9 March 2020 | Approved: 13 April 2020
Mayor John Compton called the regular meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilors Darrell Anderson, Charlie Challstrom, Rob Gilmore, Marida Hines, Patty Klein, and Audrey Maskery. Also in attendance were Treasurer Mary Challstrom, Wendy Harris and residents Paul Campbell, Georgette Cole, Robert Johnson, Dennis Kirschbaum, Joan Mahaffey, Paula Puglisi, and David Stopak.
Approval of Agenda:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the agenda. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion. Charlie Challstrom requested the addition of Continuity of Operations (dealing with emergencies on a longer-term basis). Vote: 6-0, agenda approved as amended. (PDF)
The Town Clerk Kathy Lehman inquired into the removal of over 35 white mulberry trees in the East Woods, whether it was authorized, and questioned why there wasn’t more communication because of the significant effect on the woods at that location. Woods Committee Co-Chairs Joan Mahaffey and Patty Klein responded they were unaware of the large number involved, but that mulberry tree removal by the Town’s contractor IPC was authorized. Further discussion included the reason for removal (white mulberry trees are invasive, to allow reforestation in that location), the size of the trees, the rationale for the winter work (in the contract), and the addition of these mulberry trees to the IPC work plan (they were discovered on-site).
David Stopak asked to have a bike path discussion, distributed a handout, and asserted concerns of lower Brown St. residents weren’t being heard. He asked for a discussion of process for Town approval of potential connections to the County bikeway system.
Paul Campbell expressed his concern about safety on lower Brown St. if a bike path enters Town at the cul-de-sac.
Approval of Minutes:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the February 10, 2020 Town Council Meeting Minutes. Marida Hines seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
Treasurers Report 2020-February pdf
Patty Klein moved acceptance of the February 2020 Treasurer’s Report. Rob Gilmore seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, accepted.
Treasurer Mary Challstrom reminded the Mayor and Council of the Budget Work Session scheduled for March 23, 2020.
Bikeways Connections to Washington Grove – Special Town Meeting for the Purpose of Confirming Support for a Shared-Use Pathway Connection to Crabbs Branch Way:
Discussion of next steps. Mayor Compton referenced recently received emails from residents asking why another Special Town Meeting had been scheduled. A discussion ensued that included:
- Whether the Council should wait for specific details about options.
- Providing guidance to the MCDOT study from the Council.
- Confirming or rejecting a connection at a Town Meeting
- Allowing the County to waste time on studies if the Town doesn’t want the connection
- Whether specific access locations should be supported.
- Whether a specific path through Town should be supported
- Setting up a task force to advise the Town Council and Town.
- County timelines
- Fair processes; County and Town
- Possible under consideration; Railroad Street, The Meadow, Amity Drive, Brown Street
The lengthy discussion concluded with consensus that forming a task force would be helpful. The Mayor expressed his intention to do so.
West Woods Watershed Study RFP:
Discussion and Action. The Stormwater Management Committee Chair Robert Johnson reported on their review of the 3 bids received in response to the RFP. The Committee concluded they were much higher than anticipated, that the scope of work was too broad, and that the RFP should be withdrawn, and try to retain a consultant to work with the Town. Darrell Anderson moved to withdraw the RFP’s. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0. Letters of thanks to the bidders was recommended.
Patty Klein asked Robert Johnson for further comments. Robert suggested a more focused RFP should be drafted addressing mitigation of the continuing stormwater damage from Washington Grove Lane runoff past the Lake. He also raised the issue of significant stormwater damage caused by erosion run-off from the Towne Crest area. Montgomery County should have some responsibility for this problem and the Town needs to ask for their help. Patty suggested the Town contact the University of Maryland Extension Service. John suggested Robert get in touch with Montgomery County (Watershed Planners) and request an assessment of the two (2) specific problems: the run-off at Towne Crest and Washington Grove Lane.
There was further discussion about the budget and the scope of work for a revised RFP, and agreement that Gaithersburg, the County, and the Town should be involved solving the drainage problems through the West Woods.
Action: The Stormwater Management Committee will pursue involving the County in solving the drainage issues. They will also explore revising the scope of the RFP to reduce expected costs to $15,000-$25,000.
