11 May 2019 | Approved: PENDING APPROVAL
Mayor John Compton welcomed everyone and called the 83rd Annual Town Meeting to order at 8:07 p.m. There were over 50 residents in attendance.
A video recording of Gary Gordon giving the blessing at an Annual Meeting over 30 years ago was played. The recording was put together by Charlie Challstrom.
Approval of Agenda:
Darrell Anderson moved to approve the agenda. Virginia Quesada seconded the motion. Approved (unanimous)
Approval of Minutes:
Paula Puglisi moved to approve the minutes of the 2018 Annual Town Meeting. Audrey Maskery seconded the motion. Approved (unanimous)
State of the Town Report:
Mayor Compton thanked, recognized and mentioned by name, the dedicated volunteers who serve on the Town Council, Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, and Board of Elections Supervisors. He thanked and sang praises of the Town employees including Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts, Clerk Kathy Lehman, part-time Maintenance worker Terry Cox, and Treasurer Mary Challstrom. He acknowledged contract workers Archivist Pat Patula, Webmaster Bill Saar and Records Management/IT guru Marilynn Frey. He thanked the appointed members of the Audit Committee, and many volunteers who serve on the following Town Committees; Border, Dog Park, Lighting, Lake, Recreation, Woods, Forestry & Beautification, and Emergency Preparedness & Safety. In addition, he thanked Georgette Cole, Brenda Gumula, and Deb Mehlferber for their work on the House Records Project. Gathering this data took two (2) years.
He also referred to his written 2018-19 Town Government Report pdf (distributed at the meeting which reviews most of the past year and also looks ahead to goals for the coming year. He specifically discussed several important matters that should be completed or be addressed in 2019-20:
- 2019 Master Plan – should be finished by the end of this calendar year.
- National Register of Historic Places application near completion
- Deer management implementation plan
- Development of a storm water management plan for the West Woods and some of the East Woods. Request for proposal is in draft form now.
- Bikeway connection to Metro, Shady Grove Center, and Gaithersburg. Requires working cooperatively with Gaithersburg and Montgomery County.
- Street light conversion plan – our fixtures and induction bulbs are obsolete – committee will look at LED bulbs and appropriate fixtures then make a recommendation to the Council.
- Design guidelines for small 5G cell towers – Town needs this before being approached by vendors in order to maintain control of our historic integrity.
Mayor Compton took questions about potential meeting to specifically address the bikeway connection (basic discussion about Town needs necessary), 5G cell towers (must have Town guidelines), and the culvert under Railroad Street (Montgomery County Department of Transportation is looking into culvert replacement).
Volunteer of the Year Award:
Mayor Compton announced the Volunteer of the Year Award for 2019 goes to Dan Tutas for his undying efforts to keep the Town trash-free. Dan quietly picks up trash where ever he walks around Town and we look better for it!
Planning Commission Report:
Chair Peter Nagrod recognized members by name and thanked the Commission for being such a great team. He explained David Hix had to resign and Jon Cohen will take his place as a full member. The Commission is now minus an alternate and he encouraged residents to consider serving. Peter presented a Power Point report called “The Panting Commission” because of all the Dog Park work that occurred during the past year. He displayed a chart showing the variety of building permit applications for the year and their status. He also covered the following items:
- Washington Grove Master Plan Update
- Code Enforcement Inspector
- Triggering event – Removal of the fence at 215 Washington Grove Lane
- House Records Project
- Sale of Town Land
- Ordinance updates for ordinary maintenance and repairs
- Review of Business License Applications for the Commercial Corner
He went on to mention areas of interest such as the Cator Property and the Commercial Corner.
- Master Plan Update – Peter expressed a lot of excitement about the Master Plan work. Over 70 residents are involved in doing this update. Documents are available on the Town website.
- Border Committee – This Committee is working on a long-range holistic approach to this topic.
There were a few questions about the duties of the Code Enforcement Inspector. Peter eased residents’ concerns about an inspector. The inspector will not walk around Town looking for violations. The person in this position will check renovations and additions to be sure they are building what was approved by the Planning Commission.
Peter concluded his entertaining presentation by emphasizing the Commission’s desire to help and work with residents to bring their plans to fruition. He asked residents, in turn, to abide by the Town’s code of ordinances so enforcement measures are not needed.
Historic Preservation Commission Report:
Chair Bob Booher praised Darrell Anderson’s HPC summary in the Council Reports. He talked about the following:
Street Sign Project – Bob thanked Susan Van Nostrand for taking on this project. He showed pictures of renovated and new signs and a list of the completed signs.
National Register Nomination – Bob gave a brief history and explained why the update was necessary. The first application was submitted in 1978 and was an all-volunteer effort. The update is being done by Robinson Associates. Bob thanked Wendy Harris for her astute guidance through the process. We couldn’t have done it without her. The document produced by Robinson Associates contains very interesting things including but not limited to; Architectural Surveys of all properties, Historic Context Report, Cultural Landscape Analysis, Viewshed Analysis, The Meadow, Lower Field, Railroad Station, Deer Park Bridge,
Commercial Corner, and Oakmont subdivision. Bob fielded a few questions about benefits of this action. He then announced the winner of the 2019 HPC Award. This year’s award goes to Judy and Ed Mroczka for their thoughtful renovation of 107 Grove Avenue.
