Category

From the RCHCA Officers

Heavy Equipment at the Park

By | From the RCHCA Officers, Neighborhood Notices

Dear neighbors,

As you may have noticed, heavy equipment has been used to bulldoze some of the woodlands of Rock Creek Hills Park (you can see a photo at <http://goo.gl/5u0oFH>, which is the post now atop <http://SaveRockCreekHillsPark.org>).

Our understanding is that this bulldozing was done to facilitate surveying and geological testing; that the park’s recreational facilities (ballfields, playground, etc.) will not be directly affected; and that groundbreaking for construction remains scheduled for July of 2015.

The transfer of the park land appears to be unlawful. Litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect the park is pending. If this litigation is successful, then the transfer, and the recent destruction, will have to be reversed, and trees planted to remediate the damage.

If you wish to donate to the legal defense of the park, you may do so online at <http://tinyurl.com/ca9kp5m>.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
Jim Pekar
RCHCA President

Litigation Update RCH Park: April 2014

By | B-CC Middle School / RCH Park, From the RCHCA Officers

Dear neighbors,

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals, in Annapolis, released a ruling affirming the decision of the Circuit Court in Rockville, to dismiss our litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect Rock Creek Hills Park. The panel did not rule against our arguments that the proposed conversion of the Park is unlawful; instead, their ruling was based primarily on their finding that the appealing parties lack adjacent property owner and taxpayer standing. Specifically, the Court of Special Appeals held that adjacent property owners lack adjacent property owner standing because the County’s option to reclaim the land for educational use was not a land-use related provision.

This week, the RCHCA Board held an emergency meeting. After reviewing the court’s ruling, and consulting with our counsel, we consider the findings of the Court of Special Appeals to be erroneous. This is particularly true given a March 27 decision of Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which reached the opposite conclusion in a different case that dealt with similar issues. Given this, we are preparing a motion for reconsideration, asking the Court of Special Appeals to reconsider their decision on our standing in light of the recent Court of Appeals decision, and to rule on the merits of our case. Failing that, we are prepared to file an application for Certiorari to the Court of Appeals; that is, we are prepared to ask our State’s highest court to consider our case.

Your Board continues to believe that our case has considerable merit, and asks for your continued support in this matter.

Sincerely yours,
Jim Pekar – RCHCA President
John Robinson – RCHCA Litigation Committee

Litigation Update RCH Park: March 2014

By | B-CC Middle School / RCH Park, From the RCHCA Officers

Dear Neighbors,

As you may know, our litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect Rock Creek Hills Park has reached the appellate stage. On Wednesday, March 5, an oral argument was held before a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis. The judges were engaged, well prepared, and the dialogue with our counsel, Bil Chen, was on point and civil. Bil was very well prepared and anticipated all the questions that were asked by the panel. The Board of Education and the County made the same arguments as they did at the initial trial, regarding standing and land use issues. The three state agencies involved also repeated their arguments regarding their twenty-year administrative practice. The M-NCPPC did not present an oral argument. We believe that we provided the court with essential information to make a determination on the merits, which should be rendered in the next three to five months. We will keep you informed of any further developments.

Sincerely yours,
Jim Pekar – RCHCA President
John Robinson – RCHCA Litigation Committee

2014 Dues Reminder

By | From the RCHCA Officers, RCHCA Biz

Dear neighbors,

Following my election at last evening’s RCHCA meeting as President of RCHCA, I would like to thank you again for your support. I look forward to serving the community.

Our covenants contribute to the quality of life that we enjoy in Rock Creek Hills. Your association enforces these covenants, and your association is supported only by your dues. So, if you have paid your 2014 dues, then thank you very much! And if not, then please pay your dues, because they are an excellent investment in your quality of life.

Dues are $40 per household; checks payable to “RCHCA” may be sent to our Treasurer, Ms. Maria Marzullo, at 9801 East Bexhill Drive, Kensington, MD 20895.

With best regards,
Jim Pekar
President, RCHCA

RCHCA February 2014 Electronic Newsletter

By | From the RCHCA Officers, Meetings, Newsletters, RCHCA Biz

Dear Members,

The RCHCA annual meeting will be held on February 27, 2014 at 7:30 at Grace Episcopal Day School, 9411 Connecticut Avenue in the Multi-Purpose Room. The agenda includes two voting items: (1) the election of officers, and (2) policy issues related to the covenants. There will also be the treasurer’s report, a discussion of Association activities and programs (including the need for volunteers), a report on the status of the proposed middle school to be built at Rock Creek Hills Local Park and the related litigation, and a limited discussion of traffic issues related to the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site if time permits.

