Town of Cheverly
February 14, 2013
Call to Order
Meeting called to order at 8:00 pm in the Cheverly Community Center.
In attendance: CMs, Riazi, Coolen, Eldridge, Thorpe, Cook.
Pledge of Allegiance
Minutes – Town Meeting 1/10/12
Approved as written.
Minutes – Worksession 1/28/13
Approved as written.
Town Administrator’s Report
Mr. Warrington noted that each Councilmember has been given a list of where WSSC will be working over the next few months and these addresses will be posted on the website.
Chief Robshaw it is all good news as our crime rate continues to decrease. Please read your newsletter as we are trying to start an anti-theft campaign. It accounts for almost 60% of the crime in Town and mostly theft from autos. We now have 8 new body cameras that capture every call for service very well. We notify the violator that they are being visually and audibly recorded and it works toward us all treating each other with more respect. It will be very helpful as a training tool.
CM Eldridge can we add the video issue to our next Worksession.
Mayor I want to thank the Chief for refurnishing the buildings with items obtained by Walter Reed hospital at no cost to the Town.
Recreation Council Report
Ms. Barbara Pejokovich our next meeting will be on Tuesday the 26th in the conference room everyone is welcome to attend. On March 1st I will begin taking reservations for the April Flea Market and tables are $15. My number is 301-773-5883.
Green Infrastructure Committee
CM Eldridge announced that Feb 15-16 is the great backyard bird count.
Cheverly Day Report
CM Thorpe Cheverly Day is May 18th and we would like all of you to participate. The Market and Cheverly Day will be combined this year. Please see the website, Cheverlyday.org or Cheverlyday.com. The meeting is at 7:30 pm on the first Tuesday of the month.
Planning Board Report
Mayor met this week and had a very productive meeting. MNCPPC has been assisting the Planning Board in the Envision Cheverly project. The 202 Corridor Study was discussed and the economic data is showing that the Aldi’s shopping center is attracting much more than the density exhibits. The Cheverly sector plan will kick off this fall and we want to make it broad and include the hospital and industrial areas. We will push this plan back until issues with the hospital can be included. They will be doing an employment study in the interim.
Ms. Joyce Lange Ward 4 wanted to announce an event that is the Black History celebration this Sunday at 4pm at the American Legion.
Ms. Linda Prebie Ward 6 I am in fear for the lives of pedestrians in the 202 Corridor. People drive way too fast and ignore pedestrians. I would like that be included in the study.
Mr. Fred Price, Jr. Ward 4 we have elections coming-up here in Cheverly and I would encourage our multi-family citizens to participate in the upcoming elections.
Mr. Ray Sexton Ward 2 I have a copy of the rules and procedures for your meetings and these rules prohibit interaction between citizens and councilmembers. I would like the chair, you Mr. Mayor, to waive these rules and allow for interaction tonight. I would like to ask you to do so.
Mayor I am going to use the process that is outlined in our rules and procedures. I had people here from 7-8 for such interaction and we have Worksessions, which have a lot of interaction.
Mr. Carl Russo Ward 1 I wish to propose a Charter Amendment for a tiered property tax cap. With different rates for different types of properties.
Mayor the representatives from MNCPPC and WSSC have not yet arrived so we are going to skip down the agenda and take the next item.
Adoption – CAR-1-13 Amending the Tax Cap
Mayor this started last August. We were attempting to do a tiered tax rate last year and we looked at the multi-family units that showed they had 20% of the population, but were contributing 3% of the real property taxes. We decided to do a tiered tax rate and we attempted to raise the tax cap and in doing that we put in a tiered tax rate system. This would have brought the apartments contribution up to 7%. However, we made some clerical errors in the Charter Amendment that we passed. We were informed by the apartments that we made these errors and we rescinded the tiered rate system. As a result we discussed removing the tax cap and wanted to concentrate on the tax rate.
Ms. Lane Thompson Ward 3 I want to thank you for all the work you did on this item. I have heard that this tax cap either makes the tax rate harder or it doesn’t. I like the tax cap. I like services in Cheverly and we get a good return on our tax dollar. I think the answer is not eliminating the tax cap, but rather raising the tax cap. Don’t eliminate that important structural mechanism. If we add a tiered structure to make things equal then we wouldn’t have to eliminate it all together.
