13 February 2017 | Approved: 20 March 2017
Mayor Joli McCathran called the meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Council Members Georgette Cole, Patrice Klein, Audrey Maskery, John McClelland, Greg Silber and Shelley Winkler. Also present were Treasurer Mary Challstrom, Woods Committee Co-Chair Joan Mahaffey, Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts, PC Chairman Peter Nagrod, HPC member Gail Littlefield and residents Margo Bohan, Charlie Challstrom, Meghan O’Connell, Bud O’Connor, Carolyn O’Connor and Susan Van Nostrand. HPC Chairman Bob Booher arrived at 8:15 p.m.
Approval of Agenda:
Shelley Winkler moved to approve the agenda. Georgette Cole seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Closed Meeting Statement – January 9, 2017:
Mayor McCathran read the following closed meeting statement: The 9 January 2017 meeting of the Town Council in the Council Room in McCathran Hall went to a closed session at 10:34 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. Georgette Cole, Patrice Klein, Audrey Maskery, John McClelland, 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.
Bud and Carolyn O’Connor (409 5th Ave.) asked for an update concerning the Wade Park water problem. John McClelland gave a list of items that he has been working on since May 2016. He assured the O’Connor’s he is working on this with help from Montgomery County and State specialists and he will give updates as he receives them.
Approval of Minutes:
John McClelland moved to approve the minutes of the Town Council meeting of January 9, 2017 and post them to the website. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Treasurers Report 2017-January pdf
John McClelland moved to accept the Treasurer’s Report for January 2017. Georgette Cole seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, accepted.
Shelley Winkler moved to transfer $5K from savings to checking in order to pay bills. Georgette Cole seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0.
Treasurer Mary Challstrom reminded the Mayor and Council of the Budget Work Session scheduled on March 27, 2017.
Mayor McCathran asked Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts to give some background about the status of the wooden Town road and walkway signs. Steve explained the shrinking surplus of signs for Town roads and walkways is now at a critical level. The wooden signs are rotting and need to be replaced. Although there are several groups (Historic Preservation Commission, Emergency Preparedness Committee, Town Council) giving input on this issue and a considerable amount of time has passed since the first sign discussion, Steve is still in the position of having very few replacement signs and needs guidance. There was a discussion about the following:
- The recent sale of some discarded street signs at the Woman’s Club auction
- The condition of the wooden signs (rot, weather, insects)
- Previous styles of wooden signs
- The time and expense involved in routing the letters
- Unique character of the wooden signs, particularly those with Jim Fletcher’s artwork
- Preserving our historic streetscapes
- The need for reflective lettering
- Prices of wooden and metal signs
- Cedar vs. pine
- Adherence problems with reflective paint on wood
- Emergency Preparedness Committee recommendation for use of reflective lettering
- The need for better, more visible addresses on houses
- Proposal for metal signs on the driving roads and wooden signs on the walkways
Steve presented two (2) prototype aluminum street signs which were made locally. One (1) with just the street name and one (1) with the street name and a copy of Jim Fletcher’s artwork in the middle. These metal signs have a brown background with white reflective letters. Mayor McCathran asked Susan Van Nostrand and Margo Bohan to research the possibility of getting volunteers to paint signs and do additional research on reflective paint for wooden surfaces. The subject will be on the agenda for March.
Road Improvements RFP:
Mayor McCathran asked for comments from the Council. John McClelland expressed concerns with some of the insurance language. Shelley Winkler moved to send out the bid requests for Town road work as described in the RFP, with any changes to the insurance section approved by the Town attorney. Georgette Cole seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0, approved.
Woods Informational Town Meeting:
Co-Chair Patty Klein announced the Informational Town Meeting will be February 27, 2017 in McCathran Hall at 7:30 p.m. She defined the meeting as two-fold. The representatives from Invasive Plant Control will present their plan for eradicating non-native invasives and there will be an update on the use of deer exclosures in the East Woods. Mayor McCathran will open the meeting with some background information and explanation of the need for this meeting. Plans for how to address the problems of invasive plants, deer browse and potential maintenance issues will also be discussed. The presenters will stress the importance of a long-term commitment for the health of the Town woods.
Appointment of Member to Montgomery Municipal Cable Board:
Georgette Cole moved to approve the Mayor’s appointment of Charlie Challstrom to the Board. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Shelley Winkler moved to approve the Council Reports for posting on the web. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. John McClelland reminded HPC Liaison Georgette Cole about the completion by the Commission of permanent easement reviews for all of the homes on the list found in Ordinance 2015-03. Georgette will convey this to the HPC. The Mayor and Council discussed the expiration and release of the Toll Brothers bond put in place in 2010 to cover any well failures at 15 homes on Ridge Road.
