22 June 2009 | Approved: 13 July 2009
Mayor Anderson called the regular meeting of the Town Council to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilors Charlie Challstrom, Joe Clark, Georgette Cole, Sylvie Favret, Marida Hines and Ted Kelly. Also in attendance were Maintenance Supervisor Jim Fletcher, Treasurer Mary Challstrom and Town residents Bob Booher, Ann Briggs, Birgit Henninger, Don Henninger, John McClelland, David Neumann, Ann Philips, Paula Puglisi, Ed Roberts, Bill Robertson, Mimi Styles and Sandy Styles.
Approval of the Agenda
Joe Clark moved, Georgette Cole seconded that the Agenda be approved. Mayor Anderson requested the addition of the Montgomery County Parking Ordinance to New Business. Vote: 6-0.
Jim Fletcher asked for clarity concerning the use of rubber mulch. There was a discussion about safety. It was decided to use wood chips around the playground equipment until further research about the safety of rubber mulch could be completed. There were no more questions about maintenance.
Program Open Space – Discussion on Use of Funds
Mayor Anderson gave an overview about Program Open Space and asked Charlie Challstrom to explain the conditional part of taking State funds. A discussion about control of the field, hypocrisy, liability, honest debate, budgets, State requirements, guidelines, the Playground Committee and the timing of the decision to use funds ensued. Don Henninger suggested that the Town should have a better understanding of what taking the money means, have more public scrutiny of this issue and define just how onerous the State obligations might be. John McClelland agreed that a better understanding of the regulations, a Town vote and a clear understanding of all conditions are necessary. Ted Kelly agreed that it should be a Town decision.
Budget Transfer Resolution FY 2009 (No.2009-03)
Joe Clark moved, Georgette Cole seconded that the Budget Transfer Resolution No.2009-03 for FY 2009 be accepted. Vote: 6-0.
Ordinance 2008-07 – Modifying Building Coverage Standards for Residential Zones and Maximum Height Standard for Accessory Buildings – Continued Discussion
Mayor Anderson gave a brief history of the ordinance. Charlie Challstrom gave more detail.
David Neumann stated that if the interest was equity then the percentage of lot coverage should be reduced for all. Make it 25% in all zones. He talked about what could happen and used Joe Stolz’s home as an example. He went on to say that he did not think that this was a healthy way to do this. The ordinance should serve the community as a whole and not just a few residents. He also stated that one cannot treat the RR-1 and RR-2 zones in the same way because the RR-2 lots are not rectangular and the RR-1 lots are. David’s comments moved into a discussion about the BZA, stricter ordinances and more guidelines for the BZA.
Ted Kelly brought up Mimi Styles’ (301 1st Ave.) renovation and the HPC’s part in the project. This prompted a discussion about giving the HPC more power, preservation for the greater good of the Town, maintaining architectural integrity and preservation in exchange for loosening of some restrictions.
Bob Booher said that people value different things; open space vs. property value. The original ordinance as first presented was simple but more risky. This rendition is not really addressing mansionization any longer. There is no balance between the RR-1 and RR-2. What do we gain from giving up some things?
Ed Roberts said that he agrees with David’s points. Twenty five percent of an 11,000 square foot lot produces a big home. People must ask themselves one question; “Why did we come to this Town?” Historic towns have reasonable restrictions. This document goes towards big changes not preservation. The public must be educated. Let them decide. There needs to be more advertising of this ordinance and more public input. This could destroy the history of this Town. If you don’t like it, don’t buy here.
Ann Philips also stated that she agrees with David’s points. She went on to say that this ordinance has unforeseen negative consequences and noted #6 in her e-mail. She also brought up the results from the HPC questionnaire that was done a few years ago. Residents stated what they wanted in terms of setbacks, mass and volume. She urged the Town Council and the Planning Commission to re-read the results of the questionnaire.
Ed Roberts asked about the 30 ft. height restriction. That is a three-story building! There should be more definitions concerning the kind of 2½ story building that could be built.
