Zoning, Pipes,Yard Beautification, and Bicycles Discussed at the January 17, 2019 GHI Board Meeting

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The January 17, 2019 GHI Board meeting not only had a very full agenda, but included several items that could potentially have long-lasting effects on the cooperative.  These items include:

  • Member comments on the GHI Zoning Task Force’s (ZTF) proposed Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Zone (NCOZ),
  • A  discussion of next steps for the replacement or relining of  water supply and waste pipes for masonry and frame homes,
  • A review of the 2018 Community Beautification Program (CBP) and the GHI Yard Solutions Task Force recommendations for the 2019 CBP, and
  • The GHI Bicycle Committee’s  recommendation for a change to GHI parking rules to accommodate bicycles.

Please note that there were other agenda items addressed during the GHI Board meeting which are not discussed in this article. 

Member Comments on the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Zone (NCOZ)

Member comments received by GHI about the ZTF’s proposed NCOZ were provided to the Board members prior to the Board meeting for their review.  The Board President began the discussion of the proposed NCOZ by suggesting that each Board member take a turn sharing their opinions about the proposed NCOZ and how they thought the Board should proceed.  During this discussion most of the Board members agreed that the NCOZ should protect those things that make GHI unique:

  • Garden City design,
  • The superblocks,
  • Its walkability, and
  • Its open green space.

Several of the Board members agreed that there was too much in the NCOZ that addressed structures and architectural details. Most of the Board believes that it should be left up to GHI to develop standards concerning the architectural details of our townhouses, and to provide architectural review of member-proposed changes or additions, rather than ceding these activities to the city and the county. The discussion then turned to how to proceed with the proposed NCOZ.

The Board President was under the impression that the City Council wanted GHI’s comments on the NCOZ soon.  Council Member Rodney Roberts was in attendance and stated that there was no timeline of which he was aware. He also said that GHI should take the time it needs.

After further discussion, the Board decided that there was too much that needed to be discussed to finalize the proposed NCOZ during this Board meeting. The Board President then steered the discussion towards possible ways for the Board to move forward, such as each member commenting on a Google Docs version of the proposed NCOZ or holding a work session. The Board decided to schedule a work session on January 31, 2019 at 7:00 P.M. to work on the proposed NCOZ. This was followed by the Board President’s proposal that Board members provide comments to the Board President prior to the work session.  Board President Steve Skolnik and Board Director Stefan Brodd would meet to consolidate all the comments and suggested changes into a new draft. This draft will be be the focus of the January 31, 2019 work session.

Brief Summary of Member Comments

Fifty-two (52) GHI members submitted comments to the Board of Directors about the ZTF’s proposed NCOZ. Copies of the written comments were distributed to the Board and members in attnedance. Members who would like access to these comments or obtain copies of the comments can contact GHI’s management office.

  • These written comments touched on most, if not all, sections of the proposed NCOZ.
  • Some comments were long and some were very detailed.
  • Only four members supported the NCOZ as written, with one stating that they would also be in support of any changes GHI might make to improve it.
  • A number of members stated their appreciation for the hard work by the ZTF in writing the draft NCOZ, but still expressed concerns about some of the content.
  • One staff member submitted a comment that emphasized to the ZTF the importance of developing objective guidelines that avoid the use of subjective language which could be open to interpretation.
  • To the staff member’s point, there were comments that raised questions concerning the language used in various sections of the NCOZ.

The proposed NCOZ  includes more density and building height than what currently exists. The proposed NCOZ would allow  infill development on open space and woods that are not part of the 87.65 acres owned by GHI and in a Forest Conservation Agreement.  The NCOZ cedes review of architectural details and standards from GHI  to the City of Greenbelt with the creation of  a city-level Review Board. This review board would review proposed plans for architectural changes to existing housing to ensure that they meet the standards  specified in the NCOZ. The review by the review board will be followed with  a review by the county’s planning director to ensure that the proposed architectural standards are met before the county issues a permit.

The following are the concerns that were expressed most frequently by members commenting on the proposed NCOZ:

  • Many members were not in favor of any increase in density nor any increase in building height in GHI.
  • Some members were not in favor of historic buildings being torn down and replaced, even if the new buildings reflected the architectural materials and details of the historic buildings.
  • Some members commented more specifically that they were against any infill development on open space or in woods that were not included in the 87.65 acres of GHI-owned woodlands in a Forest Conservation Agreement.
  •  Comments were expressed concerning the following items:
    • Making future additions much smaller than is currently permitted under GHI regulations.
    • Prohibiting wraparound additions.
    • Not allowing entryways or porches to be enclosed.
    • Requiring additions to be built out of the same materials as the original townhouse; block units would have to build block additions and brick units would have to build brick additions.
    • The restrictions on the number and size of windows both on the original structure and on additions. (On additions, windows must also be compatible in style, size, and operation as the original dwelling unit.)
    • The standard prohibiting garage additions, and
    • Ceding control to the city and county, rather than keeping within GHI the creation and enforcement of architectural standards for existing housing.

Next Steps for the Replacement or Rehabilitation of the Frame and Masonry Water Supply and Waste Pipes

The Buildings Committee’s Report to the GHI Board (Pipe Rehabilitation Techniques of Water Supply and Waste Pipes) contained a number of recommendations concerning how GHI should proceed with this project before making a decision about whether to replace pipes or use new technologies to reline the existing pipes. There are a variety of relining approaches available today and the Buildings Committee concluded some would not be appropriate for use in GHI. In addition, the Buildings Committee felt strongly that there are a number of steps that should be taken before making a decision on whether to replace or reline pipes as relining technologies are new and may not be as cost-effective or safe as they first appear to be.

