12 April 2021 | Approved ( as Amended ) 17 May 2021
The unprecedented emergency health crisis poses a challenge to all – individually and collectively. To protect ourselves and do our part to impede the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, the regular meeting of the Town Council was held remotely via ZOOM Video Conferencing. The meeting was recorded.
Mayor John Compton called the regular meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:35 p.m. In attendance were Councilors Darrell Anderson, Charlie Challstrom, David Cosson, Marida Hines, Patty Klein and Gray Yachup. Also in attendance were Treasurer Mary Challstrom and Treasurer-designate Jean Moyer, HPC Chair Bob Booher, and residents Georgette Cole, Christine Dibble, Jay Everhart, Sylvie Favret, Wendy Harris, Robert Johnson, Joan Mahaffey, Paula Puglisi, Virginia Quesada, Barbara Raimondo, Donna Shriner, David Stopak, Shelley Winkler, and Krista Zanetti. Mimi Bolotin arrived at 8:21 PM and Audrey Maskery arrived at 8:35PM.
Approval of Agenda:
Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the agenda. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved.
HPC Chairman Bob Booher voiced the Commission’s concerns about the process of the bike path vote by the Town Council at the March Town Council meeting taken to inform the County that the Town supported the Brown Street connection option among the three routes being studied. He referenced an HPC letter distributed last week and re-iterated the request for further discussion tonight or at the next Town Council meeting. ** SEE NOTE BELOW
Mayor Compton noted that the Council had a full agenda for the evening that includes necessary decisions by the Town Council concerning conduct of the Town election and the Town Meeting on May 8th, and that the bike path would be addressed in his Mayor’s Announcements. While questioning how appropriate the role of historic preservation arguments were to a bike path decision, he recommended their letter and further bike path discussion be taken up in-depth at the June Town Council meeting.
Pat Klein supported a review of the HPC letter and questioned whether the Open Meetings Act had been violated by the Town Council, suggesting that the published Agenda item “Bikeway Connection – Discussion on how to proceed” gave no public notice to the Town that the Town Council would vote on any aspect of the bike path. She also questioned whether the Town Council had had sufficient input from Town residents. Mayor Compton remarked that there had been various public meetings and a Special Town Meeting last year, and that over 60 residents were present at the March Town Council meeting in response the Agenda item, specifically to offer their input to the bike path discussion. All had an opportunity to speak to the proposed Town Council motion to proceed by favoring the Brown Street option. He reiterated that the Council action was consistent with the bikeway item on the published Agenda and therefore in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
Shelley Winkler provided prepared remarks in a letter, and then spoke to the importance of the bike path location decision for the future of the Town, proposed criteria she believes should be used to inform a final decision, that a Special Town Meeting previously proposed should be held, and that final Town Council action should follow a work group report and further public input.
David Stopak stated his concerns that a work group had not been formed to analyze bikeway connection option.
Mayor Compton noted in his Announcements that he proposes to proceed with appointment of a work group. He also offered his perspective that by taking this position, the Town Council recognized that the MCDOT study of connection options was shortly to be reported to the Planning Board and it was timely for the Town to formally support the intention of the County to move forward with plans. In expressing preference for the Brown Street option from among the three alternatives studied, the Town Council judged from the extensive public discussion and input since 2019 that residents largely supported this option. Importantly, in doing so, the Town Council positively acknowledged the County’s engagement and willingness to pay for studying and constructing a multi-user path we have sought for decades. There existed a present window of opportunity, and while two other connection options were included in the MCDOT study, others may be proposed (e.g. one shown in the HPC letter), or may also be possible, they are too late to the County’s study process started almost 18 months ago, and without public input.
** NOTE: These letters are available from the Town Office upon request.
Approval of Minutes:
Gray Yachup moved to approve the March 8, 2021 minutes of the Town Council. Patty Klein seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0, approved as proposed.
Treasurers Report 2021-March pdf
Darrell Anderson moved acceptance of the March 2021 Treasurer’s Report. Patty Klein seconded the motion. There was brief discussion. Vote: 6-0, accepted.
- Sidewalk Graffiti Update – Mayor Compton reported the graffiti on the sidewalk along Washington Grove Lane was no longer visible.
- Commendation for Washington Grove Postal Workers – Circumstances interfered with attempts to arrange a formal presentation of the January Town Council Resolution recognizing the dedicated work done by the employees at the Post Office during this time of COVID-19. Instead, a framed copy of the Resolution was delivered by the Town Clerk. She reported Ms. Lee was appreciative of the recognition.
