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6 Questions for Your Town Council Candidates

We asked each candidate running for Town Council six questions so they could tell us who they are and how they feel about some of our current issues. Four of the candidates provided their responses in writing, while Clayton Gilbert provided his responses verbally directly after his self-nomination on February 20th at Town Hall.

Three Council seats are up for grabs during the election on May 2nd at the Carnival Grounds. Only one incumbent (Karl Munder) decided to run, which means at least 2 seats will be occupied by new members after May.

1. Please tell us why you’re running for Town Council.

Jason Evans: I’m running for Town Council to make a difference in the town I love. I want the town’s people to have a voice.

Clayton Gilbert: I’m running for Town Council because in my opinion, the current council members are completely mismanaging the town and sending us in the wrong direction.

Stephen “Pops” Kraft: I am running for Town Council to:

· Ensure Mt. Airy’s – our – public health and safety

· Preserve our established Mt. Airy landscape from reckless development

· Protect and enhance our established Mt. Airy institutions (e.g., educational, first responders, commercial, and recreational)

· Promote peace and not poison between the town council and our Mayor

Karl Munder (Incumbent): The town is a gateway to rural parts of the four-county region, and this is reflected in the town, and I am concerned about the type of growth that is currently being proposed and what may soon be proposed. I want to continue to be a participant in making sure it does not negatively impact town infrastructure (schools, roads, parks, etc.), current and future residents of the town, and the amenities that bring people to visit and make the town their home.

Tim Washabaugh: I am running for Town Council because I love Mount Airy. This town and all that it encompasses has provided my family and I a wonderful place to call home and I want to ensure it stays that way for generations to come. My ultimate goal is to make sure that fully transparent decisions made today will be beneficial for future generations. It's time to stand up as a community.

2. What’s the number one issue facing the Town and how will you tackle it?

Evans: There are many, but overdevelopment is the biggest in my opinion. First step is making it harder for developers to get their way with zoning, by repealing or rewriting zoning done unconstitutionally. Second step is making sure the process is in place for all developments to follow the same procedures in order to develop. The process is important for all developments moving forward as we know there are many coming soon.

I will personally vote against anything high density. I will push for more developable open space, not BS woods and swamp open space. Our families need more areas to be able to play and relax in Mt. Airy. I personally think a Sports Complex is in dire need for our community and the developers should be able to compromise with what our town wants not what their pockets desire.

Gilbert: Right now, overdevelopment is definitely the number one issue facing the town. I’m a contractor. So I understand what’s going on. I believe that everything is about perspective. So, everybody has a right to develop their land but how and the impacts really matter. So for me, coming in and adding a big subdivision and adding 600, 700, 900 new homes… for here is just absolutely out of the question. Now, if they wanted to build a few homes, single family homes, that are going to bring almost no to little impact to the town, that’s ok. But to come in here and turn the town upside down, absolutely not.

Kraft: While an initial response, normally, would be: preserve our established Mt. Airy landscape from reckless development, I am initially concerned about post-pandemic isolation that touches all of our community – from our youngest to our adolescents to our seniors. We need to be vigilant as to the mental, physical, and spiritual health of our entire Mt. Airy population.

I would like to establish two circles in our town:

1. an Ecumenical Circle that meets, say, once a month, that brings together the faith leadership in our town.

2. a Health provider/Caregiver Circle that meets, again, once a month, to strengthen lines and availability of health services to all members of our community.

Having recently had some health challenges and having to work hard to find my appropriate care and provider, I have found that there are far more health resources in Mt. Airy than I ever knew about. They should not be kept a secret to our community.

Curiously, there is, if these circles work, a solid bond to be drawn between an Ecumenical and a Health Provider Circle that might again, enhance our community’s mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Munder: Development is the number one issue facing the town. Unfortunately, the Town Council has very little input on how many developments are designed, that authority rests with the Planning Commission. For the developments where the Town Council does have input, I would make sure what is being proposed fits the character of the Town and does not overburden our infrastructure. Since most of the development review authority rests with the Planning Commission, when the mayor nominates a person for a position on this commission, I would reach out to them and see if they are a good fit for the commission.

Washabaugh: I believe the number one issue facing our town is the potential for over development. We have nearby opportunities for high density, higher traffic living like Urbana, Gaithersburg and a number of other neighboring communities. The opportunity to choose a rural, small town is diminishing year by year. Therefore, if elected, I vow to ensure Mount Airy keeps its small town charm by only promoting slow sustainable growth that fits into the fabric of our town, and NOT change the fabric of our town.

3. Do you support the MXD zoning ordinance as it’s currently written?

Evans: I do not at all.

Gilbert: I actually don’t have an answer for that because I’d have to look into it more. There are some things that I have purposely not looked into because I don’t want to give a biased opinion.

Kraft: No. I do not support the MXD zoning ordinance as it’s currently written. This ordinance was written with the Beck property lurking in the background. It was drafted half in the light/half in the shadows with no input – complete input – from the Mt. Airy community. We are not building another “Rockville, MD” with this ordinance as some have cried. We are building Aspen Hill Jr. if this poorly sculpted ordinance is allowed to survive.

