TOWN COUNCIL NEWS
Next meeting: Monday, November 13, 2017; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. The public is invited to attend. Actions at the September meeting include:
- approval of drainage project along Center Street near Grove Road.
- introduction of Ord. 2017-05; a ZTA (Zoning Text Amendment) Amending Article VII Section 13.263 Regarding the Vicinity Map Required with an Application for a Local Map Amendment.
Petition Received by the Town, October 3, 2017
The Town of Washington Grove received a petition from the homeowners of 409 5th Avenue on October 3, 2017. The petition asks the Town Mayor and Council to sell Town property located under private residential main buildings constructed prior to September 27, 2017, under certain circumstances.
To address this petition, the Town Council is holding a Special Town Council Meeting on November 27 at McCathran Hall beginning at 7:00 p.m. with a Closed Meeting as allowed by law. The meeting will open to the public at 8:00 p.m.
Lot and Survey
The parcel on which 409 5th Ave. is located is described by Plat No. 20 based on a survey prepared for the Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association by C. J. Maddox, Jr., County Surveyor. The plat was filed with Montgomery County in 1898. The deed to each property in the Town is described based on the lot and block shown in Plat 20.
A block survey done for the Town in 2007 was based on the same 1898 plat. It simply showed what that plat describes by measuring it out on the ground. It changed nothing about the plat itself.
Background for Easement offered by the Town to homeowner
From the 2007 block survey, the Town realized that approximately 8 historic homes had a portion located within a public Town walkway, which is known as an encroachment. On January 20, 2014, a fire that destroyed one of the eight residences highlighted the issue of whether the encroaching portion of the structure could be rebuilt on Town land. Normally, an owner can only build on their own land. The Town engaged in a process to determine how to handle that situation, so those homeowners would be able to insure and sell their properties and give legal use of the encroaching part of the home to future owners, even though the encroachment is on land dedicated to public use and owned by the Town. The only reason to pursue this was so that Town government could accommodate owners of historic properties.
There were three types of actions the Town could take to accommodate the encroachment. The Town could grant a license, an easement, or transfer the encroaching portion of the property to the adjacent owner. A review process was undertaken as to what measures to take. That process included input from the Planning Commission (PC), Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), Town Council (TC), and the Town’s attorney, all with discussions at open public meetings. An easement was seen as the best choice, as it was more permanent than a license, thereby reassuring owners, but retained better control of the requirement that the encroachment be maintained in a way that was respectful of the historic integrity of the Town.
An ordinance was drafted by the Town attorney and introduced. The Town followed all procedures, including introduction, public hearing and meeting requirements, to adopt Ordinance No. 2014-03, which enacted the current law allowing for a permanent easement. An extensive public discussion of the pros and cons of the ordinance took place before its adoption.
The intent of the ordinance was to allow reasonable certainty for owners of the eight properties that they could retain the easement improvements and transfer this right to future owners. For example: If the homeowner of 203 2nd Avenue desired to reconstruct a cottage based on the historic one that was destroyed in a fire, the Town could offer an easement allowing reconstruction of the porch, including the same size encroachment on the public walkway, as existed before the fire. If the homeowner had not desired to reconstruct in the historic style, then the new building would simply not have been permitted to encroach on the public walkway, no easement would have been offered and the house could have just met Town setbacks, etc., which apply to any building in Town. The easement is permanent, so any future homeowner also has private use of the porch as long as it is maintained in the current condition.
In June of 2015, the homeowners at 409 5th Avenue applied for a permanent easement for their porch encroachment, which they later withdrew.
In August of 2016, a lawyer from Fidelity National Law Group (the law division of a title insurance company) submitted an application for a permanent easement on behalf of the homeowners at 409 5th Avenue, pursuant to the Ordinance, in order to remedy the issue of the porch encroachment onto 5th Avenue.
The Town offered the permanent easement to the homeowner. This easement was drafted in the same form that had been approved by the Town Council for other easements.
Summary of the Easement offered by the Town for 409 5th Avenue:
— describes the “easement improvements,” which are the portion of the front porch, and its roof and overhang, located within an area with a total of 69.1 square feet, that is constructed on Town property.
