Notes from the City of Greenbelt/GHI Stakeholders Meeting on 7-16-18

people shaking hands

On Monday, July 16, 2018, the GHI Board and General Manager met with the City of Greenbelt City Council for a work session.  Items on the agenda included GHI’s request to permit contractors to dispose of leaf and tree waste at the City’s Northway Fields, questions about the seven GHI-owned playgrounds which the City maintains, WSSC’s proposal regarding water pipes to GHI homes, the City’s plan to replace the Southway welcome sign, and right-of-way encroachment issues.  GHI and the City also discussed their common stances on the P.G. County Zoning Re-Write, the MAGLEV train project, and proposed widening of the BW Parkway.  Additionally, GHI requested notification from the City regarding all road and sidewalk projects that affect GHI homes and buildings.

Read below for more detailed notes regarding the work session.

Disposal of Tree Waste at the City’s Northway Fields

  • Until a few years ago, GHI employees and contractors were permitted to deposit leaves from common areas by GHI employees, leaves removed from gutters by contractors, and wood chips and tree trunks from tree maintenance by contractors.
  • GHI is currently allowed to deposit leaves collected from common areas, but contractors are not permitted to deposit leaves, wood chips, or tree trunks.
  • GHI requested permission from the City of Greenbelt to deposit the materials collected by contractors.  GHI contractors are currently filling dumpsters with these materials, and it is very costly for GHI to have them hauled away.
  • Mayor Jordan explained that an individual depositing these materials at the Northway Fields is not the same as an entity doing so. GHI Board Members argued that GHI is comprised of individuals living in Greenbelt with Mayor Jordan reiterating the difference between individuals and entities.
  • Public Works employee Townsend stated that the City is running out of space at the Northway Fields.
  • When asked by Council Member Roberts why GHI did not require the contractors to haul away the materials, General Manager Ralph stated that it was not in the current contract, but GHI will look into that for future contracts.
  • Mayor Jordan stated that he was comfortable asking the GHI and City staffs to continue to work together to eliminate the wood chips by finding new uses for them, therefore making more space at the Northway Fields.

Playground Agreement with the City of Greenbelt re: Seven GHI-Owned Playgrounds

  • GHI and the City are in an agreement in which the City maintains seven GHI-owned playgrounds, while GHI pays for 25% of the improvements.
  • When GHI asked if all seven playgrounds comply with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and/or ASTM standards, Townsend stated that five of the seven playgrounds are in compliance.
  • Of the two that are not in full compliance, the City has applied for a grant to upgrade one, and they plan to apply for another grant next year to upgrade the second one.
  • When asked how often the playgrounds are inspected, Townsend said they are inspected regularly; the inspector writes quarterly reports, which he will be happy to share with GHI.
  • Council Member Mach requested if it were possible to add a phone number to signage at all playgrounds for residents to report damaged equipment to the City.
  • When asked if the City maintains a file of injuries at the playgrounds, Mayor Pro Tem Davis said that the City does maintain a file and no serious injuries have been reported.  She also commented about the “hot playground equipment” signs that were added to sunny playgrounds in recent years.

WSSC’s Proposal to Replace Water Pipes for GHI’s Masonry Homes

  • In 1958, in an agreement betweek WSSC, the City, and GHI, WSSC took ownership of the water pipes up to the meter boxes of the GHI homes which were located approximately five feet away from homes.
  • In 2008, WSSC proposed to replace the pipes and install new meters at the current locations.
  • Later proposals were to move the meters closer to the street and require GHI to maintain future maintenance and replacement of the pipes from the meters to the homes; in 2013, this was an estimated cost of $1,514,400.00 to GHI.
  • In 2013, WSSC informed GHI that the proposed project had been abandoned.
  • In May 2017, WSSC informed GHI that they planned to move forward with the 2008 proposal; they would move the meters, but would maintain responsibility for the on-property pipes for 30 years from the completion of the project.
  • GHI is currently still in negotiation with WSSC about this proposal.  Read more about the GHI work session regarding the WSSC proposal here.
  • Mayor Jordan stated that he would be willing for the City to help with the negotiations as problems with the pipes, such as water main breaks, have an impact on all roads in the City.
  • General Manager Ralph said they were hopeful that the City would be involved, and they should start to consider what City staff would be involved, as the negotiations should continue in the coming weeks.

Welcome Sign at Southway

  • GHI inquired as to whether the City plans to replace or refurbish the “Welcome to Greenbelt” sign at the entrance on Southway.
  • Mayor Jordan explained that the City has received a grant and approved a design for a new welcome sign.
  • The City explained that this welcome sign will have a different design as creating one with a map of Greenbelt posed a number of issues ranging from cost, accuracy, what is determined to boundaries of Greenbelt and which were to be included.
  • A new Community Planner will be starting in August so they hope that a Request For Proposal (RFP) will be completed in the fall for construction of the new welcome sign.

