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Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association February 2013 Electronic Newsletter

By | B-CC Middle School / RCH Park, Meetings, Newsletters, RCHCA Biz

Click here for pdf version of the February 2013 Newsletter

Dear Members,

This is the electronic newsletter for the annual meeting and for the first quarter of 2013. The principal issues are scheduling the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association (RCHCA)annual meeting (Thursday, April 4, 2013), the status of litigation related to Rock Creek Hills Local Park and its immediate future, our general financial situation (including dues), and the election of officers.

Annual Meeting

The RCHCA annual meeting will be held Thursday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Day School, 9411 Connecticut Avenue, in the multi-purpose room. The meeting has been delayed to coincide with the anticipated date of a court ruling on the merits of RCHCA’s suit to prevent the conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park to non-park use, in this case a proposed middle school. The agenda items include the status of that litigation, RCHCA’s overall financial situation, and the election of officers.

Rock Creek Hills Local Park Litigation

The RCHCA complaint was filed on August 16, 2103, in Circuit Court against the Montgomery County Board of Education, the County Executive in his official capacity, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the Planning Board), three state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Montgomery County Council. The action against the Council was later dismissed without prejudice by stipulation. The legal issues are such that it was necessary to sue all of these agencies. The number of parties involved increased the amount of filings well above what is normally involved with a significant increase in cost.

Although there are a number of issues related to standing, timing, and the
like, there are two principal substantive issues. Somewhat more than 20
years ago RCH Local Park was developed with Public Open Space (POS) funds.
Given the use of these funds, the most important issue is whether RCH Local
Park may be converted to non-park use without full DNR review of the
conversion, and if conversion occurs, whether the converting agency must
replace the current park with the same amount of new parkland providing
replacement recreation facilities of the same recreation value as those now
located in RCH Local Park. DNR is arguing that because the improvements
arising from this development of our park are more than 20 years old no DNR
review of the facilities is necessary nor is their replacement by the
converting agency required. We believe there is no statutory or other legal
basis for this position. In addition, we are arguing that the law bars the
Planning Board from transferring the RCH Local Park for non-park use unless
it finds that RCH Park is not needed for park purposes, which speaks for
itself.

Since the filing of the complaint, the parties have completed most factual
and document discovery, and each side has prepared motions for summary
judgment based on the record to date. In our case, that effort has meant
preparing such a motion containing multiple counts against each of the
defendant parties, as well responding to each of the defendant’s arguments
about why our actions should be dismissed. The defendants have filed their
answers to our motions to dismiss, to which we will now reply. At that
point the record should be complete and we anticipate that the case will be
decided without requiring a factual hearing.

The hearing on the pleadings is scheduled for March 14, 2013. RCHCA
continues to believe in it and the individual plaintiffs will prevail, and
therefore the defendant parties will be enjoined from converting RCH Local
Park to non-park use without complying with the required statutory
provisions. Such compliance would be extremely expensive as it would
require the purchase of new land, and thus would likely require any new
school to be located elsewhere. Depending on the court’s ruling and the
actions of the defending parties, we will discuss at the April 4 what
actions the Association should take.

For the reasons I have discussed, this lawsuit has been quite costly. By
December 31, we had spent somewhat in excess of $50,000 and have raised just
enough funds to cover our costs through that date. You will recall that
RCHCA determined that this litigation would be funded as a separate
association activity, and that funding would be solicited as needed to
moderate the impact of that funding. To this end, RCHCA established a
litigation account to be kept strictly separate from our general operating
funds.

We have done so and it is our intention to continue to fund this litigation
from a separate account. Another round of funding is being requested at
this time. Specifically, an additional $20,000 is needed to sustain the
litigation through the end of March (after the hearing on the pleadings).
As before, in addition to maintaining separation of litigation funds from
other association funds, if there is a surplus in the funds raised since
December 31, they will be refunded pro rata based on the contributions since
that date. Please make any checks to the Rock Creek Hills Citizens
Association, noted to the Litigation fund, and mail them to John M. Robinson
at 9616 Old Spring Road, Kensington, MD, 20895. The funds should be
received no later than March 1, 2013.

General Financial Information

This is the report for the general operating fund which has been separately
maintained as a reserve for other important matters such as the enforcement
of the RCHCA covenants (particularly related to ongoing fence and
construction issues), meeting and minor regulatory and tax expenses, and our
community activities. As of December 18, 2012, our checking and savings
account totaled $14,089. This is not as much money as it seems when
ordinary operating expenses for 2012 were $8033.47 against ordinary income
of $8107. 47. A final report will be provided by our treasurer at the
meeting, along with a request that you renew, or join, our membership. An
envelope requesting the payment of the $40 per household will be coming your
way. Please contribute.

Election of Officers

We will be electing RCHCA officers for period through January 2014. The
following have agreed to serve another term: President, John M. Robinson;
Vice-President, Samuel Statland; Secretary, Kenneth Sanford. David Hall is
stepping down as Treasurer after excellent service in computerizing our
books and straightening our past records. He will provide Quicken training
for his successor, who we badly need. Please step up and volunteer for this
important, but modest, time commitment.

Fall 2012 Newsletter

By | Newsletters

The RCHCA Fall meeting is Thursday, October 11, at 7:30 in the in the all-purpose room of Grace Episcopal Day School, 9411 Connecticut Avenue

Dear Members,

Things seem to be quieting down after a year and a half of intense activity
by many of our RCHCA members and its board of directors. The Fall
meeting will be short and consist mostly of an information session. Thus
this newsletter leads off with . . . .