- MCDOT Response to Mayor’s Letter Conveying the Council Preference for the Brown Street Connection and Requesting Washington Grove be Involved in Design and Construction pdf – in response, Study leader Kyle Lukacs indicated willingness to involve a group of Washington Grove residents in the next phases of facilities planning for the bike path connection. A design charrette is a possibility. Mayor Compton indicated he would appoint a Bikeway Connection Work Group with responsibility to work with MCDOT and serve the Town’s best interest, and to report to the Town Council for direction as needed. The workgroup could also examine other aspects of bikeway connections of interest to the Town.
- Request for Proposal Ideas to use American Rescue Plan Funds Available to the Town – Mayor Compton asked the Council and public for suggestions for uses and projects that might meet the specific requirements of the Plan and qualify the Town for access to the substantial funds allocated to Washington Grove.
Councilors Pat Klein, Gray Yachup, and Dave Cosson asked for clarification on the proposed Bikeway Workgroup as a liaison to the County, and about the process for appointments. John explained he would appoint 6-8 involved volunteer residents with interest and relevant expertise who will work with Montgomery County to implement the path and be sure the Town’s best interests are taken into consideration. He also suggested the group could choose to assemble various criteria and the pros and cons for the project and the impacts on the Town. There was additional discussion about the internal and external process, clarifying that a liaison should communicate to the Town Council for them to make decisions as required, the HPC letter, available County resources, and the history of the recommendation in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan (formerly Master Plan) to create a bikeway/multi-use pathway connection.
Action: It was agreed this matter would be on the agenda of the June Town Council meeting.
Mayor’s Nominations to the Board of Supervisors of Elections:
Charlie Challstrom moved re-appointment of Margaret Cavenagh, David Hix, and Nick Suzich to the Board of Supervisors of Elections. Patty Klein seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0 to confirm.
2021 Town Elections – Discussion of Procedures and In-Person Voting Proposed by the Board of Supervisors of Elections:
Mayor Compton reported the Board has updated the Application for Absentee Ballot form and the new Ballot. The Board is willing to offer in-person voting on Election Day (8 May 2021). The Council thoroughly discussed various ways to allow in-person voting as an option. Various concerns were expressed: with control, community risk, general uncertainties with the process, and general satisfaction with the early absentee ballot process used in the 2020 election. Most were not comfortable with changing the procedure. Patty Klein moved to proceed with the early/absentee voting procedure and not conduct in-person voting on Election Day. Charlie Challstrom seconded the motion.
Vote: 5 in favor (Anderson, Challstrom, Cosson, Klein, Yachup); 1 opposed (Hines).
Resolution 2021-06; Providing for Convening the 2021 Annual Town Meeting Electronically and Giving Notice Electronically, and Providing Special Rules of Order for Communicating by Electronic Means, and Establishing Other Rules to Respond to Technical or Practical Difficulties, and Adopting the Proposed Budget as a Provisional Budget – Discussion and Vote:
Charlie Challstrom moved to adopt Resolution 2021-06 pdf. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion. Some minor edits were made for clarity and consistency.
Vote: 6-0, adopted as amended.
FY 2022 Annual Town Budget and Tax Rate – Discussion and Recommendation to the Town Meeting:
Mayor Compton reported the proposed budget will use the constant yield as recommended by the State. He noted a slight decrease in the tax rate, and an unchanged dwelling tax. The Mayor and Council reviewed a few of the expense items within the budget. Gray Yachup moved to accept FY 2022 budget and tax rate for proposal pdf to the Town Meeting. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0 to approve.
Ordinance 2021-05; Adopting the Town Budget FY 2022 – Introduction:
Gray Yachup moved to introduce Ordinance 2021-05 pdf. Patty Klein seconded the motion. Public input on the budget will take place at the Town Meeting on May 8, 2021.
Vote: 6-0 to Introduce.
The formal Public Hearing on the Ordinance was set for 7:30 p.m. May 17, 2021 prior to the Town Council meeting.
Ordinance 2021-07; Setting Fees and Expiration of Archeological Permits and Retitling of Article I – Introduction and Setting Public Hearing Date:
Dave Cosson presented the proposed ordinance reviewed by both the Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission. Discussion resulted in simplifying the expiration language and revising the new name proposed for Article I to “NUISANCES, OFFENSES AND OTHER PROCEDURES”. Patty Klein moved to introduce Ordinance 2021-07 pdf with the changes. Gray Yachup seconded the motion.
