Town Council News
Next meeting: Monday » 01.11.10 @ 7:30 p.m. & Monday » 01.25.10 @ 7:30 p.m. in Council Room. The public is invited to attend.
Actions at the December Council meeting included:
- adoption of Resolution 2009-05; Resolution Regarding National Gateway Clearance Improvement Project. Copies are available at the Town Office.
- approval of Mayor’s appointment of Samantha Beres to the Planning Comm.
NOTICE OF SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
There will be a Special Town Meeting about the Deer Park “Humpback” Bridge on Jan. 25, 2010 at 7:00p.m. preceding the regular meeting of the Town Council. This meeting is being called to determine which of the four (4) options proposed by CSX will be supported by the Town.
DETAILS FOR BRIDGE MEETING
The purpose of the Special Town Meeting on January 25 (see notice in this bulletin), is to determine a Town position in working with Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, and CSX. The purpose for this recent proposal for the bridge has been brought about by CSX’s National Gateway Clearance Improvement Project. To date, the project has received $395 million in funding commitments from CSX Corporation and its affiliates. States involved in the project, including Maryland, are expected to fund $189 million, with an additional $258 million requested from the federal government. In order for the project to succeed, CSX will have to resolve 61 bottlenecks on the East Coast rail lines that currently restrict their use of “double-stack” freight trains because the height of the underpasses are not adequate for clearance. Fourteen of these restricted tracks are in Maryland, including the East Deer Park Humpback Bridge. CSX has been holding information sessions in affected communities to meet their requirement for public input on proposed solutions. The Town and surrounding communities have met with CSX in public fora, and I, as Mayor of the Town, have met individually with them three times. CSX has proposed four potential solutions:
- Remove the bridge;
- Raise the bridge by 4-6 feet;
- Replace present bridge (higher, wider); and
- Lower the tracks.
The Town Council took the position in a resolution that lowering the tracks is the only acceptable option. This was done to meet the time requirements for public comment, which ended on December 15, 2009. The Town meeting will afford Town residents the opportunity to confirm that decision or to choose one of the other three options as the Town position.
Information on the consequences of each option on the Town and on CSX has been requested, and hopefully will be available before the Town meeting.
Please visit our website: (https://washingtongrovemd.org/government/agenda/index.php) and you will find 3 letters written from the Mayor to Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and Representative Chris Van Hollen asking for Federal help on this issue. These letters are also available at the Town Office.
NOTICE OF SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
There will be a Special Town Meeting on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the LOS condemnation lawsuit. Residents who wish to speak should sign up by calling the Town Office, 301-926-2256 or via e-mail, [email protected]. The deadline for this sign up is Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010. Please see the article below for more details.
LOS LAWSUIT UPDATE & BACKGROUND DETAILS FOR SPECIAL MEETING
In an attempt to provide you with the latest information on the LOS lawsuit and have everyone fully informed before the January 28, 2010, Special Town Meeting, the following is offered from the Mayor.
At the May 2009 Town Meeting, I made the commitment to the Town that a Special Town Meeting would be held if we would exceed the approved limit of $40,000 for legal expenses before the May 2010 Town Meeting. We have exceeded the limit and will hold a Special Town Meeting to determine if the Town wishes to continue to support the lawsuit by appropriating additional funds. Elsewhere in this bulletin is an expense report showing the cost of the legal battle and the consequences for our FY 2010 budget.
As I reported in the December bulletin, we were able to gain a temporary restraining order keeping Park and Planning from receiving ownership of the field from Toll Brothers. On December 3, we were successful in gaining a permanent restraining order, but there is more to this story than that. The bottom line is that if we had failed to get the permanent restraining order, the lawsuit would have been over because Park and Planning, as a State agency, would own the LOS field and the Town would probably not be successful in condemning a property owned by another governmental agency. We could have gone through the numerous (and expensive and years of court time) appeals, but our success would likely have been futile. Plus, we would, in the end, have to pay the $200,000 to $400,000 of attorney fees for Toll, and possibly Park and Planning.
