14 May 2016 | Approved: 13 May 2017
TC ANNUAL REPORT – May 14, 2016
Mayor Joli McCathran welcomed everyone and called the 80th Annual Town Meeting to order at 8:00 p.m. There were over 50 residents in attendance.
The Reverend Eun Joung Joo from the Washington Grove United Methodist Church gave a non-denominational prayer.
Approval of Minutes:
Ann Briggs moved and David Stopak seconded the minutes from the 2015 Annual Town Meeting be approved. The vote was unanimous.
Introductions and Special Awards:
Mayor McCathran introduced Senator Nancy King and Aquatic Expert Nate Simpson. She thanked them for their invaluable help with House Bill 1101 which will allow the Town to monitor and perform the Town’s water testing in compliance with State regulations. She presented Nancy and Nate with symbolic keys to McCathran Hall. Senator King spoke briefly about the process for getting this legislation passed.
Town Clerk Kathy Lehman announced her mother, and Board of Supervisors of Elections member, Betty Knight, was celebrating her 90th birthday today. There was a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.
State of the Town Report:
Mayor McCathran reported the State of the Town is good and safe. She spoke more about the Lake Legislation and requirements for getting it passed. She also gave additional praise to Senator King and Nate Simpson. Mayor McCathran touched on the following items:
- The Woods Group work
- CSX drainage issue and the joint work with Montgomery County
- The participatory attitude of residents at an all-time high
- Open Meetings
Mayor McCathran thanked her husband Ken for his support. She also thanked the Town employees; Pat Patula, Town Archivist; Kathy Lehman, Town Clerk; Mary Challstrom, Town Treasurer; and Steve Werts, Town Maintenance Supervisor. There was a round of applause.
Mayor McCathran listed the many groups ready and willing to accept new resident volunteers.
Forestry & Beautification (F&B) – Audrey Maskery:
Councilor Audrey Maskery gave a Power Point presentation illustrating the number of trees planted during the last year. She noted the most recent plantings were large trees (28 feet and 18 feet tall) and showed their locations. She explained the importance of the tree watering and stump grinding efforts. Audrey thanked everyone who attended the Arbor Day and F & B work day this year. She specifically thanked Betsy Klinger for her personal mustard weed eradication efforts. She took some questions from residents.
Woods Group Initiative Report – Pat Klein, Joan Mahaffey, Co-Chairs:
Joan Mahaffey thanked previous chair Ann Briggs for spearheading the Bill Bonds Forest Stewardship Plan. She also thanked all of the Woods Group members for their hard work. A Power Point presentation highlighting the accomplishments of the group and the goals for the coming years was presented. There were questions about a recent fire in the woods, support for building bridges in the West Woods, drainage, and an increase in the budget for forest management. Mayor McCathran thanked Pat and Joan.
Emergency Preparedness Task Force – Mark Fredericksen, Chair:
Mark Fredericksen gave a Power Point presentation about emergency preparedness goals for the Town. He also gave a brief history of the group. He listed the Town’s biggest risks as weather, fire, earthquakes, trains and the Town’s proximity to Washington, D.C. The next step will be to present the plan to the Town Council for approval. That will likely happen in June.
Discussion of Town Council Reports:
Mayor McCathran asked if anyone had questions about the Council Reports. There were none.
Action on FY 2017 Budget and Tax Rate:
Mayor McCathran showed an expense report from the 1930’s. The Town Council recommends the Town property tax rate of $0.27/$100 assessed valuation and a dwelling unit charge of $108 per dwelling. There was a motion and a second to approve the proposed budget. Questions were raised about the following:
- Council decision about employee raises, specifically an increase for only two (2) of the three (3) employees
- Human Resources consultant fees and process allowing for this expense
- Planning Commission Secretary duties by the Town Clerk
- Use of reserves
- Cherry Avenue stabilization
- Use of emergency snow removal funds
- The State audit of income tax revenue
- Loss of revenue
- Town retirement benefit
- Increasing the Border Property Acquisition Fund by an additional $20K
- Increase money for the Contract Licensed Tree Expert
Ann Briggs moved to add $2500.00 to the amount in 2D-1.45 (Contract Licensed Tree Expert) to be on Town payroll and to be determined and defined by the Woods Group and Forestry & Beautification. Don Henninger seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimously approved.