Woods Committee Report:
Co-chairs Pat Klein and Joan Mahaffey presented an update to the on-going efforts to preserve our woods using a three-pronged approach and guidance from the 2015 Forest Stewardship Plan. Patty listed the accomplishments of the Woods Committee for the year; Ordinance 2019-04 (amending hunting language in Article 1), Non-native Invasive plant control, West Woods work day in the fall, East Woods spring clean-up in conjunction with the Lake Committee work day, and reforesting the canopy and trails. The goal is to continue with the original plan for a reduction in the use of herbicides and an increase in manual maintenance. Patty and Joan thanked all the Committee members and invited residents to join the group.
Forestry and Beautification Committee Report:
Georgette Cole gave a brief report. She explained the Committee is having larger trees planted in order to minimize damage caused by the deer. She also explained the number of trees planted and the measures used to protect them. June 8, 2019 is a scheduled volunteer work day and all are encouraged to participate. Georgette thanked Committee members and listed them by name. She thanked Steve Werts and Terry Cox for their help. Mayor Compton explained that Audrey and Georgette are responsible for the trees and would welcome your suggestions about where to plant them.
Emergency Preparedness & Safety Committee Report:
Mayor Compton explained the change which added “Safety” to the name of the Committee. Chairman Sat Amagai highlighted the accomplishments of the Committee for the year; purchase and installation of a backup generator for McCathran Hall (thanks to Dave Cosson and Charlie Challstrom), installation of reflective tape on all fire hydrants (thanks to Charlie Challstrom), and a new streetlight at the pedestrian crossing at the train station on Railroad Street (thanks to Dave Cosson and Charlie Challstrom). Thinking ahead, the Committee may address; various problems with the intersection at the Commercial Corner, location of the bus stop, severe drop-off on Railroad Street at the humpback bridge, new hold-back lines on Railroad Street, danger at the intersection of Chestnut Road and Railroad Street, and better house numbers in Town.
Discussion of Town Council Reports:
It was moved and seconded to accept the Town Council Reports for posting on the Town website. Mayor Compton asked for questions or concerns about the reports. There were none. Reports were unanimously accepted.
Action on FY 2020 Budget and Tax Rate: Nick Suzich moved to adopt the budget pdf as brought forth to the Town Meeting by the Town Council. Jane Seegal seconded the motion. Mayor Compton reported only $19K will be used from reserves vs. approximately $165K last year. There were a few questions fielded by the Mayor. Budget was unanimously adopted.
Georgette Cole moved to approve the proposed tax rate of $0.2603/$100 assessed valuation and the dwelling unit charge of $130 per dwelling per year. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion. Tax rate was unanimously approved.
There was no old business.
There was no new business.
Chairman of the Board of Election Supervisors Nick Suzich read the election results. 59 ballots were cast.
Mayor: John Compton 59 votes
Council: three-year terms (2)
Darrell Anderson 58 votes
Patrice Klein 44 votes
Council: three-year terms (2)
Tom Land 3 vote
Christine Dibble 1 vote
Shelley Winkler 1 vote
John encouraged younger people to get involved and to vote. Residents thanked Mayor Compton for his service with a standing ovation.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:10 p.m.
Kathryn L. Lehman
2019 Washington Grove Annual Town Meeting
Town Council Annual Reports – May 11, 2019
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION (HPC) – Darrell Anderson
About the HPC: HPC Members are appointed and confirmed by the Mayor and Town Council. They are Bob Booher, Chair; Wendy Harris, Gail Littlefield, David Stopak, Robin Renas, and Mimi Styles.
The Historic Preservation Commission has responsibility for enhancing and preserving the historic heritage of the Town. The HPC serves as an advisory body to the Planning Commission, Town Council, Mayor, and residents on matters of “historical accuracy, integrity, and compatibility with the neighborhood and improvements” on private or public property within or outside the Town. The Commission reviews applications for Town building permits involving a change to a structure or site visible from any public way. The HPC 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 a budget for FY 2020 of ~$25,000. Completion of the National Register Historic District’s nomination, a major funding initiative for the past two years, will be completed and submitted in the fall of 2019. The FY 2020 request includes continuation of archival work by the Town Archivist (~$16,500) and modest amounts to continue the ongoing participation of the HPC in reviewing building applications and consultations on Town activities, such as the current Streetlight initiative.
National Register Historic District’s nomination: As stated above, the submission from the Town, developed through a consulting contract with Robinson and Associates the past two years, will be completed and submitted to the Maryland Historic Trust in time to be considered at their November, 2019, meeting. This submission is critical for the Town maintaining our historic designation and throughout the years has been vital in the Town’s many fights to protect our borders from uncontrolled development. In addition, it will better protect the historic character of the Town and better inform permit reviews, lead to more inclusive Design Guidelines, and allow more effective consultation with regulatory agencies.