Road Paving on Ridge Road – Update:
Darrell Anderson summarized the most recent road bids and explained the work in question was on Ridge Road from Brown Street to Railroad Street. Based on the bids receive almost two years ago, the Council had planned to award the work to MT Laney. However they have increased their bid for work in question. An updated bid from AB Veirs, requested by Darrell, was lower than the Laney bid. Charlie Challstrom moved to award the work to AB Veirs. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0.
Ordinance 2020-01; Ordinance To Amend Article XIII, “Application Of County Legislation”, Section 1, “Exemption From County Legislation” To Add Chapter 33b “Pesticides” As A County Law Applicable In The Town – Discussion of next steps:
This Ordinance pdf was introduced at the February meeting. Charlie Challstrom stated the Town should be consistent with the County about pesticide use on private land. Charlie Challstrom moved to set the date for a public hearing for April 13, 2020. Marida Hines seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0.
Continuity for Operations: Mayor Compton noted that measures to control the spread of Covid-19 disease place significant restrictions on gatherings of residents. In response, the Town is developing remote conferencing capabilities for the conduct of Town business to replace in-person meetings at the Hall. The Annual Town Meeting and Town elections will be impacted as well. The Council discussed the following:
- Creating an emergency provisions amendment to the Town Charter.
- For this year there was insufficient time to amend the Town Charter to allow for the suspension of the Annual Town Meeting in case of an emergency.
- What options were available for acting during emergency situations
- The possibility and impact of widespread quarantine requirements.
- Options for meeting Charter requirements for the Annual Town Meeting
- Possible voting options (vote by mail)
This matter will be discussed further at subsequent meetings as the situation develops.
Town Council Reports:
Darrell Anderson moved to approve the Council Reports for posting on the Town website. Rob Gilmore seconded the motion. The Council discussed problems with the Town Application for a Variance and the current fee paid by the applicant. Charlie Challstrom distributed a new application to the Mayor and Council for their review. Mayor Compton stated the filing fee doesn’t cover the charge for the Court Reporter and should be changed. Patty Klein announced the EPC meeting has been changed to March 30, 2020.
Vote: 6-0, Town Council Reports approved as amended.
There was none.
Mayor Compton reported he met with the Montgomery County Police Community Relations Officer Kimberly Jones and discussed renewed communication between the Town and County 6th District police, her willingness to meet with Town groups, and specifically about Maple Lake issues and conducting extra patrols. Council members suggested an invitation to an Emergency Preparedness & Safety Committee meeting and, perhaps, the Annual Town Meeting were in order.
Responding to concerns over missing information from the Town website (for example the Lighting Committee has no page), Mayor Compton announced that Councilor Marida Hines would become the intermediary for transmitting all new information and web content that is not currently the responsibility of someone else, to webmaster Bill Saar. All website content from Committee Chairs, or from other groups with a presence, or seeking a presence on the website will be directed to contact Marida.
Charlie Challstrom announced a YouTube video about the Town sign restoration project is available. He also reminded everyone about the award ceremony on Saturday, March 14, 2020.
Charlie Challstrom suggested the Town consider streaming our meetings using equipment made available by MMC and offered to municipalities.
Resolution 2019-13; Providing for Proper Governance of Washington Grove Committees – Deferred to the April Town Council meeting
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:52 PM
Kathryn L. Lehman
TC REPORTS – March 2020
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – Darrell Anderson
No report this month.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Darrell Anderson
Repaving Contract for FY2020
MT Laney was informed that the Town would not increase the cost of repaving Area E (Ridge Road from the intersection of Brown Street to the intersection with Railroad Street). They have been asked to respond, but there has been no communication for 12 days. Meanwhile, we asked A.B. Viers to review their bid. They came out, reviewed Area E and noted that there are two additional parts of the area that need additional work. They put in a revised bid that is $14,050, which is still below the revised bid by MT Laney. The Council will need to approve a bid so we can schedule this work for the spring.
The WSSC contract has be finalized and signed by the Mayor and WSSC. To review, this will be for work during sewer pipe replacement on Ridge road. The cost to the Town for repaving Ridge Road from 112 to the intersection of Brown Street is $1,940.13.
Two new speed humps have arrived. One has been placed on Chestnut Road between Center and Oak Streets. Signs also were placed. The small bumps at Oak Street and Chestnut Road have been removed.
The Lighting Committee held a meeting on February 26; the next meeting will be held on March 25 at 7:30 pm in the Council room.
