11 January 2021 | Approved: 8 February 2021
The unprecedented emergency health crisis poses a challenge to all – individually and collectively. To protect ourselves and do our part to impede the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, the regular meeting of the Town Council was held remotely via ZOOM Video Conferencing. The meeting was recorded.
Mayor John Compton called the regular meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilors Charlie Challstrom, David Cosson, Marida Hines, Patty Klein and Gray Yachup. Also in attendance were Treasurer Mary Challstrom, and resident Christine Dibble, Joan Mahaffey and HPC Chair Bob Booher.
Approval of Agenda:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the agenda. Marida Hines seconded the motion. Dave Cosson asked to add a Resolution in appreciation of employees at the Washington Grove Post Office during COVID. Vote: 5-0, amended Agenda approved.
Resolution 2021-03; Resolution in Commendation of the Postal Workers at the Washington Grove Post Office for their Devoted Service During the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Mayor Compton explained that resident Joe Clark suggested the Town Council consider recognizing the efforts of workers at the Washington Grove Post Office, and that Councilor Dave Cosson wrote this draft Resolution document. Joan Mahaffey suggested that janitorial staff be included as well. Dave Cosson moved to introduce Resolution 2021-03 as amended, and Charlie Challstrom seconded the motion. Vote: 4-0 (Gray Yachup abstained, citing his position on the staff of Congressman David Trone).
Recommitment of Support for Global Climate Action and the “America Is All In” Statement :
HPC Chair and Sustainability group leader Bob Booher advocated that the Town should join other governments and institutions in the United States who on the occasion of the 5-year anniversary of the Paris Global Climate Accords last month are recommitting their intentions to support the actions to mitigate changes to the global climate. Mayor Compton explained that in 2017, then Mayor Joli McCathran and the Town Council committed Washington Grove to these principles and actions. Today Town Council and the Mayor’s signature on the “America is All In” statement would signify the Town joins in recommitting to being “all in” with the Paris Climate Accord. Charlie Challstrom moved to support the recommitment statement by means of the Mayor’s signature. Dave Cosson seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, approved.
Approval of Minutes:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the December 14, 2020 minutes of the Town Council. Patty Klein seconded the motion. Charlie Challstrom presented some edits. Vote: 5-0, approved, as amended.
- Mayor Compton reported the Sustainability Group has arranged for a presentation of the Montgomery County draft Climate Action Plan. A Zoom session has been scheduled for Tuesday February 2nd at 7:30 pm.
- At least one resident of Brown Street reported loud noise (bangs) at 5:00 a.m. coming from the industrial zone behind Brown Street. It was unclear whether the noise was coming from Roberts Oxygen or the MCDOT Salt Barn. A County facility zoning compliance officer visited the area in the early morning hours and reported activity at Roberts Oxygen. Town Clerk Kathy Lehman learned that Roberts Oxygen had recently started operating that early, but they were unaware of such noise from their operations. The Town Clerk will continue to monitor this issue.
- Salt Barn Status – Mayor Compton, along with other Town representatives, continue to pursue the issue of the size of the roof of the new salt barn. He has been in touch with County Executive Marc Elrich, and further inquiries and discussions are planned.
- Washington Grove Bikeways Connector Study Status – Nothing new to report.
- Vehicular use of walkways; and temporary parking on private property of vehicles used for occupancy – See New Business
- WSSC sewer replacement project status –
- 207 Grove Avenue – the WSSC is bringing out a camera to view the lateral going to this property. At issue is whether a large tree will be impacted if the Town agrees to replacement of the lateral. Stand by.
- Ridge Road – WSSC came today and did some spot paving. They will come back to do complete repaving, possibly as early as March.
FY 2020 Audit – Discussion and Acceptance:
Treasurer Mary Challstrom noted that this year’s audit was accomplished through virtual sessions and proceeded smoothly and had nothing of note to bring to the Town Council’s attention. Patty Klein moved to accept the FY 2020 Audit Report. Dave Cosson seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, accepted.
Treasurers Report 2020-December
Patty Klein moved acceptance of the December 2020 Treasurer’s Report. Marida Hines seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, accepted.
Treasurer Mary Challstrom asked to schedule the upcoming Budget Work Session for March 22, 2021. The Mayor and Council agreed.
Dave Cosson moved to authorize the transfer $15K from savings to checking in order to pay bills. Patty Klein seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, accepted.
