9 October 2017 | Approved: 13 November 2017
Mayor Joli McCathran called the meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Council Members John Compton, Pat Klein, Audrey Maskery, Greg Silber and Shelley Winkler. John McClelland arrived at 7:35 p.m. Also in attendance were Treasurer Mary Challstrom and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Satoshi Amagai. Residents Nan Aitel-Thompson, Meredith Beckhardt, Charlie Challstrom, Dave Cosson, Kathie Evans, Kriss Grisham, Ralph Hurst, John Hutchinson, Dennis Kane, Lisa Kokes, Alice Negin, Bud O’Connor, Carolyn O’Connor, Bruce Rothrock, Jane Seegal, Mary Warfield, Missy Yachup and Ted Yachup were also in attendance.
Approval of Agenda:
Shelley Winkler moved to approve the agenda. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, approved.
There were no public appearances.
Approval of Minutes:
Pat Klein moved to approve the minutes of the Town Council meeting on September 11, 2017. Greg Silber seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved, as amended.
- Treasurers Report 2017-September pdf
- The Treasurer’s Report was accepted by general consensus. New maintenance (dump bed for pickup truck & mower) and playground equipment were discussed.
- Shelley Winkler moved to authorize the transfer of $50K from PNC Bank to Maryland Local Government Investment Pool (MLGIP). This transfer was done in anticipation of receiving the semi-annual property tax collection and the requirement to remain under FDIC insurance limit at PNC Bank. Vote: 6-0.
Emergency Preparedness Committee:
Chair Sat Amagai requested the status regarding Council actions of two (2) items presented in a report to the Town Council some months ago:
- Generator Purchase – There was a discussion about specific uses, needs, purpose and the Historic Trust permit. Pat Klein asked how the EPC could facilitate this purchase. Sat Amagai stated the next meeting of the EPC will include additional discussion about the generator size, location and noise panels.
- House Number Signs – Photographs of the type of signs used in a community in Maine was included in the Council Packets. This example is a green stake with a number on it. There was a discussion about placement, Town character and how to make the fire hydrants more visible to firefighters. The EPC will take on the subject of marking the hydrants.
Town Street Signs:
A number of signs (4-5) were selected for removal and restoration by Town volunteers. Signs for this project will only be removed from walkways. Steve Werts has been asked to remove the signs. Susan Van Nostrand and a group of residents will start the restoration as soon as the signs are removed. Kathie Evans asked who would ultimately approve which signs are used. Mayor McCathran indicated the Council would make this decision. Kathie suggested a Town Meeting for this decision might be in order.
Restoration of Ridge Road Speed
Shelley Winkler briefly reviewed the issues. She explained Steve Werts measured the humps and two (2) of the three (3) are compliant with Montgomery County standards. However, the hump near 204 Ridge does not comply. It is too easily traversed. Shelley also reported our warning signs for the humps are above eye level and may not be visible to all motorists. In addition, having the 15 mph speed limit on the hump sign could be confusing to drivers. Our current humps also need re-striping especially the one at Ridge and Oak. There was a discussion about the following:
- Optimal height for maximum effect
- Distance between bumps
- Placement of humps at STOP signs
- Overall goals sought in slowing traffic
- Advantages of different types of humps
- Enforcement of speed limit
In conclusion, Shelley will look into costs/advantages of the severe-two (2) inch bumps typically placed at STOP signs and report at the next Town Council meeting.
John Compton brought up the tall grass along the edges of Ridge Road and the visibility problem it presents. Based on the maintenance agreement, the Town can cut back five (5) feet along the edge. Town Maintenance would like to cut back 10 feet. John Compton objects to the idea of cutting back and of 10 feet under Town control and to the “renegade mowing” being done by some residents who live on Ridge Road. A road study done some years ago concluded the openness created by mowing encourages drivers to go faster.
Petition for the Sale of Town Property:
Mayor McCathran read the legislative powers of the Council as provided by the Town Charter. She then read Maryland Local Government Code Ann.§ 5-204 (2017), Legislative authority — General powers of municipalities which supersedes the Town Code. She explained the Mayor and Town Council received a petition on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 asking the Mayor and Town Council to designate public land under certain residential properties as surplus and selling to the encroaching land owner. A special Town Council meeting was set for November 27th at 7:30 p.m. A closed session with the Town attorney will take place from 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. The required 20-day notice will appear in the November Town Bulletin. The Mayor explained there should be no discussion about this item until legal advice is obtained at the November 27th meeting. The residents in attendance wanted the opportunity to voice their opinions about the subject matter. The Town Council listened to residents’ opinions.
