First Memorial Bench Dedication

Amy Henchey cuts the ribbon at the dedication of the North Woodside Memorial Bench in honor of her late husband, Woody Brosnan. Photo by Ryland Owen

On May 1, 2022, the NWCA Board and Community Design Committee dedicated the first North Woodside Memorial Bench, in honor of longtime community volunteer, Woody Brosnan. The short ceremony, held in the “pocket park” at the intersection of Lanier Drive and 3rd Avenue, included a ribbon cutting by Mr. Brosnan’s wife, current North Woodside resident and NWCA Secretary Amy Henchey, plus memories of Mr. Brosnan’s dedication to local service by neighbor Gus Bauman.

If you would like to contribute to the cost of the bench you may make a donation to the NWCA’s new Neighborhood Beautification and Memorial Fund. To donate by check or PayPal, follow the directions on our NWCA Dues page.

NWCA President Genevieve McDowell Owen and NWCA Secretary and Woody Brosnan’s wife Amy Henchey sit on the first North Woodside Memorial Bench while other board members, Community Design Committee members, and neighbors pose behind. Photo by Anna White

Speed Limit Lowered on Georgia Ave

By Michelle Desiderio Foster

State delegates Al Carr, Lorig Charkoudian, and Jared Solomon point to the new speed limit sign on Georgia Ave. Photo by Michelle Desiderio Foster

The first of the long-awaited Georgia Ave. improvements in Montgomery Hills was implemented recently when the State Highway Administration (SHA) lowered the speed limit to 30 mph (from 35 mph) on Georgia Ave. from Spring St. to Wheaton. This speed limit was recommended in the Planning Department’s Montgomery Hills/Forest Glen Sector Plan adopted a few years ago. The speed reduction was just one of the significant improvements proposed for the corridor, including a green median, removal of the unsafe reversible lanes, wider sidewalks, a cycle track on the west side of the road, pedestrian-safety enhancements, a reconfigured Beltway interchange, and a new traffic light at Flora Lane.

A completed SHA design is expected by the end of 2022. Funding has been allocated for most of the necessary right-of-way acquisitions, and the county and state are cooperating to secure funds for utility relocation and construction. U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen secured one million dollars in federal funding for the project in the recent infrastructure bill that Congress approved. Utility relocation could start as early as January 2024. State Delegates Jared Solomon and Lorig Charkoudian have worked tirelessly on this project to ensure that it continues to move forward and to secure necessary funding.

State delegates Al Carr, Lorig Charkoudian, Jared Solomon and State Highway Administration employees pose near the new speed limit sign on Georgia Ave. Photo by Michelle Desiderio Foster

This article first ran in the Spring 2022 issue of the Beacon.

Traffic Report

By Jean Kaplan Teichroew

Adding a bump out and a stop sign will convert this intersection to an all-way stop. Image provided by Oscar Yen, MCDOT

The NWCA Traffic Committee and six neighbors met with Oscar Yen, an engineer in the Traffic Engineering Studies Section of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), on April 13 to review pedestrian safety and traffic-calming measures at key neighborhood
intersections.

Read on for highlights from his summary evaluation and recommendations, which include conducting a speed study on Luzerne near Louis and preparing a work order to add crosswalks with proper striping and/or stop-bar markings at the intersections listed below. (MCDOT will also perform another traffic study for all-way stop controls and other traffic-calming mitigations once Woodlin Elementary School and the Talbot Ave. bridge reopen and heavier traffic resumes.)

Louis and Luzerne
Examine the feasibility of a curb bump out on Louis at the stop sign and trim foliage blocking the stop sign and the east leg approach of Luzerne.

Louis-Glen Ross-3rd-Warren
Build a bump out at the southeast corner of the intersection of 3rd Ave. and Glen Ross Rd. to convert this intersection to an all-way stop control and address the no-stop condition for Warren St.

Luzerne-Louis-Lanier
Create a bump out to reconfigure the intersection to a 90-degree T-shape, and possibly relocate the stop sign to increase its visibility.

Hanover and 3rd
Readjust the crooked stop signs and research a more visible location for the sign on Hanover near the fire hydrant.

Grace Church and 3rd
Add stop-bar street markings to help draw attention to existing stop signs, especially when foliage obscures them.

Talbot Ave. Bridge
MCDOT will conduct a traffic study once the bridge reopens and evaluate for additional traffic-calming measures.

This article first ran in the Spring 2022 issue of the Beacon.