Election of Officers

Your Board has prepared a slate of officers for the February meeting including Jim Pekar for president, Maria Marzullo for Treasurer, and Jill Gallagher for Secretary. Sam Statland is stepping down as vice-president and at this point there is no replacement. Joe Rosenberg will being going off the board after many years of service and John Robinson will become an ex-officio officer as the ex-president. John Robinson will continue to work with the board on legal and government issues. The board welcomes additional nominations and hopes that there will be a volunteer for vice-president.

Treasurer’s Report

Cash in hand for the general operations on January 31 was $6,307 in checking and $11,250 in savings, including the receipt of $1,320 in 2014 dues to date. Cash and savings in hand for the litigation fund on January 31 was $2,830. A brief update will be provided at the meeting. The 2014 dues for operating purposes only are $40 and will be used to finance the Association’s community activities, its administrative functions, and any legal or governmental matters that are not related to the proposed conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park to a new middle school. As discussed below, matters related to the proposed middle school are separately funded and have been for the last two calendar years.

Community Activities

The Association supports a range of activities that go beyond matters that may be of immediate concern such as covenant or land use and transportation issues. These include the maintenance of three planted intersections, the signs for the entrance to our community, and at time tree planting and other open space maintenance. The Association also has activities to keep its members informed such as three regularly scheduled meetings, meeting notices, the newsletter (some of which must continue to be in hard copy), the directory, the website, and material provided by our welcoming Committee. There are at least two major community wide events – the Mother’s Day Picnic and the Halloween Parade and Party. Funds are required to support these activities, and in 2014 we will have the additional expense of a new community directory. We have an immediate need for someone to manage the two parties and relieve Marilyn Emery of that responsibility, which she has graciously performed for many years. Marilyn is quite willing to provide any volunteers with pointers on how to organize both functions, but there is no firm commitment for a replacement yet. The directory is normally done by a committee and the board will ask for a committee chair and volunteers at the meeting. Mike Baker and John Robinson will help update the mailing list and explain how to check current ownership names against the County’s public tax records. Home owners are of course free to opt out of the directory or to decline their telephone numbers or email addresses. In addition, the Village program that supports community wellbeing, particularly the elderly residents, is looking for volunteers. Please contact John Robinson if you are willing to undertake this program.

Covenants

The RCHCA covenants are essential to maintaining the appearance and quality of our community and apply to almost all lots located west of Stoneybrook Drive and the Mormon Temple. While the language varies slightly, all of the covenants address four essential points: fences, the prohibition of business activities, the subdivision of lots, and proposed construction of structures or external improvements to existing structures. The first three of these are reasonably easy to enforce for several reasons.

Fences are a critical issue because of their visual impact on the community. For this reason fences are prohibited from being further forward than the front line of the house, materials are reviewed by the board, and landscaping to soften or conceal the fence may be required. In the case of fences, the requirement to obtain approval is well established, and if a fence is constructed in violation of Association policies regarding such construction, it is possible to require the removal or modification of the fence without undue financial burden to the lot owner.

Businesses can be enjoined if detected and the Association in the past has allowed a reasonable period of time for the business to relocate. Recognizing that many people work out of their homes electronically or by mail and telephone, the Association’s board has adopted the “no impact” standard contained in the County zoning code. The revised code prohibits employees at the residence and limits all visits, including deliveries, to five per week. This permits a reasonable amount of professional consultation and FedEx type deliveries without imposing traffic or a commercial environment on the community. The County Council draft makes clear that the storage or loading of commercial landscaping equipment in an R-90 residential zone such as ours is prohibited. RCHCA will post the text of the new zoning code on home occupations on the RCHCA website when it is available.

The board believes that pressures for subdivision are likely to increase as land values escalate due to the locational advantages of our community. All subdivisions must be approved by the RCHCA board and by the Park and Planning Commission. Since public notice is required, this should be easy to monitor but the large lot size is an important RCHCA quality.