Zoning Text Amendment:
Mayor McCathran read the title of the ZTA and explained it was a correction. She pointed out the amendment would change 1,000 ft. to 100 ft. in Section 13.263 Vicinity Map of Article VII in the Town Ordinances. Pat Klein moved to introduce Ordinance 2017-05; Ordinance Adopting Amendment to Article VII, Zoning, Section 13.263 Regarding the Vicinity Map Required with an Application for a Local Map Amendment. Greg Silber seconded the motion. Council members asked why this was being done now; if this was causing a problem; and the reason/point behind this action. Pat Klein explained this action is connected to the goal of de-platting the East Woods. There was additional discussion about deleting Section 13.263, cost of using 1,000 ft. because of the multiple zones that currently exist, the definition of a local map amendment and the historic nature of the Town. A public hearing was set for November 13, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. Vote: 6-0.
Shelley Winkler moved to approve and post the Council Reports. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. By general consensus, a drainage project at the intersection of Center Street and Grove Road was approved. There was additional discussion about use of the words “land locked,” permitting process for rental properties and/or rooms, tools which address rental properties/rooms in the current ordinances and moving the No Hunting sign in the Conservation Meadow to a less prominent place. Vote: 6-0, as amended.
Mayor McCathran reported the following:
- 16950 Oakmont Ave. has been issued a zoning violation by Montgomery County. Owner will be fined if they don’t comply.
- The sink hole near 302 Chestnut Ave. is still an unsolved mystery. The next option is for WSSC to perform a smoke test in the affected area.
- 125 Grove Ave. obtained a Temporary Use Permit from the Town but no County permit for the foundation work. Joli will follow up.
- 107 Pine Ave. has still yet to obtain a Temporary Use Permit despite the Mayor’s request to do so.
- 201 Washington Grove Lane has too many cars parked at the home. They also park in the fire lane at times.
John Compton suggested the following:
- Facility/Field permit for Woodward Park use is not up-to-date. The resolution containing the rules and regulations for that area is also missing on the website. Shelley Winkler will work with the Town Clerk to sort this out.
- Cherry Avenue restoration project (near 410 & 414 Center Street) could be fixed in a couple of different ways. There are currently two (2) methods being considered. One (1) is more complicated than the other. A decision will have to be made soon.
- Gravel on Center Street between the maintenance shop and 301 Maple Avenue should be the little walkway gravel not the one (1) inch blue stone that is currently there.
- A Personnel Committee should be considered to serve as a sounding board for interactions between Town employees and residents and/or employees and TC, PC and HPC members. Some conflict/resolution procedures should be put in place in order to avoid contentious interactions. This item will be brought up at future meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 10:10 p.m.
TC REPORTS – November 2017
PLANNING COMMISSION – John McClelland
- 125 Grove Ave – Contingent approval provided as current open porch to be enclosed without a change in footprint. Town rep will inspect foundation replacement.
- 107 Pine Ave – Temporary dumpster permit never attained, however, no current dumpsters on site.
- 1 The Circle – Prior fence repair/replace permit questioned by Joli McCathran and Charlie Challstrom due to the use of Town block markers (thought by the PC to also represent the property boundary markers). Specifically the block marker located in Locust Ln is approximately 6 feet from the property line. This disparity would cause a marginal encroachment on the decades old existing fence. The PC upheld the prior approval based upon the decision made in good faith and a commission wide misunderstanding of what the Town Block surveys actually represent.
- Based upon a request from the HPC, the PC moved the building permit application submission date to the second Wednesday of the month. This will allow the necessary documents to be available for HPC review as necessary.
- Once forest conservation bond is received the signed subdivision plat will be released. This is expected within the very near future.
- Will present ideas to the TC ASAP
Master Plan Update:
- In process. Nothing specific to report
- Eight more properties completed. Total 140
- 302 Chestnut Ave depression examined by WSSC – with a smoke test (which was not administered correctly according to Town Maintenance supervisor Steve Werts). Specialized equipment will be brought in to establish the cause of the expanding depression so appropriate action can be discussed.
Petition requesting the sale of Town property located under privately owned residence (vs. the easement process) at 409 5th Ave:
- Special Town Council meeting set for November 27
- Easement for 15 The Circle has been received and will move forward
MCCATHRAN HALL – John McClelland
- Squirrel damage repaired (chewed through siding)
- Woodpecker damage – repairs held off until after termite inspection/treatment. Woodpecker deterring options are under investigation
- Termite/pest inspection scheduled for November 15
- Lower door repaired. Will eventually need to be replaced with a fiberglass or steel door due to moisture/rot issues.