Archives/Record Management: Pat Patula, Town Archivist, will continue to work with the HPC to create “a resource and clearinghouse of information regarding historic preservation for the benefit of the Town.” Ms. Patula has made significant contributions in her many archival and preservation responsibilities. She has coordinated with the Maryland State Archives (MSA) to secure a record of the Town history at the State level; assisted in arranging for the MSA to tour the Town with their interns, and provided information for uploading on the Town website. She also coordinated with Marilynn Frey, the Town’s Records Management Officer, for implementing the Town’s Record Management Plan and prepared material for transfer to the State Archives. Both Ms. Patula and Ms. Frey significantly participated in preparation of the National Register Nomination process and contributed a series of articles in the Town Bulletin on Grove history.
Easement Documentation: The HPC has worked with the Town Council and Planning Commission to develop permanent easement contracts with residents with structures on Town property, primarily small sections of porches. This process was initiated in 2018 to alleviate homeowners concerns regarding property rights and titles. In 2019, the first resident submitted a request to purchase their encroachment through an easement process. Currently, that request still is in review and should be finally executed in the next few months. This process has been deemed critical for correcting encroachment issues identified through Town surveys in the last ~20 years to update the boundaries of public roads and walkways in the area of the Circle and surrounding blocks.
Street Sign Restoration Project: In 2017, the Town held discussions regarding our aged, dilapidated, and beloved wooden street signs The HPC strongly advocated for retaining their historic wood character and accepted Stewardship of the project. In the past two years, numerous volunteers, under the tutelage and organizing of Susan Van Nostrand as well as Town Maintenance, has removed, renovated, and replaced practically all of the nearly 200 Town street signs. Most were able to be restored to include Jim Fletcher’s artwork. This project has included numerous Town resident-volunteers and has resulted in signage that better meets safety and visibility standards. The HPC will continue Stewardship of Town signage to maintain the signs in the future.
Master Plan: The HPC has been working with the Master Plan committee to include revisions and new text in most sections of the ongoing update of the 2009 Town Master Plan. This effort will continue until completion of the Master Plan update.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Darrell Anderson
Annual mowing of the entire meadow took place as planned in February. A number of minor adjustments to routine mowing of the paths were made, which are on a 7-10 day mowing schedule. In the fall, a few spot concentrations of invasive species were treated per Parks Department policy.
ROADS AND WALKWAYS – Darrell Anderson
Repaving has been completed on Brown Street, from Grove Road to Chestnut Road, Hickory Road, from Center Street to 206 Hickory Road, and on a major portion of upper Ridge Road. This is the first part of a three-year contract with A.B. Veirs and M.T. Laney to address significant roadways that have deteriorated over the past decade. The second and third phases of this roadwork will occur during Fy2020 and FY2021, respectively. In FY2019, the Town expended approximately $52,000 for repaving; $33,000 has been budgeted for FY2020 and approximately $20,000 will be budgeted for FY2021 to complete the three-phase repaving project. It is anticipated that some additional funds will be targeted in the next two years if emergency work is required.
Speed Humps and Bumps: In FY2019, the Town approved three temporary speed bumps on Chestnut Road (two a stop signs at Chestnut Road and Oak Street, and one a Chestnut Road and Acorn Lane). The Town Council has been monitoring their effectiveness (and resident comments) throughout the year. It is unequivocal that the bumps have greatly reduced the ability of drivers to ignore the stop signs, as was noted before the bumps. An additional temporary speed hump was placed on Grove Road near the entrance to the parking area for the field; this has generated both positive and negative feedback, but had reduced speed in that area of Grove Road. During the repaving on Ridge Road, the Town Council approved replacement of the permanent asphalt speed hump closest to Center Street, with a temporary speed hump such as the one on Grove Road. The Town Council remains open to comments and feedback on the current speed humps and bumps.
Streetlight Replacement: It has been known for more than a decade that the Town would need to begin the process of replacing our streetlights due to the fact that our current lights would no longer be available. That now has occurred, as we are losing bulbs and cannot buy or find replacements. When the Town last reviewed streetlight options in 2011, we were able to replace our incandescent bulbs with more-efficient induction bulbs in 2012. That change alone reduced our cost for street lighting by approximately 50%.
In the fall of 2018, a Washington Grove Ad-hoc Lighting Committee was formed, and resident Robert Johnson accepted the Chair position. The following charge was developed to direct tasks for committee members:
- What type of light do we want for our future streetlights?
- Is it possible to find replacement lights that have a wavelength that would be acceptable to the Town?
- If needed, what type of light poles should we consider?
- What is the cost of the various lights we are considering?
- What is a reasonable timeline to begin replacing our streetlights, given that we have more than 120 streetlights?
- Is there shielding for our streetlights that will be acceptable to residents?
- What are other municipalities doing regarding replacement street lighting?
Since the fall, the committee has collected an impressive amount of background information and created a Dropbox account to share information among volunteers. A field trip to Takoma Park and the Town of Somerset was held to view LED streetlights installed in those municipalities. Funding for the committee for FY2020 has been proposed at $10,000 to begin replacement once the committee has finalized its review and presented finding to the Town Council and residents. A hopeful finding so far has been that since the last review in 2011, LED street lighting has been light wavelength and lumens that mimic that produced by incandescent lights; this was not available in 2011, which was one of the overriding concerns that led to the decision not to use LED bulbs for that replacement. For those who want to become involved in this effort, please let the Town office know and they can get you information on committee meeting times and contact information.