The most difficult covenants issue is the requirement to have all improvements or structural modifications excepting landscaping approved by the Rock Creek Hills Covenants committee. This requirement is absolute and has important implications for the owner because failure to comply is a breach of a condition attached to the owner’s deed and may affect the quality of the owner’s title. Moreover, failure to comply raises the possibility of hard feelings among neighbors and aesthetic impacts on the community. The board emphasizes that it does not want to engage in intrusive review of the details of proposed construction and improvements as some communities with obligatory home owner associations are known to do. But recently the board had two situations where the failure to obtain approval could have caused conflict with neighbors or had significant visual impact on the community. Both were resolved through accommodations or design review, but the issues would have been avoided if the approval process had been followed. Most importantly, if construction is begun before approval is obtained, the owner will have already spent substantial sums on permits and the work to date and may be firmly committed to a contract with strict time frames and other potentially costly provisions.

Finally, we should discuss the definition of landscaping. As houses get larger, the terrain in Rock Creek Hills means that retaining walls, large stair cases, and similar improvements have become more pronounced. Unlike vegetation, such permanent structures cannot be readily removed and could be considered to be an extension of the house. As such, I believe that they should be subject to review to ensure that there are not undue impacts on the neighboring houses, and most importantly, that those owners are able to comment.

Status Report on Rock Creek Hills Local Park and related litigation

The Montgomery County Board of Education completed its initial public design review of the middle school it intends to build on Rock Creek Hills Local Park in early November 2013 and has posted the relevant materials on the construction portion of its website at http://montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/construction/projects/bms2.shtm. The County Board will begin detailed design work this summer, construction is scheduled to begin in August 2015, and to be completed in time for the August 2017 school year. The litigation over the pending conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park to a new middle school has entered its appellate phase. The RCHCA initial brief was filed on December 4, 2013 and we received the government parties’ answering brief on January 24, 2014. The RCHCA reply brief is due February 19 and oral argument is scheduled for March 5, 2014. After reading all the appellate materials and the supporting record, Bil Chen, our counsel, and those Rock Creek Hill citizens working on the appeal, continue to believe that the appeal has a great deal of merit. In addition, all the legal bills and costs incurred prior to the drafting and filing of the December 4 brief have been paid and the only costs outstanding are for the appellate phase of the litigation. However, the costs of the last three months are considerable and an additional contribution would be helpful. In the past RCHCA has requested a special payment of $250 to support this litigation and many have provided this or more. Any amount would be welcome and we would hope that you can repeat your past contribution if possible. The contributions can be sent to our Treasurer Maria Marzullo at 9801 East Bexhill Drive, Kensington, MD 20895 or to the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association PayPal account at http://tinyurl.com/ca9kp5m. These funds will be placed in a separate account and expenses for this litigation are not paid from the RCHCA general operating accounts.

In closing, I would like to thank the RCHCA board and our members for the generous support they have provided over the last three years. These have not been easy and I could not have fulfilled my responsibilities without that support. At this point in time I look to move on toward other things. For example, I serve on the board of the Montgomery Parks Foundation and am looking forward to helping its fundraising efforts for the expansion of the Josiah Henson Park historical site on Old Georgetown Road. I would encourage that anyone interested in helping with this significant matter of African-American and local history to contact me at 240-997-4447.

Hope to see you at the meeting,

John M. Robinson

President

Annual RCHCA Meeting Notice: Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

By | From the RCHCA Officers, Meetings, RCHCA Biz

Dear Members,

The RCHCA annual meeting will be held Thursday, February 27, at 7:30 at Grace Episcopal Day School, 9411 Connecticut Avenue, in the multi-purpose room. This is an important meeting for two reasons. First, your board will present a new slate of officers, including Jim Pekar for president, Vince DeCain for vice-president, Maria Marzullo, incumbent treasurer, and Ken Sanford, incumbent secretary. The board is not wedded to this slate and welcomes any additional suggestions. Other nominations may be made at the meeting, but earlier notice would be helpful. As the ex-president John Robinson will continue to serve on the board and will be primarily responsible for any legal or regulatory matters.

Second, the meeting will address what community activities the members wishes to pursue and other matters of community wide concern. For example, do we wish to improve our landscaping and we expand or enhance our present social activities such as the Mother’s Day and Halloween Festivals? If so, who will staff them? We should appoint a committee for a new directory as the current one is outdated. There are also numerous things going on around us such as transportation improvements and the expanded development of Kensington, Chevy Chase Lake, NIH, and Wheaton. The updated zoning code now before the Council has important implications for our community and the covenants that sustain its character. For example, there is likely to be increased pressure for subdividing the existing lots, which requires prior approval under the covenants, continued pressure for home based businesses that exceed the minimal levels permitted under the County zoning ordinance, and the possibility of increased traffic and sidewalks. There will be an update on the current school situation, but it is time to spend more of our time and administrative resources on these other long term concerns affecting Rock Creek Hills’ future. For this reason I urge you to remain involved and to volunteer to define and to advance those concerns.