A replacement fixture is needed for the light pole at Oak Street and Grove Avenue. Since this is on a walkway, discussion of a possible bollard-style light centered on the feasibility of using this as a test for bollards on walkways. The primary problem is access to electrical service because bollards operate at lower voltage and a transformer would be needed. This will be investigated, but meanwhile, a replacement fixture for the pole will be searched.
A sample of a bollard-type light will be installed on Center Street and Maple Avenue with electrical service provided from a nearby home.
For the inventory list, the Committee approved the purchase of metal number tags to place on our light poles. These are the same tags purchased during the Town’s tree inventory. The light pole inventory list has been updated and will be completed this spring.
Budget discussions ensued with $10,000 recommended for FY 2021. A later discussion will occur to determine if it might be possible to find a consultant to advise the Town on lighting for the walkways.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Darrell Anderson
Nothing to report.
PLANNING COMMISSION – Charlie Challstrom
Public Ways and Property (PW&P) Permits – Updated Permit Instructions:
The Planning Commission (PC) has updated instructions for PW&P permits to reflect updated Articles III and XVI, and new Article XVIII. The PW&P permit is required for any excavating or other work in public ways or on town property. The PW&P permit requirements have been updated to add new or altered driveway aprons, and wireless telecommunications facilities.
326 Ridge Road Water and Sewer: The PC approved a PW&P permit application submitted by WSSC to provide water and sewer services for the recently purchased home at 326 Ridge Road. This approval includes a WSSC commitment to “restore the street and any disturbed R/W areas.”
The new water service will connect with 1 ½-inch copper pipe under Ridge Road to a stub provided with the Shady Grove Crossing development. Although subdivision of this property has been recently discussed, this WSSC permit application is for the one existing home only. Expansion of the water service to a second home or any other property along Ridge Road will require a separate WSSC process and another PW&P permit application.
Harrison Property Forest Conservation Report: PC members visited the Harrison property at 17050 Railroad Street (adjacent to railroad tracks) to inspect the survival of trees and shrubs planted as part of the forest conservation plan approved with subdivision of this property. In the October 2017 contract for planting by Stadler Nurseries, the 30 trees were guaranteed for 24 months, and the 10 shrubs were guaranteed for 12 months. The recent PC inspection confirmed the December 2109 report that 3 of the 30 trees did not survive, and all ten of the shrubs are gone. A draft letter from Mayor Compton to Shirl and Steve Harrison proposes to settle all outstanding forest conservation issues with replacement of the three trees that did not survive.
Master Plan 2020 Update: Master Plan Work Session was held on February 19. The PC reviewed submissions from a Commercial Corner workgroup. In Section 1.2 the CL Zone description has been rewritten to allow for adding a residential component to the permitted uses, also a special exception category for an eating/drinking establishment with criteria for compatibility. In Section 8 (Commercial Corner) substantial changes were proposed, most were accepted. The PC would like to examine County Code Chapter 15 (Eating and Drinking Establishments) before finalizing the recommendation to adopt County Code for this new special
exception. The PC members agreed it would be helpful to have a consultant give us input on development strategies for the Commercial Corner which would be attractive to both the owner and the Town. A new section dealing with Parking Issues (now Section 8.3) was adopted as submitted as was Beautification and Safety Issues (now Section 8.4). A master plan working draft is available on the Town website. The next PC work session is scheduled for March 18 to include review of the HPC recommendations for updating Section 9, Development and Preservation Strategies.
Application for Variance Form: The PC reviewed a draft application for variance form created to assist with the Town’s variance process. The PC noted the current filing fee for a request for a variance is $150, but Town has paid at least $300 for a court reporter for recent variance proceedings. The PC recommends review and update of Article XVI, Schedule of Fees, with particular attention to the requirements for variances.
MCCATHRAN HALL – Charlie Challstrom
Gas Furnace Repaired: The 8-year-old Bryant natural gas furnace for the lower portion of McCathran Hall was repaired by Don Hoffacker’s Air Conditioning & Heating, with replacement blower motor, blower wheel, and blower condenser for a total charge of $893.
MONTGOMERY MUNICIPAL CABLE (MMC) – Charlie Challstrom
Sign Restoration Project: MMC completed a 19-minute instructional video documenting the detailed steps and supplies involved with the Washington Grove street sign restoration project. This video is now available on YouTube to assist other communities with restoration of historic wooden street signs. On March 14, MMC will also video the Montgomery Preservation awards ceremony when the Washington Grove project will receive an award.