How to Remove a Racist Deed Covenant

By Ricky Albores, Honorary NWCA Member

As you may know, the Maryland Legislature passed a law in 2020 to allow residents to file amendments to historic deeds to remove racially restrictive covenants from land records.

I had heard that some homeowners associations had successfully applied to have racist covenants stricken from their deeds as early as 2019. In November 2021, I contacted the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office for instructions on how to do this myself under the 2020 law. They sent me an intake form and instructions. I had already found the original deed to our house in the Maryland Land Records. The process took a little time to work my way back through the intervening deeds, which contained the relevant deed book/folio and page numbers to find the first deed from the Woodside Development Corporation to J. Reginald Boyd, the buyer who had our house built.

Once I found the deed, I was hoping it didn’t have a racially restrictive covenant, but alas it did. The 1925 deed provided, among other things, that:

“For the purpose of sanitation and health, neither the said party of the second part [buyer], nor their heirs or assigns shall or will sell or lease the said land to any one OF A RACE WHOSE DEATH RATE IS AT A HIGHER PERCENTAGE THAN THE WHITE RACE.” (Emphasis added)

I printed out the deed, crossed out the offensive covenant, filled out the State of Maryland Restrictive Covenant modification form, and took it to the Montgomery County Circuit Court, where a clerk took my documents, but issued no receipt or copy. Three months later I received my original signed and approved intake form and modified deed. Upon examination, it appears the county attorney approved the modification on January 18, 2022. I looked up the modification in the Maryland Land Records and found the modification online. All in all a fairly simple process after finding the deed. Also a satisfying personal endeavor that I’m happy to share with my neighbors across Georgia Ave.

Editor’s note: Ricky recently moved to nearby Woodside Park, after living on Hanover St. for 20 years. Many properties in North Woodside have similar racist deed covenants.

» Want to find out if your house has a racist deed covenant? You’ll need to do a chain of title search to dig up old deeds.

Steps in the Chain of Title Search Process (Montgomery County, MD)

By Kirsten L. Crase, PhD

The best place to begin your chain of title search is Montgomery County Atlas.

  1. Enter the property address in the box at the top: A map identifying your property within its neighborhood context will appear.
  2. Double-click within the boundary line of the property (zoom in first, if necessary), and a box showing basic property details will appear (owner, land use category, assessment date, year built, etc.).
  3. Click on Data Description at the top of the box for a brief description of each piece of data listed; of most importance are the liber and folio numbers. This set of numbers constitutes the first deed in your chain of title.

Your next stop is the Maryland Land Records Database. You’ll need to submit a request for an account before you can access the database. Once you have your account and the liber and folio number for your property’s current deed, you can begin searching. It’s always best to start with the current deed, even if you’ve identified previous deed information.

  1. Select your county (Montgomery) from the upper-left drop-down menu.
  2. On the search page that opens, search using the top box, titled “Jump to New Volume,” searching via liber and folio numbers.
  3. Skipping the Clerk box, enter your liber number in the Book box and your folio number in the Page box.
  4. The deed document that opens will be the current deed for your property, which should list the current owners as the grantees (buyers), along with the grantors (sellers). It will provide the date of the property transfer and a description of the property, often including the lot number, block number, subdivision name, and the location within Montgomery County Land Records of the document recording the original platting of the subdivision within which it is located. (For example, “…the west 50 feet in width of Lot No. 3, in Block No. 20 by the full depth of 150 feet, in the subdivision of land known as and called B.F. Leighton’s Addition to Woodside, as per plat recorded in Plat Book A, Plat No. 60.”)
  5. With this information, you can visit plats.net. Start by selecting Montgomery County in the drop-down menu, and when the Basic Search box appears, enter the plat book number and plat number in the appropriate boxes. You should see the name of the appropriate subdivision and a hyperlink to an MSA (Maryland State Archives) accession number. Click on this link, and you will be taken to the original platting record of the subdivision (usually a map of the subdivision) within which your property resides.

At this point you know the starting point (current deed) and ending point (subdivision platting) of your chain of title, but you must fill in all the deeds in-between. To do this, return to mdlandrec.net and begin working your way backward from the current deed.

In the current deed, somewhere below the property description, there may be a paragraph that notes the liber and folio number of the previous deed. If so, return to the search page and enter this information, and continue following this process until you reach a deed that does not list the previous deed’s information. Unfortunately, this may happen at almost any point in the chain of title search.