–explains that the encroaching improvements within that 69.1 square feet, are part of a residence that is a contributing historic resource of the Town
— after describing the historic aspects of the easement improvements and their relationship to the main structure in Exhibit C prepared by the HPC, the HPC and PC recommended issuing a permanent easement for the easement improvements, as long as the encroachment remains respectful of the historic integrity of the Town and compatible with the neighborhood, as required by the Town Code.
–the homeowners would agree to maintain the encroaching improvements — in the 69.1 square feet area of the porch –in good repair consistent with the existing historic features of the encroaching porch described in Exhibit C.*
–if the homeowners fail to maintain the encroaching part of the porch in that condition, or if that part is no longer needed to accommodate the main building, then the Town has the option to terminate the easement and in that case the homeowners must remove the encroachment and restore the walkway area (grass, shrubbery or paving).
*Exhibit C includes: List of historic integrity features of the porch (where the encroaching part of the porch is located); photos of the front of the home showing the historic features of the porch and how it relates to the front of the home, from the front and sides of the porch, and showing details of the porch construction (note, there are no photos of the back of the home or sides of the home beyond where the porch is located); photos of the neighborhood showing compatibility of the historic features of the porch in the easement area with the neighborhood; written description of the location and historic gable structure of the house, historic photos of the home and written description of those– evidencing the existence of the porch over time; detailed written description of the porch features and the importance of porches to the Town’s heritage; all archival materials found relating to the home.
—– In summary, there is nothing in this easement which requires any owner of 409 5th Avenue to maintain any other part of the property in any specific way. It adds nothing to obligations of the homeowners about how they maintain the rest of their property. Should the homeowners desire to modify other parts of the home, they would have to go through the same procedures required of any other homeowner in Town, not because of the easement, but because of building permit requirements that apply to all properties. The only catch would be that they could not continue to encroach on the public walkway unless they maintain the porch in the easement area as described.
If you would like to read the minutes of the meetings held in Town during which the concept of providing an easement to assist the approximately eight homes with an encroaching portion on Town land, and other materials related to the Town’s adoption of the easement solution, contact Town Clerk Kathy Lehman. The materials can be e-mailed to you for review or given via hard copy. The Town can also e-mail to you a full copy of the petition submitted to the Town submitted by the homeowners of 409 5th Avenue upon request.
Maryland Public Information Act (MDPIA)
Maryland’s Public Information Act (“MDPIA”) gives the public the right to access government records without unnecessary cost and delay. The MDPIA applies to all three branches of Maryland state government as well as local government entities. The MDPIA is found in the General Provisions Article (“GP”), §§ 4-101 through 4-601, Annotated Code of Maryland.
The MDPIA grants you the right to review the available records that are disclosable and to obtain copies of those records. It does not require the Town to answer informational questions or to create a record to satisfy your request.
There is not a standard form to make MDPIA requests. In Washington Grove, we do have a written form which you may fill out, and this helps the Town to track requests as required by state law. Request for documents may be received via e-mail and in most cases via phone call to the Mayor, Town Office or other Town representatives. In some cases, you will need to submit your request in writing using the form. In Washington Grove, the Mayor is the Custodian of all Town documents. However, the Town Clerk, Town Treasurer, or the Town Archivist may respond to MDPIA requests. All requests whether verbal or in writing are kept for public records. When requesting documents, it is important you specifically describe the records you seek so the Town can research your request. Sometimes discussions with Town personnel will clarify your request and help the Town find the records you are seeking.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
The Washington Grove Town Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, November 13, 2017, 7:30 PM in McCathran Hall, 300 Grove Ave. Washington Grove, MD. The purpose of this meeting is to take public comment regarding the proposed Zoning Text Amendment No. 2017-05; Ordinance Adopting Amendments to the Washington Grove Zoning Ordinance Article VII, Section 13.263 Regarding the Vicinity Map Required with an Application for a Local Map Amendment. A copy of the proposed amendment is available for inspection upon request to the Town at P.O. Box 216, Washington Grove, MD 20880 (301-926-2256) and on the Town website ZTA Ordinance 2017-05 .
