12 June 2017 | Approved: 10 July 2017
Mayor Joli McCathran called the meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:33 p.m. In attendance were Council Members John Compton, Patrice Klein, Audrey Maskery, John McClelland, Greg Silber and Shelley Winkler. Also present, prior to the Approval of the Agenda, were Senator Nancy King, Delegate Charles Barkley, Delegate Kirill Reznik and resident Dennis Kane. Treasurer Mary Challstrom arrived after the discussion about Resolution 2017-03; Budget Transfers. Audrey Maskery left at the end of the Delegates presentation due to illness.
Visit from State Delegation; Senator King, Delegates Barkley, and Reznik:
Mayor McCathran welcomed Nancy King, Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik. Each member of the Delegation spoke about accomplishments, challenges, and failures during the past session as well as issues going forward. Delegate Barkley announced he was running for an at-large spot on the County Council. The Mayor and Council thanked them for their service and for attending the meeting.
Approval of Agenda:
Shelley Winkler moved to approve the agenda. John McClelland seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, approved.
There were no public appearances.
Approval of Minutes:
John Compton moved to approve the minutes of the Town Council meeting of May 22, 2017. Pat Klein seconded the motion. The Council amended the motion to add approval of posting the minutes to the website. Vote: 5-0, approved, as amended. Shelley Winkler abstained.
Resolution 2017-03; Budget Transfers FY 2017:
Mayor McCathran asked if there were any questions. There were none.
Action on Resolution 2017-03; Budget Transfers FY 2017:
Greg Silber moved to introduce and approve Resolution 2017-03. John Compton seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, approved.
Open Meetings Act of Maryland: Mayor McCathran referenced the Open Meetings Act training available online and encouraged Council members to consider taking the course. She also explained the three (3) things that should be done in order to fulfill 90% of the requirements; Posting an agenda a minimum of 24 hours before the meeting, taking minutes of each meeting, and approving minutes at the next meeting.
Treasurers Report 2017-Maypdf
John Compton moved to accept the Treasurer’s Report for May 2017. Shelley Winkler seconded the motion. There was a discussion about the following:
- Income Tax Revenue
- Forest Management Expenses
- Use of Reserves
Vote: 5-0, accepted.
Shelley Winkler moved to transfer $10K from savings to checking to pay bills. Greg Silber seconded the motion. Vote: 5-0, approved.
2009 Master Plan:
Mayor McCathran made reference to the areas of responsibility for this project assigned during the February Joint Work Session. She will send this information to Council members. The Planning Commission is pulling this project together and will take input from all committees and commissions. There was a brief discussion about the process. It was suggested an item about updating the Master Plan be placed in the next Town Bulletin.
Council Room Table Reconfiguration:
John McClelland and Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts have discussed the issue of a different table configuration for Council Meetings and will produce a prototype/mock-up for members to try out. The Council discussed length, width, shape, design ideas, and pros and cons of how this might better serve residents.
Charter Resolution 2017-02; amending various sections of the Town Charter to authorize the appointment of a Clerk or a Treasurer as two (2) separate offices or merging of same:
The Mayor asked the Clerk for a status report. The second advertisement in the Montgomery County Sentinel will take place on Thursday, June 14th. There will be two (2) additional weeks of advertising. The effective date is July 11, 2017.
Patrice Klein moved to approve and post the Council Reports. John Compton seconded the motion. After a brief discussion about girdled trees in the meadow, Mayor McCathran offered to call the Maryland-National Park & Planning about replacement of the three (3) trees that did not leaf out. Vote: 5-0, approved.
Letter to Dr. Smith – Mayor McCathran reported she wrote a follow-up letter to Montgomery County School Superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith asking for confirmation of changes to the Two-Way Immersion program at Washington Grove Elementary School presented by Principal Susan Barranger at a meeting on May 22, 2017.
Paris Climate Accord:
Mayor McCathran reported she signed a letter in support of the Paris Climate Accord on a local level. The letter is available at https://wearestillin.com, and has been signed by many cities, counties, and institutions of higher learning across the United States. John Compton stated if she signed as the Mayor, the Council should vote on this as well. They discussed the following:
- Implication of representing the entire Town
- Supporting parts of the Accord, specifically environmental
- Setting a precedent by signing
- Town values
- The many ways the Town has supported and continues to support the environment, including care of its forests, planting of trees, retaining large amounts of permeable land, etc.
