April 18, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m.
Present were Mayor Calvo, CMs Dennison, Gourley,
Laughlin and McNulty. Also present were Town Administrator
Murphy and Clerk Harper.
Announcements: Senator Paul Pinsky plans
to hold a Town meeting in Berwyn Heights to inform
residents of the General Assembly's legislative
accomplishments. A date is yet to be determined.
The Council received a thank you letter from Police
Clerk Camille Carter for recognizing her at the
April Town meeting. The Council is invited to the
ground breaking ceremony for the Friends Community
School on April 30. The University of Maryland has
requested permission to send the University bus
through Berwyn Heights.
Calendar: Upcoming events in April include
a Prince George's County Municipal League (PGCMA)
meeting on April 21, a hoe down at the Berwyn Heights
Elementary School also on April 21 and the rain
garden dedication on April 27. In May, worksessions
are scheduled for the 2nd, 9th and 16th and the
Town meeting for the 11th. CM Laughlin will be absent
at the May 2nd meeting and CM McNulty at the Town
meeting. Berwyn Heights Day will take place on May
7. Town Offices will be closed will be closed on
Memorial Day, May 30. In June, worksessions are
scheduled for the 6th and the 20th and the Town
meeting for the 8th. The annual Berwyn Presbyterian
Strawberry Festival will take place on June 4, the
Town-wide Yard sale on June 11, Tipping Day on June
15. The next Four Cities Coalition meeting is on
June 21 in Berwyn Heights. The Maryland Municipal
League (MML) Conference will take place June 26
Citizen Comments: Mayor Calvo received
comments regarding high grass, the Metroland Development
and the spectator stand at Sports Park. He also
had positive feedback on the budget and keeping
the tax rate at last year's level. CM Laughlin had
a comment regarding the spectator stand at Sports
Park from a resident who helped build it. He said
that it had been used for baseball tournaments in
the past. CM Laughlin suggested that a broad range
of people should be consulted regarding its disposition.
CM Dennison received comments from the Seniors about
the call-a-bus agreement and timing of Seminole
Minutes: The Council reviewed minutes
for the March 7, March 21 and March 28 worksessions.
CM Gourley moved to adopt the March 7 minutes. CM
McNulty seconded. The minutes were adopted with
corrections 5 to 0. CM Gourley moved to adopt the
March 21 minutes. CM McNulty seconded. They minutes
were approved with corrections 5 to 0. CM Gourley
moved to adopt the March 28 minutes. CM McNulty
seconded. The minutes were approved with corrections
5 to 0.
2. Code Enforcement
Code appeal I: Mayor Calvo explained that
this appeal of a $400 fine for failing to register
a non-owner occupied rental home was heard
and denied at a previous worksession. However, the
owner was not notified of the date of the hearing
and could not appear in person. Therefore the owner
was given the opportunity to do so today. The owner
explained that she had purchased the home in question
in summer 2003 to move in with her children who
were planning to attend the University of Maryland.
They were not accepted, however, and the owner began
to rent the house. She was unaware of the rental
license requirements at that point but agrees with
its provisions. She has kept the home in good condition
and checked up regularly. She first received a notice
of the violation at her out-of-Town address on January
29th, 2005 after returning from a business trip.
Earlier notices sent to the rental address did not
reach her. She called the Code Director to inform
her that she would be unable to complete and
return the full application and payment by the January
31st deadline but agreed to file the application
by an extended deadline. The deadline given by the
Code Director was February 8 but she believed it
be February 12. The rental license application and
fee were mailed on February 11 and received on February
Mayor Calvo sought clarification about the lease
dates, tenants and primary residence. He noted that
the rental home is is still listed as the owner's
principal residence on state tax rolls which resulted
in the owner paying less taxes than she should.
The owner replied that she was unaware of having
received a tax credit.
With testimony concluded, CM Laughlin moved to
uphold the fine. CM Gourley seconded. CM McNulty
questioned whether 7 days from notification of a
violation is sufficient time for a home owner to
respond. Mayor Calvo said that the 7 days are a
courtesy. The Ordinance authorizes the Code Official
to impose a fine at the time an unlicensed rental
home is identified.
CM Dennison moved to lower the fine to $200 because
a good faith effort by the home owner to comply.
CM McNulty seconded. Mayor Calvo said that he believes
that there was no intent to deceive the Town and
that the owner was simply unaware of the regulations.
However, it is the responsibility of the owner to
find out what regulations may apply regarding rental
properties and to furnish the correct information
as to one's principal address to the State
Department of Assessment and Taxation (DAT). The
motion to reduce the fine to $200 failed 2 to 3
with Mayor Calvo and CMs Gourley and Laughlin opposed.
The motion to uphold the $400 fine passed 4 to 1
with CM Dennison opposed.
Code appeal II: Mayor Calvo explained
that, as in the previous case, this appeal of a
$200 fine for failing to register an owner-occupied
rental home was heard and denied at a previous worksession.
As the owner did not receive notification of the
first hearing, he was given a second hearing at
which to make the appeal in person.