From the Mayor…
November is a time when many give thanks, and I am grateful for the many volunteers in Washington Grove. My appreciation goes especially to the Town Council, Planning Commission, and the Historic Preservation Commission. These volunteers really make our Town government work. Thank you!
There are many committees and groups who deserve accolades for their efforts:
- Board of Zoning Appeals who have a difficult but often unnoticed job.
- Forestry & Beautification Committee for their work in making our residential woods a joy to live within and monitors the health and maintenance of trees, shrubs and the general appearance of Town land in the residential area of Town.
- The Woods Committee for working so diligently in preserving and protecting our beloved woods by taking an integrated, well thought out approach to forest health restoration and management, thus providing protected habitat for plants and wildlife in a region of diminishing habitat, insuring we continue to live in A Town Within a Forest.
- The Emergency Preparedness Committee who are protecting all of us by preparing for events we hope never happen.
- The Recreation Committee who organize the special events and fun activities for residents through music, dances, holiday events, Summer in the Parks and delicious French fries.
- Board of Supervisors of Elections who run our election process and keep our democratic system healthy.
- Lake Committee for protecting our very special amenity, Maple Lake, as a recreational resource for Town residents. The lake is a wonderful refuge for all Town families.
- Dog Park Work Group who are working together to seek a dog park potential location while addressing relevant issues of land use, impact and zoning.
- Signage Group who are restoring and painting our unusual wooden street and walkway signs while
- ensuring better visibility.
- Washington Grove Cares who show the true spirit of being a caring community by connecting Town residents who might need assistance with residents who can provide help. This leads to a stronger community.
- The Film Group who bring to the Town special films and a special social time.
- The Web Site volunteers who keep us together via communication.
- Our Town employees for their dedicated work.
- And many unsung volunteers who work to make our Town a better place for all.
I want to thank you all for what you have done this year. You help create a thanksgiving mood year-round in Washington Grove.
Joli A. McCathran
Planning Commission News…
Next meeting: Wed, November 1, 2017, 2017; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. All meetings are open to the public.
If you are considering any renovation or building project at your house, be sure to get a copy of the procedures to apply for a Town Building Permit which will help you through the Town’s process. The procedures are available from the Town Clerk or from the Town’s website. Both the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission are here to help with your renovation/building project.
Historic Preservation News…
Next meeting: Tuesday, November 21, 2017; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. All meetings are open to the public.
Forestry & Beautification News…
Next Meeting: November 8, 2017; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. All meetings are open to the public.
The Forestry and Beautification (F&B) Committee met on October 18. The Circle beautification project on October 14 went well. F&B volunteers cleared English ivy from the planting beds, then applied mulch and planted Christmas ferns. One stalwart volunteer concentrated on the English ivy on Town trees and cleared a very large number in The Circle area. In a follow-up effort on Friday Oct. 20, three volunteers planted the remaining 10 Christmas ferns. New azaleas will be added in the spring.
What’s That? Plant Invaders: At our last meeting we discussed the prevalence of certain non-native invasives (NNIs) in Washington Grove. A major concern is bush honeysuckle (like Lonicera maackii) and vine honeysuckle (like Lonicera japonica). Several cultivars were imported from Asia to serve as ornamentals and as wildlife habitat, but the bush honeysuckle in particular have colonized large swaths of the Grove. Although they are green and healthy, they out compete and displace native shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants. There is also scientific evidence published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (26 October 2010) about increased risk of tick-borne diseases associated with deer grazing on Bush Honeysuckle. And while the fruits of these ‘exotic’ honeysuckles provide some nutrition for birds and mice in winter, their carbohydrate-rich quality is no match for the lipid-rich fruits of native species that sustain migrating birds. The Recreation Committee and the Woods Committee are co-sponsoring the showing of a wonderful film “Hometown Habitat.” The film highlights the desirability of planting and nurturing native plant species which in turn nurture our native insects, birds and other small critters. Hometown Habitat shows how anyone can do this in their own yard, but part of the take home message is that the Town could also be encouraging native plants instead of non-natives like bush honeysuckle. The F&B Committee agrees and will work to move in that direction going forward.