John Compton moved the Council support the Mayor’s signature on this document. Shelley Winkler seconded the motion. Vote: 3-2, approval of support.
Letters to Non-residents about East Woods Encroachment:
As a result of the boundary survey of the East Woods completed by Snider & Associates, encroachments were discovered. Mayor McCathran wrote letters to those who are encroaching our woods. She wrote about being good stewards of the woods by not using them as a repository for brush and grass clippings and gave them 30 days to remove the piles. The people who installed a basketball court partially on Town land have been given 60 days to remove the court and fence which is on Town property. Mayor McCathran will write follow-up letters if no action takes place. John Compton suggested the Town offer help to remedy the situation.
Mayor McCathran reported a member of the Committee was asked to resign because of an e-mail containing threats received by the Mayor.
Montgomery County Police:
Mayor McCathran reported she and John Hutchinson would meet with the Commander on June 13th to discuss enforcement at Maple Lake. There was a discussion about the following:
- No Trespassing Signs
- Gang activity in the West Woods
- Security cameras
- Agent of Property documentation
- No Loitering Signs
- How lifeguards should handle intruders
- Possibility of getting security to check lake passes at the gate
Playgrounds: John Compton is the new Playground Liaison
Meadow Park: John Compton gave a brief history of the posts and the chain at the Ridge Road entrance to the Park. All parties agree a vehicular barrier should be there. John Compton moved to have Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts install two (2) removable but lockable posts to replace the orange chain currently in use. Shelley Winkler seconded the motion. Pat Klein would like to see information about the cost of such action. Montgomery County Parks will provide the locks. Vote: 5-0.
John Compton distributed a document describing two (2) items he would like to see on a future agenda. The items are as follows:
- Guidance for unofficial volunteer committees
- Discussion of the relationship between unofficial volunteer Grove committees and Town government
- Pat Klein noted that according to the Maryland Open Meetings Act, many of our Town committees are official committees that have been either appointed by the Mayor or approved by the Town Council – examples include the Woods Committee and the Emergency Preparedness Committee.
There was a discussion about how the Open Meetings Act comes into play with such committees. Shelley Winkler suggested the members ask two (2) questions:
- How do we want it to be?
- How do we get there?
These items will appear on the July agenda.
Dog Owners Group (DOG) Petition:
John Compton brought forth a signed Petition and a signed Proposal about creating a dog exercise area in the Grove. Mayor McCathran accepted the Proposal and the Petition. The Petition will go through the process for Council action specified in the Charter.
Shelley Winkler expressed the opinion that air conditioning the Town Hall (octagon) should be considered.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 10:20 p.m.
TC REPORTS – July 2017
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – John Compton
The HPC held their regular monthly meeting June 20, 2017.
HPC minutes. Renewed effort is required to hire a replacement for Cynthia Werts to take and transcribe HPC minutes. The position should be posted in the Town Bulletin, and other suggestions are welcome!
Expansion of our National Register nomination. Work has begun (Wendy Harris) on the RFP to hire a Consultant to prepare the Town’s submission. A significant part of the scope will be a complete evaluation of house histories by our Consultant in the context of supporting the nomination, including historic themes suggested by Claire Kelly (MC). Tasks to support the updated nomination have been prioritized, with the first phase addressing architecture, streetscape and cultural landscape, and a subsequent phase addressing expanding the historic district boundaries.
Educational video devoted to the historic significance of the Grove. It was suggested the Consultant might also be tasked to produce such a video.
Street Signs: The June 8 letter from the Emergency Preparedness Committee (EPC) recommending standard-to-code brown metal street signs was discussed. As a historic District, we are exempt from this code requirement. Gail Littlefield reported that she is already in consultation with Montgomery County Fire & Rescue about how the Town can achieve a balance between historicity and safety improvements. She reports that code complaint street signage is not a priority for them, whereas house numbering is. Additionally, she has confirmed with Peter Kurtze of the Maryland Historic Trust and Clare Kelly of Montgomery County Park and Planning that Washington Grove’s street signs are the only wooden historic street signs in the county and in Maryland. Gail has circulated a draft response to the EPC’s letter. HPC Chair Bob Booher may discuss this with the EPC prior to sending it to the TC and Mayor. Gail will prepare a presentation to the Town Council.