Ordinance 2020-15; Authorizing Termination of the Restrictive Covenant on Setback Imposed on Property at 201 Chestnut Avenue – Discussion and possible adoption:
Mayor Compton pointed out his proposed slight change to the title in the Public Hearing draft. The Council accepted it. Charlie Challstrom moved to enact Ordinance 2020-15, as amended. Dave Cosson seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, adopted.
Ordinance 2020-14; Amending Article XVI, Schedule of Fees to Specify the Public Ways & Property Permit Application Fee for Proposed Work in a Public Way or on Town Property that is Adjoining Property Owned by the Applicant:
Mayor Compton summarized the proposed ordinance. Charlie Challstrom used a driveway apron as an example of when this permit would be used. He explained the similarity to the Town’s major and minor building permit in terms of cost and Town involvement. There was a discussion about penalties if Town land was used without permission. Charlie directed members to Article III (Traffic, Vehicles, Transportation, Public Ways and Town Property). Charlie Challstrom moved to enact Ordinance 2020-14. Patty Klein seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, adopted.
Ordinance 2020-13; Amending Article I to Enable Regulation of Activity on Town Land by Resolution, to Prohibit Damage to or Removal of Vegetation, Minerals or Artifacts on Public Property, and to Require a Permit for Archeological Activities:
This ordinance allows the Council to regulate activities on Town land by resolution and requires a permit be obtained for certain activities. At the Mayor’s suggestion, some additional language was removed for inclusion in Resolution 2021-02 to implement the permits, and is currently under review (see below). Gray Yachup moved to enact Ordinance 2020-13. Charlie Challstrom seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, as amended.
Resolution 2021-02; Establishing Procedures for Issuing Permits for Archeological, Cultural Artifact of Fossil Investigation on Town Land
– Discussion. Dave Cosson reported receiving a request from the HPC to comment on the current draft of the resolution. Further discussion and possible action was deferred to February.
Town Council Reports:
Marida Hines moved to approve the Council Reports and post them to the website. Gray Yachup seconded the motion. There was a discussion about the County mowing schedule for the Conservation Meadow, County Weed Warriors, and rotating the walking paths in order to control erosion.
Gray Yachup reported that next month he will present an estimate from AB Veirs for repaving of Chestnut Road between Brown Street and Oak Street, of Center Street over a drainage pipe proposed for replacement, and of the apron of McCauley Road at Washington Grove Lane.
To a question from Marida Hines, Patty Klein reported only five (5) deer have been harvested so far this season, and that the bow hunters may move the stand to a more frequented area of the woods. There was a discussion about expanding the hunting boundaries to the Washington Grove Conservation Meadow. This would require a discussion with Montgomery Parks M-NCPPC.
Vote: 5-0, Town Council Reports approved for posting.
There was none.
- Ordinance 2021-01; Amending the Washington Grove Zoning Ordinance to Terminate Certain Restrictive Covenants and to Authorize Related Legal Instruments Suitable for Recordation in the Land Records of Montgomery County – Introduction. Charlie Challstrom explained the history of the covenants both placed and removed. He also clarified the meaning of “runs with the land.” There was a discussion about the following:
- 1968 removal, by law, of racially offensive covenants
- Who pays for the cost of removal? (Resident)
- Use of the Mayor’s signature as the legal instrument
- Petitioning the County Attorney
Charlie Challstrom moved to introduce Ordinance 2021-01, a zoning text amendment, for terminating covenants. Marida Hines seconded. No vote required. There was additional discussion about the following:
- The Town Attorney’s opinion that although this ordinance did belong in the Town Code, it may not specifically belong in Article VII (Zoning)
- The Town Attorney’s concerns regarding the Town’s rules for home businesses
- Mass filings and the potential for a lesser fee
- Town paying all or part of the fee
Where this appears in Town Code must be resolved. The public hearing date will be set at the February meeting. That hearing will likely be in March.
Marc Hansen added he agreed this is a quasi-land use issue and there is logic for putting it in the zoning code. However, any application to extinguish covenants in multiple deeds may prove cumbersome (involving many properties and owners, liber & folio numbers, etc.). He suggested that individual property owners may not find this course of action too burdensome if it were taken upon sale of a property. He noted the Circuit Court controls fees, not the County. Marc thanked the Mayor and Council for help with this issue for his property.