There was a discussion about the well failure at the Voigt property (300 Ridge Road) which was not one of the homes covered by the bond. Georgette Cole explained the details of the actions taken by all parties involved. The Mayor and Council concluded the Town no longer has a role in this issue. Any further action is between Toll Brothers, Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, and the Voigt family. Mayor McCathran will send a letter to Sherry Voigt Dionne explaining the Town’s position. Vote: 6-0, approved as amended.
Mayor McCathran reported no permits (Town or County) had been obtained for recent work done at 304 Chestnut Avenue. The resident has created two (2) apartments in his basement and advertised them for rent on Craigslist. This is against the Town code. Montgomery County issued a stop work order and no further work can be done without the issuance of proper permits. There was a discussion about whether the Town should address the following questions:
- Should the Town consider requiring a permit to rent rooms?
- Does the Town want to reconsider the “single-family dwelling requirement?”
Mayor McCathran announced the issue of building Dog Park in Town will be on the agenda for March. Because the Mayor and two (2) councilors will not be able to attend the March 13th meeting, the Council meeting it will be rescheduled to March 20th.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
Shelley Winkler moved, John McClelland seconded the meeting be closed to the public in order to discuss personnel matters. Vote: 6-0.
The Mayor and Council went into closed session at 10:32 p.m.
TC REPORTS – March 2017
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – Georgette Cole
Street Signs: Gail prepared a draft report to discuss appropriate preservation guidelines for the Town’s existing street and pathway signs. The Commission agreed that the dark brown wooden signs, with white lettering, mounted on 4’x4’ posts that have been used in the past, as well as the present, are character-defining features of the Town’s historically significant rustic vernacular and natural landscape. It was agreed, however, that updating the Town’s street signage to meet state and county safety requirements need to be taken into consideration. The use of reflective lettering is one of the major issues. At the last Town Council meeting, the Mayor appointed a work group (Susan Van Nostrand, Margot Bowen and Gail Littlefield) to research the different options and alternatives available for this project. A report will be submitted at the next Town Council meeting in March. Mimi made a motion, seconded by Gail, to have David work with Gail to revise the draft report on HPC guideline recommendations. The motion carried unanimously. Once the revision has been reviewed and approved by Commission members, it will be submitted to the Mayor and Town Council for consideration. Gail will also contact Steven Werts, Maintenance Supervisor, and the Emergency Preparedness Committee to discuss their ideas and recommendations.
Archives – Annual Report: Pat Patula presented her 2016 annual report for review and guidance. In her report, Pat gives an update on what was achieved in 2016, with suggestions for what needs to be done in 2017. Pat just received an update on February 21, 2017, that the Records Management Plan has finally been approved by the State. The plan can now be implemented with emphasis on the transfer of the oldest and most vulnerable documents. Bob will send the report to Mayor McCathran, and copy Council members for their review.
Review Session – Projects: 304 Chestnut Avenue: The HPC declined to formally review a project submitted by homeowner, Jason Newman. The building permit application, dated February 15th, is for window well enlargement. The actual work was completed before the application was filed with the Town. The HPC was unable to determine from the public ways the extent of changes made to the existing window wells, and that information was not provided by written description or visual depiction. The house is a non-contributing structure and there are no contributing structures immediately adjacent to the property.
114 Ridge Road: Ralph Hurst, architect for Gary and Freda Temple, submitted a building permit application for a proposed 13’x15’ sunroom addition and enlargement of an existing deck on the back of the house. There was sufficient documentation provided with the application for the HPC to review. The proposed addition will be visible from Cherry Avenue and it is compatible with the existing structure and with the historic district. Mimi will prepare a written review and submit to the Planning Commission accordingly.
Expansion of National Register nomination: The HPC discussed the possibility of expanding and updating the Town’s National Register HD designation, which was originally drafted in 1979 by members of the Planning Commission. The period of significance for contributing structures under the current nomination is 1937. Since the Town has continued to develop and grow since its incorporation, it is important to continue to preserve the historic resources and cultural landscape. The current NR designation allows the Town to have a “seat at the table” when negotiating future environmental issues concerning the surrounding region. Expanding the NR designation will strengthen our position when trying to protect the Town going forward. The cost involved in hiring a professional architectural historian/firm to evaluate the expansion and updating of our existing nomination will be in the vicinity of $30,000.00. Gail and Wendy will prepare written justification, based on the 2009 Master Plan, to be submitted with the HPC budget recommendations for 2018.