Vote: 6-0 to Introduce.
The Public Hearing date was set for 7:30 p.m. May 17, 2021 prior to the Town Council meeting
Resolution 2021-08; Town Expectations and Policy to Minimize Adverse Effects on Town Residents and the Environment Resulting From Construction of a Multiuser Pathway Between the Town and Crabbs Branch Way – Review, Introduction and Possible Adoption:
Dave Cosson explained additions to the previous draft. He proposed requesting input from the Border Committee, and that the Resolution be revisited at another Town Council meeting. Charlie Challstrom reminded the Mayor and Town Council that State law requires a Planning Commission evaluation as well. A review of the proposed Resolution will be placed on the next Agendas of the Border Committee and Planning Commission.
Re-opening McCathran Hall to Public Use – Discussion:
Mayor Compton provided new guidance from the CDC indicating data and experience suggest the risk of contracting COVID19 was almost exclusively due to aerosol and respiratory droplet transmission, and that surface contamination should be of lessor concern. He asked the Council to consider opening McCathran Hall to limited gatherings following the County guidelines. There was a discussion about the following:
- Cleaning requirements and verification.
- Not letting our guard down
- Use of masks and social distancing
With regard to a request from the Swing Time Big Band to start indoor rehearsals again, the Mayor and Council discussed the following:
- Potential spreading problems with blowing musical instruments
- Montgomery County Public School’s cleaning methods
- Consulting air-handling experts
- Air purifiers
- Keeping the windows open
- Rehearsing outside
Action: The Mayor and Council will re-evaluate resuming use of McCathran Hall in May.
Road Work Request For Proposal (RFP):
Gray Yachup walked the Mayor and Council through the proposed RFP for road work on two areas in Town: McCauley at Washington Grove Lane and stormwater pipe installation under Chestnut Road at Oak. The Council discussed water problems on Chestnut Road. Patty Klein suggested that a contractor’s opinion should be solicited about the value of the proposed Chestnut Road work and therefore any actual work should be delayed. Mayor Compton described the McCauley Street intersection as in such disrepair that the work should proceed as soon as possible. However the RFP document under discussion was found to be incomplete. Councilor Yachup hoped to locate the more accurate RFP document by the end of the meeting. See New Business.
Testimony to the Maryland Public Service Commission on the PEPCO Tariff Application – Discussion and Approval: Dave Cosson, applying his professional experience addressing utility tariff cases, prepared written comments to communicate the Lighting Committee’s significant concerns with Pepco’s tariff proposal that is now before the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). He noted the several issues addressed and asked for Town Council approval for he and the Mayor to transmit them by the May 5th deadline. Mayor Compton thanked Dave for his excellent work to prepare this document. The Council discussed some of the content, and Charlie Challstrom offered minor factual corrections. Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the testimony. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0 to approve transmittal to the PSC pdf
Kudos to departing Council members:
At this point in the meeting, Mayor Compton reminded the Council this was the final Council meeting for Charlie Challstrom and another “retirement” for him from Town office, having now served as Mayor for 2 years and a Town Councilor for 18 years! He also thanked Marida Hines for her 6 years of service as a Town Councilor. Finally, the Mayor also noted that Mary Challstrom’s retirement was coming in June after over 30 years of service as Clerk-Treasurer and Treasurer to the Town. Washington Grove has benefitted beyond full description from the contributions and dedication of both Charlie and Mary Challstrom.
Montgomery Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League Resolution Demanding Fair Tax Duplication Payments From the County Council – Authorize Mayor to Support the Resolution:
Mayor Compton explained the importance of tax duplication funds provided to the Town annually, and that for literally decades the municipalities of Montgomery County have sought to recover more nearly the full amount of taxes paid by their residents to Montgomery County for services the County did not have to provided that were actually provided by the municipality. Charlie Challstrom moved to approve the transmission of a letter of support pdf. Dave Cosson seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, approved.
Town Council Reports:
TC Reports / Mayor Compton brought attention to the following:
- Annual Planning Commission Report to State of Maryland – The PC hereby files the required report with the Town Council, and the Planning Commission will send the report to the State Planning Office.
- Lighting Committee Proposal to Install Low-Voltage Lighting Fixtures Outside McCathran Hall for Evaluation – These 27-inch tall, low-voltage lights will be installed by Town Maintenance along the path at the Town Hall.