PLANNING COMMISSION – Charlie Challstrom
PC Membership: Peter Nagrod (Chair), Georgette Cole, Dave Hix, Deb Mehlferber, Charlie Challstrom (Council Liaison), and Jon Cohen (alternate). The Commission meets the first Wednesday of each month, 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room of McCathran Hall.
Building Permits Approved
- 411 Chestnut Ave – deck and fencing with new boundary survey
- 334 Ridge Road – home addition
- 201 Brown Street – deck addition in rear yard
- 125 Chestnut Ave – addition of cantilevered/box bay window on front of home
- 417 Center St – fencing with new boundary survey
- 105 Grove Ave – fence replacement on both sides with new boundary survey
- 127 Grove Ave – home renovations adding breakfast room, entrance porch, roof deck
- 127 Washington Grove Lane – renovations including wall change and electrical work
- 3 Ridge Road – fencing; all corners have existing survey markers
- 127 Chestnut Ave – fencing with new boundary survey
- 354 Ridge Road – demolish existing shed, replace with new smaller shed
- 203 and 205 Washington Grove Lane – new open carports on adjacent properties
- 116 Ridge Road – home addition with new boundary survey
- 15 Circle – new shed
- 3 Ridge Road – screening the side porch
- 201 Brown Street – fencing with new boundary survey
- 107 Grove Ave – fence replacement in rear yard
- 405 Brown Street – demolish old garage, build new garage with upper storage
Building Permit Submission Deadline: The deadline to submit a building permit application for approval by the Planning Commission and review by the Historic Preservation Commission is the second Wednesday of the month prior to the PC meeting at which the permit will be reviewed. This timing helps ensure the HPC is able to complete a formal review before the PC meeting. The Town’s Building Permit procedures are available on the Town website.
Washington Grove Master Plan Update: In addition to the regular first Wednesday meeting, the PC has met recently on additional Wednesdays to review updates proposed by various groups and committees for the 2019 Master Plan. A copy of the latest 2019 Master Plan Working Draft and draft minutes from each session are available on the Town website. Residents are welcome to attend, and everyone’s input is valuable!
Code Enforcement Inspector: The Town has signed an agreement with Doug Lohmeyer, P.E. (Ret) to serve as a Code Enforcement Inspector. Retired after 20 years of leadership with a local engineering firm, Doug currently provides engineering services and advice to seven other municipalities in Montgomery County. For his initial project with Washington Grove, Doug is helping to scope out a strategy for stormwater control and remediation in the woods.
Removal of Fence at 215 Washington Grove Lane – Sections of 215 Washington Grove Lane fencing were not located on the same property as the home, and these sections were removed by the Town prior to sale of the property. Fences must be located on the same lot or contiguous lots under the same ownership with the main building. These fence sections were a non-conforming use that may not be transferred or continued with transfer of property ownership.
House Records Project: This multi-year project has reached a milestone – the summary of PC information onto a single sheet for each house has been completed for all 225 houses in Town. A database of House Records in being compiled to support refinement of building standards in the Town Code. Thank you to Georgette Cole, Brenda Gumula, and Deb Mehlferber!
Sale of Town Property: Modern surveys have revealed that small portions of nine historic homes are located on Town-owned land. Article XVII of the Code of Ordinances was created in 2018 to provide a process by which the Council may sell these small portions of land to the owners of these homes. This process includes: Owner’s request for purchase, accompanied by four copies of an identification plat; Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission reviews and recommendations; and Council authorization of a deed with covenants to run with the land. Jane Seegal submitted a request to purchase the two parcels of Town-owned land under portions of her home, and the Council continues to deliberate the legal and policy issues for this first sale. Bud and Carolyn O’Connor have also submitted a request to purchase the parcel of Town-owned land under their front porch.
Ordinance Updates for Ordinary Maintenance and Repairs: The PC initiated updates for the Town’s Building Permit Regulations and Zoning Ordinance, later enacted by the Council after advertisements and public hearings, to specify that ordinary maintenance and repairs to buildings and fences may be made without a building permit. These activities typically involve general reconstruction, replacement or renewal with in-kind materials. For a historic property, such activities typically do not diminish the integrity of the property’s character-defining features. Major alterations (e.g., that increase the square footage or height of a building or fence) are not considered ordinary maintenance and repairs.
Business License Applications for Commercial Corner: The PC reviewed an application from Sam Fosu for a Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Retail Office upstairs at 11 Brown Street. The PC confirmed this use complies with the Town’s Zoning Ordinance and Commercial Regulations. The PC also reviewed an application from Anais Grela M’poko for a Natural Beauty Salon at 109 Washington Grove Lane, and confirmed compliance. Business Licenses are approved by the Mayor, and can be used to help ensure continued compliance with Town ordinances.
MCCATHRAN HALL – Charlie Challstrom
Town Hall Generator: Generating Power LLC installed a 22-kilowatt Generac generator, connected to the natural gas line already providing heat for the Town Hall. Town Maintenance installed the visual and noise screening, stained to match the exterior siding. This project includes upgrade to 200-amp electrical service, and the final electrical connections are awaiting completion by Pepco.