This story and the reasons we had no choice but to challenge Park and Planning, began in September when we found out that Toll had filed the plats for Phase I of their development. The Preliminary Plan designated this as the time the LOS field would be dedicated to Park and Planning with an easement (not ownership) of the LOS field. This is what Park and Planning had filed with the courts throughout our 4 year lawsuit. The Town challenged the plat filings because a designation on the LOS plat called for Park and Planning to receive ownership of the field. Our attorneys and Town residents spoke at the November 5 Planning Board hearing to dispute Park and Planning gaining ownership. To our relief, the Planning Board voted unanimously to take the ownership statement off the LOS plat and revert back to the easement. However, a statement by the Planning Board Chair was made that just because ownership did not come through plat approval, it would not keep Park and Planning from receiving the deed to the property outside the plat-approval process.
Little did we know, and it was not disclosed at the Planning Board hearing, Toll had already given the deed to Park and Planning on November 3. This fact was not disclosed to our attorneys or by the Planning Board lawyer during the hearing.
After the November 5 Planning Board hearing, our lawyers recognized that a signal had been given that Park and Planning intended to get ownership regardless of the plat approval designation as an easement. We filed the injunction request to stop Toll from giving the deed to Park and Planning-which of course Toll already had. So, we went to the temporary injunction hearing on November 23 and Park and Planning failed to disclose that they already had the deed and were in the process of filing it. Without that knowledge, the judge granted our request for the temporary restraining order based on the damage it would do to our lawsuit if Park and Planning owned the property.
Our hearing for the preliminary injunction was scheduled for December 3, but in the meantime, excellent sleuthing by our lawyers uncovered the fact (in a letter dated November 3) that the deed had been transferred already-and the fact that Park and Planning failed to disclose that in court, which is a serious violation of ethics. Toll also failed to disclose it, but Toll is at the mercy of Park and Planning in this matter.
When we filed our papers for the December 3 hearing on the preliminary injunction, we made clear that the deed was already given to Park and Planning and that they failed to disclose that to us or to the courts. The judge did not look kindly on this matter, and after spending a great deal of time questioning them about this (both Toll and Park and Planning lawyers said they did not know the deed had been transferred!!), the judge granted our preliminary injunction and ordered the deed to be returned to Toll Brothers. Park and Planning can appeal that decision, but they will likely have consequences if they do, because of the ethics issue.
Are We Winning or Losing the Lawsuit?
The Town has not had an adverse ruling on the underlying legal issues during the entire 4 years of the lawsuit. The only somewhat adverse ruling was allowing Park and Planning to become a party to the lawsuit. On the issue of condemnation, the right of the Town to condemn, the reasons for the condemnation, and other points, our legal team has been successful. Will we ultimately win? Obviously, the stakes are high for us and the legal system, as most everyone knows, is a crap shoot in any lawsuit, but we do think things have been advantageous for us. And as in any lawsuit, there always are opportunities to settle before the trial.
Assuming that Park and Planning appeals the preliminary injunction, we would have to go forward with that, possibly to the Court of Appeals. If we lose there, the lawsuit probably is over.
If they do not appeal, the way is open for the trial to occur in October 2010 on the value of the LOS field in our condemnation suit. Some of the money spent to this point has gone toward preparations for the lawsuit, through an assessment of the property ($72,000 from our appraiser; $4 Million from theirs), to depositions of expert witnesses, and other filings that had to be made by November 30. It should be noted that the value of the land in the deed transfer from Toll to Park and Planning was $1.00; therefore, we believe it will strengthen our case for valuation in the trial for our purchase of the land. In addition, the field has now been dedicated to Park and Planning in an easement as LOS property and that becomes its designated use.
What about the Money?
The cost to go to trial presented in the May 2009 Town Meeting was accurate if we had not had to fight the deed transfer. Technically, that money was not spent on the lawsuit, but cannot be separated because it held consequences for the lawsuit. We had figured to have some cost during the plat-approval process because we knew we needed to keep up with that issue to make sure the dedication of the LOS went through as provided in the Preliminary Plan. Approximately $15,000 of our current expenditures has gone toward the lawsuit, with the balance going toward fighting the transfer of the deed. These were expenses that were not expected, although we figured Park and Planning would be implementing an initiative to break the will of the Town by keeping us in court filings until we ran out of money. That probably remains their objective. We are pretty sure that they will challenge our right to condemn, although at this point it may not happen until after the trial in October.