- Town Responsibility for Snow and Ice on Washington Grove Lane Sidewalks – It was confirmed that the Town is responsible for keeping the sidewalk clear of snow and ice. Maintenance Supervisor Steve Werts will continue this task in his winter responsibilities.
There was none.
Gray Yachup presented an up-to-date RFP document that now included enlarging the pipe under Center Street at Hickory Road as well as previously discussed two projects. Mayor Compton suggested that this RFP could be sent out that week with a 30-day response window, and bids then opened at the May Town Council meeting, and a potentially a contract awarded for work at McCauley and Washington Grove Lane this fiscal year. Charlie Challstrom moved to approve as amended. Darrell Anderson seconded the motion.
Vote: 5-0, approved.
The RFP replies will be opened at the Organizational Meeting on 17 May 2021.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:55 p.m.
Kathryn L. Lehman
TC REPORTS – April 2021
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION – Darrell Anderson
The HPC held a virtual meeting on March 16, 2021; the next meeting will be held on April 20, 2021, at 7:30 pm by virtual means.
The HPC reviewed their first permit application under the new Public Ways permit. The residents of 410 4th Avenue (Greenway/Uh) applied for a permit to add access to a driveway off Johnson Alley to accommodate an electric vehicle so they would have access to electricity for charging the vehicle. The driveway would be 7 x 15 feet and connect approximately 1.5 feet as an apron to Johnson Alley. The apron would be small stone, which was supported by the HPC. The HPC will write a review and send to the Planning Commission.
Pat Patula, Town Archivist, presented the Annual Report and spoke highly of the work of the HPC in collecting archival data and placing it on the Town website. She has completed most of the archived material from the Camp Meeting until 1937, when the Town was established. She also praised the HPC for the recent material included in the National Register nomination and said that its accessibility on the Town website was excellent.
David Stopak presented his opinions on why the Town Council made the wrong decision on passing a Resolution supporting the Bikeway through Brown Street Extended. He offered an alternative that would ultimately cross the Conservation Meadow to Oak Street and through the Town. There was much discussion about the Town Council’s decision and that the HPC should weigh in with a letter to the Council. A draft letter will be developed and reviewed by HPC members; the final will be sent to the Town Council before the April 12 meeting.
The HPC continues to work on a map regarding Town historic resources based on the historic review information for our National Register nomination.
The HPC received updates on the Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee, the Border Committee, and the Lighting Committee.
The Lighting Committee (LC) held a virtual meeting on March 24, 2021; the next meeting will be held on April 28, 2021.
The LC spent a majority of the meeting discussing interactions with PEPCO regarding questions about the proposed tariff document submitted to the Maryland Public Service Commission. Members of the LC recently testified at a virtual meeting for interested parties. Discussions afterwards with PEPCOs Alberto Zegada have been ongoing regarding questions the LC members had for specifics of the tariff recommendations. Mr. Zegada said that PEPCO has listened to the Town’s testimony and will consider it at the highest level of PEPCO management. The LC submitted a list of questions to Mr. Zegada but has yet to garner a response.
After a lengthy discussion during the LC meeting, it was decided that one way forward is to wait for the response from PEPCO, create another list of questions, and possibly present them to the Town Council at the April meeting to help define what the Town still needs to know before responding to PEPCO’s response.
It was noted that the Town already has converted all our streetlights to LED (except for a few with fixture issues) and that the Town should be able to be immune from much of the LED conversion requirements in the tariff. It was noted that none of our fixtures have dimmable capabilities, but the Town should stress that we want to keep what we have.
The LC would like to place bollard lights at McCathran Hall as a test for their applicability and to get input from residents. One issue remains the access to electricity for running the low-voltage bollard lights before testing them on Town walkways; we will not be able to tap into PEPCO lighting for the electricity.
MAINTENANCE – Darrell Anderson
Made trips to the County dump when necessary. Purchased gas when needed. Completed paperwork as required. Worked in the maintenance shop if needed or weather dictated.
Worked with the Town Treasurer to develop the FY2022 Maintenance Budget.
Worked on Grove Avenue to smooth the walkway. Spread topsoil alone the edge of the walkway. Spread gravel on the walkway to complete the WSSC work. Replaced two small bushes in front of 102 Grove Avenue. Spread a small amount of gravel at 116 Ridge Road (replaces original asphalt on Town property).
Went to Home Depot to pick up wood for bench repair. Repaired damaged bench in the park. Replaced broken post on the Dead-End sign on Ridge Road. Painted two 4 x 4 wooden posts for street signs. Also picked up new trim boards for the shop. Painted trim boards for the shop, took down rotted trim boards and replaced with new boards.