Ann Briggs moved to increase the Border Property Acquisition Fund to $30K. David Stopak seconded the motion. There was additional discussion about the following:
- Process for budget changes – Special Town Meeting
- Capital Improvements Program (C.I.P.)
- Earmarked reserves
- Highway User Revenues
- Non-binding nature of the CIP
- Importance of using the CIP (place holder, reminder, shows intention)
- Bank loans
A vote was taken. 32 For; 14 Against; 4 Abstained. The motion to increase the Border Acquisition Fund was approved.
There was additional discussion about the following budget items:
- The $40K windfall resulting from a State income tax audit
- The Town’s healthy reserve
- Summer In The Parks
- Legal expenses
- Legal fees for Cable Franchise
- Janitorial services
- McCathran Hall
- Road resurfacing
- Forest management
- Equipment purchases
The budget was unanimously approved, as amended.
Planning Commission Report:
Chairman Peter Nagrod stated he had big shoes to fill in this first year of chairing the Commission. He thanked the PC members for their time and efforts. He named each Commissioner and asked them to stand. There was a round of applause. Peter also thanked Joli McCathran, Georgette Cole and Charlie Challstrom for sharing their institutional knowledge with him. He gave a Power Point presentation highlighting the Commission’s accomplishments during the past year along with a list of future items and goals. He stressed the Planning Commission’s major goal is consistency, and he believes it was met this year. Peter also explained the use of a “triggering event” (building permit application or sale of a house) as an opportunity to possibly correct a non-compliance.
Historic Preservation Commission Report:
Chairman Bob Booher had the HPC members stand and be recognized. There was a round of applause. He talked about the importance of the Records Management Plan and why the Town needed it. He also recognized Town Archivist Pat Patula and Volunteer Archivist Wendy Harris for their hard work. He encouraged residents to come to the Commission in the early stages of their home projects. He also stressed the importance of recognizing historic characteristics of homes which add to the Town’s character. Bob thanked Cynthia Werts for taking the minutes at their meetings.
Happy Birthday to the 84 homes that reached 100 years old this year.
This year’s Historic Preservation Award went to Ryan Young and Emily Brown for their renovation of 404 Grove Avenue.
There was no new business.
Volunteer of the Year Award:
The Mayor announced this year’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year is Emily Cavey. Emily’s volunteer, never-say-no spirit is greatly appreciated. There was a round of applause.
As an aside, Mayor McCathran read the resignation of Mr. Hiller from June 15, 1938. He resigned after 20 + years of service in various forms.
Meredith Horan read the elections results.
The results are as follows: 104 ballots were cast.
Mayor: Joli McCathran 65 votes
Council: 3-year terms;
Patrice Klein 98 votes
Ed Roberts 11 votes
Shelley Winkler 96 votes
Mayor: 1-year term;
John Compton 16 votes
John McClelland 3 votes
Georgette Cole 2 votes
Tom Land 2 votes
Donald Trump 2 votes
Saquib Ali 1 vote
Darrell Anderson 1 vote
Charlie Challstrom 1 vote
Kathie Evans 1 vote
Ed Roberts 1 vote
Mrs. Non-Ordinance 1 vote
Mayor McCathran thanked Bud O’Connor and Alison Faupel for serving out two (2) one-year terms left by previous councilors.
John Compton asked for a vote on the tax rate. He then made a motion to approve the tax rate ($0.27/assessed valuation) and the dwelling unit charge ($108 per dwelling) proposed by the Council. Ann Briggs seconded the motion. Both were unanimously approved.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:48 p.m.
2016 Washington Grove Annual Town Meeting
Town Council Annual Reports – May 14, 2016
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION (HPC) – Georgette Cole
Members: Bob Booher, Chair; Wendy Harris, Gail Littlefield, David Stopak, Mimi Styles
The Historic Preservation Committee is charged with reviewing all applications for building permits filed with the Town Planning Commission which would involve any change to a structure or site visible from any public way for historical accuracy, integrity, and compatibility with the neighborhood and improvements therein. The Commission also serves as the official archival body of the Town to collect, identify, catalogue and preserve documents and information regarding the history of the Town.
