11 September 2017 | Approved: 9 October 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, Audrey Maskery, John McClelland, Greg Silber and Shelley Winkler. Pat Klein attended by phone. Also in attendance were Treasurer Mary Challstrom, Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts, Woods Committee Co-Chair Joan Mahaffey, Planning Commission Alternate Georgette Cole, Historic Preservation Commission Chair Bob Booher, residents Charlie Challstrom, Erin Compton, Zachary Fletcher, Marida Hines, Terri Johnson, Betsy Klinger, Bruce Rothrock and property owner Dennis Kane. Susan Van Nostrand arrived at 8:00 p.m., Tammy Hodges arrived at 8:15 p.m. and Mimi Bolotin arrived at 8:25 p.m.
Approval of Agenda:
John McClelland moved to approve the agenda. Shelley Winkler seconded the motion. Ridge Road discussion was added by the Mayor. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Erin Compton (202 Ridge Road) came to express her concerns about speeding on Ridge Road. She distributed a document, “Prioritizing a solution for the problem of speeding on Ridge Road,” to the Mayor and Council. She referenced previous requests for help with this matter. Erin believes a primary solution is to restore the speed bumps to a size which adequately reinforces the 15 mph speed limit. In addition, she would like to see improved signage which clearly alerts drivers to the 15 mph speed limit. Zachary Fletcher stated he regularly witnesses speeding on Ridge Road and would like to Council to consider re-doing the speed bumps.
Closed Meeting Statement:
Mayor McCathran read the following closed meeting statement:
The 14 August 2017 meeting of the Town Council in the Council Room in McCathran Hall went to a closed session at 10:10 PM. The meeting was closed under General Provisions Article 3-305(b), (1) to discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom this public body has jurisdiction or any other personnel matter that affects one (1) or more specific individuals. John Compton, Patrice Klein (via telephone), Audrey Maskery, Greg Silber and Shelley Winkler voted to close the meeting. The Mayor and Town Council attended the closed session. This was a discussion about personnel matters. No action was taken. There was no recorded vote.
Approval of Minutes:
John Compton moved to approve the minutes of the Town Council meeting on August 14, 2017. Shelley Winkler seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, approved, as amended. John McClelland abstained from the vote due to his absence on 14 August 2017.
Treasurers Report 2017-August pdf
The Treasurer’s Report was accepted by general consensus.
Shelley Winkler moved to transfer $15K from savings to checking to pay bills. Greg Silber seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0.
Ridge Road – Discussion:
Terri Johnson (204 Ridge Road) stated she agrees Erin and Zachary’s comments about drivers on Ridge Road. There was additional discussion including:
- Condition of the existing bumps
- Design of original bumps for 25 mph not 15 mph
- Bumps impeding the snow plow
- Findings of previous Traffic Committees
- Town-wide problem of speeding and the need to address this globally, not just on Ridge
- History of Ridge Road speed bumps (residents requested installation and volunteered to be the beta testers)
- Re-paving after the bumps were installed would effectively lower the height of the bumps making them less effective in controlling vehicle speeds
- Affecting handicapped access for those in wheelchairs and other specialized vehicles
- Additional paving may be needed before restoring one of the bumps; bumps would have to be re-done twice
- Road maintenance in this specific area now needs consideration
- Budget implications
- Consider different styles of speed bumps
- Slowing traffic in a single location, along Ridge Road or elsewhere will increase traffic along other roadways (e.g., Maple Road) as speeders seek to avoid bumps
In conclusion, Shelley will call a contractor to find out the cost of restoring the speed bumps. She also suggested the issue of better signage be explored. This item will remain on the agenda for October.