Floor Beam Reinforcement Project: The contractor, M. Taylor Enterprise LLC, completed this project to reinforce termite-damaged floor beams in the Main Hall. The work included installation of steel floor beams, with steel lally columns on new concrete footers, and removal of the older wooden footers. To enable access for installing the steel beams, Guardian moved a portion of the fire suppression pressurized pipeline. After the floor beam work was completed, Minuteman Exterminating treated the soil under the floor for termites.
Kitchen Cabinets, Flooring, and Restrooms: Installation is complete for the new cabinets, countertop, sink, and flooring in the kitchenette. More of the same flooring material has been purchased for installation in the restrooms and the hallway. Steve Werts expects to work on the restrooms and hallway flooring when these areas are less busy. The restroom work will include installing bead board on the walls plus protective wall covering where needed.
Town Hall Cleaning and Floor Restoration: Town Hall cleaning continues in cooperation with SEEC, an organization providing developmental assignments. The cleaning methods have been updated for new flooring on the lower level, and the restored floor in the Main Hall. Hawkins recently completed restoration of the Main Hall floor with three layers of oil-based polyurethane.
Ethernet and Telephone Cables Extended: Ethernet and telephone cables have been run under the floors between the Town Office and the Piano Box to improve internet and telephone connections throughout the Hall. (Thanks to Dave Hix and his crawling skills!) The wi-fi router in the Piano Box provides better wi-fi coverage and ethernet cable connections for faster streaming download. The added telephone jacks in the Piano Box and the Lower Hall provide connection when teleconferencing during meetings.
Town Hall Lighting: Lighting throughout the Town Hall has been converted to LED bulbs to save energy and extend bulb life where replacement is challenging.
MONTGOMERY MUNICIPAL CABLE (MMC) – Charlie Challstrom
The Town is a participating member of MMC, a nonprofit organization established to operate a cable station on behalf of municipalities in Montgomery County. MMC produces a series of local shows and records community events, e.g. last Fourth of July here in Washington Grove. These are broadcast on Channel 16 on Comcast, Verizon and RCN, and then available for streaming on YouTube. Additional Town projects and events are scheduled for coverage in the next couple of months.
DOG PARK COMMITTEE – Rob Gilmore
The Dog Park Committee, co-chaired by Christine Dibble and Mary Warfield, convened in 2018 and has been engaged in the construction of the dog park in the West Woods and the development of rules and regulations for the park’s operation. Specifically, the Committee has undertaken the following efforts:
- Researching and drafting an initial version of the request for proposal for the construction of the dog park;
- Reviewing and commenting on a proposed Town resolution providing for the construction of the dog park;
- Meeting with the Mayor and Town Council regarding the adoption of the resolution for constructing the dog park;
- Meeting with the contractor to which the Town awarded the dog park construction bid;
- Assisting with reviewing and preparing the dog park site in advance of its construction (which was completed the last week of April/first week of May 2019);
- Preparing an initial version of proposed rules and regulations for the dog park’s operation;
- Communicating with the Mayor and Town Council regarding an ordinance adopting the dog park rules and regulations;
- Developing a membership form and requirements for the dog park;
- Proposing a name for the dog park in consultation with interested Town residents – “The Dog Spot” – that the Town Council subsequently adopted by resolution; and
- Commissioning a sign with the dog park name and rules and regulations, for posting at the dog park.
Going forward, the Committee will be involved in the day-to-day oversight and operation of the dog park, reporting to the Mayor.
CONTRACTS – Rob Gilmore
The Town has issued several requests for proposals and contracts for services this year. I have been involved in the drafting/editing of the requests for proposals to ensure clarity and legal best practices for local government contracting, to ensure that the Town’s interests are best met. After requests for proposals and bidding processes, the contracts that we have awarded include:
- McCathran Hall floor beam replacement, to M Taylor Enterprise LLC, with work expected to be completed summer 2019;
- McCathran Hall emergency backup electrical generator, to Generating Power LLC, and was installed in October 2018;
- Dog park construction, to Tri County Fencing, which constructed the dog park in the last week of April/first week of May 2019;
- Leaf removal, to GreenEarth, which provides curbside and walkway leaf collection services from October to early January, with a spring pickup in March/April;
- Audit services, to Lindsey & Associates (the incumbent auditors for the Town); and
- Road resurfacing, to two contractors – A.B. Veirs and M.T. Laney – for work on portions of Ridge Road, Brown Street, Hickory Road, and 6th Avenue, which began in April 2019.
With the able assistance of Steve Werts and Kathy Lehman, the Mayor and Town Council will continue to oversee the performance of all Town contractors to ensure that they are meeting their contractual obligations, and to represent and advocate for the best interests of the Town.
WOODS COMMITTEE – Rob Gilmore
The past year has been an extremely active one for the Woods Committee, pursuing a number of initiatives as part of its overall effort at forest restoration. The objective is to improve the health and species diversity of the woods, and to develop measures to preserve the forest in the future.