The Committee recommendations address work that was outside the Task Force’s current scope, and, in some cases, they felt should be conducted by experienced and independent consultants.  A brief summary of these recommendations follows:

  • Hire an experienced consultant to conduct an inspection of the pipes in a sample of GHI units.
  • Contract with an independent consultant or professional housing association to perform a thorough evaluation of and written report on pipe rehabilitation options available to GHI, provide cost estimates and recommendations to GHI.
  • Compile GHI pipe maintenance data and determine the historical occurrences of pipe failures as segregated by housing type, pipe material, water or waste, and by location in GHI.
  • Collect anecdotal evidence from existing and prior GHI management and plumbing staff on general pipe repair problems experienced in GHI and specific suggestions on how to proceed with the pipe rehabilitation project.
  • Study the performance of the epoxy spray pipe rehabilitation in the duplex at 62 Crescent Road applied approximately 10 years ago. Test the quality of the water.
  • Consult further with university researchers, professional housing associations and industry representatives to corroborate and expand preliminary findings of the Task Force.
  • Design and implement a practicability study to test pipe refurbishment or replacement techniques on each housing type and existing pipe condition.

The Board directed the General Manager to develop a plan based on these recommendations. The General Manager reminded the Board that some of the expenditures that would be required to proceed with some of these recommendations are not in this year’s budget. The Board instructed him still to proceed with developing a plan and that the plan could also propose referring some of these recommendations to the Task Force to complete.

Review of the 2018 Community Beautification Program (CBP) and the GHI Yard Solutions Task Force Recommendations for the 2019 CBP

Director of Maintenance George Bachman provided a summary of the 2018 CBP. He stated that:

  • 2,733 inspections were performed with the inspection cycles starting May 3, 2018 and ending July 30, 2018.
  • Two maintenance staff members spent 807.25 labor hours on this effort.
  • 744 citations were not corrected after the final citation (36% of the citations issued during the first inspection cycle).
  • Of these, most units had one or two citations and 34 units had 5 or more citations.
  • There were 22 units failing the final inspection with four or more citations. These remaining 22 units will be inspected more frequently.

The largest number of citations in Group A of the inspection form was 185 citations for “clear plant growth and debris from walkways.” This was followed by 162 units being cited for “mold/mildew from walls.” In Group B the largest number of citations (231) was given for “rake and remove leaf debris.”

Another category listed in the report was Additional Correction Required or Notation. 438 citations were issued in this category and the majority of them were for missing house numbers.

Task Force on Yard Solutions Report on the CBP

The Task Force on Yard Solutions for a 21st Century Garden City (Task Force on Yard Solutions) presented a report on the CBP.  They made the following recommended wording changes for 2019:

  • Trim shrubs and trees that are in contact with unit where they obstruct maintenance.
  • Invasive plants-poison ivy-English ivy-wisteria climbing trees/walls.
  • Keep hedges below 36″height at driveway or sidewalk intersections with streets,
  • Add item: Stormwater drainage is obstructed. Contact GHI at 301/474-4161 to correct obstruction.
  • Clear woody plant growth and debris from walkway.
  • Cover bare soil spots greater than 2 square feet with ground cover, plants, mulch (but not leaves) or grass seed.

Starting with the 2019 inspection, the focus will be on the 200 yards and homes consistently out of compliance. GHI Inspection staff will also reduce the time spent on yards with a recent history of compliance. Yards that have had no Group A deficiencies and no more than one Group B deficiency over the last three years will be switched to a schedule of an inspection every three years.

Members will be notified before the 2019 inspection using e-news and (perhaps) the News Review. There will be a provision for member feedback and the notification will reference a new and accurate “Tips for Passing the Yard Inspections.”

Members may call GHI and report member yards or homes that are out of compliance.

After the changes for the 2019 CBP are implemented, the results will be assessed for any noticeable changes to 1) compliance, 2) use of human resources in the administration of the CBP, and 3) member satisfaction with the CBP.

GHI Bicycle Committee Recommendation to the GHI Board for Change to Parking Rules to Accommodate Bicycles

The Bicycle Committee is recommending to the GHI Board of Directors that bicycles be included in the GHI parking rules. This would mean that GHI’s bicycle owners would have the same rights as GHI’s car owners. For example, the bicycle owner would be able to request a garage for parking just as a car owner could. The bicycle owner would be charged the same rate as a car owner would pay to use a garage for parking their car versus the rate for using the garage as storage.

Some Board members were concerned that just parking a bicycle would leave a lot of room for a member to store other things besides the bicycle, and more room for storage at a cheaper rate. Another Board member countered that it would be similar to those members who rent a garage for their motorcycles now.

A member attending the meeting said that she has seen bicyclists using small bicycle trailers for their children and pets and larger trailers for hauling items, such as a dining room table set the member purchased and was taking home. She said she could understand why a member with this type of equipment would be interested in renting a garage.

A member asked if the parking rules accommodating bicyclists would mean that visiting bicyclists would be able to take up a visitor parking space?

The Board decided that it was important to have members comment on this recommendation before the Board discusses it further and takes any action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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