June 30, 2021 | Approved: September 13, 2021
This special meeting of the Town Council was held remotely via ZOOM Video Conferencing. The meeting was recorded.
Mayor Compton called the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m. In attendance were Councilors Darrell Anderson, Dave Cosson, Christine Dibble, Patty Klein, Barbara Raimondo, and Gray Yachup. Also in attendance were 51 residents. Mayor Compton stated the following:
- The meeting was being recorded
- The chat function was disabled to eliminate side conversations
- A volunteer was helping people join the meeting
- The meeting was for one single purpose, to discuss and possibly act on the Shared Use Bike Path Petition
- Public comment could be limited to two minutes
Approval of Agenda
Gray Yachup moved to approve the agenda. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion. Barbara Raimondo asked to add to Item 4 consideration of a motion she will propose as the Town Council response to the Shared Use Bike Path Petition (PDF). Vote: 6-0, approved as amended.
- Mary Blake – Is opposed to the petition as written because it is too prescriptive. Task forces and liaisons should be done by elected officials.
- Shelley Winkler – Hopes the Council will honor the petition and the facts. She wants the Town to take the time to get the right route.
- Jay Everhart – Rejects the petition. At a meeting in February of this year Montgomery County agreed to study three options. DOT wants the Brown Street route. Consensus is unlikely and to drag out the process may kill approval of any connection.
- David Stopak – Favors a bike path and doesn’t want to not proceed, but he warns against a hasty decision without due process. He read recommendations from the 2009 Master Plan. He wants to determine the best location by weighing the pros and cons and plan for the future.
- Liz Everhart – Urged rejection of the petition and taking the petition to a Town Meeting. She spoke about how things work according to the ordinances. The petitioners want more than a discussion. Put together a committee and study the three (3) routes.
- Jan Davis – Supports the petition because there has never been a consensus. The County did not study all the routes, they just picked Brown Street. It is not a democratic process. The need exists to consider the routes more seriously.
- Joan Mahaffey – Signed the petition because there was an extreme lack of process. She gave a timeline. She characterized the decision to support the Brown Street connection from among the three connections studied by MCDOT as being undemocratic and not based on facts. She expressed her concerns about liability, and that the Brown Street route is inferior.
- Paula Puglisi – Is concerned if the decision is drawn out through extended process, that newer younger residents will become cynical and impatient with Town government and stop participating at all. Re-starting from the beginning would be detrimental.
- Krista Zanetti – Identified herself as a newer, younger resident. People want the facts and a clear transparent process. We could go back a few steps still be successful.
- Annika Land – Identifying herself as a young person in Washington Grove, she feels that both sides have been heard and it is time to move forward. She would like to see facts from Montgomery County and have an open forum, not a committee.
Mayor Compton thanked everyone for voicing their opinions and offering advice to the Town Council. The Public Appearances closed at 8:04 p.m.
Shared Use Bike Path Petition and Council Response
Mayor Compton began the discussion with an explanation of the petition process using the Dog Park Petition as an example. He specifically talked about Charter provisions that substitute for a referendum process in Washington Grove, citing specifically Section 15(c) of the Town Charter. He noted that Town Attorney Suellen Ferguson had provided written responses to questions posed by the Mayor and Council, and he summarized his understanding of the process as follows:
- If the Town Council does not act favorably on the petition’s requests, the Mayor must call a Special Town Meeting.
- Acting favorably is not defined in the Town Charter, and therefore may be broadly interpreted by the Town Council. The Town Council can act in any way they deem to be favorable.
- The Council’s favorable actions will be subject to interpretation by Town residents, who may accept them as favorable, or respond with a new petition.
- The petition has status, but individual petitioners do not. There is no expectation that individual petitioners be recognized in the Council response, nor any mechanism for them to respond.
Council members debated their views about the petition process. Christine Dibble requested this discussion end and move on to the petition.
Barbara Raimondo offered a detailed motion (PDF) as the Town Council’s response to the Shared Use Bike Path Petition. Gray Yachup seconded her motion. The motion consisted of four actions:
1. The Mayor will establish a Task Force to examine potential shared use path connections to the Town of Washington Grove. The Task Force mission statement is:
The Task Force will evaluate options for shared use path connections to the Town and will present its findings in a report to the Town Council and to Town residents. Study of the options by the Tash Force should include fact-based evaluation of short-term and long-term effects on the Town of each potential connection using specific criteria.
2. A Special Town Meeting will be scheduled within 60 days of presentation of the Task Force report to the Council. The purpose of this meeting is for the Task Force to present its findings to the Town.
3. The Town Council commits to taking a vote on a shared use path option at a date after the Town Meeting during which the Task Force presents its findings to the Town.
4. It is the position of the Town Council that the passage of this motion, in whole or in part, constitutes “act[ing] favorably” under Town Charter section 15(c).
Because no new information has been received, some members wondered what the point of this action was. The Mayor and Council discussed setting aside the March vote and, as a sign of good faith, notifying Montgomery County of this action. Some members explained what they did in preparation for the special meeting and expressed their dismay at the suggestion that they did not carry out their due diligence on the matter. Some members stated the Town should be reliable, responsible partners with the County and rescinding the vote could be considered being unreliable.