Annual Budget: The HPC has recommended minimal change in their funding; it will include:
- $1,500.00 for three plaques: one to help identify the historic significance of Political Hill; one for the entrance to the Town, and, another one to identify the Town as a National Registered Historical District.
- 50 hours per month for the Archivist with 2% increase in hourly wage.
- Budget $500.00 in funds to allow HPC members to attend statewide conferences.
- Budget $750.00 for preservation workshops.
Archives/Record Management: HPC member Gail Littlefield and Archivist Pat Patula visited the State Archives on August 20th where they met with Christian Skipper, the Town’s liaison with the State Archives. They were given a tour of the facility and received an in-depth review on information regarding electronic and other standards for developing an efficient records retention program. The Computer Consulting Team for the HPC (Ken McCathran, Marilyn Frey, Gail Littlefield, Kathy Lehman, and Pat Patula) have prepared their Records Management Plan recommendations. Mr. Skipper, who is the Appraisal and Outreach Archivist with Maryland State Archives teleconferenced with the January 2016 Joint work session (Town Council, Planning Commission, and Historic Preservation Commission) to provide the Town with a better understanding of the ground rules for a preparing a Records Management Plan. The Town has appointed Marilyn Fry as our records management officer to oversee this project. The HPC has finalized their records management plan and has appointed David Stopak as their liaison to this project.
From the Montgomery County History Conference: A new book Montgomery Modern, released in October 2015, is a chronicle of mid-century modern architecture in Montgomery County. This illustrated reference guide includes an inventory of key buildings and communities, and biographical sketches of practitioners including architects, landscape architects, planners and developers. Author (and former Town resident) Clare Lise Kelly was awarded the 2015 Paul H. Kea medal for architectural advocacy by the American Institute of Architects (Potomac Valley Chapter). Clare will give a lecture on Montgomery Modern Architecture sometime in late May or early June. This presentation will take place in the Town Hall, focusing on properties and contributing structures in Washington Grove.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Georgette Cole
In late 2015 Mayor McCathran, Meadow Liaison Georgette Cole, Park Manager David Quintanilla, and Forest Ecologist/Botanist, Carole Bergmann met to assess the status of the Meadow Park within the approved Operation and Use Plan. We know control of non-native invasive weeds is a multi-year effort, but it was encouraging to see the decreasing amounts of Mile-a-Minute (MAM), wisteria and bittersweet. The Parks Department cleared a large patch of MAM out of the northwest corner of the meadow in August 2015 but here are still many shoots of MAM and wisteria along the western border of the meadow next to Ridge Road. Whole field bush hogging in early to mid-March will continue for approximately 5-6 years until the reservoir of MAM seeds is depleted. Annual strip mowing will be used thereafter. Bittersweet remains a problem along the northern edge of the meadow on the border with Shady Grove Crossing. The Parks Department will remove the fences around trees at the north end of the meadow and clearing as much of the surrounding brush as possible. Town volunteers will be needed to remove the non-native invasive (NNI) vines (primarily wisteria and bittersweet) that have grown up inside the protective enclosures. The trees have not been browsed by deer but at this time it is important to remove the NNIs and let the trees breathe.
The Parks Department is now mowing the walking paths in the meadow. They are following the plan on page 17 of the approved Operation and Use Plan for the Conservation Meadow Park. It is now possible to walk inside the western edge of the park rather than on the Ridge Road. In the fall walkers alerted the Parks Department of heavy tire tracks in the upper and lower field. Several new “No Hunting” signs are now in place and will warn hunters their activity has been noted and make it possible for the Parks Police to enforce our no hunting regulations.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING LIAISON – Georgette Cole
Communication with the President of the Shady Grove Crossing HOA and other residents of the new community has been established and is going well. Charlie Challstrom has put together a map of rebar/caps located in Washington Grove including at least eight set by Toll in this buffer area as well as a number of temporary stakes. Charlie located and flagged the rebar/cap monuments about halfway down Ridge Road. He has collaborated with a Shady Grove Crossing resident to locate and flag markers further down the border. This will be helpful in resolving questions about tree responsibility in the buffer area.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
During the last five years, F&B have installed 72 trees. These trees include 42 upper canopy (example: White Oak, American Sycamore, Black Gum, Swamp Oak, 6 intermediate canopy trees (example: American Holly, Hornbeam), and 24 understory trees (example: Serviceberry, Redbud, Crabapple, Paw Paw.) 52 trees were planted in park locations, 8 trees were planted on avenues, and 12 trees were planted along roads.