Ms. Jennifer Daniels Ward 6 I want to thank the Mayor and my Councilmember for all the conversations on this matter. I think the word eliminate is the problem. I am up for hearing a debate on raising the tax rate and setting up a tiered tax rate system. This elimination seems to be a blank check. I have yet to hear any argument that changes my mind. You can’t say it is a road block and that it provides a false sense of security at the same time. The fact that other communities don’t have a tax cap is irrelevant. I ask you to vote down this amendment tonight. We should look at dollars and cents and should put the focus on the rate. I prepared a petition of 92 citizens that do not want to eliminate the tax cap.
Mr. Carl Russo Ward 1 the tax cap has been in the Charter since the Town’s inception. The tax cap is a signal to the citizens that you are carefully making trade offs. The tax cap has independent value. I think in the absence of the cap you all would have raised rates higher, so the cap had an impact this past year. It has an effect and is it worth it? The tax cap has the benefit of forcing the council and citizens the trade off of taxes verses services. It is a two step process in that they have to raise the cap prior to raising the rates. It forces you to come up with a better reason twice, so it has independent value. I think it is unwise to remove this cap. We just had property values fall in a way we haven’t seen since the Great
Depression. If we were able to weather this, then we can weather the storm with a tax cap. I ask to not reject the 80 years of the tax cap.
Ms. Anne Barsi Ward 4 I fully support the proposal to eliminate the tax cap. I am sure the Mayor and Council will continue to set wise budgets. The tax cap is an arbitrary number on the moving target of our assessed values. Since we don’t set our house assessments, then we should not be inflexible.
Mr. Tom Foley Ward 1 you have to figure out the difference between necessities and niceties. Some years ago the tax rate was .48 with a cap at .50. The cap was raised from .50 to 58. Taxes with the increase of the rate kept everyone about even. Did anyone think of reducing the .48 tax rate when assessments went up? The Town’s reserve swelled from $500,000 to $1.8 million. Assessments go down and we have to hit the panic button. They drew down a little bit of the $1.8 million. They froze the employee’s salaries and froze positions. The panic set in and the reserve still sits at over $1 million. I agree that the cap should be kept.
Mr. Fred Price, Jr. I think you all have done a good job and you have done right. It is an election year and if you don’t do right we will see. Let’s remove the cap and move on.
Mr. Ray Sexton Ward 2 we were told that the reason why the original version of the amendment was taken off was due to a clerical error as a lawsuit was filed. In the spirit of being transparent, I would submit that acknowledging that a lawsuit had been filed and we had to take action because of the lawsuit and we are rescinding as a result. This is a bad bill because it removes dialogue to address this. I would urge you to vote against this or table it for further discussion. We are not perfect, perhaps we can do better.
Mr. Nick D’Angelo Ward 2 I think the tiered tax rate is a great idea and addresses the inequity in distribution. I encourage the Council to vote this thing through and move forward.
Mayor regarding Mr. Sexton’s concern, yes it is true that we do not comment on lawsuits. Mayor read a statement included in Town Clerk’s minutes. Mayor accepted a statement from Folger-Pratt included in Town Clerk’s minutes. We rescinded the amendment because we could not continue with flawed legislation. Mr. Foley brought up a very good point as we have noted in the newsletter when we went from .48 to .58 most peoples’ taxes still went down. When the bubble was upon us, we did bankroll funds and spent some funds. We need to have $500,000 to $800,000 as a baseline for operation budget. We have managed to pave roads, purchase police vehicles and public works trucks. Part of our process is to spend down money from the surplus as we have
done for the past two years. We can talk about where we ought to move to change our revenues.
CM Eldridge when I joined the Council in 2007 there was lots of discussion about the tax cap, it came very clear to me that people had issues distinguishing between the tax cap and the tax rate. I feel it is incumbent on us, the Council, to focus on the very important issue, which is the tax rate. The protection is engaging with your Councilmember on what is happening. I appreciate the time people take to give me input. Many of the folks I have talked to are in favor of this amendment. People do not want their rate to go up, but they are in favor of removing the cap.