Went to Advance Auto for a new key switch for the Town truck. Installed the key switch. Picked up new side steps for the Town truck; removed rotted steps and installed the new ones.
Installed landscaping ties in Wade Park (project approved by John Compton for defining parking area) Loaded the truck with fill dirt and spread in low spots in Wade Park. Went to Seasons Nursery to pick up a yard of topsoil for Wade Park. Raked Wade Park (4th Ave side) and leveled topsoil to get ready for seeding.
Worked on the elevator lift at Town Hall to prepare for State inspection. Met with the State inspector and Premier Lift at Town Hall to perform inspection on elevator lift.
Met with Georgette about removing Bush Honeysuckle along Center Street
Performed annual check on the playground equipment.
Met with WSSC contractor about the failed lateral at 207 Grove Ave. WSSC will return on April 13 to complete repairs. Met with WSSC in the East Woods to check fire hydrant (now fixed).
Checked gravel for parking on 4th Ave (purchased by owner).
Finished cleaning out flower beds around Town Hall and the Woman’s Club. Picked up piles of leaves on Grove Ave and moved to Brown Street for pickup. Picked up sticks and leaves around the Gazebo. Picked up sticks and leaves between the bamboo area and Grove Road. Did brush work on Oak Street and Cherry Ave.
Met with IPC on spraying the clay tennis courts and new foam that could help reduce moss.
Looked at proposed road work around Town for 2022 RFP.
Delivered recycle bins to new residents at 513 Washington Grove Lane, 8900 Boundary Lane, and 326 Ridge Road.
Dewinterized the watering tank.
Worked on removing graffiti on Washington Grove Lane sidewalk.
Went to John Deere to pick up a belt for our mower Installed the belt on John Deere 500 mower.
PLANNING COMMISSION – Charlie Challstrom
Building Permit Activity –
- 412 Fourth Ave – shed approved for new compliant location on northern side of property; shed to be re-located from its present location adjacent to Johnson Alley.
Public Ways & Property (PW&P) Permit Activity
- 410 Fourth Ave – gravel driveway apron approved for use of public land between the property line and the Johnson Alley pavement.
Annual PC Report to State of Maryland – All planning commissions are required to submit an annual report for the previous Calendar Year to the Maryland Department of Planning. Our report for Calendar Year 2020 includes: (1) Ordinance 2019-18 modifying lot size standards for the RR-3 Zone; (2) Ordinance 2020-11 modifying the front minimum setback requirements for accessory buildings; (3) subdivision of 326 Ridge Road property to create an additional buildable lot; (4) updated Public Ways and Property Permits process to include HPC reviews, refined permit approval criteria, and reduced permit fees for proposed driveway aprons on public property adjoining the property of the applicant; and (5) development of Ordinance 2021-01 to terminate restrictive covenants and authorize legal instruments suitable for filing in the Land Records for Montgomery County. This report has been prepared in a prescribed format, and the report must be filed with the Town Council before submission to the State.
2021 Comprehensive Plan – During the PC Work Session on March 17, the PC reviewed the latest version of Exhibit A (Current Zoning and Growth Areas) from Kirk Eby, GIS Planner, City of Gaithersburg, and identified a few changes needed. Most significantly, PC members expressed strong interest in annexing the CSX Railroad adjoining the Town, and selected portions of Oakmont on the other side of the railroad tracks stretching from Aitchison Crossing to the Gaithersburg City Limits. A draft of this “Grown Area 5” has been prepared and circulated for review and comment, and further feedback to Kirk Eby is awaiting PC endorsement of Growth Area 5 as drafted. Refinements were accepted for the descriptions of “infill development” and “redevelopment” to add clarity. There was also support for exploring improvements for the Washington Grove Lane intersections with Center Street and Oak Street to make these better walkways and manage stormwater flows. The access for emergency vehicles must be continued according to the 1979 ordinance which authorized closing the Center Street and Oak Street intersections to other vehicular traffic. Comprehensive Plan recommendations for the Center Street and Center Street intersections, safety improvements for the Brown Street closure, and safety trimming along the Washington Grove Lane sidewalk have been drafted for review during the next PC Work Session scheduled for April 21.