Mimi Styles also agrees with everything that has been said. She thanked Ann for her reference to the HPC questionnaire. It is clear that many residents would put up with more regulations in order to preserve the character. It would be foolish to pass this without more work and discussion. The change may benefit a few but I don’t see the greater good of it.
Sandy Styles stated that she has a 7,500 sq. ft. lot in the RR-1 zone. If someone came in a built a big home on my lot I wouldn’t sleep at night!
John McClelland said that he understood people’s concerns, their points are legitimate but he just doesn’t see the problem. The PC and the HPC have worked very hard at trying to do this on a lot-size basis but it can’t all pass in one lump sum. This part is just step 1 in protecting residents. The argument against this is too much gloom and doom. He went on to say that he supports passing this ordinance because it is the first step to making RR-1 and RR-2 zones more compatible.
Bob Booher stated that this first step has too much risk. Altering setbacks is a taking. So, step 1 is a giving and step 2 is a taking.
Ann Briggs said that she likes a lot of this. Of the 15 homes, 4 already exceed the limits. It almost becomes a special exception. What she initially liked about the Grove was the diversity in the homes. There were all types of architecture and it worked. Some folks on the list are stuck where they are. Most people will do the types of changes that are in character, perhaps being allowed to go laterally rather than up. She also said that she would hate to see the Town get to a point where if the home doesn’t have a tall peak then it’s not Washington Grove. She finished by saying that this ordinance is good but it must be tied to the next step in the process.
Paula Puglisi thanked everyone who worked on the ordinance. At first glance, it seems simple but after listening to David, THAT’S what it’s all about. If Joe Stolz can already go up, then what difference does it make? She asked for clarification about the next steps and assurance that they will happen.
Other people mentioned; the RR-2 zone was not contiguous and a zoning text amendment should be done to correct this, the HPC needed more power in order for preservation to occur, And doing the entire Town at the same time was more equitable. Also stated was, passing the ordinance with a restriction would be a good motivator for the completion of the second step which should include roof line standards, 2nd story setbacks, protection light & air, lot coverage balance and restrictions on growth for everyone.
Joe Clark moved, Charlie Challstrom seconded that Ordinance 2008-07 be approved with the condition that the second step would be in place and adopted in 18 months. Ed Roberts inserted that this ordinance requires more work and should not be passed.
Vote: 3 – for; 3 – against; Mayor Anderson broke the tie with a vote in favor of passage. The ordinance passed with a 4 – 3 vote.
Mayor Anderson requested the endorsement of the following appointments:
- Bob Booher – Historic Preservation Commission – full member
- David Stopak – Historic Preservation Commission – full member
- Sandy Klingenberg – Historic Preservation Commission – ex-officio member
- Ed Roberts – Historic Preservation Commission – ex-officio member
- Ed Roberts – Gaithersburg/Washington Grove Fire Board
Charlie Challstrom moved to endorse the Mayor’s appointments. Marida Hines seconded the motion. Vote: 6-0.
- Town Council Reports – June 2009 pdf
- Ted Kelly initiated more discussion about the idea of an “Opt-In” e-mail list on the Town website. The discussion included who could sign up, residency requirements, putting the Fire Department & Police department on the list and putting the Yahoo Listserve on the list. Ted and Bill Saar will write something for the July Town Bulletin.
- Mayor Anderson has been made aware of the fact that our Town website is not ADA compliant. He said that Bill Saar’s design will make it an easy transition. He would like to form a committee to work on this. He may ask Mark Dubnick and Marida Hines to help.
- Casey 6 & 7 – Mayor Anderson reported that Park & Planning will hold a meeting on Monday at their headquarters on Crabbs Branch Way. The Town’s recent letter stating the Town’s opposition to moving the County service parks to these properties has stirred things up and they want to talk to the Town.
Montgomery County Parking Ordinance Enforcement – Mayor Anderson said that the Town has an ordinance that will cover the most recent concerns about parking commercial and recreational vehicles in Montgomery County and will decline their offer for enforcement. The Mayor will enforce our ordinance if needed.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.