The Halloween Parade and Picnic, an important annual event for our
community, will be held on SUNDAY, October 28, beginning at 12:00 in Rock
Creek Hills Local Park. The parade will terminate at Ann and Sam Statland’s
at 3500 Saul Road. We look forward to seeing you there. Many thanks to
Marilyn Emery for her efforts in arranging this event and Sam Statland for
representing the RCHCA Board and the generous use of his lawn.

Litigation Update

RCHCA continues to pursue two challenges the Montgomery County Board of
Education’s selection of Rock Creek Hills Local Park as the proposed site
for the second BCC Cluster middle school.

The first is the administrative appeal to the State Board of Education. The
last pleadings were filed in July by RCHCA, the individual neighborhood
appellants and the County Education Board. The central issues before the
State Board is whether County Board adequately reviewed the two alternatives
developed during the Site Selection Advisory Committee in March 2012. There
is unlikely to be a formal hearing in this proceeding and the State Board
has no required time frame for issuing a decision. At this point the
administrative appeal to the State Board has cost less than $100 and we
anticipate minimal further expenses at this time.

The second challenge is an action filed in the Montgomery County Circuit
Court on August 16, 2012. RCHCA and the individual complainants assert
that the various local and state agencies did not comply with federal and
state statutes governing the proposed conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local
Park to a middle school site. The action is technically complex, but
asserts that under Federal and State open space law our local park may not
be converted before alternative local park facilities of the same size and
utility are provided by the appropriate Montgomery County governing body.
The action also asserts that the State Department of Natural Resources
failed its statutory obligations by requiring that the alternative
facilities be provided prior to any conversion. Finally, we are asserting
that Rock Creek Hills Local Park may not be transferred until the Maryland
National Capital Park and Planning Commission determines that is not needed
for park purposes. The various defendants were served on September 28 and
the first hearing is scheduled for November 16, 2012. We believe this
action will be determined on the pleadings since almost all issues are legal
ones.

The Montgomery County action has required about one third of the dedicated
funds raised to date and as mid-September we have $29,313.72 remaining.
While this is a good balance, additional contributions are most welcome.

Covenants Issue

The RCHCA Board has been informed that a lawn service and landscaping
business appears to be operating out of a house on East Bexhill Street.
This appears to be in violation of both County zoning regulations and of the
covenants precluded the operation of this type of business in our community.
The Board is investigating and hopes to resolve any violations of the County
zoning regulations and the land use covenants without litigation. An update
will be provided at our annual meeting in January or February.

Nomination of Officers

The terms of the current RCHCA officers will expire at our annual meeting.
John Robinson is willing to serve another term as president, as will Sam
Statland as Vice-President and Ken Sanford as Secretary. David Hall will
have provided yeoman service as Treasurer for over three years and is
stepping down. A nominating committee should be selected to develop a
full slate of officers.

Treasurer’s Report

This Treasurer’s report is divided into two sections to break out the
difference between the ordinary operations and the funds and expenses
related to the Montgomery Circuit Court action regarding the proposed
conversion of Rock Creek Hills Local Park to a middle school. Turning first
to the litigation fund, as stated the current balance in the dedicated
litigation fund is $29,313.72 and we have spent a total of $13,772.59 to
date or 32 percent of the funds raised so far.

Ordinary Income – Ordinary income for the period January 1 to September 6,
2012 was $7,857.47 consisting of 2013 dues of $35.00; $400 in donations;
2012 dues of $7420; and interest of $2.47.

Expenses – Totaled $8737.68 as follows:

  • Communications, $3288.52, consisting of newsletters, $2,204.90, website maintenance, $119.76, and $963.86 for a one-time non-recurring flyer related to the Rock Creek Hills Local Park issues.
  • Meetings Expenses of $455.99, of which $35 was non-recurring.
  • Social Events of $417.93.
  • Triangle Maintenance of $786.03.
  • Miscellaneous Expense of $3789.24 – Of this miscellaneous expense, $2898 was a non-recurring payment for an engineering review of the County SchoolBoard’s estimated construction cost of the proposed middle school on the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site.
  • Mutt-Mitts – $891.24 for mutt-mitts to help dog owners clear up after walks in Rock Creek Hills Local Park, which is in excess of 10 percent of our revenue. Your Board has concluded that this obligation should be borne the dog owners, not the community as a whole. The matter is open for further discussion at the October 11 meeting.

The Board notes that of total operating expenses of $7,857.47 this year,
$3,986.86 were related to the difficult situation involving Rock Creek Hills
Local Park.

The RCHCA balance sheet exclusive of the litigation accounts is: Checking
account, $4517.86; Money market fund, $11,514.99; Total ordinary assets,
$16,086.85.

The RCHCA dues remain $35 for 2012 but will rise to $40 in 2013. As is
suggested in the discussion of covenants here, we need to maintain a healthy
balance if we are to protect the integrity of our community.

Respectfully submitted with my best wishes,

John M. Robinson

RCHCA Newsletter Publishing Vacancy – A Great Volunteer Opportunity!

By | Newsletters, RCHCA Biz, Volunteer

The Association would like to thank Jed Dinger for his many years of service (7 years!!) in producing this visually appealing and informative communication tool!

We are searching for a volunteer neighbor to help produce our association newsletter. This newsletter is published three times a year, for the spring fall and winter issues. This is a good opportunity for someone who would like to get involved in the neighborhood
by volunteering, but prefers a role that’s clearly defined and predictable in it’s time commitment. It involves inserting the supplied text into the newsletter layout and
sending the electronic file to the printer. Our printer handles everything from
that point forward. We need someone to start with the Spring issue, and Jed Dinger
(our current publisher) will be available to assist with the orientation. Please direct
your inquiries to Jed Dinger by email: jed@jeddinger.com.