Although some of the money spent in the past two months is being defrayed by the recent donation, it remains my contention that the residents of the Town need to make the commitment to continue or close down the lawsuit, and defrayed costs from the donation should not become a factor in this decision.
Speaking at the Special Town Meeting
The January 28 Special Town Meeting is intended to be a forum for everyone to express their views on continuation of the lawsuit, as well as a time to ask questions. You may sign up to speak, or to make a presentation using PowerPoint, by informing Kathy in the Town Office by Thursday January 21. Please let her know the amount of time you would like. This will give us time to schedule each person and produce an agenda. Depending on the number requesting time, we will try to accommodate everyone. The Mayor will introduce the meeting and provide a 10 minute overview.
Financial Update for Special Town Meeting
Treasurer Mary Challstrom
Like many other local governments, Washington Grove has been seriously impacted by the recession. For the Town’s fiscal year which began July 1, income from all sources was budgeted to be $446,000. The revised income estimate is now $405,000, due primarily to State reduction in Town highway user revenue (-$36,500) and lower income tax revenues (-$7,500). Since learning of this $44,000 shortfall, the Mayor and Council have identified items in the budget to postpone (e.g. road paving projects, McCathran Hall improvements) and will move cautiously on other projects, waiting to see just how much snow will fall (!!) and progress of the Town’s condemnation lawsuit for the Legacy Open Space field.
Estimated expenditures for this fiscal year through June 30, 2010, now stand at $425,000. With income projected at $405,000, we have a $20,000 shortfall. Additional expenses for more snow, legal, and possibly gypsy moth spraying, will be covered using the Town’s cash reserves as authorized in the approved Town budget. The Grove began this fiscal year with cash reserves of $223,223 in the General Fund and $77,910 in the Road Fund. At the May 2009 Town Meeting, Town residents approved a total spending cap of $517,993. The adopted FY 2010 budget may be found on the Town website under Government/official items.
A generous Donor has committed $50,000 to the Town to defray costs associated with protecting and securing the Legacy Open Space (LOS) field on Ridge Road. In this fiscal year legal costs billed to date total $60,667, and $59,861 of this total is for LOS-related expenses, the majority related to the Town’s challenge to Park and Planning regarding the transfer of ownership of the LOS field from Toll Brothers to Park and Planning. The terms of the Donor’s agreement specify reimbursement for all authorized LOS expenses paid after November 1, 2009, and the amount of reimbursement is two-thirds of approved expenses. The following is a summary of legal expenses for invoices paid through December 31, 2009.
|Direct LOS legal expenses:||$19,992|
|Plat approval Plan.Bd. legal expenses:||$39,869|
|Other legal expenses:||$806|
|Total legal expenses:||$60,667|
|Budgeted legal expenses:||$40,500|
|Legal expenses offset by donation:||$24,013|
|Net legal expenses paid by the Town:||$36,654|
The outlook for the next fiscal year is not anticipated to improve as the State and County struggle with budget challenges. Since the LOS litigation is currently scheduled to extend into the fall, Town residents will be asked to weigh these financial considerations at the Special Town Meeting on January 28. Investigation will continue regarding the Town’s borrowing opportunities to purchase the LOS field, much as the Town did when we financed the McCathran Hall renovation in 1996.
Tax Reminder – Washington Grove -1612
Please fill in Washington Grove 1612 in the appropriate box on your State income tax form. If someone else prepares your tax forms, include this notice with your tax information and if you file electronically be sure to select Washington Grove under City, Town, or Taxing Area. This DOES NOT increase your taxes, but DOES help ensure that the Town receives its proper share of local income tax revenue. Thanks for your help!
Samantha Beres Appointed to the PC
At the December 21, 2009, Town Council meeting, the Mayor notified the Council that he was appointing Samantha Beres, 119 Washington Grove Lane, as a member of the Planning Commission (PC). The position allows the PC to maintain a full membership after the resignation of John McClelland (see article elsewhere in this Bulletin). The Mayor would like to thank John for his many years of service to the Town and to Samantha for stepping forward in the spirit of volunteerism so vital for the functioning of the Town.