- Vehicular Use of Walkways; and Temporary Parking on Private Property of Vehicles Used for Occupancy – Discussion
Mayor Compton reviewed concerns over the school bus that parked in front of 205 Maple Avenue over the holidays. John received complaints over the walkway being used to get to the front of the home, and the perception that people were living in the bus. There was clear violation of the Town ordinance prohibiting parking in a front yard facing an avenue. John talked to the resident and learned that the bus belonged to his son, visiting for a couple of weeks. The resident agreed to move the bus to the driveway entered from Maple Road. Dave Cosson stated that perhaps the Town’s ordinances should be reviewed for clarity of both the use of walkways by private vehicles, and the parking of potential living units on private property.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:40 p.m.
Kathryn L. Lehman
TC REPORTS – January 2021
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – Darrell Anderson
The HPC held a virtual meeting on December 15, 2020; the next meeting will be held on January 19, 2021, at 7:30 pm by virtual means.
There were no new submitted permit applications for review.
Regarding the current draft of Ordinance 2020-13 (Amending Article I to Enable Regulation of Activity on Town Land by Resolution, to Prohibit Damage to or Removal of Vegetation, Minerals or Artifacts on Public Property, and to Require a Permit for Archeological Activities), the HPC posited that they have no expertise in assessment of fossils and would like to see a different method for approving permits in this area. They do accept that they can appropriately review permit applications in the area of historical artifacts.
Information from the Town archives continue to be collected for the Racial Equity group, including census data. It was recommended that results of this fact finding be held for presentation to the Town when in-person meetings resume.
The HPC continues to work on a map regarding Town historic resources based on the historic review information for our National Register nomination. There needs to be input on what resources to include and the scope involved in the map. (e.g., masonry, lighting, etc.).
For the National Register, a discussion was held on how to highlight this on the Town website, and how much information to include. The HPC will work with the Communications Committee to find solutions. It is strongly recommended that this should be on the “landing page” of the website as a link to the full report and appendices. The appendices are ready for printing and distribution to HPC members and the Town Office.
Comprehensive (Master) Plan Update: The HPC reviewed the draft of the new Section 13 (Climate Change) submitted by the Climate Change group. The group will send the draft to Georgette for review by the Comprehensive Plan Committee. This is timely because Montgomery County just released their own policy paper on climate change. The submitted master plan section appears to be in concert with the County’s plan.
LIGHTING COMMITTEE – Darrell Anderson
The Lighting Committee (LC) did not hold a meeting in December but has planned to meet on January 27, 2021.
MAINTENANCE – Darrell Anderson
Regularly string-trimmed and cut grass around Town, including the field. Cut brush in various locations. Picked up leaves around Town. Made trips to the County dump when necessary. Purchased gas when needed. Completed paperwork as required. Worked in the maintenance shop if needed or weather dictated.
Went to get new brake line for the Town truck. Replaced brake line.
Cleaned the leaves out of the ditch in the park.
Went to the dump with concrete (removed from 122 Grove Ave for WSSC work).
Went to Lowes to pick up split rail fence posts (used on Oak Street and Ridge Road)
Went to Jack T. Irwin to get two loads of CR6 for Cherry Ave. Hauled and spread fill dirt on Cherry Avenue at new drain pipe.
Installed a new bench in the park (along Grove Road at McCauley).
Worked on the Town truck and plow to prepare for snow. Plowed snow. Sanded icy hills & intersections around Town.
Cut up a downed tree that fell across Cherry Ave.
Met with Guardian Fire at Town Hall (to repair a smoke detector).
Put cones around sink hole outside 117 Grove Ave.
Contacted ABVeirs about road work on Chestnut Road.
Fixed exit light at Town Hall.
Picked up bamboo (cut during the snow storm on Grove Road) and hauled it to the dump. Cleaned park bathrooms.
Surveyed landscape drainage issue in front of 4th Ave (reconstruction suggested by Mayor Compton). Began reconstruction.
PLANNING COMMISSION – Charlie Challstrom
Building Permit Activity – 404 Fourth Ave – Shed – The PC is awaiting an updated building permit application from Bryant Foreman. The shed, installed without a permit, is currently located adjacent to Johnson Alley in violation of setback requirements. Mayor Compton had conferred with Bryant and had put enforcement on hold, awaiting the recent update to setback requirements that was effective December 9. The PC is contacting Bryant to request the updated permit application.