Design Guidelines. The working group is addressing specific design elements including porches, fences and streetscape, and aims to report to the HPC later this year.
Replacement Materials Symposium (sponsored by the Maryland Association of Historic Districts). Mimi Styles and Pat Patula attended and reported on the lack of consensus over using replacement material in restorations, with survey results to be made available soon. Also discussed was the application of preservation standards within economically challenged communities.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – John Compton
Access to the Meadow at the entry sign: Replacement of the present orange-chained barrier with the more aesthetic removable posts was approved by the TC last month. Steve Werts will be responsible for the installation, and Audrey Maskery is prioritizing this with him. Materials will be provided by Maintenance, excepting for locks and keys, which are to be provided by the MC Department of Parks (Master keys held by park employees, as well as the Park Police, and the Town).
No Hunting Sign: Relocating the present sign at the Meadow access road entrance to a less visually intrusive, but still prominent location, was suggested. Mr. Quintanilla of the Dept. of Parks approved the Town moving the sign. I will discuss this with Steve Werts.
Trees: Replacements for the 3 heavily compromised girdled trees by the Dept. of Parks is to be broached by Joli.
Undesirable and unlawful mowing and other unauthorized infringement within the Park along Ridge Road: Letters to Washington Grove residents and property owners along Ridge Road to address encroachments onto Meadow property are still forthcoming from the Dept. of Parks enforcement coordinator. The letters will cite the prohibitions against encroachment activities, and directly request all to “desist” such activity within 30 or 60 days, while listing penalties for failure to comply. They and we will monitor subsequent compliance, but specific offenders would need to be identified. The Town and/or its residents may facilitate this by informing enforcement of violators as they are identified. We need to again provide them all mailing addresses for properties adjacent to the Meadow along Ridge Road.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – John Compton
Nothing to report.
MAPLE LAKE – Patrice Klein
On Tuesday, July 13th, the Lake Committee chair, 2 TC members, and the Mayor met with District 6 Police Commander and another officer to discuss the ongoing trespassing at Maple Lake. The following action items were identified: post “No Trespassing – Police will be Notified” signs in English and Spanish every 50 feet around the lake perimeter; post a “No Loitering” sign at the lake gate; close the current holes in the fence, and reinforce the barbed wire at the top of the fence near the gate; and publish intruder guidelines for Life Guards and Residents. A new video surveillance camera to view the lake area and the diving board were installed on July 16th in the afternoon.
Despite the Town’s safeguarding efforts, a drowning incident emergency response occurred at Maple Lake on June 17, 2017 in connection with a missing child report issued that day, and finding an unattended school backpack and boy’s clothing on the lake dock the previous morning (Friday, June 16) coincident with several young teenagers found trespassing at the lake. The body of the drowned teenager was recovered later that evening. A police investigation was conducted and was reported as an accidental drowning.
A few weeks after this emergency response, a group of 15 town residents held a discussion session with a licensed social worker from the Jewish Social Service Association to express some personal thoughts. Although the discussion was confidential, there were several items that the group wanted to pass on to the Mayor and Town Council. These are listed below for optional inclusion in this report:
1. Lake Guards. A commendation should be issued to the three lake guards present on June 17, the day of the emergency response event.
2. Communication. The Town government should have shared more specific information (information that it was allowed to share) with town residents during and after the emergency response. For example, the two Grove Alerts (announcing the closure of the lake and announcing its reopening) could have mentioned there had been a non-resident drowning event and that police were investigating.
3. Police investigation. A participant said that a police department press release had just been issued stating that the death was ruled an accidental drowning. Will the town/mayor request a copy of the police investigation report? Can it be made public?
4. Follow-up with police. It would be a service to our community to provide the police with feedback on how the incident was handled from our perspective, informing them of our concerns about the delay in the response to the 911 call, the attitude toward Town residents of the first officer on the scene, and the apparent lack of sensitivity toward the boy’s family (language and cultural issues and their decision not to accept our offer to provide translators).