There was additional discussion about the 1994 Resolution (i.e., whether it is attached to the current proposed connection), a partnership with the County, current County studies, transparency, reconsidering the March 2021 vote, and whether to add language about the changes to this motion or including said language in a Memo of Understanding.
Mayor Compton urged the Council to pay attention to the practical consequences of the March vote and a new vote in November. He also reported that Montgomery County will not finish the study this year. There was another lengthy discussion about the proper way to communicate with Montgomery County.
Dave Cosson proposed the following action be added to the original motion:
“IV. Upon passage, the Mayor will inform the County in writing of this Motion and the process the Town is proceeding with.”
Vote: 5 – 0, (Raimondo abstaining). Amendment approved. Action IV is renamed as Action V.
Discussion and debate continued about the Task Force Mission. There was also discussion about how the Task Force would be formed, that expectations for the Task Force report be made very clear, that it consists of findings and not recommendations, and include evaluation of the various criteria as pros and cons for each connection option considered.
Christine Dibble moved to add the following clause to the introductory sentence under Action I-A:
“…and will present its findings in a report to the Town Council and Town residents”.
Dave Cosson seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, amendment accepted.
Dave Cosson moved to add an amendment to the criteria in Action I-A-9:
“Projections of 10-year use from MCDOT or other sources for this shared use path connection, considering all available data for similar shared use paths”.
Christine Dibble seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, amendment accepted.
Christine Dibble moved to add the word “impact” to the criteria in Action I-A-8:
“8. Potential impact mitigations needed for each connection.”
Patty Klein seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, amendment accepted.
There was further discussion about how members of the Task Force will be selected. Mayor Compton proposed to send a Grove Alert asking for volunteers for the Task Force. He will ask volunteers to state briefly why they are interested and any relevant experience or skills they believe are relevant.
Additional procedural and wording modifications were discussed. In Action I-B-5 an option to call a Special Town Council Meeting for receiving the Task Force report was proposed.
For Action II, specifying a 60-day window between the presentation of the report to the Council and the required a Special Town Meeting was suggested.
Darrell Anderson moved and Patty Klein seconded these amendments. Vote: 6-0, amendments accepted.
It was agreed by consensus that the Shared Use Bike Path Petition (PDF) should be attached to the Town Council motion.
The initial sentence of the motion was discussed and a new sentence suggested: “The Town Council, acting on the Shared Use Bike Path Petition (PDF), adopts the following actions”.
Vote: 5-1 (Anderson opposed), amendment accepted.
A motion to amend the title to “Washington Grove Shared Use Bike Connection” from “Washington Grove Connector” was debated.
Vote: 4 in favor, (Cosson, Dibble, Klein, Yachup) – 2 opposed, (Anderson, Raimondo), amendment accepted.
The final amended version of Barbara Raimondo’s motion (PDF) was reviewed, and a vote taken.
Vote: 6-0, motion adopted.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:05 p.m.
Kathryn L. Lehman
Motion: Town Council Response to the Shared Use Bike Path Petition
The Town Council, acting on the Shared Use Bike Path Petition (PDF), adopts the following actions:
I. The Mayor will establish a Task Force to examine potential shared use path connections to the Town of Washington Grove.
A. Task Force Mission. The Task Force will evaluate options for shared use path connections to the Town and will present its findings in a report to the Town Council and to Town residents. Study of the options by the Task Force should include fact-based evaluation of short-term and long-term effects on the Town of each potential connection using criteria such as:
- Overall safety
- Impacts on specific areas of the Town
- Environmental and historic impact
- Legal implications of the Town’s responsibilities regarding maintenance and liability
- Ease of access to Metro by Town and neighboring communities
- Recreational value of a shared use path
- Social equity implications
- Potential impact mitigations needed for each connection
- Projections of 10-year use from MCDOT or other sources for this shared use path connection, considering all available data for similar shared use paths.
B. Task Force Actions. The Task Force will consist of nine members proposed at the July 12, 2021, Town Council meeting by the Mayor with Town Council concurrence. It will:
- Hold an organizing meeting.
- Share information with residents about steps that have been taken thus far in the connection planning process.
- Conduct open meetings to accept input from Town residents
- Consider all relevant issues
- Present findings to the Town Council at the Town Council’s November 8, 2021, meeting or at a Special Town Council meeting scheduled for presentation of their report.
II. A Special Town Meeting will be scheduled within 60 days of presentation of the Task Force report to the Council. The purpose of the meeting is for the Task Force to present its findings to the Town.
III. The Town Council commits to taking a vote on a shared use path option at a date after the Town Meeting during which the Task Force presents its findings to the Town.
IV. Upon passage, the Mayor will inform the County in writing of this Motion and the process the Town is proceeding with.
V. It is the position of the Town Council that the passage of this motion, in whole or in part, constitutes “act[ing] favorably” under Town Charter section 15(c).