The Committee has further progressed the development of a comprehensive forest restoration plan, comprising three main elements: (1) combatting non-native invasive species; (2) deer population control in order to mitigate the harm to the forests caused by deer over-browsing; and (3) replanting of native trees and shrubs. These efforts have included:
- Development of a draft formal written plan, building on prior work, such as the 2015 Forest Stewardship Plan submitted by Bill Bond;
- Conducting outreach and communication with the Town, including a comprehensive informational meeting with the Town and a survey of Town views on the different proposed elements of the forest restoration plan;
- Overseeing targeted herbicide treatments of non-native invasive (NNI) plant species administered by Invasive Plant Control, Inc. (“IPC”), the specialist contractor hired by the town for NNI plant species remediation efforts;
- Organizing volunteers to remove NNI plants manually, and to perform woods clean-up and restoration activities;
- Replanting trees with tree protectors in several areas to test their ability to deter deer over-browsing;
- Interfacing with Montgomery County Parks (MCP) and MD Department of Natural Resources (MD-DNR) Deer Management Program officials regarding deer population control measures; and
- Recommending and preparing an amendment to the Town Charter to permit the Town Council to authorize strictly controlled managed deer archery hunting sessions in the East and West Woods by volunteer archery teams meeting or exceeding the qualifications of the MD-DNR and MCP Deer Management Program.
The Committee submits that there has been a reduction in NNI plant species problems as a result of the IPC herbicide treatments and manual removal efforts, and will continue to monitor these efforts. Over the next year, the Committee intends to continue pursuing the three-pronged forest restoration plan approach, to include setting up additional informational meetings with the Town concerning deer control through supervised archery hunting sessions (subject to the Town Council’s approval and oversight), and continued assessment of NNI plant control with possible exclosure alternatives.
RECREATION COMMITTEE – Marida Hines
The Recreation Committee continues to create the activities and events that bring our community together and make our Town a special place.
The effort to put on these events is considerable, and 2018-2019 posed challenges that the Recreation Committee has overcome through dedication and effort well beyond what should be expected from volunteers. In particular, Emily Cavey and Missy Yachup have shown extraordinary dedication to keeping these signature Washington Grove traditions alive.
While Summer In The Parks attracted over 30 children in 2018 and continues to be a popular and valued part of Town activities, the overall trend of declining camper applications continues as more Grove children age out of the program. For this reason the Recreation Committee now accepts applications from non-Grovers to ensure the continuation of the program. Publicity of this opportunity is being restricted to word of mouth to prioritize participation by Town residents. After experimenting with staging Summer In The Parks with no paid Director 2018, in 2019 the Recreation Committee reverted to the traditional model of having a full time Director or two part time Directors. In addition to typical activities and the traditional campout, residents organized a “musical petting zoo” in 2018 that the children greatly enjoyed.
In a similar trend, Labor Day activities in 2018 were not well attended, for unknown reasons. Sadly, after 35 years, Craig English retired as Chairman of the Washington Grove Labor Day weekend activities. Craig’s long years of service were honored by the renaming of the playing field as the “Joseph Craig English Recreational Field.” In Craig’s absence, in 2019 the Recreation Committee is sharing the work among a team of volunteers.
On a positive note, the 2018 Fourth of July celebrations, BluestoberFest, and 2018 Holiday Show went off without hitch and were greatly enjoyed. Several other activities sponsored by the Recreation Committee have been very well received, including Square Dancing on first and third Mondays and the Mindfulness Meditation class on Wednesday evenings.
WEBSITE – Marida Hines
Bill Saar continues to be a self-starter with great dedication to maintaining and improving the Town website. In addition to regularly posting updates on meetings, agendas, and minutes, the website is updated on an ongoing basis with new pages and sections to reflect new activities in Town, such as the Dog Park and the Communications Working Group.
Over the last year, Bill invested considerable effort to revise and improve the site architecture, simplify the user interface, consolidate key information on the home page, and configure the back end for growth. Bill also assisted the Communications Working Group by researching WordPress plugins/technologies for alerting residents of new posts on the website. WashingtonGroveMD.org continues to be a professional site that is head and shoulders above most municipal websites.
COMMUNICATIONS – Marida Hines
The Washington Grove Communications Working Group (CWG) was formed in 2018 by Town volunteers interested in identifying ways to ensure residents are fully informed on Town affairs and to facilitate engagement through effective dissemination of information.
Several new information transparency efforts by the Council, in particular the new policy of posting of draft minutes on the website and including Town information on the unofficial Listserv, had the effect of narrowing communications gaps in Town, but residents continued to express a desire for more convenient, timely, and streamlined communications.
The CWG conducted a survey of Town residents to learn how residents were receiving their information, which existing communications channels were seen as needing improvement, and what new channels residents felt would be helpful. The response to the survey was strong, with ninety-eight townspeople contributing their perspectives and suggestions in response to town-wide personal email outreach from CWG volunteers.
The survey indicated consensus that the Town’s existing communications channels could be improved, specifically the website (37%) the listserv (25%) and the Town Bulletin (17%). A significant majority (58%) indicated they would be interested in an option to received email notification of website updates on topics they are interested in.
In response to these data, the CWG delivered recommendations to the Council focusing on improving the website, finding a better alternative to the listserv, addressing concerns on the bulletin (better communicating deadlines for content submission, an emailed Bulletin option, and re-introducing the “Coming up in the Grove” section.)
Work is ongoing to identify technologies or processes that can improve official communications in Washington Grove.