HPC Budget: The Commission discussed budget recommendations presented by Pat Patula in her Annual Report. Bob will prepare a draft budget for members to review before being submitted to the Town Treasurer. Budget items will include:
- Expansion of National Register
- Monument sign for Political Hill
- Update of Historic Preservation Design Guidelines
- Ongoing education
- Modify Archives Room
- Repair of bench located in old Council Chambers
- Secure place for library
PLAYGROUNDS – Georgette Cole
Steve has continued to install new drainage in the playground equipment areas as well as replacing the wood enclosures and adding fresh wood chips. This has been done for the existing equipment and started in the area for new equipment to be installed in 2017.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Georgette Cole
MNCPPC Park Department, in accordance with the Meadow Operation and Use Plan, did the annual meadow mowing in late February/early March. The timing is particularly good as it avoids disturbing birds and animals that will be nesting there soon.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – Georgette Cole
The well bond has been returned to Toll Brothers. Letters of notification have been sent to the 15 houses on lower Ridge Road which were covered by the agreement and to Ms. Sherry Voigt Dionne whose mother’s house at 300 Ridge Road was not so covered.
MAPLE LAKE – Patrice Klein
The Lake Committee is on winter break. Next meeting will be Thursday, March 16th at 7:30 PM.
Maple Lake Cleanup: The annual cleanup will be on Saturday, April 22nd at 10 AM. Rain date is Sunday, April 23rd at Noon. UPDATE NOTE: This date is likely to change to the following Saturday, April 29th in consideration of the Science March in Washington DC. The Lake Committee and Woods Committee are discussing having a combined clean-up event and will post that notice in the Town Bulletin.
Geese: The Committee is using the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) protocol again to humanely prevent eggs from hatching this spring. In the past several years a pair of geese has nested in an area easily accessible to our egg-oiling team. They drive away the other geese during nesting season and then leave when their eggs do not hatch. Lake visitors are encouraged to take along a plastic bag and scoop droppings.
The Committee is working on plans for swim lessons, life guards, and making the lake even better for this summer.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY – Patrice Klein
The EPC is held its monthly meeting on February 9, 2017. Future regularly scheduled meetings will be monthly on the fourth Thursday. The AED coordinator has registered the Town Hall AED unit. The AED metal cabinet was delivered and will be installed with the device on the wall between bathrooms in the Town Council room hallway. AED/CPR/choking awareness training is scheduled on Saturday, April 22 in McCathran Hall at 1:00 PM. This class size is limited to 10 people. The cost is $10.00/person. Payment and registration is through the Town Office. American Heart Association AED/CPR certification training classes are offered by GWGVFD in Old Towne Gaithersburg on the 3rd Saturday each month for a cost of $75.00 per person. This information was posted in the March Town Bulletin.
The status of our Neighborhood Watch (NW) program is being revisited. Several EPC members are working to update the NW block map and develop a list of block captains. There is a plan to schedule a block captain meeting with the current MC police liaison officer to establish direct contact on NW issues once the block captains list is completed. The need for new reflective street signs was discussed to replace deteriorating wooden signs. Reflective letters are a community safety concern for emergency responders to readily identify correct houses. The EPC will forward a recommendation to the TC for consideration to use some type of reflective signs.
The EPC and Town Maintenance Supervisor are working on the purchase and installation site of the emergency back-up generator for the Town Hall. Approval by the Maryland Historic Trust is necessary because of the historic easement. The Committee is reviewing the Emergency Preparedness Task Force Report and assigning leads to follow up on the report recommendations.
The Committee will be requesting a dedicated space in the Town Bulletin for monthly notices.
The next meeting scheduled on March 23, 2017.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
F&B will continue to prune and remove dead trees through the town on a section by section basis. With very little snow this winter we are currently in a drought situation, unfortunately this will stress many of our older trees. Where possible, trees that are completely dead will just be topped and left for the resident wild life. The first F&B meeting for 2017 took place March 8. Spring planting and the FY2018 budget were discussed.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Worked on playground, new timber surrounds for merry-go-round, swing set, drainage, and completed replacing wood chips. Replace/painted seats on merry-go-round.
Cleared roads and walkways of downed limbs, took rotten timbers from playground and brush to waste transfer station.
Dug new post holes at lake in preparation to move the fence 4 – 5ft (due to erosion in the current location).
Refurbished the lake fence, and removed fallen tree inside the lake fence.
Cleared leaves out of the ditch in Woodward Park, cleared leaves and sticks from Nursery area.
Removed large Oak from across Acorn Lane, cut up wood and left some for Town residents to use for firewood, the remainder was taken to the waste transfer station.