CENSUS – Charlie Challstrom
Census Notices and Activities: The March Town Bulletin included “Everyone Counts in Washington Grove” to share simple questions about the upcoming Census and how to respond. Notices from the Census Bureau are expected to be in the mail on/about March 12, and responses can start then. Other Census announcements were shared with town residents via the Yahoo Group and NextDoor, including “Putting 2020 Census Rumors to Rest” and “2020 Census Jobs”. I represented the Town at a meeting of the Upcounty Complete Count Subcommittee to learn about coordination with community groups to encourage Census responses and to help counter malicious efforts to discourage responses. Training of “Census Ambassadors” is continuing, and a variety of community events are planned. I also enjoyed attending a Census workshop on February 29 at Goshen United Methodist Church.
CONTRACTS – Rob Gilmore
As discussed in the Stormwater Management committee report, the proposals and bids received for the stormwater management RFP far exceeded the price that the Town has anticipated paying.
DOG PARK – Rob Gilmore
Nothing to report.
WOODS – Rob Gilmore
The Woods Committee held a meeting on Monday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. in McCathran Hall. The Committee had a debriefing from Bowhunting Fire Fighters of Maryland regarding the deer culling efforts in the Town woods this past season, which concluded January 31. BHFFMD reported 14 deer harvested (12 does and 2 bucks). The meat of 12 of the 14 deer were donated for use in local homeless shelters/soup kitchens. BHFFMD recommends that renewing the deer culling efforts for the next hunting season, but advised against substantially increasing the number/hours of hunting, as that would be counterproductive in their view (the deer would be more apt to avoid the hunters making it more difficult for them to be harvested).
The Woods Committee and the Lake Committee are organizing a joint Maple Lake / West Woods clean up on April 25, after which there will be a cookout organized by the Recreation Committee.
The Woods Committee also is planning further efforts at trail marking and maintenance and is establishing a working group on the subject.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – Rob Gilmore
Nothing to report.
STORMWATER MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE – Rob Gilmore
The Stormwater Management Committee held a meeting on Tuesday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. in McCathran Hall. The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the proposals received for stormwater management engineering services. Because all three proposals were substantially more than what the Committee had anticipated and what the Town Council was prepared to award and fund, the Committee voted to recommend that the Town Council withdraw the request for proposal. The Committee then determined that it would formulate and propose a new request for proposal, to retain a consultant who would advise the Committee and the Town to: identify and assess at a high level the Town’s stormwater issues; advise on priorities and appropriate phasing of engineering services; and liaise with county, state, and federal government offices/agencies to identify programs and funding that could assist the Town in its stormwater management efforts.
WEBSITE – Marida Hines
Routine maintenance and content updates continue with no issues.
RECREATION – Marida Hines
The Recreation Committee met on February 20, 2020. In attendance were Lisa Bielin, Jenn Hix, Grace Potter, Betsy Klinger, John Klinger, Dave Harmon, Jeff McCrehan , Arlene McCrehan, and Emily Cavey.
The Committee discussed events scheduled in the Town recreation calendar. Discussion starting with the children’s event on April 19 (which potentially will include the ever-popular Squeals on Wheels) and went on to discuss Music Weekend, July 4th, Summer in the Parks, and Labor Day.
Music Weekend planning is coming along well, with several updates and innovations under consideration to draw greater attendance and participation by residents of all ages and interests. The Friday evening event on June 19 will be cancelled with the idea that the two evening events during music weekend is too many events for residents to attend. The Saturday morning June 20 Children’s Recital will be run by Sam Beres, Sol Chang, Emily Cavey, and Sophie Gilmore. The Saturday evening event is still being planned. Discussions included picking a band, with many suggestions contributed at the meeting and in extensive email follow up subsequently. Another discussion centered on the option to start the event at 5pm instead of 7pm to allow families with young children to come. This idea subsequently evolved and the Committee is now considering staging the event from 5 to 10pm, with the first half featuring a mellower family friendly band and the second half featuring a dance band. The Sunday morning Breakfast event will be handled by Dave and Carol who are planning on bringing the jazz band back.