Resolution of the Right-of-way Encroachment Issues

  • From 1996-2003, GHI hired a company to survey and plot the boundaries of GHI property.
  • In 2005, the City suggested guidelines for resolving the issue of GHI units and yards that encroached on the City’s rights of way.  The GHI Board did not approve this.
  • From 2009-2012, GHI and the City worked together on encroachment issues for eight GHI homes on Crescent Road.
  • From 2014-2017, GHI and the City again collaborated to redesign rights of way at units along Hillside Road, Ridge Road, and Research Road.
  • There continue to be two categories of rights of way encroachment:
    • Category 1 – 81 yard boundaries are outside of GHI property by approximately one foot
    • Category 2 – 92 natural yard boundaries are outside of GHI property by more than one foot
  • In 2016, GHI asked the City’s Planning and Community Development staff to prepare a new draft memorandum of understanding for the remaining locations with rights of way encroachment issues; the City’s staff has not begun to work on these items.
  • The City commented that this project is on hold due to current staffing limitations.  Several months ago, the City suggested to General Manger Ralph that it would be appropriate for GHI to begin drafting a memorandum of understanding as well.
  • It is anticipated that the project will resume in the fall, pending a full City staff.

P.G. County’s Zoning Re-Write Project

  • GHI’s Zoning Task Force is drafting a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Zone (NCOZ) to protect our historic community.
  • Recently, GHI and the City wrote a joint letter to Councilman Todd Turner which stated it was best to preserve a Legacy Residential Planned Community (RPC) in case the NCOZ does not protect us in the anticipated manner.
  • Vice President Brodd said that Councilman Turner was amenable to making a RPC.
  • Mayor Jordan asked GHI to keep the City apprised of GHI’s communications and progress on this matter.
  • Council Member Byrd thought that it was appropriate for all stakeholders to stay vigilant.

Proposed MAGLEV Project

  • The GHI Board and the City both support the “No Build” option for the MAGLEV train.
  • A decision by the Maryland Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration will not be made until December 29, the scheduled date for completion of the Environmental Impact Statement.
  • President Skolnik thanked the City for their position and stated that he looks forward to working together to ensure this project does not happen.

Proposals Floated to Widen the BW Parkway

  • Governor Larry Hogan has floated proposals to widen the BW Parkway.
  • The GHI Board voted to oppose the widening of the BW Parkway and/or Beltway in a way that would impact GHI-owned lands.
  • Mayor Jordan stated that he has met with the mayor of Cheverly; the mayor would like to work together with other cities along the BW Parkway who would be impacted by this project.
  • Council Member Mach referred to a 2012 study that showed the negative impacts and cost of widening the BW Parkway; she would like to consider sharing this with all state legislators, as it was previously only sent to the Governor and our delegates.

Notification of Road Maintenance Projects Undertaken in the GHI Community

  • A few months ago, the City began a road and sidewalk improvement project along Ridge Road; GHI’s Board and Management were not notified of this project.
  • GHI requested that the City notify them of major projects that will affect GHI.
  • The City Council agreed to do a better job of informing GHI of projects that will affect them in the future.

Questions and Answers

  • Mayor Jordan asked GHI how the Homes Improvement Project was coming along.
    • General Manager Ralph responded that is going great.  There were some hiccups last year, but GHI now has a multi-year contract through 2020.
  • Council Member Byrd asked GHI to elaborate on how the zoning rewrites could affect GHI.
    • General Manager Ralph stated that if the current zoning structure were to change, it could make it difficult to obtain permits.
    • President Skolnik said that GHI had feared that changes to the zoning regulations would come into effect during HIP.  However, he believes that even if it were to pass, it would be a couple of years out, and therefore not impact HIP.  He emphasized again the importance of pushing for a Legacy zoning.
  • Mayor Jordan asked how GHI sales were going.
    • President Skolnik replied that sales are going well, with approximately 50 units on the market.
  • Mayor Pro Tem Davis asked if GHI had a problem with unoccupied units.
    • General Manager Ralph replied that GHI has done very well with resolving issues of long-standing vacancies.  Once the issue is brought to their attention, the GHI staff works quickly to resolve it.
  • Mayor Pro Tem Davis also asked about rentals in GHI.
    • General Manager Ralph said that there are currently about 11 rentals in GHI units, which is down from 23-24 six years ago.
  • Mayor Pro Tem Davis asked if GHI had any units that were used for Air BNB.
    • President Skoknik stated that is not permitted in GHI, and there have been no issues of this reported to his knowledge.

 

Author: Lauren Wisniewski

Lauren is a lifelong Greenbelter. She grew up in GHI as a child and returned to GHI as an owner in 2008.

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