Town Street Signs:
HPC Chair Bob Booher referenced the two (2) handouts produced by Gail Littlefield; “Notes of Sat. 8/12/17, meeting with Fire Chief John van Gieson” and “Status Report to Town Council on Facilitating Emergency Response.” In reference to street addresses, Charlie Challstrom is helping with the restoration of the data for directions to each house in Town to be used by Fire & Rescue. In reference to the street signs, Charlie and Gail made a trip around Town to evaluate reflectivity and visibility of Town street signs at night. They found some pruning could be done to improve visibility but, in general, current signs (old and new) are adequately visible. The Council and others discussed:
- Use of reflective lettering on street signs
- Costs of replacement signs obtaining estimates from other vendors
- How to include Jim Fletcher’s artwork which currently appears on some existing signs
- Volunteer involvement in restoring signs needing repair
- Prioritize by most important areas and most needed
- Prioritize sign replacement by starting with those in key locations and most in need of repair
In conclusion, Shelley Winkler and Gail Littlefield will work to obtain better pricing for wooden signs by the November meeting. Susan Van Nostrand stated she believes wood signs add significantly to the character of the Town and has a group of volunteers who are willing to restore some of the existing signs. Mayor McCathran asked for a list of signs needing immediate attention, and if approved by the Mayor, the volunteers will work to restore them. The group was authorized do four (4) or five (5) signs and bring them to the Council for review.
Bob Booher stated map improvements, improving the clarity and reflectivity of number signs,
and addresses for house numbers are three (3) steps towards better emergency response. He also reiterated that the Historic Preservation Commission considers the wood signs integral to preservation of the Town’s historic character.
Master Plan Update:
Mayor McCathran reported the August Town Bulletin item brought no responses so far. The next step to make direct contact with key individuals to engage volunteers about working on updating the Master Plan. Another Town Bulletin item with specific needs and target areas will be written.
Planning Commission (PC) Annual Report to State of Maryland:
Greg Silber moved to approve the PC Annual Report to the State of Maryland. Shelley Winkler seconded the motion. The Mayor thanked Georgette Cole for doing this task. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Greg Silber moved to approve and post the Council Reports. John McClelland seconded the motion. The gate at Hickory Road and Brown Street and street lights were discussed. The need to reconsider street lights as parts become obsolete was mentioned. Vote: 6-0, as amended.
A PEPCO truck was stuck on 7th Avenue recently highlighting the need to limit the access of large vehicles in this area.
A sinkhole behind 302 Chestnut Avenue was investigated by WSSC. They are to seek out and repair the problem.
Student Service Learning training expired, thus causing concern for those who volunteered in Summer in the Parks (SITP) this year. Joan Mahaffey and Jenn Hix volunteered to obtain the training. The SITP student volunteers received credit for their hours during the summer.
Playground Equipment will be installed. Jenn Hix who was able to obtain an additional 17% discount from the vendor.
The business on Oakmont Avenue and Railroad Street across from Railroad Crossing is not zoned for the truck/car lot that appears to be operating there. Mayor McCathran said she had contacted County Council member Sydney Katz for assistance.
Permanent Easement for 15 The Circle – Mayor McCathran gave a summary of the application. Charlie Challstrom volunteered to draft the easement documents. His draft will be sent to the Town attorney for review.
Leaf contract documents for the Fall 2017 of the extension of the current contract will go out this week.
Greg Silber talked with Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts about the backup snow contract. Steve will talk with the contractor.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:20 p.m.
TC REPORTS – October 2017
INTERGOVERNMENTAL – Joli A. McCathran
The Maryland Municipal League has selected 3 Legislative Priorities for the 2018 Session of the Maryland General Assembly. There are:
- Municipal Government – Highway User Fund Restoration
- Maryland Public Information Act – Request Denials – E-mails and phone numbers
- Cell Phone Antenna Siting Approval and Fee Authorization
Washington Grove will host the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League at McCathran Hall on November 9, 2017. Dinner will be served beginning at 6:15 p.m. with the meeting beginning at 6:30. All Town officials are invited to attend.
PLANNING COMMISSION – John McClelland
- 1 The Circle – Fence and shed approved. Note: insured’s property extends into Locust Lane.
- 114 Ridge Rd – The PC chair will sign a document allowing for the county/state to combine three separate parcels into one. The PC has already used the boundary survey (listing all three parcels) for prior permits.
- 123 Grove Ave has a dumpster permit, however, porch foundation and other structural work has proceeded without a permit. Montgomery County will be contacted and a stop work order issued by the Mayor if needed. A boundary survey remains outstanding.