MAPLE LAKE COMMITTEE – Pat Klein
The Lake Committee had a very productive year with several major repairs and improvements completed. Last fall, the dock was pressure-washed and stained, and the lake drained to 5 feet depth using the newly fixed PVC pipes to allow probing and removal of any submerged debris. Fortunately, none was found.
A possible path from the lake enclosure near old pump house to Maple Spring was explored. It looks possible without having to elevate it above the wetlands. The Lake Committee recommended the Woods Committee to take the lead on Maple Spring restoration. Three new American Holly trees (4-5 feet high) were planted along the edge of the grass just beyond the life guard’s shed towards the old pump gate.
Town maintenance and helpers replaced the Lake Bridge by the inner gate using a 4.5-foot diameter corrugated steel pipe surrounded by concrete and re-bar with a cement and dirt road-way on top. Hand rails were installed on both sides of the bridge. The new culvert worked very well during the heavy rain in November 2018 and recently in April 2019.
The Lake Committee held its first meetings of the new season on March 21 and April 18, 2019. Several activities are planned to prepare the Lake for seasonal use. Maintenance tasks include repairing holes in the lake fence between gate and sheds, re-installation of the video surveillance equipment before the Lake opens on Memorial Day, and raked/turned by shovel the beach sand. The annual Spring Lake Clean-Up was conducted on April 27th in conjunction with the West Woods Clean-up. Contracts are in place for algae/pond weed control and water testing for coliforms monthly from June to August. The Lake Committee chair and Mayor plan to meet again this season with MCPD to schedule random patrols several times weekly in late May and early June prior to seasonal opening to minimize trespassing and vandalism. The Lake Committee continues to use the HSUS protocol to humanely prevent hatching of eggs laid by a nesting pair of Canada geese along the island.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS COMMITTEE – Pat Klein
The EPSC was very productive this year with a long list of key accomplishments based, in part, on the recommendations in the Emergency Preparedness Task Force Final Report (2016). Accomplishments include:
Installation of a Town Hall Generator including an upgrade to 200-amp service and corrective actions to bring the Town Hall into compliance with the electrical code.
Street Sign Restoration Project – The EPSC, in consultation with Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Services (MCFRS) Assistant Fire Chief, identified that street sign visibility and reflectivity were most critical for emergency responders. A recommendation was sent to the Town Council and town volunteers organized to restore our street signs with glass beads for reflectivity and updated artistic enhancements. More than 125 signs have been restored to date.
Fire Hydrant Marking – Fire hydrants in Town have been marked with red/silver retroreflective tapes to facilitate location by MCFRS in low light and darkness.
County Hazard Mitigation Plan – EPSC members participated in the County’s update of the Hazard Mitigation Plan, providing input on items of interest to our Town that require County action. The Town will adopt the updated County plan to remain eligible for FEMA disaster relief and grants.
Guy Wire Visibility Covers – Yellow visibility covers were added to guy wires on two utility poles along Brown Street that were identified by the EPSC as possible safety hazards for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Master Plan Input – The EPSC submitted a proposed new section on “Emergency Preparedness with Risk Management and Hazard Mitigation” for the 2019 Master Plan.
Light at Crosswalk on Railroad Street – The EPSC initiated a request for a street light at the crosswalk connecting the Town with the MARC/Ride-On bus stop. Montgomery County DOT approved the request and has installed the new street light at the crosswalk to increase safety for those crossing Railroad Street.
Brown Street Gate Near Hickory – The EPSC has discussed alternatives to replace the gate on Brown Street near Hickory Road, noting the gate has not been opened since its installation for emergency vehicle access. Various other gate configurations have been considered as well as use of bollards, all intended to provide an easier and safer pass through for bicyclists and pedestrians. The EPSC will continue its exploration of alternatives for this location in the coming months.
Risk Management and Safety Procedures – The EPSC will continue working on a draft document “Town of Washington Grove Risk Management and Safety Procedures” compiled using material from the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT). The document includes chapters on risk management, accident investigation procedures, driver training and accident prevention, emergency plans, semi-annual inspections, and a collection of forms.
Speed Bumps and Speed Humps – The EPSC noted the apparent near-term efficacy of the speed bumps being tested at stop signs along Chestnut Road and speed hump on Grove Road, but also the inherent safety hazards and reports that such bumps and humps may not be suitable for installation on public roads. The EPSC will continue to monitor this continuing traffic calming experiment, with expectations the bumps and humps will be replaced with suitable and compliant speed reduction bumps/humps.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Audrey Maskery
Forestry and Beautification during 2018/2019 continued with its plan to replace trees lost due to age and storm damage in the Town’s public areas.
Seven 2.5” – 3.0” caliper canopy trees planted.
Two Red Oaks – Maple Avenue
One Scarlet Oak – Grove Avenue
One Pin Oak – Maple Avenue
One Maple – Center
Two Elms – Chestnut Avenue; Maple Avenue
A total of $330.00 worth of coupons received from both County and State programs facilitated by Stadler’s Nursery, were used towards purchase of the fall trees.
Six larger caliper canopy trees planted.
- Three Oaks – Oak/Grove Avenue; The Circle; Grove Avenue/Center Street
- One Maple – Woodward Park in children’s play-ground.