This spring we decided to plant 5 large caliper trees in Morgan Park at the major gateway into Town on Grove Road. Removal of very large, old trees that had sadly come to the end of their life cycle necessitated the planting of larger trees to provide canopy to the area. Three Pin Oaks and two Black Gum with 6 – 9-inch diameter trunks (versus the usual 2-3-inch diameter) were installed by tree spade in late April.
Two large American hollies were also planted in Maple lake area to provide year round privacy from Washington Grove Lane, and one American holly was planted in Zoe Wadsworth Park to replace a dead Yew. Forestry & Beautification will continue to plant native canopy trees of different variety and caliper throughout Town, providing canopy continuity to our ‘Town within a Forest’ for future generations.
The program of tree pruning and grinding out stumps will continue, the main objective of the program to ensure safety in public areas and provide new planting spots for future trees. The Emerald Ash Borer has made its appearance in Montgomery County. In a test program, F&B have engaged Wood Acres Tree Specialists to inject insecticide to the large Ash tree on Grove Road, (behind tennis court). This will protect the tree for two/three years; currently the tree is not infected. We will monitor this project, possibly engaging Wood Acres to protect other Ash trees within Town.
Toll Brothers, have now passed ownership of Shady Grove Crossing to their Homeowners Association (HOA). The strip of Town land that divides lower Ridge Road and Shady Grove Crossing will be assessed by F&B, removing dead trees/shrubs and re-planting vegetation which can survive current soil conditions and deer browsing.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
In memory of Nicho Lembesis: Three large caliper Black Gum, and one White Oak were planted by tree spade in the East Woods along Cherry Avenue. At the east end of Maple Lake an amazing new concrete bench was poured using natural wood logs to mold the base. It is a testimony to both Nicho and the people who love and honor him. These projects are all supported by the Nicho Lembesis Memorial Fund.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Steve Werts, our Town “Maintenance Supervisor”, has once again provided the Town with excellent service. He has enlarged and refurbished the maintenance shed. The shed extension has provided much needed space for equipment service plus extra storage for items that crowded the limited Town Hall cupboards. Steve’s advice on the acquisition of new equipment has saved the Town money. We plan to add a backhoe to Maintenance equipment collection. A backhoe will provide heavy lifting capability plus digging (required for excavating drainage). Steve’s many hours of labor on snow removal this past winter again saved the Town money as we did not need to call in an outsider contractor.
A meeting took place 14th April between Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Watershed Management Division, Steve Werts, John McClelland, and Audrey Maskery. We asked for advice on large volume of the water runoff within Town limits including:
- Heavy storm water drainage into West Woods from Washington Grove Lane has uprooted trees and gouged several deep gullies through the woods.
- Issues caused by diversion of surface water in certain residential areas in town.
- Standing water in Morgan Park due to condition and position of pipe passing under Railroad Street and CSX track.
Many ideas were discussed regarding the drainage from Washington Grove Lane. It was suggested the problem should be addressed by Montgomery County as they have a right of way along Washington Grove Lane. The County is also responsible for the maintenance of Railroad Street and we have requested they replace the disintegrating pipe and simultaneously lower it which will improve drainage of Morgan Park. We are also requesting CSX clear debris from the pipe that passes under their tracks from Railroad Street side through to Oakmont Street.
PLANNING COMMISSION – John McClelland
Commissioners: Peter Nagrod (Chairman), Brenda Gumula, Dave Hix, John McClelland (Council Liaison), Deb Mehlferber (Alternate), and Steve Werts.
Please see report from Planning Commission Chair Peter Nagrod
MCCATHRAN HALL – John McClelland
- Defibrillator(s) – One for the hall and another for Maple Lake will be purchased as soon as the required protocols (AED coordinator assignment, 911 phone availability, monthly inspection schedule, reporting forms etc…) are arranged.
