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3 June 2003 | Approved: 1 July 2003

John McClelland called the meeting to order at 7:33 p.m. In attendance were Commissioners Darrell Anderson, Bob Evans, John McClelland and alternate Jim Leng. Also present were residents Jan Davis, Karen Kelly, Rev. Patrick Malone, Bill Miller, Chris Pacchione, Ed Roberts and Methodist Church representative Colin Stevens.

Approval of Minutes

The minutes for May were approved as corrected.

Proposed School at Methodist Church

John McClelland introduced the topic of the Washington Grove United Methodist Church’s intention to lease space to The John Wesley Academy set to open in September 2003.

Mr. McClelland stated that he received a call around the middle of May from Bill Miller regarding a proposed school at the Methodist Church. On May 24, Mr. McClelland sent a letter (attached) to Rev. Patrick Malone requesting he provide detailed information believed to be pertinent to the proposed school and notifying him that the issue would be on the agenda for the June 3 Planning Commission meeting. On June 3, Mr. McClelland received a letter (attached) from Rev. Malone that did not address the questions he had asked in the May 24 letter but did say that the Town has no jurisdiction over the Church based on case law outlined in the letter. Darrell Anderson noted that Church representatives had attended the last Town Council meeting and that he had the impression from that meeting that the school was still in the discussion stages.

Bill Miller stated that the day after the Town Council meeting, the Church Administrative Board voted unanimously to move ahead with the school. He said that the Church feels that they have a legal right to put a school there due to the separation of church and state and governmental authorities do not have the right to tell churches how to run their business. Mr. Miller explained that the reason the letter of June 3 did not address the specific information requested by Mr. McClelland was because he understood the Planning Commission was saying that they weren’t sure the Church had a right to do this. Therefore, the letter was addressing the bigger issue of whether the Church had a legal right to add a school. He added that the administrators and congregation feel that they have the right to operate the Church in a way to make the Church survive financially.

Jan Davis and Karen Kelly, whose properties border the Church, voiced strong objections to having a school move in. Some of their expressed concerns were noise resulting from children playing outside and traffic, the addition of a playground on the property, the potential vandalism of their property and the Town’s property (specifically trees and flowers), additional traffic on Town roads, traffic problems resulting from drop off and pick up of children and the safety of Town children going to and from school.

John McClelland stated that a school would exceed all residential and business requirements of Town ordinances. However, he said that he would like to have the detailed information he had requested so that he could forward that information to the Town attorney for review.

No decisions or conclusion would be made that night. Bill Miller then verbally provided the following information:

  • Intend to open in September 2003, will be recruiting teachers and signing up students
  • Up to 60 children
  • All day Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade
  • 4-5 teachers
  • Hours and dates of operation similar to Montgomery County
  • Stagger children’s drop-off and pick-up times with Town kids
  • Will be putting in a playground, will be coming to Planning Commission with drawings

Bob Evans stated that he was disappointed and shared John’s astonishment that the Town is being notified of the Church’s intent at this point in the process. He doesn’t feel the way the information has been presented is very friendly. He also emphasized the importance of obtaining legal opinion from the Town attorney. Jim Leng stated that the Town’s roots were established by the Methodist Church and that he feels the Town would be laughed at by other jurisdictions if we tried to prevent a Methodist school. Darrell Anderson noted that Mayor Compton would have the Church school on the agenda for the upcoming Town Meeting.

Ordinance Review

Open Porch (setback and lot %) – Missy Yachup presented for consideration a proposed ordinance change regarding open porches. The change would allow an open porch (not closed in by screen or any other material) to extend up to 10 feet beyond the required 25 foot front setback. It also addressed RR2-size lots (7,500 square feet or smaller) in the RR1 zone (11,250 square foot minimum lot size) that are currently bound by the RR1 25% lot coverage rule regarding open porches despite their small lot size. It was noted that Garrett Park has similar exceptions regarding open porches for small lots in their ordinances and some of their verbiage was used.

John McClelland moved that the ordinances be amended to add:

Section 3.329 Open Porches

Open porches may extend up to 10 feet beyond the established or required front setback line. Open porches will be considered as dwelling area when establishing lot coverage percentages, except that up to 15% of a 7,500 square foot or smaller lot located in the RR1 Zone may be occupied by an open porch and not be counted as dwelling area. However, the total lot coverage percentage may not exceed 40%.

Section 4.2 Definitions

Front – The legal address of the house as shown on current tax records.

Open Porch – An open porch may or may not include a roof, or/and, except for support structures, the area above the railing height, required by Montgomery County, shall be open to the air, excluding up to 15 inches of decorative trim, and at least 50% of the area below the railing must be open to the air, and the porch shall not be enclosed by material of any type, including, lattice work or screening.

All Commissioners were in favor of the motion.

Parking on Town Property

John McClelland showed the Commission a document that he recommended be presented to the Town Council regarding Town parking. It was a map of the Town with the areas next to parkland highlighted to be designated as no parking areas. All Commissioners were in agreement that the document should be forwarded to the Council.

Missy Yachup – Secretary

The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.

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