5. Follow-up with Gaithersburg Middle School. An inquiry should be made to the Gaithersburg Middle School (either by the Town or by an individual) asking if its water safety training includes the importance of calling for help in emergencies.
6. Follow-up with Gaithersburg Middle School. Will the school consider adding civics instruction or discussion in the school on the importance of obeying local laws and ordinances such as “no trespassing” and “private property”? This would help develop children to become responsible adults.
Suggestions for Town Council consideration:
1. Sponsor in Kodjo’s name a water safety or learn-to-swim program at a local pool.
2. Consider a memorial, e.g., a garden could be planted in Kodjo’s memory or something could be placed at the lake.
3. A thank you note to the group discussion facilitator on Town letterhead.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY – Patrice Klein
The TC EPC liaison presented an overview of the Maryland Open Meetings Act as a state law regarding the conduct of governmental meetings openly and publicly. Key elements include posting meeting notices and agendas of meeting, creating meeting minutes, and making approved meeting minutes available to the public. The EPC, as a Committee established by the TC and members appointed by the Mayor, will continue to comply with the requirements of the Act. A manual, FAQs, and training are available online.
The TC EPC liaison reported on the June 17th drowning incident emergency response at Maple Lake and the ongoing police investigation. Details were not available at the time of the EPC meeting. Committee members discussed communications by a County Public Information Officer, and the Grove Alerts from the Mayor to inform Town residents. There were some questions about any future communications role for the EPC in such emergency situations.
The Committee is developing content for an EPC web page on the Town’s website. A list of emergency and non-emergency contacts will be included and submitted for posting on the Town’s website.
The EPC submitted a recommendation to the TC in June that brown aluminum street name signs be installed on all paved roads, streets, and lanes in Washington Grove. The Mayor noted this topic would be included on the July TC meeting agenda. The Committee intends to follow up with Town Maintenance regarding its recommendation to mark all town fire hydrants with high visibility reflective posts. This is in accordance with the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service report on the 203 Second Avenue fire.
EPC members are making progress to reactivate Neighborhood Watch. A draft Action Plan and WG Neighborhood Watch Survey were discussed. Block Captains are being identified. The TC EPC liaison will share the contact information for the recently assigned County Police Community Liaison Officer to see if the officer can schedule time to meet with the Committee and the Block Captains.
The Committee discussed potential topics in the 2009 Master Plan that would be relevant for the EPC such as emergency response and mitigation of potential environmental risks to sensitive areas, protecting the economic value of our community, and stewardship of our forests and watersheds.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
Next F&B meeting August 12th 7.30pm.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Tennis courts; hard court cleaned, clay court weeded, rolled, luting and court lines re-set. Watering of clay courts will continue through the playing season.
Watering of trees purchased in 2016/17, plus microspore feeding of Oaks in Morgan Park, watering of new trees will continue July through October.
Grass cut throughout Town; cleared brush and trash. New signs in English & Spanish installed at lake, additional surveillance cameras installed. 20’ of fence replaced plus holes repaired. New shed built to hold additional equipment.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report
PLANNING COMMISSION – John McClelland
- 125 Grove Ave – Addition – Tabled as boundary survey remains outstanding
- 112 Chestnut Ave – In anticipation of a potential future fence permit, the property owner expressed concern about previously submitted property boundary surveys used as part of prior building permit applications. The property owner cited old maps regarding the SE corner which was “rounded” vs. the current “angled” corner. The Planning Commission explained that any issues with a boundary survey would be between the property owner and the surveyor. IF the boundary survey was adjusted (and a new survey presented) the previously approved building permits would require PC review for adherence to applicable Town ordinance.
- 346 Ridge Rd – above ground pool – The property owner, management company and tenant were informed of Montgomery County’s (MoCo) permitting requirement for pools over 18” in water depth as well as a five (5) foot fence with internal, automatic locking gates requirements (which requires a Town building permit as well). The Town can sign off on the MoCo pool permit but the normal review process will be needed for a fence building permit.
Survey for De-platting of the East Woods: Mylar copy signed off by Peter Nagrod, PC Chairman
Town/Public Property Permitted Uses and Zoning according to the Master Plan, Charter and Ordinances:
- Forest Conservation 6.1 (FR zone) is designed for “passive” recreation (birding & walking) according to MP
- Areas designated as parks allow active recreation.