- Two Black Gum – The Circle; Morgan Park/Maple Avenue One understory – Kousa Dogwood – Woodward Park/Grove Road.
The yearly report from the Department of Agriculture Forest Pest Management showed no significant increase of Gypsy Moth in Washington Grove.
Work on the 2019/20 Master Plan has recognized McGregor Park, (Margaret McGregor a longtime resident of The Grove) and McCauley Park as part of Forestry & Beautification responsibilities.
MAINTENANCE – Audrey Maskery
Our Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts has accomplished a great deal this year. In addition to standard maintenance duties such as cutting grass and removal of leaves there have been many projects to improve our Town infrastructure:
- Installation of new culvert and bridge with handrail over to Maple Lake.
- Removal of floor in Old Council room and replacing support beams; installing insulation, and flooring after termite treatment.
- Purchase and installation of new cabinets and floor tile in Old Council room kitchen and supervision of new countertop installation in kitchen.
- Purchase and supervision of installation of a new generator at Town Hall to provide continual electrical power during an emergency.
- Refurbished old Ford tractor pressure washing, dismantled engine cover, re-painted and reassembled tractor.
- Installation of new State regulation speed hump on Grove Road.
- Renovation of the sediment pond at the end of Brown Street as required to pass County regulations.
- Refurbishing of both the historic Town Council table and the “Wishing Well” located at the Town Circle.
MEMORIALS – Audrey Maskery
Nothing to report.
PLAYGROUNDS – Audrey Maskery
Steve Werts has finished installing the remaining new playground equipment including rebuilding the equipment areas. New drainage pipes and layered surfaces were added to enhance usability and safety. Equipment is routinely monitored so unsafe equipment can be replaced as needed.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL ANNUAL REPORT – John Compton, Joli McCathran
2019 Legislative Priority for the Maryland Municipal League (The following report was copied with permission from the MML)
Preservation of Local Authority to Site Small Cellular Infrastructure
The sole legislative priority for 2019 adopted by the Maryland Municipal League is the preservation of local authority over the siting and aesthetics of small cellular tower infrastructure. Recent actions at the federal level threaten existing local authority. The FCC recently adopted an Order that preempted local governments in several areas of the small cell field, primarily: placing a cap on application fees as well as right-of-way access and pole attachment charges; and shortening the time which a small cell application must be processed, aka “shot clocks.”
During the 2018 General Assembly session SB 1188/HB 1767 was introduced on behalf of the wireless communications industry that sought to streamline and make uniform the local permitting and installation of small cell facilities. In reality, the bill preempted local governments in almost every aspect including important safety and aesthetic components such as zoning and right-of-way access.
During the 2018 interim, MML along with the Maryland Association of Counties, and Baltimore City worked with wireless industry representatives in good faith discussions to seek a Maryland path forward on small cells. These talks are ongoing but MML anticipates the industry putting forth a bill in 2019.
MML will continue to work with stakeholders to protect local authority in the siting of small cell facilities, including vehement opposition to preemption of zoning, right-of-way access, design standards, and permitting processes. These local government functions are critical to our residents and represent the duty of our officials to promote safety and community character.
Oppose ANY ATTEMPT to Preempt Local Authority
The issue of small cell siting is just one example in a disturbing trend of local authority preemption by the State and Federal government. MML is strongly opposed to any efforts that would eliminate or reduce existing authorities left to municipalities under the Maryland Constitution.
Small Cellular Tower Design Guidelines (Mayor John Compton)
The Town needs to recognize the potential for the installation of small cell towers on our streets. This technology may be a very desirable enhancement to promote, as it facilitates 5G connection and would greatly improve wireless cellular internet access speeds for all residents. However, the Town must act soon to insure we have the authority to insure that such installations are compatible with our aesthetic expectations. The Mayor and Town officials need to pursue adoption of an appropriate design guidelines ordinance for this purpose.
Bikeways Connection to Shady Grove Metro, The Grove Shopping Center and Old Town Gaithersburg (Mayor John Compton)
Montgomery County adopted an updated Bikeways Master Plan earlier this year. The Plan prioritizes implementation of specific recommended projects. Through official Town and resident advocacy, the highest priority designation was given to completing a safe multiuse bikeway connection along Crabbs Branch Way to Washington Grove from the Grove Shopping Center and Shady Grove Metro.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has since reached out to the Town. Unlike for most of the 800 miles of the Bikeways plan, they apparently have funds to study the best route for achieving this connection, which they will start shortly. They also have funds for actually implementing recommendations of the study.
At the same time, the city of Gaithersburg has contracted a study to examine bikeway connection of Old Town Gaithersburg to the Metro, and has reached out to Washington Grove to coordinate their study and work together to determine the best connection.
The Town’s 2009 Master Plan supports a Metro bikeway connection. It is apparent that significant progress on reaching this goal could happen in the coming year. The Mayor and volunteers will be working with the County and Gaithersburg to facilitate both of their bikeway connection studies, since Washington Grove stands squarely between the two bikeway systems. The present Master Plan revision should re-examine the Town’s commitment to finally achieving the long desired connections, and especially consider the Town’s interest in designating certain Town streets as our own “Grove Bikeway” connecting to the County’s and City’s bikeway systems.