CM Thorpe before I joined the Council, I did not realize how conservative I am when it comes to money. I do not see the tax cap as burdensome. I actually thought the tax cap did not have enough teeth as it doesn’t provide serious protections. The same people who raise the cap, raise the tax rate. The protection comes in the Homestead exemption. I do trust these members to do what is right, but I have concerns of trusting those that come after you.
CM Coolen I appreciate all the input I have received from Ward 2. The tax cap and tax rate have been muddled together. The reporter from the Gazette did not get it right after a half of an hour conversation. 15 of the 92 spaces on the petition are signed by anonymous and I spoke to some of the people on the list were not fully aware of the difference. I find this has been a complicated and confusing discussion. I think it is best to talk about the tax rate.
CM Riazi we heard a mix of responses this evening and I have received a number of responses about removing the tax cap so we can move on. CM Riazi shared a sampling of emails she received. We need to look at the rate as to the services we desire and are we being fiscally responsible. Whatever decisions we make, we make for ourselves as well.
CM Cook thank you all for your comments. I am for eliminating the tax cap. We have spent over 6 months talking about this proposal. I would prefer to deal with the rate only to eliminate confusion.
Mayor I am not a voting member as we won’t be 3-3 as we don’t have six. I have told you why already about how we got here. We continue to have discussions of the tax cap rather than the tax rate.
- CM Eldridge to adopt CAR-1-13 Amending/Remove the Tax Cap. CM Riazi seconded. Approved 4-1 CM Thorpe opposed.
MNCPPC– Presentation 2035
Mr. Michael Asante I am here to brief you on the County’s General Plan. We are reaching out to get input from the members of the community. The region is very robust and is going to grow in the future. It will create a lot of jobs and how do we attract them to this area. Most of our family is single family and our forecast shows that there will be a desire and need for multi-family dwellings in mixed-use locations. How do we energize our area to draw this work force. I have some packets for you to look at the detail of what we are trying to do.
Mayor this is critical, but we would really like to get some of your people back to our planning board. I am hoping it is an opportunity for us to push the developed tier. We do want to participate and we want to work with you all the time.
Mr. Asante we have the data, analysis and expertise, but we need the input from the citizens as to the strategy we need. We need to measure over the years whether we are or are not achieving what we have set out in the General Plan. We welcome all feedback both positive and negative.
CM Eldridge it is refreshing to hear an agency note that there were shortcomings in previous plans and we want to improve in the future. We are going to be involved.
Mr. Asante please go to our website and you can see what the staff has been doing.
Presentation – WSSC
Mr. Tom Trever the Chief Financial Officer of WSSC. Noted that WSSC operates as an enterprise fund and we are governmental and not for profit. Handout of presentation included in Town Clerk’s minutes. We are highly regulated by State law and our budgets must be approved by Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. We have an $800 million dollar capital budget and a $600 million operating budget. Our rate revenue is dependant on usage and weather situations. We are heavy capital investors. We are very energy and petroleum dependant. We have a large share of Blue Plains and pays $50 million per year at the Blue Plains facility and we contribute 60% on the capital improvements or $225 million at that plant this year. We work 365 days per year and 24 hours per
day. There has been a good deal of conservation in the form of retro-fits and more water efficient mechanisms. However, we have increased customers, but consumption has remained steady. We have to pass some of the costs on to existing customers. We need to replace pipe and obviously we can’t see underground. There is a delicate balance as to when to replace pipe. Assuming a pipe lasts 60 years and we were putting 100 miles of pipe in the ground in the 1960’s. We want to get ahead of the wearing out curve
Mayor I think some of our residents think their water bills are rising dramatically, we still have a lot of aging infrastructure to go.
Mr. Trever we have gone from cast iron to ductile iron, so they went with a thinner pipe, but pipe corrodes from the inside out and the outside in. We have to replace 55 miles per year to keep in a normal replacement flow and we are now using a plastic liner. The cost driver on rates right now is the infrastructure. In fiscal 12 we replaced 60 miles. The State Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fee has doubled and we do collect it for the State, but we do not keep any of that. We pass that on to the State.
Mayor in your systems, do you have an alert where someone’s bill is going to double.