- 107 Pine Ave – Does not have a dumpster permit. The Mayor is also attempting to reach the property owner while the interior is under renovation to reinforce the Town’s single family residence zoning and associated dwelling limitations.
Petition to sell Town Land:
- The residents of 409 5th Ave submitted a petition to sell Town land – to be presented to the TC at their October 2017 meeting.
- The PC discussed the following: The reasons for adopting an easement process vs. the sale of Town land, the historical dates of dwelling construction vs. newer construction, the 1937 Town charter, the common law doctrine of adverse possession, the Town’s fluctuating positions on selling/retaining public surplus property, the impact of block surveys on clarifying/changing property lines, the implications of changing course from easements to sales, 203 2nd Ave with the only completed/filed easement and property location move in addition to other forms of encroachments.
Public Walkways and Vehicular Use:
- Article III Section 9 and properties without vehicular access were discussed.
- 407 5th Ave. is located between 5th and 6th Avenues. Vehicular access is accomplished by driving from Dorsey Street across 6th Avenue. Gravel was installed on the property near the lot line of 17 The Circle for the occasional visitor. The 6th Ave “walkway only” sign is located past the property line of 17 The Circle. The Town has worked to assist those properties that don’t have vehicular access and did not find a violation of the applicable ordinance based upon presented use.
- Chestnut Ave – Has an erosion (sinkhole?) issue. WSSC has run cameras through the pipes and did not find any significant leaks in their water/sewer pipes. Town maintenance is pursuing.
17050 Railroad St: The reforestation bond has yet to be received and no work performed at the property.
16950 Oakmont Rd: MoCo ordered a cease and desist order for the vehicle/truck storage.
Permitting Process for Rental Properties and Rental Rooms: The Town attorney has previously worked with the Town of University Park in developing a permitting process for property/room rentals. Mayor McCathran will attain a basic template/format to assist the Town in developing its own process.
Fences: The following rough verbiage (addition underlined) will be presented in proper amendment adoption form at next month’s PC meeting:
- 3.327 Fences
Fences and masonry walls not above 4 feet in height may be erected on the rear and side lot lines. A fence and masonry wall not exceeding 6 feet in height, however, may be erected on any lot line separating privately owned land subject to the schedule of standards main building front set back requirements and/or accessory building rear set back requirements. Section 5.3 (degree of noncompliance) can also be applied. The transition from the 6’ to 4’ fence shall be scalloped or sloped. The rest of the fence ordinance remains the same.
Vicinity Map: A proposed ordinance change to reduce the requirement of presenting a vicinity map indicating the zoning classification of all land within 1000 feet to 100 feet for local map amendments.
MCCATHRAN HALL – John McClelland
- Standard elevator inspection scheduled for early November
- The back entrance sidewalk “low spot” repaired
WOODS COMMITTEE – Greg Silber
At its October meeting the Committee continued work on developing a long-range and strategic planning document and preparation of a statement that reflects the Committee’s role in restoration and preservation of the East and West Woods. Committee discussions also included Committee input to deliberations of the Dog Park Work Group; and forwarding to the Planning Commission a zoning text amendment to Article VII of the Town ordinance to reconcile a minor discrepancy in zoning language.
The Committee is planning a volunteer event in November to wrap some young trees in the East Woods with mesh to protect them from deer rubbing, and has made arrangements for planting several native trees in the West Woods along the Saybrooke property boundary.
With the Recreation Committee, the Woods Committee is co-sponsoring a viewing of the film “Hometown Habitat” about encouraging use of native plant species by property owners. The film will be shown 4 November.
In response to a question from a Council member at the Council’s last meeting, the Committee discussed Town residents planting non-native invasive species in their yards. The Committee agreed it would continue to post information about invasive species in the Bulletin; emphasize the planting of native species during the Q&A discussion following the showing of the film in November; and discussed posting additional information on this subject on the Town web site. At some point, the Committee may directly contact Town residents to offer guidance on removing invasive plants in our yards.
The next Committee meeting will be Monday 5 November at 7:30.