MCCATHRAN HALL – Charlie Challstrom
McCathran Hall Alarm Monitoring – The Town contracts with Guardian Fire Protection Services for alarm monitoring, with routine ping checks using two Verizon telephone lines (one Fios line and one older “POTS” copper line). There is an automatic notification via telephone to a designated Town contact when an interrupt is detected in the connection to Guardian. During wet and cold weather, false notifications have increased, apparently due to problems with using the remaining copper line. Later this month, a Verizon work order will be submitted to convert the older line to Fios, and this work will be coordinated with Steve’s availability.
MONTGOMERY MUNICIPAL CABLE (MMC) – Charlie Challstrom
Behind the Quilts – MMC produces and broadcasts programs on Cable Channel 16, with streaming from MMCTV online, and the MMC YouTube Channel. Past reports have recognized MMC efforts to capture Washington Grove events in videos that remain available for streaming. This report highlights a recent program now available on YouTube – Behind the Quilts with Washington Grove resident Lauren Kingsland. Lauren, a quilter, leads us through the stories of 40 quilts that were on recent display at the Sandy Spring Museum. This virtual event features music from Grammy-winning duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
CENSUS – Charlie Challstrom
America Counts – The Census website offers a collection of “Stories Behind the Numbers” featuring various topics such as families, housing, employment, business, education, the economy, emergency management, and population. Under the Housing category, there is more explanation of the American Community Survey (ACS) which helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation. ACS data for Washington Grove was used in drafting the Housing section of the new Washington Grove Comprehensive Plan which is planned for completion in the next several months.
CONTRACTS – Dave Cosson
An acceptance letter to Potomac Disposal for the Refuse and Recycling contracts has been signed and mailed.
WOODS – Dave Cosson
Ordinance 2020-13. The Committee reviewed a draft Ordinance establishing the fees applicable for permits required Ordinance 2020-13 for archeological or fossil exploration and requested that expiration periods be set at six months to begin work and one year to complete. The proposed Ordinance is attached.
Signage – Price quotes for construction and installation of entrance and trail signs were reviewed. There would be substantial savings if installation of the signposts can be done by Town maintenance staff. The Committee will inquire if the maintenance work schedule of the staff could accommodate the installation. Entrance signs would be done first, while identification of the precise location for trail signs is worked out.
Timber Turnpikes – Both the gravel and soil/chip turnpikes appeared to work well during recent heavy rain. Committee members reported substantial water in some places on the outside of the rails, but the drainage systems installed appeared to reduce the water level substantially within 24 hours. Further evaluation of drainage and potential locations for more turnpikes was discussed. Town maintenance will be requested to reserve available soil for future turnpike construction this fall.
West Woods Cleanup and Kelly Park Drainage – The April Town Bulletin included the request that residents assist with a Spring trash clean-up in the West Woods on an individual basis consistent with pandemic precautions of social distancing and wearing masks. The Committee co-chair will provide direction and assistance to resident volunteers. No new information was available with respect to any work by Gaithersburg to improve drainage in Kelly Park that affects the West Woods. It was noted that preliminary work for construction of a school has begun on the opposite side of the park.
Border Committee Identity Fence Proposal – The Border Committee has been advised that the Woods Committee believes the “identity fencing” being considered should be of the split rail design similar to that now in place at the driveway entrance to Maple Lake. It was also noted that some vegetation clearing has been done along Washington Grove Lane.
RACIAL EQUITY COMMITTEE – Dave Cosson
The Committee met by Zoom on March 14 and discussed the following:
Graffiti on Washington Grove Lane Sidewalk – Committee members expressed appreciation for the Town’s response to the graffiti including its removal and inclusion of the incident as an item in the March Bulletin with telephone numbers for reporting. The Committee believes a guideline for response to graffiti should also be located on the Town website.
Bike Path – The Committee discussed at length the status of the proposed bicycle path and the potential impacts on racial and social justice. The concern expressed was that Town actions not be perceived by neighboring communities as exclusionary. A letter to the Mayor and Council expressing this concern will be drafted for consideration at the April meeting.
Education Subcommittee updates – The Education Subcommittee has experimented with various presentations on subjects relevant to the Committee’s educational objective. Additional presentations are being prepared and the Subcommittee will continue to evaluate options for both internal education and for information of all Town residents.
Social Equity Assessment – The Committee’s budget request is pending before the Town Council, whose decision will then go to the Town Meeting. The Committee plans to have preliminary discussions with a potential consultant in May. The desirability of having survey information translated to Spanish was discussed. In that respect, the Town’s welcome letter, and information about the forthcoming election, should be considered for translation.