Took apart several park benches, removing rotten timbers and repairing concrete supports.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report.
PLANNING COMMISSION – John McClelland
Building Permit Applications:
- 114 Ridge Rd addition – Approved
- 304 Chestnut Ave window wells etc. – Declined as application was incomplete. Resubmission to include building plans with electric and plumbing descriptions. Microwaves will need to be removed as well so the intended rental of the two basement living areas do not change the property’s classification from a “single family” residence to a multiple family residence. The PC is also writing covenants to protect this single family use and allow for continual monitoring of the rental space.
Rental Properties: Charlie Challstrom provided information on regulations and the related permitting processes for property owners who lease their home(s) and or room(s). University Park, College Park, the MD Municipal League have examples that will be consulted when the PC attempts to address this subject.
Oakmont Ave: Car sales (Mr. Car and Uno Car Sales) are permitted under the current zoning. Truck storage/parking (Alba’s Trucking) is also allowed as the property’s previously permitted site plan was continued without change. The PC does not feel the Town has strong legal footing to file a complaint.
Border Committee: Meeting was scheduled for March 7, 2017 where funding will be discussed.
Town Road Signs: Reflective street signs should be considered for safety (and is recommended by the Emergency Preparedness Committee). Continued use of wood signs on the avenues is fine.
East Woods Possible Deer Fence: The Public Ways & Property Permit will be needed if the project moves forward.
House Files: 98 properties completed.
MCCATHRAN HALL – John McClelland
Nothing to report.
WOODS COMMITTEE – Greg Silber
At an informational Town Meeting on Monday 27 February, the Committee made a presentation on the integrated approach to non-native invasive plant control and restoration of forest health in the East Woods based on the Town’s Forestry Stewardship Report. Representatives from Invasive Plant Control, Inc., with whom the Town has entered into a contract, also attended the meeting and discussed their methods and techniques for control of vegetation, anticipated schedules, cautions for residents, and other matters regarding the project.
The Committee will be recommending that a second informational Town Meeting be held on Monday evening 24 April to discuss with residents additional Committee activities and goals to restore forest health to include possible deer exclosures.
At its last meeting, the Committee discussed, among other things, planning for a second informational Town meeting to inform residents of activities to preserve the woods and to receive feedback on next steps and proposed activities; status of the East Woods border survey; overall planning, goals and specific actions by the Committee; review of woods-related information on the Town web site; the Committee’s 2018 draft budget request; and repair of a sign at Bradfield Crossing and repair of a foot bridge at Maple Avenue extended.
A woods clean-up is being planned for Saturday, 29 April. Volunteers are needed – please consider joining in this worthy effort!
The Committee will meet again on Monday 3 April, 7:30.
CONTRACTS – Greg Silber
Recyclable yard waste pick up by Potomac Disposal resumed on 2 March. Contractor US Lawns will be doing vacuum truck leaf pick-up through Friday 31 March.
Surveying and marking of the East Woods by Snider & Associates is underway and will be completed sometime in May or sooner.
Invasive non-native vegetation control work by Invasive Plant Control, Inc. is expected to commence in the East Woods this spring.
RECREATION – Shelley Winkler
A successful Ceili Dance held on March 10. The New Blue of Yale a cappella singers performed on March 14, drawing a full house in the hall for a terrific musical experience at the end of the first “snow day” of the year. Our hard-working Summer in the Parks parent volunteers, Emily Cavey, Marie Covard and Jenn Hix, now have registration information and job application information available on the town website.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Shelley Winkler
The RFP for spring road repairs has been mailed. Bids are due April 7 and will be opened at the April 10 Council meeting.
WEBSITE – Shelley Winkler
Individual pages on the Website are being updated as committees provide current information. The Summer in the Parks and Maple Lake forms are online for this coming summer. We appreciate the work of the SITP volunteers and the Lake Committee in reviewing and updating information on their website pages.
Bill Saar has been making improvements to the site as questions and comments regarding use have been sent to us, or as we have noticed issues. Bill is currently looking at various formats for importing information from the old website, such as house histories and HPC reviews. The goal is to import the documents in a way that allows them to be easily read from any device, including phones. The imported format must be responsive to the change of the size of a screen and still be readable. Bill has also taken on the responsibility of updating the plugins and themes on the website regularly, as part of his current pay arrangement with the Town.
Volunteers Christine Dibble and Mimi Bolotin will be meeting with me to reconsider ways in which the home page of the website can be organized to simplify accessing information. Bill has already made some improvements. I have started writing directly to committees which have website pages and asking for updated information.