CONTRACTS – Greg Silber
The Town is working with GreenEarth, Inc. to secure its annual contract renewal for fall leaf collection. We are also working with RJ Landscape about a back-up, “as needed” contract for snow removal. A bulk trash pick-up has been scheduled for 14 October.
RECREATION – Shelley Winkler
Bluestober Fest, featuring acoustic music followed by electric blues, will be held on Saturday evening, October 14, at the Gazebo (rain location: McCathran Hall), thanks to the efforts of Eric Selby and Lawren Lankford.
A Halloween Blackthorn Ceili and Potluck will be held at the Hall on Friday evening, October 27.
The Town Halloween Party is scheduled for October 28, at McCathran Hall, including a Haunted Basement and a Costume Parade.
The film, “Hometown Habitat”, will be shown in the Hall on November 4, in conjunction with the Woods Committee. The film focuses on natural landscaping, including the use of native plants.
Note that the annual Holiday Show will be held on the third Saturday of December this year, December 16.
The final budget report for Summer in the Parks shows that the camp operated well within the budget allowance for this summer. The original budget estimates were $9000 income and $10,867 expenses, and the actual budget items are $7,573 income and $7,935 expenses. Grateful thanks to the parent volunteers, Emily Cavey, Marie Covard and Jenn Hix, for keeping well within their budget and for everything they did to create a successful summer for the youth! Thanks also to the Woman’s Club of Washington Grove for their generous donation to SITP.
WEBSITE – Shelley Winkler
Bill Saar has made good progress on the migration of web content from the archived content to the Town’s website. All archived minutes from the Town Council, Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission (except for two years which need manual processing) and Annual Town Meetings have been imported to the Town website.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Shelley Winkler
WSSC came to inspect the depression in the walkway behind 302 Chestnut Ave. While they found that a seam in the sewer pipe needs repair, they determined that this is not a cause of the depression. They also tested the water line in that area and found no leak. Further investigation is needed to determine the cause of the depression.
Water has been pooling near Center Street, next to 301 First Avenue. Steve Werts would like to install a pipe alongside the roadway there, sending the water toward Grove Road. There is already a drain under Grove Road by Center Street. This would allow the water to enter the existing drain under Grove Road, and keep it from pooling by Center Street. The work involves digging a narrow trench about 18 inches deep, installing a perforated pipe, covering the trench and laying gravel alongside the road. The neighboring homeowner is aware of the problem, and is happy with the proposed solution. (Repeated from last month to make it easier to discuss at this month’s meeting.)
Later this fall, work will be done to repair the condition of the walkway on Oak Street between Chestnut Road and Grove Avenue. This will involve adding dirt and grass seed.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – John Compton
The HPC held their regular monthly meeting September 11, 2017. I was unable to be present, but the following matters were discussed:
Expansion of our National Register nomination. The RFP was reviewed and approved, and will be forwarded to the Mayor. It is recommended that the selection process be based on value, taking cost, qualifications and responsiveness into account. A worksheet can be used to score the proposals based on itemizing each task described in the scope of work.
Street Signs: Gail Littlefield reported that her street sign efforts during the month included a tour of the Town at night with members of the Emergency Prepared Committee and Charlie to check for readability, location of the posts at the intersection, blockage by vegetation, and condition. Gail plans to consult with Chief Van Gleason over which intersections are he deems problematic and whether the current wooden signs provide sufficient visibility.
Susan Van Nostrand and her group will begin the pilot effort of refurbishing street signs, as approved by the TC, in the next few weeks. Shelley Winkler and Gail are looking into lowering the cost of new wooden signs. Consideration is being given to the formation of a volunteer committee to do some of the new construction with the intent of lowering the cost.
The HPC discussed and approved the expenditure of funds to consult with an expert. Gail suggested Brian Blondell and she will contact him.
Design Guidelines: The outline for design guidelines to preserve historic character continues.
Reviews, other: An easement requested by the owners of the Paine property is in preparation.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – John Compton
Non-native plant removal and removal of non-native invasives: Last week the Parks Dept. planned targeted spraying to treat an area of Mile-a-Minute that was overlooked in the previous effort in September. A reported concentration of Japanese knotweed near the Meadow entrance on Ridge will be mowed in several weeks.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – John Compton
Nothing to report.