- Sprinkler System – Guardian Fire Protection Services inspected/serviced the fire sprinkler system and determined that it is non-compliant per local fire codes. A valve will be replaced to restore the system’s integrity and compliance status.
- Maintenance – Carol Mahaffey has assumed the Hall’s cleaning duties and is performing a wonderful job.
- Storage areas, including the broom closet, have been returned to their intended uses with the Summer In The Parks paraphernalia moved to the maintenance shed.
PLAYGROUNDS –Alison Faupel
The Playground Committee, chaired by Jennifer Hix, formalized its set of recommendations for improving the safety, accessibility, and usability of the playground. The Committee recommended a 5-year plan to phase improvements in the drainage of the playground area, the safety of specific hazard areas, and inclusivity of playground equipment.
Town Maintenance has begun an estimated three-year project to improve the drainage in certain areas of the playground, beginning with the merry-go-round and horse swings area. We plan to have a permeable rubber surfacing installed at the merry-go-round area this summer to test how the material wears.
The Committee also recommended the removal or modification of playground equipment that is no longer structurally sound or poses risks to users’ safety, including the balance beam and the steel climber. This assessment was made in conjunction with LGIT Insurance, which inspected the playground according to widely used safety standards.
Finally, the Committee recommended that over the next five years as funds allow, the Town purchase play equipment that appeals to both typically developing children as well as children with special needs. As a first step, a special needs swing was purchased and will be installed in May.
MAPLE LAKE – Alison Faupel
John Hutchinson and the Lake Committee worked throughout the year to plan for a successful summer season, treat the water and algae, and lobby for legislation to address regulation challenges.
“Closed Swimming Lake” legislation: In July, a representative from the Montgomery County Dept. of Health Licensing made a surprise inspection of Maple Lake and suggested a number of onerous regulations on the Town. In response, the Mayor and Town Attorney worked with State Senator Nancy King to draft legislation exempting certain closed swimming lakes from county regulations. Thanks to their concerted efforts, House Bill 1101 passed the MD House and Senate with a unanimous vote and will become effective on 1 June 2016.
Summer season: We held another successful summer swim season. Swim lessons were coordinated by Emily Brown, with Frank Barrett as our return instructor. David Harmon coordinated the lifeguard schedules and training, with lifeguards Kelly Schreiber, Lainey Selby, Avery Hunt, and Eli Stopak. For the upcoming season, Lainey Selby has been hired as the swim instructor, with swim lessons running from 5 July through 29 July. New this year: swim lesson forms and party permits will be posted on the Town website and submitted electronically.
Maintenance: Maple Lake continues to be treated for algae by NatureWorksCWA. The swimming and well water quality was tested in the summer and found acceptable for use. Multiple goose nests have appeared again at the lake. A dedicated group of Lake Committee volunteers has been oiling the geese eggs before they mature and removed nests according to Humane Society protocol. After a series of security incidents at the lake last summer, Steve Werts, Terry Cox, Bud O’Connor, and John Hutchinson installed three security cameras at the perimeter of the lake. Montgomery County Police also visited the lake during the summer to discuss security issues.
SAFETY – Alison Faupel
Mayor Joli McCathran and Alison Faupel met in June with Montgomery County Chief of Police Thomas Manger about increasing police presence in and around Washington Grove. The Police Department stepped up its patrol along Washington Grove Lane. They also spoke to the owners of several companies that have business locations along Oakmont Avenue to advise their drivers to not use Washington Grove as a cut-through.
In response to resident complaints about excessive speeding on Chestnut Road before and after church services, Revered E.J. Joo continues to caution the congregations that rent the space to drive more slowly through Town.
CONTRACTS – Greg Silber
We continue to work closely with our contracted services in an attempt to ensure the Town is well-served. Generally, we have been pleased with their work.
Snow Removal: The decision several years ago to rely primarily on our Town’s Maintenance Team for snow removal has worked very well — thanks to Steve Werts and crew. We have continued to provide a contract with RJ Landscape Contractors, Inc. on an “as needed” basis (when, for example, snows are unusually heavy). Some contracted work was needed this year to assist with snow removal during the late January storm. Nonetheless, with their planning in advance of approaching storms, dedication, and considerable effort, Steve and crew have kept our roads plowed, sanded in certain areas, and safe. They have earned a well-deserved ‘thank you!’
