May 11, 2012
This is the May 24 meeting update that was promised you in my prior e-mail and on the post card I hope that most of you received. First, the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association spring meeting is confirmed for May 24 at 7:30 at Grace Episcopal Day School on Connecticut Avenue. The meeting is in the all-purpose room as follows.
First, we will discuss possibly raising the annual dues by $5 for calendar year 2013. The dues levels have been the same for almost seven years and $5 dollars would be significantly less than the rate of inflation. This increase is to be used for our ongoing regular activities such as the mailings, meetings, the Mother’s Day Picnic, Halloween Parade, landscaping maintenance, and the like.
Second, use of the post card plus electronic newsletter and the website saved some $700 for this one meeting. We will discuss using this format in the future except where the Board concludes that written notice of the issues is required, such as by-law changes. This meeting’s experience suggests that post card notice with supporting website and email notice is sufficient to establish the meeting date once this is a well-known practice.
Third, I will inquire at the meeting whether the winter and spring meeting should be combined to put us on a six month meeting schedule with special meetings as required. The most difficult events we have faced over the last 16 months have never coincided with our three meeting schedule. Given the realities of the electronic age I leave this for your consideration, but do not feel strongly about it. It is your time that is involved.
School Site and Litigation Update
As most know, on April 17 the Montgomery County School Board again selected our local park, Rock Creek Hills Local Park, as the site for the B-CC Middle School #2. The School Board did so despite the limitations of our park as a school site, including its size, projected enrollment growth, and probable construction cost. While we are of course concerned with the implications for our community, it is important to emphasize that there are educational, budget, and recreation issues that transcend our immediate concerns and would affect many outside our community. The School Board’s decision was particularly troublesome because the Planning Board Chair expressed a willingness to cooperate and work with them to select a site of mutual benefit that would best fit the needs of both the school and park systems.
Based on the instructions at our last meeting, RCHCA will file an administrative appeal shortly with the State Board of Education. We see no basis for the School Board’s decision that would destroy a valuable recreation resource. Because we will be handling this internally based on prior experience, we expect the cost to be minimal.
A second issue is more complicated and would require the use of outside counsel with expertise in land use issues. We have consulted two land use attorneys and have confidential memos from both that indicate a strong cause to challenge the relevant state agency, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It is DNR’s practice that would make Rock Creek Hills Local Park available to the School Board when there is no statutory basis for DNR’s position.
It is the conclusion of the lawyer we would retain that there are meritorious grounds to bring an action. If RCHCA prevails, the School Board would have to replace the land and all the facilities with a 13 acre site elsewhere in the surrounding community before it could take action to reclaim Rock Creek Hills Local Park. This is what we believe Maryland law requires of the School Board and this would be difficult for it to do.
Any action would be in two phases. The first is an action in local court to challenge DNR’s practice as not supported by law. While our prospects are good, this action will require complete participation by the Kensington community. If our community comes together to save the integrity of our neighborhood and the heart of this community, Rock Creek Hills Local Park, and the valuable attributes that this green space brings to our neighborhood, then we will have a good chance of success. We are asking for contributions per household of $250 (and welcome higher or lesser amounts) to fund the first phase of the litigation against DNR. If a second phase is needed, an appeal, we will examine the basis for any appeal before moving forward with any additional litigation.
Remember that funding for the DNR litigation is a voluntary contribution. Any funds received will be placed in a separately designated account and will not be commingled with our normal operating funds. Nor will operating funds be used henceforth to support this DNR litigation. The amount of each contribution will be recorded on a spread sheet and if there are any surplus funds, they will be refunded pro rata to the households making the contributions. The check for funds should be made to the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association and be mailed to 9616 Old Spring Road, Kensington, MD, 20895.
We will discuss this matter at our May 24 meeting, but if you support the proposed action against DNR it would be helpful to know the extent of support and your contribution in advance. All contributions and commitments regarding the proposed DNR litigation are confidential and inquiries should be made to the undersigned at firstname.lastname@example.org. You do not need to be a member to support the proposed litigation, but you do need to be a member to vote at the May 24 meeting.
I thank you for your past sympathies and support and hope to see you at the meeting.
John M. Robinson