The Education Subcommittee met by Zoon on March 28 and discussed the following:
- Collaboration with Other Organizations – The possibility of working with the Montgomery County Lynching Memorial Project was discussed, including preparation of newsletter announcements and opportunities for people to become involved.
- Presentations and Discussions – Consideration was given to making the presentations at the monthly Discussion Day more informal “pitches” to obtain feedback for future expansion. Several tentative speakers are preparing presentations. Consideration was also given to sponsoring discussions of books or movies when there are no specific speakers. Pros and cons of hosting discussions of personal reflections were discussed and resources identified.
- Sharing of Events and Resources – Resource sharing remains an important goal and a master spreadsheet has been constructed with includes presentation sign-ups and general resources.
- Maryland Commission on Civil Rights Training April 25th, 1:00 pm The subcommittee has arranged for a free trial of the Commissions bias training and expects to have a short discussion after its conclusion.
- Maryland PSC Case No. 9655, Pepco Smart Streetlight Initiative The Maryland Public Service Commission is considering Pepco’s October 2020 filing of a multiyear plan, that includes converting all streetlights in its service area to LED and changing the applicable rates. Because the Town has already converted most of its lights to LED, the Committee was concerned that acceptance of the Pepco plan could result in unnecessary cost and reduce the Town’s control over its lighting. The Chairs of the Lighting Committee and Historic Preservation Commission, respectively, gave oral testimony to the PSC on March 15 expressing their concerns.
- The last opportunity for public input to the PSC is filing of comments on May 5. I have drafted the attached Comment for the Council’s consideration. The Comment is intended to expand upon the two oral testimonies and reflect subsequent discussions with Pepco representatives in a more formal style consistent with regulatory proceeding practice.
- In addition the Comment raises concerns with the privacy and cybersecurity aspects of the Pepco proposal to allow a variety of sensors to be installed on the streetlights and connected to Pepco’s communications network. These sensors could provide information about town residents to unknown parties. Further, because at some future time the town could be connected to the network to control on/off and dimming, a hack of the Pepco network could affect the Town.
COMMUNICATIONS WORK GROUP – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
DOG PARK – Marida Hines
Nothing to report.
RECREATION – Marida Hines
The Recreation Committee will hold a virtual meeting on April 21, 2021, by Zoom. All are invited to attend and details are on the Town website. On the agenda will be discussions on whether Summer in the Parks can be held outdoors in 2021, Music Weekend which is currently planned as a virtual event including one band performance and the Children’s Concert, and the 4th of July activities which are planned to be virtual again this year.
WEBSITE – Marida Hines
The website was updated with more, and more user-friendly information about Washington Grove’s Historic District status.
Currently, two new resources are in process for upload to the website:
- A new page on sustainability including information about the new Sustainability Initiative and resources to facilitate Town residents sustainability efforts.
- Information on the Washington Grove Connector Bike/Pedestrian Path and Crabbs Branch Extension, including many links to Town, County, and other resources about this topic.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SAFETY COMMITTEE – Pat Klein
The EPSC met on March 25, 2021 and discussed the following three topics.
Washington Grove Lane Intersection Improvements and Ordinance 1979-02
The EPSC discussed a draft memo to the Mayor and TC highlighting road safety provisions in Ordinance (1979-02) that remain relevant to certain Town’s intersections. The Ordinance includes provisions for blocking vehicular traffic at the intersections of Washington Grove Lane at both Center Street and Oak Street, except for emergency vehicles. The ordinance also calls for restructuring the intersection at Washington Grove Lane and McCauley Street to make prohibited right turns onto WGL more difficult. The purpose of the draft memo is to remind town officials to revisit this Ordinance when making decisions about potential changes at the intersections. The EPSC is seeking input from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service on the Town’s road closures and researching different, safer options for road barriers including the gate barrier on Brown Street installed after the 1979 Ordinance was enacted. (ADDENDUM: The current gate barrier was installed after a 1989 decision process that included soliciting and obtaining input from County Fire officials at that time.
The EPSC is in favor of removal of the dumpster site at the Commercial Corner because it presents a public safety risk by blocking vehicular drivers’ views of pedestrians crossing at the corner. The EPSC continues to offer assistance to the PC and the Border Committee. The PC is planning to contact MoCo and a representative of the property owner for further discussions.
