy Lehman (Clerk) and Steve Werts (Maintenance). She stated that although they are considered regular employees, their work is often far from regular.
Mayor Cole also thanked the stable of part time employees, specifically mentioning Terry Cox, Summer in the Parks councilors and Maple Lake lifeguards.
Mayor Cole talked about the volunteer spirit that keeps this Town running. She stated that it would be impossible to do what needs to be done on these critical issues without our volunteers. She thanked and mentioned each member of the following groups, Commissions and Committees;
- Town Council – Joe Clark, Sylvie Favret, Audrey Maskery, Joli McCathran, Alice Negin and Bill Robertson. The Mayor urged residents to get involved and to run for Council. Contrary to what some may think, it is not a fixed slate. We need you to talk it up!
- Planning Commission – Samantha Beres, Charlie Challstrom (Chair), Joe Clark (Council Liaison), Brenda Gumula (Alternate), Peter Nagrod and Steve Werts
- Historic Preservation Commission – Margo Bohan, Bob Booher (Chair), Gail Littlefield, Joli McCathran (Council Liaison), David Stopak and Mimi Styles
- Board of Zoning Appeals – Satoshi Amagai, Christine Dibble and Marc Hansen (Chair)
- Board of Supervisors of Elections – Meredith Horan (Chair), Betty Knight and Kristin Perry. Mayor Cole specifically thanked Meredith for taking over the vacancy left by the passing of former chair Mary Kay Du Bois.
- Audit Committee – Ernie Kawasaki, John Klinger and Carolyn Sanford
- Forestry Committee – Audrey Maskery & Carol Uhlendorf (Co-Chairs)
- Lake Committee – John Hutchinson (Chair)
- Recreation Committee – Missy Yachup & Eve Zibart (Co-Chairs)
Mayor Cole also thanked those who volunteer for the McCathran Hall Needs Committee (Ann Briggs, Chair), the Woods Group (Ann Briggs, Chair), the Outdoor Lighting Advisory Group (Carolyn Rapkievian, Chair), the Trash Brigade (Elly Briggs, Don Henninger, Audrey Maskery and Dan Tutas), the Town Website (Bill Saar), Summer In The Parks (Samantha Beres, Emily Cavey and Sung Chang) and the Labor Day (Craig English) & July 4th Celebrations. She went on to say that this year marked the end of an era for chamber music in our Town. Ann Briggs and Alice Negin are retiring from their work on the Mousetrap Concert Series. Volunteers are needed to keep this tradition going.
This year there were two (2) outstanding volunteers recognized by the Mayor and the Town as going "above and beyond" on a regular basis. They are Bob Booher, Chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission and Charlie Challstrom, Chairman of the Planning Commission. Both were presented framed copies of the Town page from the "Maryland’s 157 Municipalities" (Incorporated Cities and Towns) book.
Mayor Cole then announced that she would like to take a moment to recognize a neighbor in Derwood. John Bradfield has walked our woods, educated groups of residents about what a tremendous resource that we have in our woods, worked to preserve our woods and become a good friend for more than 20 years. She stated that John and his family always seemed like they belonged here and she would like to award them with the status of "Washington Grove Residents Emeritus".
Outdoor Lighting Advisory Group
Carolyn Rapkievian thanked those who have helped with Town lighting. She explained the Dark Sky Initiative and the need to reduce light pollution (glare & light trespass into the night sky). She went on to say that requests for shielding on streetlights should be sent to the Town Office. All are welcome to join the Outdoor Lighting Advisory Group.
Charlie Challstrom gave a brief history of the Town’s search for new bulbs to replace our incandescent bulbs. He explained the many bumps along the way not the least of which is that PEPCO sent the wrong induction bulbs. The new 40 watt “mistakes” are too big, too bright and the wrong color. Charlie then fielded questions from residents. A discussion ensued. The Outdoor Lighting Advisory Group will continue to work on and research new lighting technologies and long range lighting plans.
Woods Group Initiative Report
Ann Briggs presented aerial slides of the Town woods showing just how surrounded by development we have become. She stated that we must protect and preserve the long-term health of the woods. Trash is still a problem in the West Woods but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the East Woods. She invited all to join in on Saturday, May 26th at 10:00 AM for chip spreading on the trails in the East Woods. We will also be spreading for an hour or so in the afternoon on May 27th & 28th if you can’t make it on Saturday. She asked residents to think about the restoration of the Old Whetstone Springs and whether we should consider the project. Myles Ambrose’s Eagle Scout project re-worked the “Gallagher Gully” near 208 Washington Grove Lane. Ann thanked the Maintenance Crew for their help and support of the woods work and all who continue to volunteer to help preserve the woods. Ann fielded a few questions about invasive species removal.
Meredith Horan read the elections results. The results are as follows:
- Georgette Cole 76 votes
- Greg Silber 73 votes
- David Young 75 votes
Write-ins (1 vote each);
- 3-year term – Mark Dubnik, Ellie Ebner, Kathie Evans and one unintelligible write-in.
