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27 November 2017 | Approved: 19 February 2018

[Continuation of these Meeting Minutes held on 01.04.18]

Mayor Joli McCathran called the special meeting of the Town Council to order at 8:02 p.m. In attendance were Council Members John Compton, Pat Klein, Audrey Maskery, John McClelland, Greg Silber and Shelley Winkler. Town Attorney Suellen Ferguson was in attendance. Approximately 40 Town residents attended the meeting.

Approval of Agenda:

John Compton moved to approve the agenda. Pat Klein seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved. Mayor McCathran introduced herself, the Town Council and Town Attorney Suellen Ferguson to the residents in attendance. She also announced the meeting was being recorded by a private citizen. In addition, she explained the meeting was a Special Town Council Meeting and resident’s comments will be limited to five minutes. She turned the meeting over to Ms. Ferguson. Ms. Ferguson stated the Council was meeting because a petition was filed with the required number of registered voters, confirmed and verified by the Board of Elections Supervisors. The Town Charter requires the Council meet and consider what is being requested in the petition. If the Council acts favorably, it could take whatever action it decided. If the Council acts unfavorably, a Town meeting would be held, and registered voters will vote on the content of the petition. Ms. Ferguson also explained Washington Grove has an unusual form of government. The Town is a hybrid between traditional Town Meeting and elected legislature forms of government. Next, she read the petition submitted by the O’Connor’s (409 5th Ave.) and signed by 40 residents whose voting status was verified. (Three signatures were not qualified voters.) The petition asks the Mayor and Town Council to declare as surplus parcels the newly discovered Town property under main resident buildings constructed prior to September 27, 2017 and sell the parcels according to the Town “Policy for Sale of Surplus Parcels.” In addition, Ms. Ferguson referenced State of Maryland requirements regarding selling public property. They are:

  • A 20-day public notice must occur before taxpayer owned property can be sold.
  • The Town Council decides, as a matter of ordinance, the property is no longer needed for public use.

She then gave the basis for offering a permanent easement as a remedy. The Town Council reviewed three possible ways to help residents who find themselves with part of their main building located on Town land. They were; license agreement, permanent easement and outright sale. The permanent easement was accepted and put into general practice via Town ordinance. Bud O’Connor stated he appreciated the Council’s time in dealing with this issue. In his opinion, easements provided previously for two residents’ porches (one fully executed, one withdrawn) were done by necessity. To his knowledge, no one has ever needed to set foot on the land beneath his porch. He went on to say this process has taken two years and it shouldn’t be this complicated. One of the reasons for pursuing this is to prevent it from happening to others. In the permanent easement documents offered to him in his case, one attachment, Exhibit C, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has used over 5,000 words to describe 69.1 square feet. He believes the Town Council as a group has taken a monolithic approach. Bud and Carolyn are asking for a remedy to the problem without Town control over their entire home. The following items were discussed:

  • Previous sales of surplus Town parcels
  • Surplus property status
  • Difference between land dedicated to public use and land in surplus status
  • Historic integrity language written by the HPC and protections afforded by same
  • Historic facades on homes
  • Town Control
  • 1898 and 1937 land surveys
  • Concerns regarding Exhibit C
  • Removal of extraneous language from the deed
  • Definition of acting favorably
  • Potential for a lack of clear property title
  • Lack of clarity (possible drafting issue)
  • Scheduling a meeting with all parties involved
  • Inclusion of the option to buy Town land under main buildings as one of the remedies
  • Current ordinances affording protection for the Town and the residents should a fire or other disaster occur
  • Selling the land and attaching strict covenants
  • Potential insurance issues
  • Town block corner survey project
  • Town compliance checklist project
  • Grandfathering of property in some cases
  • Litigation concerns
  • Real estate values
  • Use of Quit Claim Deeds
  • Amending the petition
  • Current fair market property value
  • Town Sale of Surplus Parcel Policy

John McClelland stated he heard some good ideas tonight and would like to discuss amending the Exhibit C language. He asked if the meeting could be continued. Pat Klein moved to continue the Special Meeting of the Town Council on January 4, 2018 at 7:30 PM. John Compton seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0. The Special Town Council Meeting was adjourned at 10:05 PM. To be continued on January 4, 2018. Kathryn L. Lehman, Town Clerk

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