Mr. Trever the meter reader has a tolerance level on the reader that will make the reader re-read. We do not contact the customer. It will be in the customer bill. If we do have to come out and look at your fixtures then there will be a charge. We are not at a point where we can read and note variances.
CM Riazi could you explain the different metering system?
Mr. Trever if you have a resident that uses a lot of outside usage, they can get a sub-meter to allow a customer not to pay for the sewer processing charge. There is a charge for that and you do have to have a plumber install it, but if you are a large user then it may be worth your while.
Ms. Lynn Berry the permit fees are in the 3-4 hundred dollar range and you do need to have a master plumber perform the installation.
Ms. Lane What is the best way to call and get customer service? Now we get well your meter may be broken and we can send someone out, but it is going to cost you.
Ms. Lynn Berry for non-emergency calls, you can contact our call center during normal business hours. Our customer service reps should have a series of questions and steps people can take to check on their usage.
R-1-13 Backyard Hens
Mr. Warrington what this Resolution does is ask the County Council to amend the County Zoning Code to allow backyard hens in the R-55 zone where they are currently prohibited. Probably 95% of the houses in Cheverly fall within the R-55 zone. The Town Code still does restrict hens, so even if the County were to do this, we would have to do it as well. If the County does this, it would be County wide. This Resolution is the same resolution passed by Mt. Rainier.
CM Coolen some find this confusing in that we are sending a letter to the County Council asking them to make changes to allow backyard hens, but our Town Code prohibits backyard hens. I am getting input from both sides. I have found this to be a very visceral topic and find that all the information needed has been founded. There are a lot of ideas as to how it will affect our property values. I would like to continue to look at this issue and would like to not make a decision until everything has been flushed out.
CM Eldridge I am generally in support of the idea and we need to proceed very deliberately. I am in favor of moving forward to look at allowing it in the R-55 zoning.
CM Riazi there are people looking forward to having backyard chickens, but there are some fears and concerns that take a good hard look. If passed we could look at limits and more restrictions that we can address as a town.
CM Cook the feedback I have from my ward is that they do not want to see hens in the backyards. We do not have enough land to support. If you want fresh organic eggs, then there are markets not very far away. I would not support.
Mayor the sentiment I hear tonight is to not consider the Resolution tonight and to discuss it further. We could consider restrictions to make this work. Both sides believe that both their arguments are good for property values.
First Reading – CAR-2-13 Amending/Establishing Tax Tiers
Mayor there is a bill that the Maryland Municipal League is opposed to that is currently before the legislature. This Charter Amendment will address this bill, which requires separate taxing tiers. If Annapolis passes this bill it would be effective on July 1st and this will put our tiers in place.
Mr. Warrington this legislation amends the portion of the Charter regarding taxes. This will establish, by law, the differentiation of taxing categories. They will include single family, multi-family, commercial and industrial. This will allow the Mayor and Town Council to set tax rates related to specific taxing category.
Mayor this is being introduced and will be discussed at the February 28th Worksession.
First Reading – O-1-13 Amending the Personnel Section
Mr. Warrington this relates to conduct of employees. We are asking the Mayor and Council to amend the grounds for dismissal or suspension. It addresses falsifying a statement or records and sleeping while on duty. We have found that when we at times go before the Unemployment Commission, they want us to show it to them in writing. This may save us town funds in regards to winning a case and paying unemployment benefits.
Mayor and Council Announcements
Mayor Pepco is now replacing the poles and wires on the most fragile part of the line. This is a critical item in our Town. I had a long conversation with the manager of the Howard Johnson’s and he wants to leverage Cheverly’s history and he is going to teach his shuttle bus drivers to point out Cheverly history when passing down Cheverly Avenue. We would like to work with him for a business man’s round table. We advocate for the Pointe and the 202 corridor. We should bring them with us to say how much better their business could be with changes. On March 21st the bus loads of kids will be out cleaning our stream. Make your way to Boyd Park and help us out.
Mayor meeting adjourned.
Town of Cheverly
Summary of Action
February 14, 2013
- CM Eldridge to adopt CAR-1-13 Amending the Tax Cap to eliminate the tax cap. CM Riazi seconded. Approved unanimously.