Washington Grove Lane Sidewalk Snow Removal
EPSC raised concerns on who has responsibility for clearing snow/ice from the WGL sidewalk which poses a safety hazard to pedestrians. Based on established agreements between the Town and MoCo regarding the WGL sidewalks, the Town is the defaulted responsible entity. However, there is an opportunity to enact an Ordinance to adopt the MoCo code making homeowners along WGL responsible for clearing snow/ice on the sidewalks in front of their homes. EPSC will revisit options and potential recommendations before next winter.
The next EPSC meeting will be on April 22, 2021.
MAPLE LAKE – Pat Klein
The Lake Committee met on March 18, 2021 to discuss the following topics.
Two Canada geese are seen swimming at Maple Lake. Expectation the pair soon will build a nest and lay eggs which will be oiled according to HSUS protocol. (ADDENDUM: On April 4th, 4 eggs in the nest were oiled. Two additional eggs were found floating in the shallow water and were discarded).
The annual spring Lake Cleanup is scheduled on April 24th and the lake will be drained on April 12 to allow for cleaning organic debris along the banks. Any fence damage will be repaired and soil erosion in the berm behind the dock and far side of the lake will be filled. The Woods Committee had 4 partially uprooted tall trees topped which are located across the drainage ditch opposite the lake shed to prevent likelihood of trees falling on the fence and shed.
The Lake Committee will monitor water quality by monthly E. coli testing (3 samples/month) using a commercial Water Testing Lab; and algae/ pond weed control will be monitored by NatureWorksCWA every three weeks – both testing procedures will begin in early May and continue until lake closure.
Lake opening and operational 2021 protocols will be like 2020 COVID-19 precautions but more details to follow. Lifeguard availability (and certification) and swim lessons are being considered. There is interest to offer lessons for the youngest residents to help with Water Safety Training.
The next Lake Committee will be April 15, 2021.
BORDER COMMITTEE – Patty Klein
The Committee met on March 11, 2021 to discuss the following topics.
The BC agreed the AZEK is a superior synthetic material and graffiti resistant for town sign construction. There was agreement to have the signs made professionally at a total price range of $10-15K as a good long-term investment in the overall image portrayed about the town. An RFP will be prepared to solicit bids.
The BC agreed to propose installation of ‘small’ (6-8 feet) sections of Identity Fencing at the entrance to all perimeter walkways entering the town from Railroad Street and Washington Grove Lane. The fencing style would be split rail fencing similar to fencing at Ridge/Oak and at the Lake driveway entrance.
The Committee discussed the identity fencing style to be used along the West Wood perimeter of WGL. A “snake-rail” style was considered but the traditional split rail was chosen for its simplicity and cost effectiveness for repair. Placement of identity fencing along RR Street will be further discussed at future meetings.
Improvement of the walkways on 4th St. and Grove Avenue between McCauley and WGL is being considered including a recommendation to transition Brown St. (between Chestnut/Hickory), and Oak St. and Center St. (between Hickory/WGL) to town walkways.
The Committee expressed concerns about the number of vehicle accidents along WGL this year and safety risks to residents and their homes. Several Committee members are working with MoCo police to document speeding vehicles on WGL and RR Street and efforts to “calm” car noise and speeding. Similar efforts were successful in the Derwood community and the BC will request the Mayor/TC to pursue this approach.
The next Border Committee meeting will be April 8, 2021.
FORESTRY & BEAUTIFICATION – Gray Yachup
The Forestry and Beautification Committee is next meeting on the 14th to discuss the spring tree planting proposal, as well as the parameters for vegetation on Town land.
They will also be discussing cicada damage mitigation efforts, and how to best protect vegetation during Brood X this summer.
PLAYGROUNDS – Gray Yachup
Nothing to report.
ROADS & WALKWAYS – Gray Yachup
Drafted our RFP for the work at McCauley, Oak Street and Hickory/Center. Waiting on final approval before sending it out to potential contractors.
Also reviewed our new potential work sites for repaving moving forward and will be presenting them to the Council at our next meeting.
MEMORIALS – Gray Yachup
Nothing to report.
STORMWATER MANAGEMENT – Gray Yachup
Currently in discussions with a Montgomery County contact to see if we can get a SWM appraisal by the County.
WASHINGTON GROVE MEADOW CONSERVATION PARK – Gray Yachup
Chatting with a Parks and Planning liaison to make sure they inform the Council liaison before mowing the field.
SHADY GROVE CROSSING – Gray Yachup
Working with Border Committee to beautify the entrance between SGXC and the Grove. Will keep monitoring the efforts.