Nominations for Mayor and Town Council must be sent to Mary Kay DuBois by March 8, 2010. So put on your thinking caps and call Mary Kay at 301-926-8941.
Planning Commission News
Next meeting: Wednesday » 01.06.07 @ 7:30 p.m. in Council Room. The public is invited to attend.
John McClelland Resigns
After 12 years of devoted service and at least 138 building permit approvals, John McClelland has stepped down as chair of the Town’s Planning Commission. John’s great organizational skills helped the Commission regularize its procedures and function smoothly and promptly. He also shepherded through a major revision of the Town’s Master Plan during his tenure. Our sincere thanks go to John as he “retires” from this post.
The Commission will select a new chair at their meeting on January 6, 2010.
If you are going to erect a building or structure (including fences), make structural alterations to, or move any existing building or other structure, you must first obtain a building permit from the Washington Grove Planning Commission. The Town zoning ordinance governs setbacks, lot coverage and height. Applications are available at the Town Office at 301-926-2256. The permit fee for a major building permit (addition/renovation) is $40.00. The fee for a minor building permit (fence/shed) is $10.00. Checks should be made payable to the Town of Washington Grove. Interior renovations, which involve electrical, plumbing, or load-bearing changes, generally require a County permit. A shed requires a County permit as well. The Town must first sign off all applications for County-required building permits. The Historic Preservation Commission will review most permit applications as well.
The following building permits were approved:
- 517 W.G. Lane » portico & gables
- 118 Grove Ave. » fence
- 317 Brown St. » addition
Historic Preservation News
Next meeting: Tuesday » 01.19.09 @ 7:30 p.m. in Council Room. Meetings are open to the public.
Whether you are considering a full-fledged addition, dreaming about a porch, or just thinking how convenient it would be to have a small roof over your exterior entrance to protect you from the elements — the HPC enthusiastically welcomes to its monthly meeting any homeowner who would like to bounce around their ideas. No appointment needed — just come to our monthly meeting. Photos and sketches are welcome, but not necessary! It’s never too early in the planning process to come in for an early consultation.
Interested in building materials and architectural salvage at a reasonable price? Community Forklift in Edmonston, Maryland, is a non-profit loaded with interesting items in their large warehouse and yard (flooring, doors, windows, bathroom fixtures, tools, etc.) See their website ( www.communityforklift.com ) for more details on the surplus, salvaged and green building materials they offer.
Recreation Committee News
Next meeting: Wednesday » 01.20.10 @ 7:30 p.m. in Council Room. The public is invited to attend. New members always welcome!
Dream of a Holiday Extravaganza
This year’s Holiday Extravaganza, The Grover Express or The Train That Dreams Are Made Of…, was, as usual, a huge success showcasing many of our talented Grove writers, musicians, dancers, singers and actors. We were also serenaded again this year by the three gifted Brown children on their violins.
Many, many thanks to Carolyn Rapkievian, Judy Mroczka and Pat Di Bella for writing the delightful story, fitting in our many artists and volunteering their time for rehearsals. Also thanks to the many other Town folks that volunteered their time and talents to make the show a success. It truly takes a village, and the camaraderie and warmth of our little village surely shows in an event like this.
Washington Grove Drawing Group Continues
Anyone can learn to draw, and it’s not too late to join the Washington Grove Drawing Group for another enriching and rewarding session of instruction and practice Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. in McCathran Hall. Starting January 6, we will be meeting weekly for 6 weeks, with an additional make-up class at the end of the session for those who missed the first class due to the holidays.
All sessions are tailored to work for people new to drawing or to the class, as well as those who attended previous class sessions. We’ll review and practice basic skills like gesture drawing, measuring, and contour drawing; but we’ll also break into uncharted territory as we learn how to create volume with shading, hatching, and cross hatching; new media such as pen and ink; and the principles of composition.
PLEASE get your checks for $150 (made out to Town of Washington Grove) to Kathy Lehman or Marida Hines by January 3rd so we will know whether or not we have enough people to hold the class. If you have any questions, please contact Marida at [email protected] or 301-519-8730.