Terminating Restrictive Covenants – The PC has filed and accepted an Application for Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) to add a new Section 2.4 to Article VII, Zoning. This ZTA would declare a certain set of three Restrictive Covenants as terminated, and authorize legal instruments for filing in the Land Records, if requested and prepared by owners of properties burdened by the Restrictive Covenants. This set of Restrictive Covenants includes: (a) building cost restrictions; (b) mercantile, manufacturing, and mechanical use restrictions; and (c) racially-based restrictions on who may own an interest in the property. In deeds conveying “Town” or “Washington Grove Association” property, these three Restrictive Covenants were specified to “run with the land” which means that the burden has passed automatically to successors. The PC has previously reported to the Mayor and Council its conclusion that Town action is justified to terminate these Restrictive Covenants. Work has continued to identify properties burdened by these Restrictive Covenants. The Application for ZTA has been shared with the Mayor and Council, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Racial Equity Committee, and others. The next step is “Introduction” by the Town Council and then advertising the date for the Public Hearing.
PC Work Session on December 16, 2020 – During this work session, the PC accepted changes for the RR-1 and RR-2 Zone descriptions for the Comprehensive Plan as recommended by the HPC. The PC made minor revisions to Section 3.2 (Parking Policy), noting suggestions from the Racial Equity Committee (REC). The PC noted REC concerns for parking at the Commercial Corner and altered Section 8.4 wording to direct more general parking changes. The PC added removal or movement of the dumpster which creates a pedestrian safety hazard in its current location. To assist with updating Exhibit A (Current Zoning and Growth Areas), Pat Patula helped connect the PC with Kirk Eby, GIS Planner, City of Gaithersburg, who has already provided a draft updated Exhibit A. The Sustainability Committee submitted a new section, and it will be the subject of the next PC work session. The PC discussed the Public Ways and Property permit form, and Robert Johnson volunteered to draft the next form update. The PC also discussed use of identify fences in Town, noting the new fence segments at the eastern edge of Oak Street are attractive and effective at preventing vehicular intrusion. The next PC work session is scheduled for January 20.
MCCATHRAN HALL – Charlie Challstrom
No activities to report this month.
MONTGOMERY MUNICIPAL CABLE (MMC) – Charlie Challstrom
MMC Annual Meeting – The MMC Annual Meeting will held via Zoom on January 27 to include election of officers, adoption of the 2021 budget, and MMC program highlights for this past year. The MMC program highlights will include the video productions of our Washington Grove events.
CENSUS – Charlie Challstrom
Census Update – The 2020 Census was the first decennial census to invite people to respond online. Now comes the careful process of creating statistics – anonymous data that will help shape the next decade for communities across the country. Census Bureau experts continue work on processing the 2020 Census data. As issues that could affect the accuracy of the data are detected, they are corrected. This important process, which has been a part of every decennial census, is critical to produce data that can be used for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives among the states.
CONTRACTS – Dave Cosson
An RFP for the Refuse/Recycling contract is to be prepared and issued in the next month.
WOODS – Dave Cosson
The Woods Committee met on January 4th and discussed the following:
The BHFFMD volunteer bow hunters harvested only 1 doe in the East Woods in December. Relocating their tree stands to another part of the woods will again be discussed with the hunters. A trail camera photo of a coyote in the East Woods in late December was provided by BHFFMD. The WC co-chair will post notice about the coyote sighting on the WG listserve advising residents to keep small pets inside.
The proposed ordinance (2020-13) regarding woods regulations, archeology and fossil hunting along with a draft Resolution (attached) to implement the permit process were discussed. Committee members expressed concern that the rules should be kept to a minimum and that ordinary trash clean up should be allowed.
Krista Zanetti provided updates on progress to design and procure trail signs that will both provide trail route information and inform users of permitted and prohibited activities on the trails and in the Woods. A combination of wooden posts with trail use symbols will be accompanied by mini-kiosks at the trail entrances on which detailed rules and trail maps can be posted and readily updated. More detailed costs estimates are expected in the near future.
The co-chairs met with a local landscaper to discuss” timber turnpikes” construction in three wet trail sections of the East Woods using existing downed wood and available fill soil at the Maintenance Building. The wet section of Maple Avenue extended between Center Street and the Franklin trail will be reinforced with brown gravel mixed into the soil.
The need for a foot bridge at the Bradford Crossing was discussed as it is currently difficult to cross the stream at that point. A more favorable location for the bridge might require minor rerouting of the trail.
The Committee began discussion of its FY22 proposed budget and suggestions for allocating funds for current and new activities. A final draft for submission will be prepared by the next WC meeting.