A more extensive message will follow about two weeks before the meeting to provide you with updated details on these and other matters.

Sincerely yours,

John M. Robinson

RCHCA October 2013 Electronic Newsletter

By | From the RCHCA Officers, Meetings, Newsletters, RCHCA Biz, Social Events

Dear Members,

This is the electronic newsletter for the fall meeting and the third quarter of 2013. The principal items are an update on covenant matters, the status of matters related to Rock Creek Hills Local Park and its immediate future, our financial situation, and a number of neighborhood activities, including a presentation by the Village. The RCHCA fall meeting will be held Thursday, October 10, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Day School, 9411 Connecticut Avenue, in the multi-purpose room.

We will update the directory next year and if you are a new resident please provide your name, address, and telephone number (optional) to Landis Fisher at fisherlandis@gmail.com. Contact John Robinson at jmarkrobinson@verizon.net if you would like to help.

2013 Halloween Parade and Picnic

The 2013 Halloween Parade and Picnic will be held on Sunday, October 27, between 12 noon and 3. We will assemble in the parking lot of Rock Creek Hills Local Park and parade to the Statlands’ house at 3500 Saul Road. Our thanks to Marilyn Emery for arranging this annual event and to Sam and Ann Statland for making their lot available.

Covenants

The RCHCA Executive Committee has made significant progress on covenants matters. With three small historical exceptions, all fence and accessory structure issues previously called to its attention have been resolved. At this point there are no home based businesses that the Committee is aware of that have employees or have customers or clients regularly coming to a Rock Creek Hills residence. Residences are reminded that only single family houses are permitted in Rock Creek Hills and that all fences and exterior improvements to a house or ancillary structures require the Board’s approval.

The Executive Committee will continue to monitor the proposals now before the County Council that would modify the County zoning code in several regards. In addition to the accessory apartment issue, these include home based professional services and the keeping of animals other than the more conventional pets such as cats and dogs.

The Executive Committee has received several anonymous calls or complaints regarding possible violations of the Rock Creek Hills covenants. The Committee will not act on such calls. First, we believe that homeowners are entitled to know the source of any dissatisfaction if it becomes necessary to begin an enforcement action. Second, such an action is possible only if there is supporting testimony by the immediately adjoining and opposing neighbors. We will keep the source of any concerns confidential during an initial investigation to minimize conflict and to facilitate informal resolutions. If there is merit to the concern and it is resolved informally, all information will remain confidential.

Vince DeCain remains our lead covenant officer for approval of plans that are subject to the covenants and contact point for concerns. His email address is Decainvf@aol.com.

Rock Creek Hills Local Park Update

The Board of Education has begun its preliminary design review for the proposed middle school to be constructed on Rock Creek Hills Local Park. The meeting schedule and locations were previously circulated on RCHCAnet and will be posted on the website. The next meeting is September 25 at 7:00 at North Chevy Chase Elementary School on Jones Bridge Road. The appellate litigation is in its preliminary phases, having been timely filed with the Court of Special Appeals, the first tier appellate court. We have prepared a digest of the record and reached agreement among the parties on the exhibits to be used during briefing. The Court of Special Appeals has not provided a briefing schedule. That Court normally takes one and a half to two years to act after the trial court issues its final decision, which was on May 8, 2013.

Financial Information

The general operating fund has been separately maintained as a reserve for such matters as the maintenance of the RCHCA covenants, meetings, minor regulatory and tax expenses, and community activities. As of September 17, 2013 our general checking and savings totaled $19,736. Ordinary operating expenses for 2013 so far have been $3,392 against ordinary income of $8,250. The Rock Creek Hills Local Park litigation fund has a balance as of September 15 of $1300 and payment due counsel of $2550. An updated report will be provided by Maria Marzullo, our new treasurer, at the meeting. The Board requests that you renew, or join, our membership. The annual dues of $40 per household will be used only for the general community activities mentioned above. Please mail your dues to Maria Marzullo, 9801 East Bexhill Drive, Kensington, MD 20895.

Finally, please give some thought to a new RCHCA president in 2014. I have served for three years and some new blood should take over. I hope you will attend the meeting.