The owner of the rental home built last year
as part of the 63rd Avenue development explained
that he is a first-time home owner and still learning
the obligations that come with it. When he received
the notice of violation in January, he came to the
Town Office to inquire about the regulations. He
did not file a rental license application at that
time because he was not renting rooms. The friends
that stayed at his house were not charged rent.
Upon closer reading of the application and speaking
to another home owner, he realized that his home
falls under the licensing requirement. He then proceeded
to file an application and make payment.
Mayor Calvo informed the owner that there have
been numerous complaints from neighbors about loud
parties, trash and parking problems with respect
to his home. The owner replied that he was not aware
of the parties as he works long hours running a
restaurant business and is often away on business.
More recently, he has instructed his tenants to
do a better job cleaning up after a party. Mayor
Calvo advised him that what happens at the house
is his responsibility and that he should talk to
his neighbors who have taken issue with the goings-on.
CM McNulty requested clarification of the dates
of notices sent and received and pointed out that
the application was not received until more than
a month after the first notice had been sent. Mayor
Calvo pointed out that the owner's property was
assessed at the unimproved rate resulting in what
amounts to approximately $3,000 in tax breaks.
CM Laughlin moved to uphold the $200 fine. CM
Gourley seconded. The fine was upheld 5 to 0.
At 8:25 p.m., the Council took a 10 minute break.
Code appeal III: CM Laughlin explained
that the owner of a rental property has appealed
a $100 fine for permitting two untagged and uncovered
vehicles to be parked on the property. The owner
indicated that he planned to attend the hearing
but was not present. In a letter to the Code Director,
he stated that he has not received a notice of the
violation in question. Generally, he prefers to
be contacted by telephone as he is not home during
the day and unable to sign for certified mail. Further,
he stated that the cars in question belong to his
tenants and therefore are not his responsibility.
In the ensuing discussion, the Council came to
the conclusion that the owner is trying to avoid
receiving certified mail. As the address of residency
given is the same as the address of the workplace.
Therefore he may well be home when a certified letter
is being delivered. In addition, the Postal Service
leaves a notice of an attempt to deliver certified
letters at the address when the owner is not there.
The tenants were aware of the violations as they
attempted to cover the cars. Further, the property
has been cited repeatedly for the same violation.
CM Laughlin moved to table the appeal to allow
the appellant to come in person. There was no second.
CM Gourley moved to uphold the fine. CM Dennison
seconded. The fine was upheld 4 to 1 with CM Laughlin
Clean Lot Ordinance 107 amendments: CM
Laughlin said that the proposed amendments have
been previously discussed. Since then no further
changes have been made. The Council needs to decide
whether to focus on high grass issues for introduction
of amendments at the May Town meeting or undertake
a more comprehensive review of the Ordinance. The
Council agreed to focus on high grass issues,
including reducing the maximum grass hight from
10' to 7, reducing the time for abatement and creating
a separate fee schedule. The item was tabled until
the May 2 worksession at which the Code Director
will be asked to give input.
Bulletin cover (added item): The following
items were approved for the cover of the May Bulletin:
Berwyn Heights Day with a schedule of activities
and a budget message.
and Recreation, Education and Civic Affairs
Concession stand: CM Dennison said the
concession stand is on track for a ribbon-cutting
ceremony on Berwyn Heights Day. However, it will
not be ready for use, as water, sewer and electric
lines still need to be connected and a permit from
the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC)
Greenbelt Middle School: The Berwyn Heights
Education Advisory Committee (BH-EAC) would
like the Town to send a letter to each member
of the County Council to request that the renovation
of Greenbelt Middle School be moved up to 2007 in
the Capital Improvement Budget. The request should
be coordinated with Greenbelt where City Councilmember
Doug Peters has spearheaded the campaign. CM Dennison
moved for the Town to send the letter. CM Gourley
seconded. The motion was approved 5 to 0.
Lastly, CM Dennison reminded Councilmembers that
the Council has an open invitation to attend a hoe
down at the Berwyn Heights Elementary School on
April 21. The event is part of the Artist-in-Residence
program at the school, which the Town has supported
with a matching grant.
5. Public Health and Safety
Impoundment of vehicles: CM McNulty informed
the Council that Chief Murphy drafted a policy mandating
that impounded vehicles be held at the Public Works
yard at a daily fee of $10. Until recently, impounded
cars were stored at a local gas station at a rate
of $30 per day. The Town was held responsible for
the payment of the fee if the vehicle was forfeited.
CM Gourley thanked the Council for having his
proposal regarding a special street improvement
tax levy read at the April Town meeting and he thanked
Director Coleman for delivering the Public Works
Session (9:30 p.m. - 10:10 p.m.)
CM Gourley moved to go into executive session
regarding a personnel matter. CM McNulty seconded.
The motion passed 5 to 0. No action was taken. CM
Gourley moved to end the executive session. CM Dennison
seconded. The motion passed 5 to 0.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:12 p.m.
Kerstin Harper, Town Clerk
Copyright © Town of Berwyn Heights.