Discussion of Town Council Reports
Mayor Cole took a moment to thank outgoing Councilors Sylvie Favret and Alice Negin and to welcome new Councilors Greg Silber and David Young. She asked for questions about the Council Reports. Town residents asked about the low bid refuse/recycling contract, the Washington Grove Meadow maintenance plan, the EMOC move to Casey 7, the redevelopment at the Shady Grove Metro area, school reserve area, the goals of the Outdoor Lighting Advisory Group, adding and removing streetlights, M-NCPPC’s idea of a Park entrance (Kiosk?) and the pedestrian/bike path to the Shady Grove Metro.
Action on FY 2013 Budget and Tax Rates
Mayor Cole reported that the Town finances look decent, largely because we have been able to spend what we took in for the year and we did not have to go in to the reserves. The Mayor and Council have recommended using a property tax rate of $0.317/$100 assessed value. Although this rate is higher than last year’s, it is based on the current lower assessments and will result in little or no change. The dwelling tax is down from $224 per household to $97 per household based on the new refuse/recycling contract with Potomac Disposal. The Town will benefit from the County revenue sharing amount of $44,922 and from State Highway User revenues of $7,348. John Compton congratulated the Council on taking a chance with a new refuse/recycling contractor and asked about money for roadwork. He hopes that the Council will develop a priority list for the $55K in the budget. Mayor Cole stated that the top priority was lower Ridge Road and she thanked John for his suggestion. She will work with Bill Robertson to determine additional priorities.
Ann Briggs moved to accept the proposed 2013 Budget and Tax Rate. David Stopak seconded the motion. Yea – majority; Nay – 4.
Planning Commission Report
Chairman Charlie Challstrom pointed out the permits executed this year. He praised the current Commission members for their efforts. He also noted former Chairman Eric Gleason’s guidance in helping the PC adopt a more forward thinking vision. Charlie stated that the Town Block Corner Survey Project continues with Block 3 as next on the agenda. Hopefully this will help in the establishment of better boundaries that will provide clarity when Montgomery County replaces the sidewalk along Washington Grove Lane. Charlie also brought up the Towne Crest redevelopment plan and briefly explained the changes and impacts that are of great concern (parking, drainage, trees, setback requirements and the building height and mass). Alice Negin stated that even if Towne Crest developers reduce the number of units, it still won’t be a pleasant change. She asked the Council and the Commission to please revisit the idea of letting McCauley Street Park grow over; similar to what was done in Morgan Park along Brown Street. We will need a barrier to help with the noise and light pollution.
Historic Preservation Commission Report
Chairman Bob Booher reported that things continue to change around us at an alarming rate. That is all the more reason to protect and preserve what we have. He thanked the HPC members for their service. He also reported that the Town needs to get behind the preservation effort. Character and defining elements are very important and so is maintaining modern livability in these smaller homes. Bob said that the coming year will bring the second step for our plan to fight mansionization. The HPC will continue their education efforts with more workshops this year. He reported that we now have a Town archivist, Pat Patula, who will work with David Neumann and Wendy Harris in getting our archives digitized. Wendy has also volunteered to help with the expansion of the original Historic District to include the other annexed properties. The oral history project is going to be revived by Ken and Joli McCathran. Bob encouraged residents to come to the HPC with their building ideas early…before they spend money on architectural plans.
This year’s Historic Preservation Award went to the Compton’s (202 Ridge Road) for their kitchen addition which was made to face Cherry Avenue.
- Ann Briggs reminder residents that the Annual July 4th Ballgame would take place on the 1st.
- John Tomlin asked if the Town could put some pressure on Montgomery County to fix the deplorable conditions of Oakmont Avenue. Charlie Challstrom explained that the legal edges of Oakmont Avenue are not easily determined and that the County would have to do a fairly costly survey. Joan Mahaffey thought that this could be done as a “grass roots” effort. Mayor Cole said that this could be looked into. David Neumann stated that the condition of Oakmont Avenue probably lowers property values because one has to drive through that area to get to Washington Grove.
- Kathi Carey-Fletcher asked if there were plans to annex the Washington Grove Meadow. The Mayor reported that there was nothing officially in the pipeline but that eventually one could see that happening.
- David Neumann complimented the Town government for the value that residents receive from their tax dollars.
With no further new business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:15PM. At that time, Mayor Cole led a champagne toast of appreciation to Ann Briggs and Alice Negin for their dedication in bringing good music to the Town by their 13 years hard work on the Mousetrap Concert Series. This event will be missed. Cheers to Ann and Alice!
Mayor Cole asked for a moment of silence to remember those in need, those who serve us in Montgomery County and for our many service members at home and abroad. She then asked for any additions to the meeting agenda. The subject of outdoor streetlights was placed on the agenda after the State of the Town.