When this happens, return to the main Montgomery County Land Records Indices page.

If the oldest deed you locate is from 1977 or later, click on “Individual Search” or “Corporation Search” in the left-hand column. This is a straightforward search process that involves entering the name in question and the date parameters.

If the oldest deed you locate is from 1976 or earlier, click on “Active Indices” in the column on the left. Since the grantee name is the only name you know at this point (i.e., the grantor on the oldest deed you’ve located), click on “Land Records, Grantee Index, 1777–1976” in the drop-down menu. Then choose which block of dates you want to search within. Begin with the most recent block of possible dates for the deed you’re searching for; for example, if your earliest known deed is dated March 5, 1975, begin with the indices from 1973–1977. Under this block of dates, look for the first letter of the owner’s surname, or corporation name, and then the first letter of their given name. Once this page opens, click on the red hyperlink on the right — “How to Use Montgomery County Land Record Indices” — for an overview of the process used to continue your search from here. Once you find the next-oldest deed, the previous deed’s liber and folio numbers may be listed here, but if not, repeat the process of using the Active Indices search option (or Individual/Corporation search, if it’s still later than 1977) to continue to work backward. You’ll know you’ve reached the end of your chain of title when you locate the deed in which the name of the grantor is the individual or corporation that platted the subdivision in question.

How-To: Historic Newspaper Research

By Kirsten L. Case, PhD

The local “newspaper of record” for many decades.

The most user-friendly source of historic newspapers is the Library of Congress website “Chronicling America” (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), which provides free access to a searchable network of digitized newspapers from across the country. The Advanced Search tab allows you to select a specific state, or the District of Columbia, to search within, and gives you multiple options for key word searches.

For Montgomery County, it is always a good idea to try each search in both Maryland and the District of Columbia. The “Evening Star” (Washington, D.C.) was considered the newspaper of record for many decades, and it is also a wonderful source of social news for the city and the
surrounding counties. The “Montgomery County Sentinel” is another important local newspaper in the database.

Editor’s note: If you would like to be part of an organized approach to neighborhood history research — or if you come across any interesting information related to neighborhood history that you’d be willing to share with neighbors — contact the North Woodside History Group.

Digging into Neighborhood History

On February 16, 2022, many neighbors tuned into an online training by Kirsten L. Crase, PhD, University of Maryland, on how to research the history of their homes. The training inspired a search of historic newspaper digital archives for articles related to the neighborhood. Among many fascinating finds, neighbors uncovered a plethora of original advertisements for North Woodside homes. Can you find these homes today?

Source: Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. Dates/Pages (left to right): September 15, 1928, Page 23; August 21, 1936, Page 16; September 6, 1930, Page B2; April 25, 1931, Page B2.

Many of the old North Woodside advertisements, such as the large one above, tout the
“exclusive” nature of the community and “the protection of its sensible restrictions,” not-so-subtle allusions to racially restrictive deed covenants.

For more information on researching the history of your home:

And if you discover your home has a racist deed covenant:

Letter from the President

Genevieve McDowell Owen

By Genevieve McDowell Owen, NWCA President

Personally, I’m not a fan of change. Snider’s, under the new ownership, still feels a bit weird to me every time I go in; I miss our neighborhood Staples even though Aldi replaced it some time ago; and I’m still adjusting, almost eight months later, to being an empty nester. Plus I can’t quite believe houses in North Woodside are now selling for a million dollars, some for over a million dollars. Maybe your house is worth that already. Wow. Can I mention that my husband and I bought our house in 2000 for $217,500? I don’t think our modest bungalow is worth $1,000,000 quite yet, but it’s now worth so much more now than I ever imagined it would be.

So change has already come to North Woodside. We are at the center (okay, technically bottom center) of a growing, affluent county bursting with new folks bringing innovation and eagerness to succeed right to our doorstep. But this boon is creating a big problem — lack of housing. It is one of the reasons our houses have increased so rapidly in value. Everyone wants to live in North Woodside. (And why wouldn’t they? It’s lovely, and close to shopping, good schools, and transportation.)

According to a recent Washington Post article, “(t)he supply shortage has grown so severe across the D.C. area that, in 2019, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments issued a sweeping call for local leaders to aggressively ramp up housing production. The association advised governments to approve a total of 320,000 homes by 2030, with a focus on affordably priced housing near jobs and transit.”