- Maps (circa 1964) within the MP list Woodward Park extending north past Center St to Boundary St as well as east from Grove Rd to Maple Ave (extended). This area is zoned RR1.
- The east woods currently includes the FR and RR1 zones.
- The ongoing forest restoration/preservation work (east woods) includes the FR and RR1 zones.
- The East Woods Boundary Survey and de-platting was done as a protective measure to send a clear message of non-development within the historical resource of the Town’s woods. Removing the RR1 zoning would reinforce the Town’s intent.
- Potential rezoning (from RR1 to FR) is the responsibility of the TC, however, doing so would then limit the area to only passive recreation. Town options for the area (I.E. – a potential dog park, zip line, Frisbee golf course etc.) would also be limited.
- Changes to zoning can be done at any time by the TC.
- Preservation of the Town’s historically significant resource (the forest) was an integral part of the Town’s position for attaining preservation of the historic meadow and the application of passive recreation only.
Maple Lake Fence:
- MoCo police recommended a reapplication of the barbed wire.
- A suggestion of a board on board fence (or heavier steel fence) vs. the current chain link fence to reduce the constant repair cost (from cutting) as well as minimize the opportunity for another tragedy was introduced. The Lake Committee is examining fence and easier resident identification processes.
Cator Property: The contractor hired to plant the trees according to the subdivision reforestation plan was reminded of the silt fence permit requirement. No work/activity has been done.
House Files: 122 completed
MCCATHRAN HALL – John McClelland
- Sprinkler System – Valve(s) replaced and back flow preventer inspected
- Cleaning – Great reviews
- Summer In The Parks – Active – and so far so good
WOODS COMMITTEE – Greg Silber
Given its regularly scheduled meeting would fall on a Holiday weekend, the Committee decided to move its July meeting to 17 July. Therefore, the Committee will meet again on Monday 17 July, 7:30. All participants are welcome. The Committee expects to continue discussing deer population control options, and furthering plans for restoring the health of the East and West Woods as Forest Preserves.
CONTRACTS – Greg Silber
Invasive Plant Control, Inc., the contractor treating non-native invasive plants in the East Woods, has submitted a request to amend its contract for a proposed increase in costs based on their re-evaluation of the extent of invasive plants and associated work time to treat them. The Council will need to discuss.
RECREATION – Shelley Winkler
Fourth of July weekend worked out well — a great call by the committee to postpone the lake party due to the predicted storm. The Recreation Committee would like to thank all of the volunteers for grilling, setting up, and also Hutch and the Lake Committee for their support and providing the lifeguards. The Muskrat Band convened with a memorable 18 musicians! The next major event will be Labor Day weekend.
Summer in the Parks now has 32 campers enrolled, of which 7 are from out-of-town.
Reminder: The Recreation Committee has started using a “Signup Genius” list so that all residents of Town can easily add their name to lend-a-hand for events: https://m.signupgenius.com/#1/showSignUp/409054aaca72b0-the town Hopefully, many residents will enjoy signing up and taking part.
WEBSITE – Shelley Winkler
Before the next Council meeting, we should have a proposal from Bill Saar to import various town documents (nearly 900) to our website. These include older meeting minutes, bulletins, and house histories. Many are still being held on the site he made available to the Town in the past. That site may not exist in the future, and it is important to bring them over. I am hoping the proposal will be available for the August agenda.
The new host for the website is working out very well. Bill stated that the site loads much faster, they provide a daily backup of the site, and should it be hacked, the host provides a guaranty that they will restore it.
We are working on re-organizing the website architecture. This is a slow process, as each heading and subheading, as well as the content of the pages, needs to be reconsidered. The result should be a website where it is easier to find what you are looking for, with fewer steps to get there.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Shelley Winkler
Nothing to report
INTERGOVERNMENTAL – Joli A. McCathran
In June, I attended the Maryland Municipal League Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. The classes held were excellent and of a wide variety. The guest speaker was Dr. Samual Betances who spoke on multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion. Governor Larry Hogan spoke at the conference dinner. The Maryland Mayors Association (MMA) also held their meeting during the conference. Additionally, I was elected as the Second Vice-President of the MMA for the ensuing year.