Woods Committee News…
Next Meeting: Monday, November 6, 2017; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. Meetings are open to the public. Please join us!
The Woods Committee continues its efforts to protect and maintain the integrity of the East and West Woods preserves to include non-native invasive plant control, deer control, and restoration of the ecosystem to be self-sustaining. To support these efforts, the Woods Committee invites you to participate in our ‘tree-wrapping’ event in the East Woods on Saturday, November 11th from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM to place protective plastic sleeves around selected trees to protect against deer rubbing. Please meet outside the Maintenance Building along Center Street. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather and bring work gloves. Bottled water will be provided.
The Woods Committee and Recreation Committee are co-sponsoring a free film event, Hometown Habitat, on Saturday, November 4th from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM in the Town Hall. Please note the time! The film promotes use of native plantings which supports native wildlife.
Recreation Committee News…
Next Meeting: Wed., January 10, 2018; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. This meeting is open to the public.
BluestoberFest is the BEST!
There was a record crowd at another wildly successful Bluestober Fest! The weather was perfect, the ambiance festive, the food divine and the music amazing. Thanks to Eric Selby and Lawren Lankford and an army of volunteers for making it happen!
Free Tai Chi Classes
Join Instructor Claire Rosser for Tai Chi at the basketball court in Woodward Park on Saturday mornings from 9:00 – 10:00 AM starting October 21 until December 3. Contact Meredith Horan for more information; [email protected] or 301-926-1054.
Film Society News..
A special treat is in store for filmgoers on Sunday, November 12, 7 PM, when the Film Society will show Sita Sings the Blues. Using several styles of animation, this vivid, exuberant work of art, written and drawn by American artist Nina Paley, ingeniously weaves together ancient tales from the Ramayana, jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw and events from Paley’s own life. Directed by Nina Paley, (2009), 82 minutes, U.S., English, shown with subtitles. Purchase a subscription for the entire film series for only $20; send a check, payable to the Town of Washington Grove, to Birgit Henninger, P.O. Box 355, Tickets are $7 at the door.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THE HOLIDAY SHOW…DECEMBER 16TH AT 7:30 PM
Work is under way on this year’s Holiday Show!
Each year is very different, and this year will be no exception. Writing the show will be a group effort, and as the theme develops, the need for actors, musicians and set personnel will evolve. If you didn’t work on the show last year, but are interested in being involved this year, please contact either Judy Mroczka ([email protected] or 301-785-3491) or Marilynn Frey ([email protected] or 301-351-4784).
Check back here next month for more information about this always popular show. In the meantime, add the date to your calendar (Saturday, December 16th at 7:30 PM) and be sure that if you are not in the show, you are in the audience!
Woman’s Club News…
Our last meeting of 2017 is Thursday, November 16th, at 7:00 PM in the Clubhouse
Our busy 2017 is winding down, and Thursday, November 16th will be our last meeting of the year.
Please try to attend, and help us plan for next year. This meeting will also be our annual Election of Officers. After this meeting, the Clubhouse will be winterized and closed for the season.
Looking ahead to 2018, our plans are to have our Annual White Elephant Auction in January; February or March will be our always popular Chili Dinner; late March is our Annual Egg Hunt for the Town’s children; in April, the Clubhouse will reopen and we will again be having guest speakers for our Membership Meetings; May will be the Flower Show; June will be another Progressive Porch Party; and in July, we will hopefully be doing something special for our anniversary month.
We are also looking forward to next year’s Community Outreach programs. Our spring event will be collecting toys to make Birthday Bags in support of Interfaith Works, who will distribute them to the neediest children in our County. We will again add small treats to their Treasure Chest, which enables parents to give their children something special when they’ve done something well, are celebrating an event, or when they just need a little something to brighten their day.
Throughout the summer and fall, we will again collect white socks and toiletries for the Gude Men’s Shelter. So as you travel this year, be sure to take the free shampoos, soaps, mouth washes, etc. for this project.