Missy Yachup is handling the organizing for July 4th events. The issue was raised that there is a potential conflict with external events if the picnic is held on the 4th, which is a Saturday. One option is to move the picnic to the following Saturday.
Summer in the Parks has enough participants, but it will be a smaller group this year.
For Labor Day, the current plan is to have one baseball game on Saturday followed by a potluck at the lake; and on Sunday possibly a croquet game and tennis depending on the availability of Birgit and Linda to run those events.
Emily Cavey will communicate to the Town about the specific events being dropped, noting that if a volunteer steps up to handle the organizing on these or additional events, the recreation schedule can be revised to include them.
COMMUNICATIONS WORK GROUP – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY COMMITTEE – Pat Klein
The EPSC met on February 27, 2020. A town resident attended the meeting for the first time and indicated an interest to join the committee bringing his experience in debris management response following natural disasters. The EPSC has scheduled a free CPR/AED training on Saturday, March 21 in McCathran Hall. To date, approximately 12 town residents have expressed interest to attend. A second notice will be posted in the March Town Bulletin and a flyer posted in the Post Office.
Total expenditures for the current fiscal year (FY20) are expected to be $500 to cover CPR/AED training. The proposed FY21 EPSC budget will be $1,000 to cover training, supplies, and miscellaneous items.
The EPSC made final edits to the draft letter from the Mayor to the County Executive regarding public road safety issues. While the recent edge paving of Railroad Street near the bridge was noted, the letter recommends a more permanent engineering solution rather than repeated temporary patching. Pat Klein (TC liaison) will send this draft letter to the Mayor for review. The Committee hopes the letter will be signed by the Mayor and sent to the County Executive.
The Committee noted the unresolved stormwater problems associated with Railroad Street drainage and standing water, in addition to those issues associated with the proposed West Woods Watershed Study. A recent invitation from MEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Branch to discuss potential projects and funding opportunities was forwarded to the Chair of the Stormwater Management Committee who will consider engagement with MEMA. One EPSC member will attend the upcoming County Debris Management Plan exercise on March 12 to represent the Town. The EPSC discussed potential continuity of operations issues if the COVID-19 viral outbreak situation interrupts critical town functions including the Town’s Annual Meeting. Committee members will explore available technology to conduct virtual meetings and if the Town’s Charter may require amendment to include this option.
NOTE: The next meeting is being re-scheduled to be held on Monday, March 30, 2020.
MAPLE LAKE – Pat Klein
The Committee met on February 20, 2020 to discuss preparations for opening Maple Lake for this summer season. Monitoring for presence of nesting Canada geese and addling any eggs will be ongoing. Outreach has started to hire lifeguards and a new swim instructor. Several maintenance and repair tasks were identified to include fixing small holes in the lake fence, installing video surveillance equipment, roto-tilling beach sand, and repairing broken boards on the wooden bridge to the lake island.
Arrangements have been made to begin coliforms water testing and algal control on a monthly basis. First-aid and CPR/AED kits will be set up, and a few new umbrellas and chairs purchased for the lifeguards.
The Lake Committee and Woods Committee will hold a joint West Woods/Maple Lake Spring Clean-Up event on April 25th. The Recreation Committee will support this effort by providing snack foods afterwards. The Lake will be open on weekends beginning Memorial Day and full-time starting June 15th. The Lake Committee chairs will meet with MCPD to arrange random patrols a few times weekly in late May and early June.
The proposed FY21 Lake Committee budget was discussed and will be submitted to the Town Council for consideration. Committee meetings will be monthly on the third Thursday. The next meeting is on March 19th.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
First meeting of F&B will take place 11 March.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Old speed bumps removed from Chestnut Road and new speed bump plus signs placed on Chestnut Road.
Drainage pipe on Maple Road cleared and additional gravel for drainage placed.
Repaired fencing around Maple Lake and barb wire hangers adjusted. Cleaned the ditch at the lake and the sediment pond on lower Brown Street.
Installed two new concrete benches, one on Grove Road/McCauley and one on the Circle.
Cleared leaves from around the Women’s Club and Acorn Lane and took two loads of leaves and sticks to the dump. Worked on flower beds outside Town Hall.
Met with All Safe and Premier for the Town Hall handicap lift service and inspection. Met with Guardian Fire for the Town Hall quarterly inspection.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
New Memorial Resolution accepted and enacted by Town Council 10th February 2020.
PLAYGROUNDS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report.