Recycling and Refuse Collection: We retained the trash collection firm Potomac Disposal, Inc. This company has done a good job for us and has been responsive in correcting the occasional missed pick-up. They also handle a bulk trash pick-up twice a year and make the weekly pickup of yard waste (April to December).
Leaf Collection: We have been pleased with the leaf removal work of contractor GreenEarth. The company makes curbside and walkway leaf collections from October to early January with a spring pickup in March/April. They have generally done a good job for us.
WOODS GROUP – Greg Silber
It has been an active year for the Woods Group. Two new co-chairs were appointed who helped lead the Group through the review and approval of a new “Forest Stewardship Plan for Washington Grove” prepared by a contracted forester. This Plan was presented to and accepted by the Council in late 2015. Guided in part by this Plan, the Group has focused on
- removal of invasive plants, primarily wisteria, mile-a-minute, and stilt grass;
- hosting Arbor Day East Woods trail maintenance and West Woods clean-up events;
- providing a contract for the surveying and installation of markers along the western boundary of the West Woods (the Town boundary that runs behind the lake and near Kelley Park);
- felling dead trees and removal of snags and dead branches aloft to accelerate their decomposition on the forest floor and to ensure safety along walkways (trails) in the Woods;
- along with the Forestry and Beautification Committee, planted three swamp oak and three black gum trees in “blowdown” areas in the East Woods;
- treated invasive English ivy climbing a number of trees in the West Woods; and
- developed a “Woods & Wildlife Facebook Community” web page for woods news.
In the coming year, removal of invasive plants primarily in the East Woods will be one the Group’s main priorities as will restoration of the Whetstone spring and West Woods drainage systems.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL ANNUAL REPORT – Joli A. McCathran
HB 1101, Municipal Corporations; Closed Swimming Lake passed the Maryland Legislature and is now Charter 131. Much appreciation goes out to Senator Nancy J. King, Aquatic Expert Nate Simpson, John Hutchinson, and our Town Attorney Suellen Ferguson. This legislation allows Washington Grove to monitor and preform our water testing in compliance with the state regulations.
I attended the Maryland Municipal League (MML) Summer Conference in June 2015. The most impressive class was the Planning Commission Training Course. This class was extensive in how Planning Commissions operate and how to more effectively work with citizens. Other courses included Open Meeting Laws, Building Consensus, and Roberts Rules of Order.
On February 5 and 6, 2016 I attended the Maryland Mayor’s Association Conference. This conference is to connect with other mayors and support the Maryland Municipal Leagues 2016 Legislative Priorities. MML’s Legislative Committee is proposed to put advocacy behind restoring Highway User Revenue dollars and protect Project Open Space dollars as well as 3 strategic engagement position statements regarding police body cameras, foreclosures, and tax equity. The Thursday evening the Governor and his wife hosted a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.
It was a pleasure to again serve as a member of the Maryland Municipal League’s Communication Committee. This committee sponsors the “If I Were Mayor…” Fourth Grade essay competition. I visited the Fourth Grade students at Washington Grove Elementary to encourage the students to participate in this event. This year’s theme is “Rising to the Challenge” on how to engage your community to make healthier communities.
I also attend the Montgomery Chapter of the Maryland Municipal Leagues’ monthly meeting throughout Montgomery County. Meeting also included a session with County Executive Ike Leggett and the members of the County Council. In May 2015 Washington Grove hosted the chapter meeting in McCathran Hall.
At the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League’s Annual Holiday Dinner in December, we hosted Senator Nancy King and Delegates Charles Barkley and Shane Robinson. The Montgomery County Chapter discussed the 2016 legislative priorities
I attended an Elected Officials Meeting with County Council President Nancy Floreen. Issues discussed included a potential county tax increase, the Watkins Mill Route 270 Interchange, the County’s Comcast agreement, and Air B&Bs.
In 2015, I joined the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism initiative. To date, the initiative has drawn support from more than 300 U.S. mayors and municipal leaders from 48 states and the District of Columbia.