9 June 2001 | Approved: 8 June 2002
Mayor John Compton called the 65th annual Town Meeting to order at 8:10 p.m. Gary Gordon delivered the invocation.
Approval of Minutes
It was moved that the Annual Town Meeting minutes of June 9, 2001 be approved. The motion was seconded and passed.
Mayor Compton thanked members of the Town Council, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, and Board of Election Supervisors. He commended members of the standing committees on Forestry and Beautification, Heritage, Lake, and Recreation for their work throughout the year. The Mayor specifically noted the following accomplishments by Grove volunteers:
- Diana Talbert, Website Coordinator, for the expanded and improved Town website
- Michael Shipway, for establishing an e-group for Town residents
- Kristin Perry, Forestry Committee member, for helping the Town to achieve Tree City U.S.A. status
- Karen Kelly, for coordinating the Summer in the Parks program
- Dedicated volunteers who presented the Mousetrap Concert Series and the Washington Grove Film Series
- John Hutchinson, for organizing Labor Day activities
- Kathy Lehman, for directing the Washington Grove Singers
Planning issues noted during the year included:
- Washington Grove Hills – annexation of 10 houses at the end of Ridge Road was completed on July 20, 2001.
- Cator Property – initial discussions regarding annexation of this property were held with owners Steve and Shirl Harrison. The parcel is located between Railroad Street and the railroad tracks.
- DeIuliis Property – This two-acre parcel at 309 Ridge Road was subdivided into four 18,000 square-foot lots.
- Casey Field – The good news is that this field along Ridge Road is being considered for Legacy Open Space status; bad news is that the 59-acre parcel is owned by the Casey Trust and is likely to be sold for residential development.
- Action Hauling – has purchased the Railroad Street property once occupied by Holston Brothers. New owners intend to install caboose to be used as business office.
Other projects included:
- Daniel Landry hired as Town Forester to advise individual residents and the Town on the care and maintenance of the Town’s tree canopy
- Aggressive reforestation effort continues with at least 20 new trees planted
Actions and projects planned for the coming year include:
- Playground Improvements Committee will select new play equipment and create a multi-year improvement plan for Woodward Park.
- Chair Committee will select new chairs for McCathran Hall.
- Planning Commission will complete required review of the Town’s Master Plan.
- Historic Preservation Study Group will continue their work by suggesting preservation options for the Town Council to act upon.
- Action will be taken to alleviate problems with a speed hump on Washington Grove Lane.
- Forestry Committee will design and conduct an inventory of the Town’s park and street trees with the help of the Town Forester.
- Work will continue on possible expansion of low-impact uses at the Commercial Corner in combination with building improvements.
- The Mayor thanked Clerk-Treasurer Mary Challstrom, noting that the transition to Montgomery County collection of Town taxes went smoothly. He said that he and the Council would continue to look for ways to remove some responsibilities from the Clerk by looking for help with the Town Bulletin and by including funds for part time administrative help in the Town Budget. The Mayor thanked Maintenance Supervisor Jim Fletcher and announced that Jim would work on a project this winter to provide house numbers to residents who need them.
Mary Challstrom thanked members of the Town’s Audit Committee: Carolyn Feinglass, John Klinger and Carolyn Luxford, as well as McCathran Hall scheduler Jenny Long.
The Mayor stated that the Town’s financial condition is excellent.
Board of Supervisors of Elections Chairman Mary Kay DuBois announced the following election results:
- Mayor: (1-yr term) John G. Compton 93 – elected
- Council: (3-yr term) Patricia L. Knox 69 – elected
- (3-yr term) Bud O’Connor 49 – elected
- (3-yr term) Peggy R. Odick 85 – elected
Mayor Compton thanked retiring Planning Commission Chairman Jim Leng for 14 years of service on the Commission, many of those as chairman. The Mayor also thanked outgoing Town Council members J. Allen Winter and Paris Pacchione for their outstanding contribution to the Town. Each was presented with a framed copy of the Washington Grove page from "Maryland’s 157", a book about Maryland municipalities.
Town Council Reports
Councilor Darrell Anderson was asked about priorities for upkeep of McCathran Hall. He was asked if staining the exterior was among the top priorities. Councilor Nick Suzich was asked to replace the fence around the hard tennis court. It was suggested that the lower fence around the clay courts be replaced at the same time. A question was asked if Ridge Road had adequate street lighting along the entire length.
Planning Commission ( J. Allen Winter )
The Commission requests the town’s input on the Master Plan Review. Are there items that you would like to see included in the Plan that might have been overlooked in previous years? As the surrounding area is becoming more developed we must continue to reevaluate how best to preserve the Grove’s distinctive character. Copies of the current Master Plan (1995) are available at the Town Office. Please contact the commission or attend commission meetings to share your ideas.