January Photo Workshops Rescheduled
The Photo Retouching Workshop and the Photo Digital Art Workshops that were scheduled for early January have been moved to the second half of January due to scheduling conflicts with the holidays. The new dates are January 14 (Photo Retouching) and January 18 (Photo Digital Art).
To make sure everyone has a station to work on, we are asking any attendee who has a laptop to bring it to work on. And please let us know ahead of time if you have photo manipulation software installed on your machine, by contacting Marida Hines at the email address below.
For more information, or if you have already signed up but have a scheduling conflict with the new dates, please contact Marida Hines at [email protected] or 301-519-8730. See you there!
Film Society News
On January 10, the Washington Grove Film Society will be airing “Munyurangabo.” Twelve years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, two youths, one Hutu and one Tutsi, travel together by foot from Kigali to the countryside. Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, 2007, Rwanda/USA, subtitled, 97 minutes.
Woman’s Club News
Next meeting: Thursday » 01.21.09 @ 7:30 p.m. at the home of Janet Lottero (201 Cherry Avenue).
We will be hosting the Annual White Elephant Auction with Maria Montefusco as the auctioneer. Mark your calendars! All are invited to attend.
- Spaghetti Supper, Jan 8 – All are invited to enjoy spaghetti (either vegetarian or non-vegetarian), salad, and homemade bread at 6:30 at the church, followed by a sing-along for those interested. Dismiss the winter doldrums by gathering with friends and neighbors!
- Play Group continues on 1st and 3rd Wednesday – we’ll meet on Wednesday January 6th and Wednesday January 20th, from 9:30-11:00 am, downstairs in the church. All families welcome–so children can play, and parents and grandparents can talk! Questions? Call Emily Cavey at 240 632 9587 or Judy Young at 240 912 9895.
- Movement Class – Kim Thompson’s Gentle Movement for chronic pain sufferers class in January will be on Jan. 13th (it’s the 2nd Wednesday of the month), from 2 to 3 pm upstairs in the church. The class is free, sponsored by the County, and open to all.
- Coming Up – Mark your 2010 calendar for the Annual Silent Auction Rebuilding Fundraiser–scheduled for Saturday, March 6th at 7pm at the Town Hall!
Wishing everyone a compassionate New Year in 2010. Check out the “Charter for Compassion” at www.charterforcompassion.org
Peace, Judy Young
Neighborhood Watch News
Report Crimes & Suspicious Activity!
Mont. Co. Police non-emergency: 301-279-8000
Town Office: 301-926-2256
Joe Clark: 301-869-7944
Keith Gillis/Leigh Partington: 301-208-1437
- December 18: Reckless driving. 100 block of Chestnut Ave – About 6:45 p.m., a resident walking with children from their car to the house witnessed two cars racing down Chestnut Rd. One vehicle was red, the other darker, possibly black.
- December 27: Theft from vehicle. 100 block Chestnut Ave – A resident’s car, parked in the driveway, was entered the previous evening (Saturday night after 11:30 p.m.). The car was ransacked and a new bench grinder was taken. A gazing ball and stand were removed from the car but left in the yard. No sign of forced entry.
- December 28: Vehicle burglary. 100 block Chestnut Ave – Resident’s car had been entered and ransacked sometime over the weekend. Cloth bags were removed from vehicle, but left in the yard. Nothing stolen. No sign of forced entry.
Reminder: This time of year we often experience a rise in incidents, especially break-ins and theft. Please remember to lock your home doors and accessible windows when you are away even for a short time. Lock your car doors. Do not leave any valuables in your car. Small electronic devices are prime targets.
Leaves Have Fallen
Per our contract with U.S. Lawns, bulk leaf pickup ended on or about December 31, 2009. They will return sometime during the first week in April for a “Spring Vacuuming”. Watch for details in the March Bulletin.
A Trashy Reminder
Per our contract, November 27th was the last date for collection of your recyclable yard waste. If you put out the large brown bags or containers of yard waste they will not be collected by our trash contractor. This service will resume in early March. Town Maintenance will continue to collect your reasonably sized brush piles.
Christmas Tree Disposal
Beginning in late December, Christmas trees will be picked up roadside by Town Maintenance staff. When you place your tree out for collection, please remove all tinsel, ornaments, the stand and any other metals.