Thursday, July 09, 2009

Town of Chevy Chase Town Council Meeting

Here is my summary of the meeting held on July 8th:

The Town Council started its meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Kelly and Sloane Murray following the pledge of allegiance.

**Town Manager’s Report**

Town Manager Todd Hoffman gave his first formal and written report of the past month’s activities. Councilmember Al Lang requested that it be posted to the web and the Council supported this idea.

**Charter Amendments**

I introduced two charter amendments. The first would allow the mayor to serve two consecutive terms before needing the unanimous consent of other councilmembers before continuing in that office. Currently, the mayor may serve for only one year before unanimous consent is required. The second proposed amendment would mandate that the Town hold referendums in the manner of Town elections rather than forcing everyone to show up to vote at a town meeting at a specific time and day as currently outlined in the Charter. The introduction of the first amendment was approved 4-1 with Councilmember Lang dissenting and the second was introduced with unanimous approval. The Council plans to hold public hearings on both amendments in September.

**Native Canopy Tree Program**

I introduced a resolution to allow the Town to implement the Native Canopy Tree Program proposed by the Environment Committee and supported unanimously by the Council at the previous meeting. The program would support the planting of canopy trees on resident property to help promote the tree canopy. The Council unanimously approved the resolution and reviewed implementation plans drafted by Town Staff. We also learned that six residents have already requested trees. The Council will consider the budget transfer needed to pay for the program at its September meeting.

**Building Code Amendments**

Several members of the Land Use Committee, including Chair Donna Kirk, Sue Blacklow, Kathy Flaxman, Lees Hartman, Dedun Ingram, Joe Rubin, and Bruce Russell, presented their Committee’s detailed proposal to amendment the Town Code to clarify and remove inconsistencies regarding the current rules regulating land use as well as reduce the need for variance requests. Among many other proposals, the revisions would change the definition of the rear setback line so that residents with irregularly shaped properties would have more regularly shaped building envelope. (My understanding is that none of the changes would reduce the amount of buildable land.) The changes would further make it easier to replace existing walls without the need for a variance.

The proposals were not discussed or debated at this meeting. The Council plans to hold a work session to consider these complex rules and then hold a public information session in advance of a public hearing. Everyone on the Council was grateful for the enormous amount of work which clearly went into putting together the thoughtful and lengthy report on this complex issue.

**Water Management Program**

The Council reviewed proposed operating procedures drafted by Staff with input from the Public Services Committee for the proposed water management program proposed by the Public Services Committee and supported unanimously by the Council at the last meeting. The Council would like to move forward with the program and will hold a public hearing on it and consider the transfer of funds within the budget needed to pay for it.

**Committee Operating Procedures**

Councilmember Pat Burda and Community Relations Chair Ann Wild presented and the Council reviewed the proposal of the Long-Range Planning Committee regarding committee operating procedures. The Council discussed various ideas for improvement, focusing on various ideas to promote openness with an emphasis on making sure that residents are aware that they can attend any committee meeting as well as committee minute reporting. Other proposals concentrated on coordination among the committees and with Town Staff.