- Elevator passed state inspection
WOODS COMMITTEE – Greg Silber
The Committee continues its work on long-range and strategic planning. At its November meeting the Committee approved final Vision and Mission Statements. These will posted on the Woods Committee link on the Town web site, and will serve as guiding principles for the Committee’s long-range work. In addition, the Committee has agreed to a draft set of criteria for evaluating and decision-making for individual and specific projects (e.g., means to reduce deer over-browsing) the Committee may undertake. Criteria include such things as the extent to which a given project conforms to the Town Master Plan and its role in improving the overall health of Woods ecosystems.
The Woods and Recreation Committees co-sponsored a viewing of the film “Hometown Habitat” on 4 November. The film, about encouraging use of native plant species by property owners, was followed by a discussion of the film.
A number of planted and naturally-occurring young trees are suffering from antler rubbing by deer. Therefore, a volunteer work event has been planned for Saturday 11 November, 10:00-12:00, to wrap a number of young trees in the East Woods with mesh to protect trunks from deer rubbing. Volunteers are needed and many hands will help make the work go faster! Arrangements have been made for planting five native trees in the West Woods along the Saybrooke property boundary this winter.
Please note: The Committee will not meet in December. In addition, the Committee’s regularly-scheduled monthly meeting in January falls on New Year’s Day. Therefore, the next Committee meeting will be Tuesday 2 January at 7:30.
CONTRACTS – Greg Silber
The Town has renewed its contract with GreenEarth, Inc. for fall leaf collection. Residents are placing leaf piles along roads and walkways; however GreenEarth recently determined that the amount of leaves is not enough to initiate vacuuming until 15 November. We will keep an eye on this to ensure piles do not linger.
We are working with RJ Landscape to secure a back-up, “as needed” contract for snow removal. And, RFPs are being contemplated for Historic Archive and annual financial audit work.
Trash/recycling pick-up will occur on Wednesday 22 November (instead of Thursday the 23rd) due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.
RECREATION – Shelley Winkler
BluestoberFest attracted a crowd, with great music and perfect weather. Thanks again to Eric Selby and Lawren Lankford for organizing the magical evening, and to chefs Ted Yachup (creating his coveted French fries), Peter Nagrod and Jon Cohen.
The “Hometown Habitat” movie screening was well attended and may inspire future native landscaping activity. Many thanks to Kathi Carey-Fletcher for suggesting and organizing this showing, with support of the Recreation and Woods Committees.
Thanks to Elena Herbert for organizing a great Halloween Party for the children.
Free Tai Chi classes have started at the basketball court in Woodward Park on Saturday mornings, from 9-10AM, through December 3. Thanks to Meredith Horan for initiating this new activity.
As reported last month, the Holiday Show will be held on Saturday, December 16.
WEBSITE – Shelley Winkler
Bill Saar continues to make progress on the migration of web content from the archived content to the Town’s website. Town Bulletins have been migrated to the current website. House Histories have also been migrated, but some reformatting of the records still needs to be done. Bill is reviewing other migrated pages to reformat and rework any details that need adjustment, as well as updating links and menus to make them current and accurate. A first, very rough, draft of possible reorganization of the architecture of the website has been completed by volunteers.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Shelley Winkler
The work restoring Second Avenue is near completion.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – John Compton
The HPC held their regular monthly meeting October 17, 2017.
Next regular meeting will be November 21, 2017.
Maryland Association of Historic Preservation Districts. The MAHDC annual party, held Nov 7 at the Women’s Club, featured several presentations (as recounted by Pat Patula). Marilynn Frey’s introductory talk about the Woman’s Club history, and its correlation to the Camp Meeting/Town history, was quite enjoyable due to her excellent speaking ability and sharing of her life here in the Grove. The showing of the video “A Town Within a Forest” to the group was just what was needed to help others see the value of Washington Grove. HPC Chairman Bob Booher made a follow-up presentation, pointing out why the Grove is and should be on the National Register, and surely inspired other HDC members present who struggle with formal determination of historic significance.
Expansion of our National Register nomination. The RFP seeking a Consultant to prepare our application was reviewed and finalized by the HPC, and approved for distribution after review by the Town Attorney. Much credit goes to Wendy Harris for producing the finished RFP and meeting the HPC’s aggressive timeline for selecting a Consultant. The RFP was sent to the following 5 consultants who had expressed an interest in bidding: Amanda Edwards of John Milner Associates in Arlington VA; Tim Kerr of Robinson & Associates in D.C.; Laura Hughes of EHT Traceries in DC; Barton Ross of Barton Ross & Partners in Chestertown, MD; and Edie Wallace, presently of Paula Ross & Associates (Paula is retiring this September) in Sharpsburg, MD. They were asked to submit their bids no later than 5:00p, Monday, December 11 (the next regular Town Council meeting).
Street Signs: The credentials of J. Bryan Blundell, an expert materials preservation and restoration consultant, have been received. A modest expense of funds for expert advice on the best methods and material for restoring and making new wooden street signs has been approved.
