2 December 2020 | Approved: 6 January 2021
Peter Nagrod called the meeting to order at 7:32 p.m. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, this meeting took place via ZOOM videoconference. In attendance were Commissioners Charlie Challstrom, Jon Cohen, Georgette Cole, Robert Johnson (Alternate), and Deb Mehlferber. Also in attendance were residents Ann Philips, Paula Puglisi, and Jeff Picard. Historic Preservation Commission member Gail Littlefield also attended the meeting.
Approval of Agenda:
Georgette Cole moved to approve the agenda. Charlie Challstrom seconded the motion. The Commission added the following to the agenda:
Approved: 5-0, as amended.
Building Permit Applications:
328 Ridge Road – Charlie Challstrom gave a brief update concerning an application for water connection. WSSC denied the application citing rules about a non-abutting property. This connection would require a mainline extension project and subject to those requirements. The property owner will drill a well. He will also explore geothermal methods as suggested by the HPC.
411 Chestnut Ave. – A recent open house was the triggering event that raised concerns about rooms in the basement with non-compliant windows and a second kitchen. The problem with the windows is a safety issue and the second kitchen makes the basement look like a separate dwelling unit which is against the Town ordinances. Property owner Jeff Picard explained the basement was finished and contained two (2) bonus spaces when they moved in. One of those spaces had a refrigerator, a sink and a washing machine. He moved the washing machine to a mudroom near the exit stairs to the outside. The space created was filled with a range/oven. Jeff asked the realtor to label the rooms only as bonus rooms and was unaware the floor plan included in the listing labeled the rooms as a bedroom and a kitchen. He doesn’t think the room usage makes any difference to the purchaser of the house and asked what the Planning Commission suggests.
Action: Jeff will write up a disclosure for the buyers concerning the prohibition on using the basement as a separate dwelling unit and bring a copy of it to the Town office.
Public Ways & Property Permit – Discussion About $100.00 Fee for Residents:
Charlie Challstrom presented a draft ordinance and explained the idea was similar to the major and minor building permit situation. Peter thanked Charlie for his efforts and expressed his opinion that this covered everything. Charlie gave additional details about the Public Ways & Property Permit particularly pertaining to the 5G roll out and fee structure. There was a lengthy discussion about the following:
- Legal definition and implications of adjoining property, adjacent property, and abutting property.
- Removal of language in (a) “determined by the Planning Commission to be…”
- Addition of .00 in (b)
- User fee vs. rental fee
- FCC regulations
- Is this a revenue generator?
- Next steps
Action: The proposed ordinance will be sent to the Historic Preservation Commission for comment and additional small edits will be made. It was suggested that a small working group be formed to research 5G Ultra Wideband.
Approval of the Minutes – November 4, 2020:
Georgette Cole moved to approve the November Planning Commission minutes. Deb Mehlferber seconded the motion. Approved: 5-0, as amended.
Zoning Text Amendment (2020-11) for Accessory Buildings:
Charlie Challstrom reported this ordinance will be effective in a week. Bryant Foreman (412 4th Ave.) will turn in a building permit application to relocate the shed as soon as it is allowed.
Proposed Zoning Text Amendment to Authorize Legal Instruments to Terminate Certain Restrictive Covenants Included in Deeds Conveying Property Prior to July 1, 1964:
Charlie Challstrom explained the covenants that appear on some deeds and the associated problems with same. He also gave a definition of what it means for a covenant to “run with the land.” There was a discussion about the 1964 Code of Ordinances. These specifically state they supersede all prior ordinances therefore making the restrictive covenants obsolete. In addition the Commission discussed legal instruments (petition etc.), and removal of the reference to 1964.
Action: Send the draft document to the Mayor, Council, Historic Preservation Commission, and the Racial Equity Group for comments.
Report from Town Council:
Georgette Cole asked about the status of Ord.2020-13. Charlie suggested she check with Dave Cosson as he is the Woods Committee liaison. Charlie and the Commission reviewed his report. Gail Littlefield asked for an update on the salt barn. There was no new information.
Comprehensive Plan Work Session Report (formerly called Master Plan) – Required Elements and Preparation and Approval Process: Georgette Cole requested help with zoning maps. Robert will get in touch with Chris McGovern and Georgette will talk with Archivist Pat Patula about a Gaithersburg City contact. The Commission the discussed the following:
- Status of the Sustainability Section
- Public Ways & Property Permit language
- Parking – areas to update
- Identity fences
Commercial Corner Pedestrian Crossing – Update:
Chairman Nagrod reported sending an e-mail to County representative Mark Terry. No reply yet. Peter stated, although improvements are appreciated, the intersection is still dangerous because of the placement of the phone pole and the dumpster.
Border Committee – Update:
Chairman Nagrod started the conversation with references to the need for inclusion, better identification, and the perception that drivers are going around rather than through our Town. Additional discussion of a philosophical nature ensued. Jon suggested the Town should decide if they want to remain a little secret or something else. There is no longer any undeveloped land surrounding the Town. The Town would benefit from its borders looking like something special and well maintained rather than abandoned. The Forestry and Beautification Committee would love to have help with the Railroad Street border. There was also a discussion about signs that say, “Entering the Town of Washington Grove” and “Leaving the Town of Washington Grove” along Washington Grove Lane and Railroad Street.
A proforma letter to residents who are placing plantings, small fencing, and rocks on Town land was discussed. It was decided that Jamie Ayoub (414 Brown Street) and Carol Samour (333 McCauley Street) should receive letters about rocks, plantings, and fencing. There was a brief discussion about enforcement. Follow-up and enforcement will be on the January 2021 agenda.
Paula Puglisi thanked Charlie for his detailed covenant work, Georgette for answering all her questions and the Commission for their service.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:45PM.
Kathryn L. Lehman, Town Clerk