PLAYGROUNDS – John Compton
The new climbing piece, a “Regulus” unit being purchased from KOMPAN, has been ordered. The price was negotiated to under $18,000. Installation this fall will be handled by Maintenance.
(A link to view this climbing structure is here:
MAPLE LAKE – Patrice Klein
The final Lake Committee meeting of the 2017 season was held on September 20th. Security matters were discussed to include keeping security cameras in place until freezing temperatures warrant removal. Town residents are encouraged to frequent the lake area during the fall to maintain a presence. The Committee is considering hiring security guards next spring and is gathering a list of possible security companies to contact for cost and services.
Several maintenance projects to be completed promptly include repairing barbed wire along top fence line pending contractor services, and power washing/sealing the wooden deck and bridge. The AED device has been stored in the Town Office. The water quality testing contract will be renewed for 2018. The Committee will reach out to Lainey as a swim instructor and hope to have the same life guards next season (2018).
There was a brief discussion about the possibility of using an inside perimeter area of the lake as a dog park but the consensus of the Lake Committee was not in favor of that idea.
The next Lake Committee meeting will be scheduled in February 2018.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY – Patrice Klein
The EPC has put forth several recommendations to the TC for improvement of town safety to include reflective street signs, reflective fire hydrant markers, and the purchase of a generator for the Town Hall. The EPC would appreciate the TC’s response and intentions with respect to these recommendations at the next TC meeting.
The Committee has provided a detailed spreadsheet for individual house roadway access to MCFRS Chief van Gieson who has forwarded the information to their dispatch staff. The same spreadsheet can be provided to Fed-EX, UPS, and other postal services.
The Neighborhood Watch program is making progress to finalize recruiting all block captains and scheduling an organizational meeting. A household survey for basic information is being developed to be distributed to town residents with an ‘opt out’ option.
The next EPC meeting is scheduled on October 26th.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
Forestry and Beautification purchased eight new trees for fall planting 2017.
One White Pine and two Leatherleaf Viburnum to be planted Lower Ridge Road.
One Swamp Oak – between 1 and 2 The Circle.
One Swamp Oak – Woodward Park near Maintenance Shed.
One Black Gum – Brown Street at 103 Grove Avenue.
The trees purchased from Stadlers Nursery will be planted late October early November, as part of their fall sales program.
Two new larger caliper trees purchased from Ace to be planted late December – early January 2018.
One American Beech – 410 Oak Street/Maple Road.
One Black Gum – Woodward Park/Grove Road.
Two dead trees; one on Brown Street and another on Oak Street, have the potential of impacting important electric lines. A request to PEPCO to top both trees has been made. Both sites will be part of the 2017/18 fall planting program. Watering for the fall 2016 spring 2017 will continue through November, the trees do not require watering through the winter months.
A note has been made of several other trees within the Town that are coming to the end of their lifespan, we do request advice from Tree Arborists plus PEPCO when trees might impact the power supply.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Grass cutting continued through month of September. Removal of brush overhanging roads to provide traffic safety. Sediment pond at the end of Brown Street cleaned and prepped. Cleaned drainage ditches in Town and near Maple Lake.
A new dump-truck insert for town truck has been purchased. The new insert will provide greater versatility in spreading soil and other heavy substances.
WSSC inspected the depression behind 302 Chestnut Avenue. They tested the water line and found no leak. A camera was used to inspect the sewer-line, while they found that a seam in the sewer pipe needs repair, they determined that this is not the cause of the depression. Further investigation is needed to determine the cause of the depression.
Water has been pooling near Center Street, next to 301 First Avenue. Steve Werts would like to install a pipe alongside the roadway there, sending the water toward Grove Avenue. There is already a drain under Grove Avenue by Center Street. This would allow the water to enter the existing drain under Grove Road, and keep it from pooling by Center Street. The work involves digging a narrow trench about 18 inches deep, installing a perforated pipe, covering the trench and laying gravel alongside the road. The neighboring homeowner is aware of the problem, and is happy with the proposed solution.
It is requested the Council review, and add the work to Maintenance’s future work list.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report