Planning Commission Members: Jim Leng (Chair), Peggy Odick, Irene Carrato, Vicki Andrews, John McClelland, Bob Evans, and Allen Winter (Council Liaison). Joyce Gabai is Secretary for the Commission. The Commission meets the first Tuesday of each month, 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber of McCathran Hall.
Planning Commission Retirees: Jim Leng retired this past year after 14 years of valuable service to the Town.
Buillding Permits: John McClelland has reviewed building permits for the Commission this past year. During the 2000-2001 year, the Commission reviewed the following building permit applications:
- Rapkievian, 404 Brown Street, Shed
- Appleby, 112 Chestnut Avenue, Shed
- Linscheid, 413 Center Street, Porch
Annexation Issues —
- Washington Grove Hills was annexed in July 2000.
- Discussion was held with the owner’s of the Cator Property for potential annexation. Potential development under discussion has been for residential use; however, the commission has discussed transitional zoning for this property.
Property Development Issues —
- The WSSC Parcel (now known as Washington Grove Park): The commission has worked another year with the developers and anticipates development this coming year. Drawings and related documents are available for review at the Town Office.
- Lots 3 and 4, Washington Grove Hills: The commission has approved subdivision plans and anticipates developments this coming year. Drawings and related documents are available for review at the Town Office.
Ridge Road Fields Development: The Commission held a joint meeting with the Town Council and reviewed the recommendations of the April 2000 Special Town Meeting. The three recommendations pertaining to the Town’s Master Plan that were endorsed by the Special Town Meeting were adopted for consideration in the Master Plan Review by the commission.
Historic Preservation Committee: Irene Carrato represented the Commission this past year on the Mayor’s Historic Preservation Committee and kept the commission up to date on the progress of the committee.
Speed Hump Alteration on Washington Grove Lane: The Commission recommended to the town council this past year:
- That increased signage should be placed along Washington Grove Lane indicating acceptable vehicle usage;
- That police enforcement of truck usage should be a priority;
- That the town should not remove the hump in question, however, the town should request acceptable modification of the hump by the county.
Renumbering of Addresses along Washington Grove Hills Section of Ridge Road: The Commission has under consideration a renumbering plan submitted by Maryland Park and Planning. The Commission has agreed in spirit with the plan yet is reviewing details for possible modification before sending the recommendation to the Council, which has final approval. The plan may be reviewed at the Town Office.
Demolition of 112 Chestnut Avenue: Even though no specific proposal for demolition of the house at 112 Chestnut Avenue has been presented to the commission, the topic has been brought to the attention of the commission. The town defers the demolition process to the county at present. Interested residents should review the Historic Preservation Committee materials and be alert to the issues of concern.
Forestry and Beautification ( Darrell Anderson )
Washington Grove has been designated as a ATree City@ by the Tree City U.S.A. Arbor Day Foundation. We received a wonderful plaque and a flag, which is flying outside McCathran Hall. Kristin Perry developed our application and submitted it in the fall. We hope this will be an ongoing project for the Town. This designation lets our neighbors know that we are committed to keeping our Town environmentally sound into the future.
Reforestation continues to be a focus of the Town. More than 20 new trees were planted this yearCsome fell victim to the deer and were replanted with protective cages. We have undertaken a program of planting native species, such as white oak, as well as under story trees, such as dogwood, to add variety and beauty to the Town. The Arbor Day celebration this year saw the landscaping of McCathran Hall beginning. A section near Center Street was planted with small bushes and annuals. In addition, you may notice more wood chips and mulch have been added to the front of the hall. Arbor Day also saw the dedication of a Carolina Silverbell tree planted outside the Hall between the Hall and the Council Room. We look forward to next spring when it should add a touch of color to that side of the Hall. In the next year we hope to complete the landscaping around the Hall. Many Town residents, including a bunch of youngsters, helped make this Arbor Day special. For those who have not taken a walk over to Railroad Park, thanks to the efforts of the Committee (especially Carol Uhlendorf) the park is developing into a mature urban environment.
Dan Landry was hired to be the Town Forester. He has completed an initial report on the health of the Town canopy (this is available at the Town Meeting and in the Town Office). In brief, the report is positive in terms of the actions taken by the town over the past decade to replace trees, and gives us some reasonable strategies for maintaining our forests in the future. Next on the agenda will be completion of an inventory of Town trees. The inventory will become part of the permanent assessment of replanting and replacing needs in the next decade. Dan will use the inventory to develop a long-term forest management plan for the Town.
As recommended by the Town of Washington Grove Tree Advisory Committee, Dan will schedule some time to meet with town residents about trees on private property. Please refer to the July Town Bulletin for a procedure to request a meeting with Dan.