So Montgomery County has decided to embrace this population growth — it’s already proved to be a boon to our area, economically and culturally — and even plan for it. Because without a plan growth can cause problems, of course. It can strain services, increase commute times, worsen environmental conditions, and exacerbate inequality.

The plan, created by our Montgomery County Planning Board, is called Thrive Montgomery 2050 (Thrive). Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a 30-year blueprint for population growth in our county that also addresses environmental and climate concerns, transportation, open-land preservation, quality-of-life issues like walkability and public art, and the pressing need for racial equity and social justice. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the Thrive section on the montgomeryplanning.org website.

I was delighted to be part of the team of NWCA Board members that brought together lots of folks with different perspectives to discuss the housing and zoning aspects of Thrive, and what changes it might bring to our corner of the county, at a neighborhood forum back in March. After planners from the Planning Board presented a quick outline of Thrive, North Woodside residents asked excellent questions of the six panel members representing all sides of the issue.

I was even more delighted that the neighborhood survey on Thrive, sponsored by the NWCA Board, garnered a record-breaking response, with 111 neighbors representing 99 households participating (a nearly 40% increase in individual participation — and at least 25% by household — compared to the last survey we conducted in Fall 2019). The results of the survey, which are available on our website, showed that a majority of the neighbors who took the survey support the way the county proposes to plan for the future.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 is still under review, and won’t be voted on by the County Council for a few more months (so there’s still time to make your voice heard!), but even before a plan is put in place, I’m grateful to live in a county that is committed to creating a green, just, and inclusive way to deal with a future of growth and change. It makes thinking about the coming changes easier for me, including the addition of much-needed housing to our area. I hope it does for you, too.

The above letter ran in the Spring 2022 issue of the Beacon.

Neighbors Create Mosaic Path

Under the inspired leadership of Bertie LoPiccolo, neighbors and friends gathered on an unseasonably beautiful President’s Day to help Julie Savage and Keith Carlson lay a mosaic path leading to their newly built backyard ADU (accessory dwelling unit).

“I dreamed of building a healing, welcoming ADU space for my small therapy practice and imagined a whimsical, joyful path leading up to it — a piece of community artwork that would bring people together. Bertie caught the vision and made it happen, with the added expertise of Suz Podrasky and many first-time mosaic artists.

Close up of a mosaic flower

In the days leading up to pouring the concrete, I gathered small mosaic creations from anyone who had any inclination to contribute. (Thank you to so many in the neighborhood!) The finished path is a magical collection of birds, bugs, trees, words, a cicada, rainbow, sun, moon, small house, and so much more.

Feel free to come to 1914 Grace Church Rd. and check it out anytime. In challenging times, I hope it will be a reminder of all the good that is possible when we come together in new and beautiful ways.”

— Julie Savage

The finished mosaic path!

Story of the Woodlin Wizard Weather Vane

By Phil Termini

Skip back to end of the school year 2002. What happened to the Woodlin Wizards weather vane on the cupola atop our elementary school? It seems to have vanished! Bummer, “the pump don’t work cuz the vandals took the handle.”

My and my wife Patricia’s son Tony was finishing his last year there, and our two daughters attended there as well. So I got the notion to try to do something as a tribute for the school and the wonderful principal, Emily Kesser, like making a new weather vane to replace the one taken by the vandals. Having been around the block a few times in my youth, I had an idea. Signs went up around the area offering a no-questions-asked $100 cash reward for the weather vane’s return or its simply being put in our yard. Wishful thinking. No takers. These kids today don’t need any money. Too affluent a neighborhood, I suppose.

I learned that the Woodlin PTA was instrumental in getting the first Wizard weather vane made by a local metal artist, David Hubbard. I visited David and lo and behold, he still had the original full-size drawing of our Wizard. Piece of cake!! I got ahold of some stainless steel sheet metal and started cutting and welding. Metalwork is one of my hobbies—go-carts and minibikes and such. When I installed this new Wizard on top of the school—completely ignoring what the school maintenance staff said to me about going up on the roof (it’s my nature)—where it now lives, I got advice from metalworkers on how to install it in such a way as to make it just about impossible to steal again. One-way screws and a detent in the shaft did the security trick. I may have to go back up there to remove it for the rebuild if the contractors and construction personnel can’t handle it. What a fine old Wizard we have. I hope the new school has a spot planned for it.

Beacon Editor’s note: Woodlin Elementary School’s PTA President reports that the school’s cupola (including the weather vane) is to be incorporated into a “learning lawn” that will face Luzerne Ave.