Washington Grove Church News…
Mark Your Calendar for Saturday, Nov. 18th!
Christmas Bazaar and Children’s Secret Shop
Christmas Begins November 18th in Washington Grove! Santa’s workshop is alive and bustling in historic Washington Grove, Maryland. Talented Methodist church members and friends have been working to create unique, professional quality wreaths, centerpieces, one of a kind gifts, ornaments and decorations. There are no vendors because our group has hand crafted a collection of items you won’t find anywhere else. Kids are invited, with the help of our “elves,” to purchase gifts at the Children’s Secret Shop. They’ll find an adorable selection of gifts priced from 25 cents to $3.00, all gift wrapped while you wait. Also select tasty home baked goods from our Bake Sale. Hours: 9AM – 4PM, at the WGUMC, 303 Chestnut Road. Call Mary Lou for info. 301-840-1834.
Emergency Preparedness Committee
Next Meeting: Thursday, November 30, 2017; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. All are welcome to attend.
Dog Park Work Group
The next scheduled meeting of the Dog Park Work Group will take place on November 18th at 3:30 pm in McCathran Hall. This meeting is open to the public.
Leaves Are Falling
New and long-time residents alike are reminded of the Town contract for bulk leaf removal each autumn. The contractor, Green Earth, Inc., will make regular but unscheduled pickups of leaves raked or blown into windrows within six (6) feet of any roadway or walkway, excluding Railroad Street, 2nd Ave., 3rd Ave., 4th Ave., 5th Ave., and Boundary Street. This service begins October 31, 2017 and ends January 4, 2018, or as soon thereafter as we agree the work is complete. This is the only time to have leaves removed without bagging for recycling.
The contractor will time pickups based on the availability of full truckloads for vacuuming. One or two spectacular fall weekends in November or early December usually have most of us raking at the same time. If you rake when most others are raking, the windrows will probably disappear relatively quickly.
Please place your windrows within six (6) feet of the road or walkway (keeping in mind car & pedestrian traffic).
Green Earth will collect leaves by working from one end of the Town to the other, typically starting with Ridge Road working their way across the community, first removing piles along roads for safety reasons. After making one pass along roads, they will focus on walkways. If roads become obstructed before walkways are completed, roads will be cleared until they are safe. Then collection will resume along walkways. Weather may affect this process. Rain can restrict movement of large trucks on the avenues and accumulated snow or freezing rain may make piles too heavy to vacuum. The contractor will not remove leaf piles that contain branches, brush, pruned limbs, and cut ornamental grasses. Please do not add these to leaf piles. They foul the vacuum and Green Earth will not collect piles containing this material.
If a particular leaf pile has lingered for an inordinate amount of time, please call Kathy Lehman at the Town Office, 301-926-2256, or by e-mail [email protected].
Happy raking! It’s the rite of autumn, particularly in a town graced by so many beautiful deciduous trees.
Washington Grove Cares
WGC can connect you with your neighbors to request help as you need it and offer assistance as well. Rides to the Metro, and to medical appointments; grocery shopping; occasional dog walking; meals during times of stress. These are just some of the ways you can make use of WGC.
It’s easy to do. After you have signed up, you can ask for help on the WGC website (washingtongrovecares.org). At the top of the screen, click on “Make an Assistance Request” and follow the link to fill out a form. To offer help: click on the calendar and choose date(s) with a green square to sign yourself up as a helper for that task. Questions: contact [email protected] or call 240-813-3316.
- Thanksgiving Refuse Collection CHANGE !!!
- Because of the conflict with our refuse collection day and the Thanksgiving holiday, the collection that week will take place on WEDNESDAY, November 22, 2017. Please make a note of this change.
- Deer Fences Down
- Residents are reminded that deer fencing must be down by November 30th per Town Ordinance 3.328(g). Thanks!
- Recyclable Yard Waste Collection Ends
- Please note December 28, 2017 will be the last date for collection of recyclable yard waste by Potomac Disposal. This service will resume in early March.
DRIVE 15 ENJOY THE SCENE !