Minutes from the May 20, 2019

MSCA ANNUAL MEETING with Guest Speakers from the Maryland Department of Transportation I-495 & I-270 Public-Private Partnership (P3) Program & Managed Lane Project.

Ritchie Park Elementary School All Purpose Room 7:00pm-9:00pm

At 7:00, President Bob Gross began the MSCA meeting by introducing the guest speakers:  P3 Project Director Lisa Choplin, Deputy Director Jeff Folden, and Principal/Senior Environmental Specialist Caryn Brookman.

The presentations included discussion of the statistics on congestion and the process by which the plans have been made to relieve congestion and transportation barriers in part by altering traffic patterns on 495 and 270.  There are currently seven roadway design alternatives under consideration, which include a mix of high-occupancy toll lanes (HOT), express toll lanes (ETL), and reversible lanes.  The presenters assured the audience that the designs are being made with the goal of minimizing the footprint and associated impacts.  This could be accomplished in part by eliminating the “local” lanes and by removing the jersey wall barriers currently in place between the main lanes and the local lanes.  The project will be a public-private partnership with a private developer that will be responsible for the construction and management of toll lanes, although the State of Maryland will maintain control of the Maryland portion of the project.  In December 2019, the preferred alternative will be decided and presented to the public and only then the project will go out for bids.

Our speakers were truly outstanding, and they illustrated their presentations on a large screen using graphs, charts, photos, and maps.  They also provided handouts showing each design alternative under consideration.  There was a question and answer session and everyone in the room had an opportunity to ask questions, ask follow-up questions, and provide their thoughts, concerns, and any other input.  All came away from the meeting feeling that they were heard and well informed.  Given the intimate nature of the all-purpose-room, a microphone was not necessary (although available), and everyone got to meet to the speakers in person and view their materials up close.  Because the project is huge and will affect us all in one way or the other, all agreed that we should invite back the speakers to our next annual meeting in May 2020 for another update on the project’s progress.

At 8:20, after thanking Ms. Choplin, Mr. Folden and Ms. Brookman for their insightful and informative presentations, President Bob Gross provided an update on the utility projects in the neighborhood and began the regular business portion of the meeting.

From left to right:  Ms. Choplin, Mr. Folden, and Ms. Brookman

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) Project:  Main water line replacement is ongoing on the north side of Montgomery Square (i.e., north of Montrose Road), with periodic updates posted on the MSCA website.  On the south side of Montgomery Square (i.e., south of Montrose Road), WSSC is planning to dig up the roads for new water lines on stretches of Devilwood, Whites Ford, and Jubal Early including laying a line under Montrose Road, which will connect the north side to the south side. 

A color-coded map of what WSSC calls the “Devilwood Drive Watermain Replacement Project” can be found on this MSCA website

The red lines on the map show where new waterlines will be installed on the south side; the purple lines show where they are now being installed on the north side; and the blue lines show where WSSC already installed new lines on the south side (this was done several years ago and these lines will not need replacement).   

When the north side waterline project is completed, those streets will be repaved, but the contractor will not repave the streets that were not disturbed.  MSCA has made contact with the county and is advocating for the complete repaving on the non-disturbed streets, with the hope that the entire north side will be repaved.  The north side project is being done by sections, but none of the repaving will occur until the entire project is complete.  WSSC will begin digging up the south side for the same project (see the red lines on the project map noted above) in about two years.  The delay is necessary because the roads were repaved by Washington Gas at the end of its recent gas line installation work, and the County forbids streets to be dug up for a new project for at least two years after they have been repaved as a result of a previous project.  It’s a shame the two companies could not have better coordinated their work.

WGL Project:  South side gas lines and meters were replaced on all the streets; whereas, on the north side, gas lines and meters were replaced only on case-by-case basis.  Repaving on the south side was done after the gas company completed their work and a beautiful job was done.  Unfortunately, the smell of gas was reported in some areas despite the installation of new lines.  This resulted in some redigging and repaving but all seems good as of this date.  

Streets:  It is a goal for MSCA to help keep the neighborhood as beautiful as possible, including landscaping of our main entranceways, tree planting, street repaving, and repair of potholes unrelated to the utility projects.  Please call 311 to report potholes – the county will usually repair them within a few days.  Also, please call 311 to report dead or unhealthy trees located on the County’s right-of-way.  The spray paint used on the streets by the utility companies is unsightly and annoying, but unfortunately, we must wait for it to wear off, which can take a year or more.

Website:  The MSCA board is looking for someone to take on the role of webmaster – www.montgomerysquare.org.  Steve Schuck is doing a great job maintaining and updating our website but would appreciate some help.  Please contact Steve if you are interested. 

Membership Chair:  A membership chair is needed.  Please contact Bob Gross if interested.

Financial report:  Each year, we collect about $50 in dues from about 220 houses, giving us about $11,000/year.  Expenses include landscaping of the entrances, including planting flowers, mulching, pruning, watering, weeding, mowing, and raking leaves; block parties and other social activities; liability insurance; the website; community yard sale; minor wall repairs, and the Tetragon newsletter.  In 2018, these expenses consumed almost the entire amount collected in dues and left only $400 in reserve to pay for any additional activities or unexpected costs. 

Dues have not been raised for over 10 years, yet the costs of landscaping and other services continue to rise.  Dues notices are sent in the mail, and non-responders get a second mailing, because more participation would help.  For the most part, the dues payers are the same ones, year after year.  The idea that the block captains might reach out to the non-responders in the future was briefly discussed. 

The issue of a dues increase to $75 or even $100 a household was raised.  It was mentioned that, because we do not have an HOA, our neighborhood organization is a bargain.  Board members spend a lot of hours to make our association a success, and they are all volunteers.  To get a sense of the community, Bob asked the meeting participants to vote on raising the dues to $75, and the group overwhelmingly voted in favor of such an increase, with 25 voting in favor and only 2 opposed.

Tree planting:  This program, coordinated by the board, has been very successful, with over 200 trees planted so far.  Early in the spring, many of the new trees were already flowering.  This is a long-term investment in the beauty of the neighborhood and is free of charge to residents.  Anyone interested in having trees planted in the front yard can make a request by filling out a form.  Bob was pleased to report that approximately 20 households have submitted a form to MSCA for the upcoming fall plantings.  See our website at http://montgomerysquare.org/trees for more information.

Social Calendar:  MSCA has a new social chairperson, Patrice Ju.  There will be a block party in the fall, as usual.  Patrice is looking forward to adding other social events and seeks your ideas.  Her email address can be found on our website.  In the 1960s, when the neighborhood was new, there were many social events as documented in a large box of materials provided to Bob Gross by former president, Lisa Hall.  Please see our Secretary, Jane Acri, if you are interested in seeing the materials.

Yard Sale:  June 1-2 is the community yard sale in conjunction with Regency Estates and Potomac Woods.  The event will be advertised in the Washington Post, Craig’s List, and Next Door.  

Election of officers:  The current officers agreed to remain on the Governing Board for another term of one year or until successors are elected.  A vote was taken and it was unanimously decided that they should remain.  Many, including Bob Gross (president). Steve Schuck (vice president), and David Grossman (treasurer) have been serving the community for many years (Bob, for over 20 years, and Steve and David for almost that amount).  We encourage all residents to participate in Board meetings and other events so a succession plan can be put in place.  Rudy Oswald (a long-time resident), on behalf of the meeting’s participants, thanked Bob, Steve and the rest of the board for their exemplary dedication and service. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:45.