McCathran Hall ( Darrell Anderson )
Work has been completed on the Hall windows. All plexiglass and broken glass panes have been replaced with new glass. Broken wooden parts have been replaced and the frames have been sanded and painted both inside and outside. In addition, new hardware has been added to the windows and they are all in working order, except the ones stuck from humidity. This problem will be addressed this summer. The outside of the Hall will be stripped and stained in the next year or two.
The Hall is being rented on a regular basis; at a much higher pace than in years past. Thanks to Jenny Long for organizing the procedures for renting the Hall and for making sure it is returned to us in good shape. There is a need for volunteers to help in this effort, especially for making sure the Hall is locked and secured after renters have left.
Intergovernmental ( Darrell Anderson )
Carol Uhlendorf has made a valuable contribution again this year as the Town Council’s liaison to the Maryland Municipal League (MML). Carol attended the annual meeting in June, the fall legislative conference, and ably represented the Town at monthly County chapter meetings. Carol serves on the Communications Committee, which strives to heighten awareness of municipal government with special emphasis this year on reaching elementary school children.
Washington Grove continues to get attention from our District 39 delegation, as well as our County Council member. District 39 State Delegates (Charlie Barkley, Paul Carlson, and Joan Stern) presented an update on pending legislation to the Town Council in the fall. Our State Senator, Patrick Hogan, addressed the Town Council two times during the year and Phil Andrews talked to the Council on issues addressed by the County Council. We also had a visit from the County=s Public Counsel, who offered his help in keeping the Town Council up to date on prevailing trends in crime rates in our locale.
The Maryland Municipal League book AMaryland’s 157" included a very nice write-up on Washington Grove. Carol Uhlendorf distributed copies to interested Grove residents. The Town purchased a copy of the book, which is kept in the Council chambers.
Washington Grove Web Site ( Darrell Anderson )
The Grove Web Site has been resurrected during this year by Diana Talbert and Michael Shipway. Council minutes and the Town calendar are regularly updated. Of particular interest are the updates on the Casey Fields developments. Thanks to those who have submitted pictures and articles for the Web Site. There is a Washington Grove eGroup that has more than 50 members. This is a very good way to keep up with what is going on in the Grove.
Maple Lake ( Dodie Tippens )
Algae Problems: The Lake Committee is continuing the use of barley bales to help combat algae growth in conjunction with a copper compound herbicide approved by the State of Maryland and the Federal EPA, and recommended by a state certified consultant that we have worked with for many years.
Lifeguards and Swim Instructor: There has been a national shortage of lifeguards, but we were fortunate in being able to cover most of the summer with the exception of the first two weeks in August. Our swim instructor returned for her second year and all eight classes were full again.
Telephone: The persistent telephone problems at the lake were finally solved when we were able to get Verizon to replace the old underground wiring and to re-ground the system.
Dock Project: The original plan to replace the dock, outflow pipe and valve was abandoned after we determined that the valve and pipe could continue to function as is. A structural engineer inspected the dock at the request of the Lake Committee and made recommendations that will be incorporated into the design of the new dock. The Town will request bids again this summer in order to have the project completed in the fall.
Other Projects: Thanks to Ed Mroczka, who designed, built and erected them, we now have four wooden arbors on the west side of the lake for the natural vines to grow on and increase the visual screening of the area as recommended in the Master Plan. The sand on the beach has been replenished and the sandy bottom at the shallow end has been extended further into the lake. Also, the beach area has been extended further toward the bridge to the island as recommended in the Master Plan. The lake is well stocked with large-mouth bass, big catfish, and bluegills, none of which need replenishing, but we did restock fat-head minnows that are a food supply for the larger fish. The parking lot is being expanded to include six or seven more parking spaces. Last year there was difficulty in finding parking, particularly during swimming lessons.
Conclusion: The lake requires a lot of attention and care, but it is in good condition. The fish and the frogs and water snakes are thriving, and so are the human swimmers in the lake. The Town should be proud to have such a beautiful resource for our use and also proud to be good guardians of this part of the headwaters of Seneca Creek which flows into the Potomac River and on into Chesapeake Bay.
Recreation Events ( Dodie Tippens )
The Recreation Committee has continued to sponsor many great Grove events year round. These programs have included Music Weekend (June), Town Meeting Party (June), Summer in the Parks children’s program (July), tennis lessons (July), 4th of July parade and picnic, Labor Day weekend field days, Mousetrap Concert Series (fall and spring), Washington Grove Film Society series begun last fall, Holiday Concert, and special activities like yoga classes, programs for children, and the lecture on deer damage control. A possible future activity: tango lessons!
These traditional events, and the newer ones, are part of the heart of the Grove and require lots of planning and hard work. Many new ideas for programs have been suggested also and the Committee is now recruiting new members.