Munder: No, I do not support the MXD zoning ordinance as currently written. I have drafted and introduced several ordinances that would change the current wording of the MXD zoning classification, but these proposals have been held back by the planning commission and other council members. I just introduced 2023-1 that would lessen the overall density and increase the minimum open space requirement. Hopefully this one will pass.

Washabaugh: I do not.

4. What is your stance on the Flat Iron building?

Evans: I want to see the Flat Iron building as well as other Mt Airy historical sites preserved and restored to preserve our history.

Gilbert: So, I go back to perspective on this. With the Flat Iron building, it depends how you look at it. If you’ve been in Mt. Airy and you grew up in Mt. Airy, of course you’re going to want to keep the building. That makes sense. If you have no ties to Mt. Airy whatsoever and you want to tear it down, that makes sense as well. Being a contractor, I can’t help but to say that we should actually keep the Flat Iron building. Tearing it down; it just doesn’t make sense. The building acts as a retaining wall for the road that’s right next to it. What are we going to do if we tear the building down? We’re going to need to spend tons of money to then sure that up. Again, it doesn’t make sense. The cost to actually renovate the building is not that high. The building’s been there long enough so it’s not like it’s going to go anywhere anytime soon. And since we do have the different funding that we can go after, it may not be secured yet, but we can go after funding to restore historical buildings… why don’t we?

I mean, I live in Mt. Airy and I’m a contractor. I can put in a bid to restore that building and get the town involved. Now, if I got on the council, that would be a conflict of interest, absolutely, I can’t get involved in that manner and do the work but yeah, there’s really no reason to tear it down.

Kraft: The Flat Iron building, for all its warts, is beautiful. Preserve it; protect it – help it to prosper. Ours is not the only Flat Iron building in the US. I have not had enough hours in my day up to now to participate in the Flat Iron building deliberations however we have every interest to reach out – horizontally – to other Flat Iron building proprietors for advice, for guidance, and for a collaborative union of Flat Iron admirers. The Flat Iron building is in need of cosmetics and a fruitful reflection on how it might, truly be, the center of our town through central themes and/or unifying town activities.

Munder: I support preservation and reuse of the existing building and surrounding area. The building is part of the charm of the downtown area.

Washabaugh: The Flat Iron building is a historical building in our community. I would prefer to examine all options to ensure it stays put, as long as it is fiscally feasible and in the best interest of our taxpayers.

5. Do you support Charter Amendment Resolution 2022-2, which alters the Mayor’s responsibilities and financial oversight duties, and gives the Council direct access to and oversight of the CFO/Town Administrator?

Evans: I do not, we elected the Mayor under the assumptions this was his job.

Gilbert: I do not support that. The Mayor has his roles and the Council has their roles, and checks and balances are in place for a reason.

Kraft: No. No. And No. I offer NO support to the Charter Amendment Resolution 2022-2. The poisonous, personal attacks on our fine Mayor in 2022 are one of the reasons I decided to run for town council. Our current Mayor has set the bar high for all future town mayors through his poise, his intelligence, and his functional ability. Our town mechanics ran just fine before the “musketeers” on the council decided to poison relations between the council and the executive – (. . .come on! A lawsuit against the Mayor? I don’t think so. . .). Once the poison is removed, we will be back in better order.

Munder: No, Charter Amendment Resolution 2022-2 does not have my support. I believe in a government with proper checks and balances. This proposal would remove those.

Washabaugh: I do not. The current mayor won the election process, and deserves our support, along with our full confidence in him fulfilling his responsibilities. If we remove or alter those responsibilities, I believe we have taken the voice away from our town. While checks and balances are never a bad thing, I believe the way the town has operated prior to this charter amendment is sufficient.

6. Do you support a formal screening process to assess public facilities capacity prior to approval of pre-concept plans for new developments?

Evans: Yes, I believe the proper process should be followed for all developments to prevent developers from bending the rules to get what they want. Mt Airy is not and should never be a developer’s quick cash option.

Gilbert: I don’t have an answer for this at this moment and I think that’s a good thing because I’m not going to come to the conclusion and just say “Yes I do” or “No I don’t”. I want all the facts. I want to know what this is actually going to mean. I want to know the good from it, the bad from it, and then I would go from there. And I want to actually discuss this with other people other than myself. You know, I’m not the smartest person in the building so it makes no sense for me to just shoot from the hip and be like “Yes” or No” so at this time, I don’t have an opinion on that.

Kraft: This should be a commonsense answer to a commonsense question. The fact that it is having to be asked speaks again to the hurried and reckless development efforts that the Mt. Airy citizenry has been dragged through. Our public facilities – our schools, our caregivers, our police and fire departments—are already squeezed to the limit and still perform so admirably. With the juggling of county budgets, our schools especially are going to be squeezed above and beyond the call of duty in the coming years. Without any reflection and formal screening of our town’s public infrastructure before any new development, we are toying with the foundation, at least, of my campaign: the soundness of Mt. Airy’s public health and safety.

My answer is, yes, of course, yes: I support a formal screening process.

Munder: Yes. Currently the APFO does not include pre-concept plans to be required to have a basic screening process to identify the impacts a development may have upon the town. Having such information during the early stages of review allows for better discussions, understanding of the impacts, and the best solutions to mitigating those impacts.

Washabaugh: Absolutely!

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