Chairman's Annual Report April 2006
Andrew Smith – Chairman
Ira Rosenbaum – Vice Chairman
Margy Abbott – Treasurer
Farooq Hussain – Secretary
Peter Gray – Building Inspector
Margy has replaced Nancy Pines who previously served as Treasurer on the council. Peter has replaced Stuart Rudikoff who retired and also left Section 5. Stuart served on the council since 2001 and as the council chairman since 2002. We owe Stuart thanks for strong and wise leadership during this period and wish him well.
Frances combines extraordinary effectiveness with friendliness and kindness in her day-to-day handling of the Section’s business. She is irreplaceable and we owe her our gratitude.
New Web Site
By considerable effort council member Farooq Hussain has created a new Section 5 web site replacing an earlier one.
The Section requires the replacement of trees with circumferences greater than 24 inches removed from private property. An application must be made to the Town Manager to remove trees of this size or greater. In an effort to maintain the tree canopy the town will pay to plant trees on residents’ property with the stipulation that these trees will contribute substantially in time to the canopy. Decorative trees are not included in this offer. During this past year 18 trees, mostly oaks and maples, were planted as requested. We intend to keep this policy in place and, I hope, introduce more tree varieties.
It probably has not escaped notice that Woodbine Street is in almost constant disrepair. The cause is the replacement of the entire water main by the WSSC. After this replacement is accomplished the WSSC and the Section will split the cost of resurfacing Woodbine Street. We all hope this will occur during the next year. The Section will also sod the entire length of the public strip when the resurfacing is complete.
Ride-on Bus Route
Montgomery County proposed to reroute Ride-on busses traveling along Leland Street to Brookville Road in lieu of Connecticut Avenue in order to avoid crossing northbound traffic on Connecticut Ave. Farooq Hussain attended a hearing concerning this proposal at which it was unanimously agreed by all representatives of communities bordering on Brookville Road that this proposal was unacceptable. An alternative proposal involving a traffic light at the Leland/Conn. Ave. intersection activated exclusively by the Ride-on bus driver is being promoted to the State Department of Highways.
The Section currently follows the County’s regulations for Noise Control. There have been many complaints from residents about noise generated principally from construction activities. In response to a survey during the spring of 2005 asking for residents’ opinion on this matter. 74 respondents opted for no permitted work on Saturday and Sunday, 15 opted for a work free Sunday and 32 opposed any change to the current regulations.
The council made an attempt to produce an ordinance that would be more restrictive than the existing Montgomery County ordinance, with emphasis on the times during which weekend work would be permitted. Upon review, the opinion of the Section attorney, David Podolsky, was that the provisions of the ordinance could not sustain a challenge, and consequently the ordinance was tabled. There are clearly defined noise limits in Montgomery County regulations, and there are provisions for registering complaints concerning the noise levels. However, there does not appear to be a way of altering the permitted work times. Monitoring the noise level will require a calibrated acoustical power meter and a level of expertise and commitment that the council has not yet deemed necessary. In response to the request of a resident, the council sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council requesting an ordinance reducing the permitted work hours in Section 5. It is perhaps not surprising that as of yet no action has been taken by the council on our request.
Perhaps the most important issue with long term implications to concern the Section is the effort to obtain authority over zoning regulations applicable to Section 5. In response to persistent objections to the construction of large out-of-character homes in the Section the council asked the residents through a questionnaire whether the council should pursue this issue. Out of 133 respondents 80 indicated that we should. Incidentally, this is a comparatively large response (133 out of 227 residences, 59%) to a Section 5 survey.
Under Stuart Rudikoff’s and Margy Abbott’s leadership 12 neighboring towns were invited to a meeting to discuss the history and prospects of efforts to obtain zoning authority from the county. Of these 12, 8 communities attended the meeting. It was generally agreed that working together to present a common request to the Montgomery County Council would be more effective than for any single community seeking authority on its own. The attendees agreed to sample their community opinion on what authority we actually wanted. Shortly after the initial meeting, the Town imposed their moratorium. The group decided to take a “wait and see” attitude”. Since that time legislation has been introduced by Delegate Richard S. Madalino Jr. (District 18) in the state legislature to amend the existing Maryland Regional District Act which would give us even more power over what areas of building we can control and make more stringent than the county guidelines which we currently follow.
The following list presents zoning related items that we presently have authority to regulate through the MD. Regional District Act.
1. Fences, walls, hedges and similar barriers
3. Residential parking
4. Residential storage
5. The location of structures, including set-back requirements
The amendment would give us additional authority over
1. the dimensions of structures, including height, bulk, massing and design,
2. lot coverage, including impervious surfaces and the amendment to the Maryland Regional District Act is a more desirable option than a request to the Montgomery Council zoning overlay. At present no objections have been raised to the legislation.
Section 5 receives money from the state to purchase open space for the town. There is no open space for the town to purchase so the council proposes to give this money, in the amount of $17,539, to The Village of Chevy Chase to help purchase the Wohlfarth property on Western Avenue (between the Mormon church and the new Friendship Heights commercial development) for open space. If the Open Space funds are not spent the Governor has the authority to take back the funds. $5000 was given to both the Children’s Help Fund and to the International Relief Team for Hurricane Katrina relief. $2000 was given to the Chevy Chase Historical Society to make a video describing the history of Chevy Chase.
Because Section 5 is a municipality that is responsible for providing community services (street repair, trees, trash pick-up etc.) we receive back from the state 17% of the state income taxes each resident pays.We also receive some income from our investment funds as well as state highway user fees and a very nominal amount for building and fence permits. The State Income tax is our main source of funding and depends on the taxpayers indicating their taxing district, i.e. Section 5, in the appropriate box on the state income tax form. According to Frances all of our residents take advantage of this opportunity.
The Council has agreed to take any budget surplus at the end of the fiscal year and apply it towards each household’s solid waste charge and property tax in the form of a rebate. During the past fiscal year $1,100 was rebated to each household in the Section. to help off-set the county property tax. We anticipate that a rebate of approximately the same amount will be made in the next fiscal year (FY 07 beginning July 1).
The Section invests money in essentially two different types of institutions. More than half is used to purchase CDs at several local banks. Somewhat less than half is invested in the Maryland Local Government Investment Pool (MLGIP). This institution was created by the State of Maryland in the wake of the disastrous financial failure of Orange County, CA due to poor investments. The investment policy is regulated by the state which also provides insurance on any amount exceeding $100,000. The first $100,000 is insured by the federal government.