RACIAL EQUITY COMMITTEE – Dave Cosson
The Committee met by Zoom on December 13 and discussed the following:
Assessment of Social Inclusion in Washington Grove. Members discussed whether the Committee first needs to provide information to residents on the need for, and benefits of, such an assessment, or whether the two processes could proceed simultaneously. As an example the process followed by Brattleboro, Vermont was explained and links provided to its efforts. Community assessment tools were also put in the Committee’s archive. Efforts could include surveys, focus groups and conversation. The possibility of retaining a consultant was raised and the resulting need for Town budget allocation.
Historical Education Working Group. Committee members were updated on its activities including creation of a Google document for sharing resources, beginning work on a timeline spreadsheet, and availability of Montgomery County Speakers’ Bureau. The working group met again on December 20th and discussed alternatives including a possible presentation in the next couple of months.
WG Comprehensive Plan Input. Discussion involved focus on the parking sections of the plan draft. Recommendations were provided to the Planning Commission on December 16th.
COMMUNICATIONS WORK GROUP – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
DOG PARK – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
RECREATION – Marida Hines
The next meeting of the Recreation Committee is Wednesday, January 20, 2021. The public is invited to attend this virtual meeting via ZOOM.
The Virtual Holiday Show, created by Judy Mroczka and filmed and edited by Montgomery Municipal Cable, was hugely successful. “Cottage Fever: A Virtually Real Holiday Show ” aired on Saturday, December 12 and was livestreamed from Montgomery Municipal Cable TV or on Channel 16 on Comcast, Verizon and RCN. This was followed by a Zoom after-party.
The virtual show is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/iTmgTyinz1Q.
The virtual format was so well received that some discussion has ensued about offering some element of this approach in future shows even once live performances can be resumed. Currently discussions are ongoing about how to make the show available via the Town website, either by an embed or as a simple link to YouTube. The latter is probably the preferred solution as it would not require closed captioning to meet accessibility standards.
This led to some discussion about other Town video and non-text content and how to make it accessible to the community. This includes content such as DVDs of past holiday shows, photos from past shows, archived programs from past shows, and potentially scripts.
WEBSITE – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY COMMITTEE – Pat Klein
The EPSC met on December 17, 2020 and discussed the following matters.
Cybersecurity: a brief review of the ‘Zoom bombing’ incident that occurred at the December Town Council meeting identified the importance of using the ‘waiting room’ feature and requiring registration to receive the Zoom meeting link – instead of general public posting. The EPSC will contact the MML Hometown Emergency Preparedness Committee who are working on municipal cybersecurity for their insights and recommendations.
Lower Ridge Road street safety: a follow-up discussion from last meeting on installation of reflectors on the guard rail at the end of the road and on street signs to alert drivers. Certain street signs should be repositioned at more visible locations, and additional street signs “No outlet” and “Children at play”. EPSC will request the Mayor post a notice in the January Town Bulletin to solicit comments from town residents on the proposed installation of a speed hump along Lower Ridge Road to control speeding vehicles.
The next EPSC meeting will be on Thursday, January 28, 2021.
MAPLE LAKE – Pat Klein
The Committee is on winter hiatus and no meetings are scheduled until early March 2021.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Gray Yachup
The Forestry and Beautification committee has concluded their efforts for Fall planting season and will begin meeting again in the lead up to the Spring season.
PLAYGROUNDS – Gray Yachup
I have chatted with Steve on replacing the basketball hoops and will check in again closer to spring in preparation for use of the playground to begin.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Gray Yachup
A.B. Veirs has taken a look at several areas of interest in Town, namely Chestnut Road from Oak to Brown Street and the McCauley and Washington Grove Lane intersection. I will be writing up a proposal for the Council for our next meeting, where we can decide on our next actions.
In addition, WSSC will be replacing pipes on Ridge Road from 1/11 to 1/15, as well as on the intersection of Brown and Ridge. Be advised that traffic will be affected, and that work may extend over that deadline if weather is unfavorable.
There have also been some concerns re: installing a speed bump on Ridge Road, which I will respond to on 1/11.
MEMORIALS – Gray Yachup
STORMWATER MANAGEMENT – Gray Yachup
We have just received estimates from A.B. Veirs on two potential remediation efforts for the Chestnut and Oak Street intersections. I will be reviewing these with Steve and Darrell and will write a full report and proposal for the Council next month.
Moving forward, I will begin investigating the ongoing concerns of those on the corner of Hickory and Oak and will see what potential efforts can be made to assist in the runoff in that area.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Gray Yachup
Weed Warriors virtual trainings have begun again, and I will be putting out a message to the Town to ask for volunteers to take the training in preparation of efforts to eliminate MAM and other invasive species in the park this Spring.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – Gray Yachup
Nothing to report.