John M. Robinson
President, RCHCA

School Board Announces Meeting Dates for B-CC MS #2

By | B-CC Middle School / RCH Park, From the RCHCA Officers

Dear RCHCA Residents:

Below is a notice regarding the meetings the School Board Staff is
scheduling for the schematic design of the proposed BCC MS #2 planned for
the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site starting September 11. It is
appropriate to attend those meetings to be informed and to suggest design
changes that would mitigate the impact of the proposed school and to assure
it most effectively serves the students if it is built. However I believe
nothing will be gained at this point from protesting the prior decision at
these meetings or debating whether the school should be built. The Council
President recently affirmed that the Council and the rest of the County
government consider this issue closed. If we are to be effective as a
community in addressing design concerns, it should be for constructive
engagement and comment. Otherwise we are likely be ignored and undercut any
educational and design concerns our residents may have.

Please call if you have any concerns,

Regards,

John M. Robinson

President RCHCA

301-949-5452
From: westland-net@yahoogroups.com [mailto:westland-net@yahoogroups.com] On
Behalf Of Kelsey, Jo Anne
Sent: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 11:47 AM
To: westland-net@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [westland-net] Schematic Design Meetings for B-CC Middle School #2

Westland community members are encouraged to join any/all parts of the
design process for BCC MS #2. The first meeting will be held in Westland’s
media center at 3:00 on Wednesday, September 11th. Successive meetings will
be held at North Chevy Chase ES and will alternate between afternoon and
evening times.

Schematic Design Meetings for Bethesda Chevy Chase Middle School #2

Meeting Schedules

Work Session Meeting #1
Westland Middle School – Media Center
5511 Massachusetts Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20816
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 3:00 pm

Work Session Meeting #2
North Chevy Chase Elementary School – Media Center
3700 Jones Bridge Road, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 7:00 pm

Work Session Meeting #3
North Chevy Chase Elementary School – Media Center
3700 Jones Bridge Road, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 3:45 pm

Work Session Meeting #4
North Chevy Chase Elementary School – Media Center
3700 Jones Bridge Road, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 7:00 pm

PTA/Community Schematic Design Presentation
North Chevy Chase Elementary School – Media Center
3700 Jones Bridge Road, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815
Tuesday November 11, 2013 7:00 pm

If you have any questions regarding this process please contact Mr. Dennis
Cross, MCPS project manager at 240-314-1012 or send an e.mail to
Dennis_Cross@mcpsmd.org

Jodie Kelsey

Main Office Secretary

RCHCA Comment to Planning Board for July 11 2013 meeting

By | B-CC Middle School / RCH Park, From the RCHCA Officers, RCHCA Biz

All,

Please see below the comment submitted to the Planning Board regarding the
proposed transfer of Rock Creek Hills Local Park to Montgomery County as
stated on the Board’s July 11 agenda.

Yours,

John M. Robinson

From: John Robinson [mailto:jmarkrobinson@verizon.net] Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 7:35 AM
To: ‘MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org’
Subject: July 11 meeting – Item 17 – Transfer of Rock Creek HIlls Local Park

Comment on Item 17, July 11 Agenda.

To Planning Chair Carrier and the Planning Board Commissioners:

On returning from vacation late last night, I read the Board’s proposed July
11 agenda and noticed that the Parks Department Staff is recommending the
transfer of the Rock Creek Hills Local Park to Montgomery County per the
Transfer Agreement dated February 9, 1990. The Rock Creek Hills Citizens
Association regrets the likely loss by the public of the use of that Park
some two years before the scheduled construction of the new middle school.
We had hoped that the Park would be available to the general public until
that time. Please be advised that the Association has appealed the recent
court decision affirming the proposed used the Park for a middle school and,
if we were to prevail, the transfer would have to be rescinded.

I know that the Commission would have also preferred that the site remain a
park.

Sincerely yours,

John M. Robinson

for the

Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association

“The Village” Informational Meeting May 16, 2013 @ 8 pm

By | From the RCHCA Officers, Intergenerational Village, Villages of Kensington

All,

At our annual meeting we discussed establishing a Rock Creek Hills chapter
of “The Village”, which provides supportive services to local communities.
Fifi Chase will host a meeting in this regard on May 16, 8:00 p.m. at her
house [on] Old Spring Road. A representative of The Village will be
there to discuss the organization. Drop a note to Fifi at (fortfifi@aol.com) if
you would like to attend.

Yours,

John M. Robinson