Contracts ( Nick Suzich )
We entered into a new three-year contract for refuse and recycling collection last July. After an initial period of settling in as the workers familiarized themselves with our alleys and byways, the service has been satisfactory. We successfully added mixed paper to the recycling program, and continue to have quarterly bulk pickups for larger household items (next one will be Saturday, June 30). Residents are reminded that the yard waste contract covers only nine months of the year, from March 1 through November 30. The brown bags labeled "Yard Waste" are preferred, but clearly labeled trash cans are also acceptable. Please continue to call me with the occasional misses or other problems. Unless Waste Management gives us cause to terminate, the contract will not be bid again until the spring of 2003.
We were much, much more satisfied with the performance of our leaf removal contractor this past autumn than in 1999. Same vendor, but with fewer weather problems, better and more equipment, and a closer monitoring of the situation. Residents are reminded of dates here as well: fall bulk vacuuming of leaf windrows commences November 1 and continues through January 1 or until completion. There is a spring pickup to be completed by April 1. Outside of these dates, the regular Wednesday yard waste recycling may include leaves (but at that point you’ve got to bag).
Snow removal was less than projected again this past winter. Our lightly traveled and heavily shaded roads, as well as a longstanding aversion to salt and other chemicals, make cleaning down to the pavement difficult. Comments are welcomed from those who find this a source of frustration. As with any service, we get what we pay for and could spend more money in the hope of having dryer roads sooner after a storm.
Recreation Facilities ( Nick Suzich )
A committee was formed to look at long-term issues at our playground in Woodward Park, safety being paramount among them. A chairperson for this committee is still sought. We have ordered a new piece of equipment directed at toddlers, with installation slated for this summer (and apologies to all for this having taken so long). We had a successful workday in the autumn at which wood chips were spread around all of the equipment, and the playground is both safer and more attractive as a result. The high fencing around the asphalt tennis court is slated to be replaced in fiscal 2002, moved back from the budget year just closing. We will carry out this project after a review of Town finances next spring and, again, comments are welcomed now as part of the budget approval process.
Public Safety ( Paris Pacchione )
A number of actions to improve public safety were initiated by Councilor Paris Pacchione. Among them were:
- Montgomery County Community Services Officer R. J. Mills made a presentation to the Town entitled "Protecting Your Home and Property"
- New reflective street name signs were installed at all major intersections
- Sand containers were put at potentially icy intersections in the Grove
- Montgomery County replaced sign with directional arrows at the foot of humpback bridge
- Montgomery County installed speed limit signs along Railroad Street
- Town worked with PEPCO to speed up replacement of burned out street lights
In addition, when contacted by residents reporting crimes, Paris relayed the information through the Town Bulletin and other appropriate channels, and followed up with County police.
Report of the Historic Preservation Study Group
David Neumann presented background information on historic preservation in Washington Grove, including the Town’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. He described the impetus for forming the study group: currently the Town has no regulations to prohibit the partial or full demolition of historic structures. The group spent over six months compiling relevant materials from other jurisdictions, gathering information on tax credits and exploring preservation options. The group concluded that the Town would best be served by enacting a historic preservation commission ordinance that need not be strict but would demonstrate preservation as a goal.
Casey Fields Update
Mayor Compton reported that the Town has hired land use attorney Bill Chen to advocate on the Town’s behalf with regard to residential development of the Casey property along Ridge Road. In turn, Mr. Chen has identified experts in community land planning, natural resources, traffic and historic preservation to assist the Town. Town volunteers have formed groups to act in a liaison capacity to professional planners, to work on environmental and open space issues, and to investigate funding sources. Shelley Winkler and Barbara Raimondo are pursuing a $5,000 grant from Preservation Maryland to help offset the financial burden the Town is assuming in its effort to limit the negative impact of development. Town Attorney Bill Roberts is working on the final transfer of Ridge Road to the Town. Town volunteers organized a walk and lunch for the County’s Legacy Open Space staff to demonstrate first hand the historic nature of Washington Grove we consider worthy of protection. Town representatives continue to meet with County planners and Oxbridge Development to convey Town concerns about density, recreation facilities and preservation of character through the development process.
Action on FY 2002 Budget and Tax Rates
A motion was made and seconded to adopt the budget as recommended by the Council, setting the tax rate at $.235/$100 assessed valuation and the dwelling tax at $115/dwelling. This represents no increase in tax rate or dwelling unit charge over the previous year. Mayor Compton explained that State law now requires assessments to reflect 100% of the value rather than 40% as in previous years. Therefore, because the assessment increased, it was necessary to decrease the tax rate to realize the same amount of tax revenue as last year. David Neumann expressed concern that $5,000 budgeted for surveying was insufficient to accomplish the Town’s goals. Several residents emphasized that the deteriorating condition of the tennis court fence reflects badly on the Town.
The motion to adopt the budget was approved.
Mayor Compton announced that copies of a proposed historic preservation commission ordinance drafted by Town Attorney Bill Roberts will be available at the Town Office on Monday.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 p.m.