Susan van Nostrand and her group showed off several refurbished street signs outside a McCathran Hall event on Oct. 21. Their impressive results were the first results from their pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility of restoring the Town’s wooden street signs. They expect to present their efforts and conclusions to the TC soon.
Design Guidelines: The outline for design guidelines to preserve historic character continues (Wendy Harris).
Easements for Historic Preservation: The draft Easement to address the Town property encroached upon at 15 The Circle was reviewed. Discussion centered on documentation and history included as support for including historic features of the structure in the Easement. Mindful of the recent experience with the O’Connor Easement, it was felt that the amount of ancillary material to the basic easement provisions could prove alarming to property owners, and was in any event unnecessary to include in the recordation of the easement. An effort will be made to separate much of the material to another location/repository.
Reviews, other: None.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – John Compton
Nothing to report.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – John Compton
Nothing to report.
PLAYGROUNDS – John Compton
Installation by Steve Werts of the new climbing piece is expected this month.
(A link to view this climbing structure is here:
MAPLE LAKE – Patrice Klein
The Lake Committee is on winter hiatus and will not meet again until February 2018.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY – Patrice Klein
The EPC examined a restored wooden street sign with repainted reflective white letters and glass beads presented to the committee by Bob Booher (HPC). The pre-existing central art image was preserved. The potential for Town volunteers to restore other degraded street signs was discussed but there were concerns whether volunteers alone could sustain the replacement needs over time. The Committee supports the temporary use of reflective metal signs at road intersections pending timely repair of wooden street signs where possible. A spreadsheet representing status of existing wooden street signs has been provided to Town Maintenance for review. The EPC requests the TC decide on the process for street sign repair and replacement as a priority for Town safety and liability concerns.
The Committee discussed how to encourage homeowners to improve their home address signage to ensure their homes are identified for purposes of emergency response. This was emphasized by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. Suggestions will be posted by EPC in the December Town Bulletin.
The Town Hall generator plans were discussed and the Committee will obtain an estimate for the electrical load requirement from Town Maintenance, draft an RFP for installation of a permanent generator; and share that draft RFP with Town Councilors, John McClelland and Greg Silber, responsible for the Town Hall building and Town contracts, respectively. The Maryland Historic Trust must approve the proposal.
The need for the Town’s access to Emergency Alert Notifications was discussed based on reports of recent natural disasters and the difficulties notifying affected residents in disaster areas. FEMA information on the Integrated Public Alert Warning System and Wireless Emergency Alerts was provided to compare subscriber-based approaches versus “push” capabilities to broadcast an emergency alerts to all cell phones within a radius. The EPC will gather additional information to develop a recommendation for the TC.
The EPC will be scheduling a Block Captains meeting in November towards reactivation of the Neighborhood Watch Program. The next EPC meeting is November 30, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
F&B cleaned and planted ‘Christmas Ferns’ in Sacred Circle, additional planting will be made in spring 2018.
Two Ace trees purchased & planted – one Black Gum in Woodward Park, one American Beech on Maple Road. A second Black Gum will be planted in Woodward Park when the ground has dried sufficiently enough for the tree spade to plant the tree.
Five Stadler trees will be planted late November early December.
Pepco topped one dead oak in Woodward Park, and removed some branches on a dead Oak on Brown Street, the remainder of the dead tree will be removed and base ground out by a contractor. One Oak will be planted in the vicinity by Stadlers.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Leaves removed, and grass cut – not all leaves removed, many are mulched into grass.
Top soil, grass seed and sod used on Second Avenue to return the area to original condition after house construction in area.
Squirrels invaded part of TH roof, timber lining & shingles replaced.
Removed branches and brush left by Pepco on Brown Street and Oak Street.
Installed lights in two sheds at Maple Lake.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report
INTERGOVERNMENTAL – Joli A. McCathran
Thanks to County Council Member Sidney Katz for assisting in the clearing of illegally parked used vehicles from 16950 Oakmont Avenue, which is directly across from Aitchison Railroad Crossing. Councilor Katz was extremely helpful in getting proper enforcement and follow through on this concern. The trucks on the property are allowed in this zone.
Washington Grove hosted the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) at McCathran Hall on November 9, 2017. Discussions included the 3 MML Legislative Priorities for the 2008 Legislative Session. Many thanks to Mary and Charlie Challstrom who did an outstanding job preparing for this meeting.
The Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League is hosting its Annual Legislative Dinner on December 14, 2017. I have invited our State Senator, Nancy King and Delegates Charles Barley, Kirill Resnick and Shane Robinson to attend. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss collectively with our representatives the issues concerning the Town.