Wood Acres Community History
The Community of Wood Acres was developed over the 20 year period from 1939 to 1959 by the Wood Acres Construction Corporation, headed by builder Albert Walker. The 404 original homes are all of a brick colonial style, with great similarities in interior layout, but with considerable variation in exterior design. The beauty of the rough terrain, an excellent elementary school and adjoining six acre park, and the shade of tall and ancient oaks, locusts, poplars and hickory trees significantly contribute to the attractiveness of the neighborhood.
Adjoining to the southeast is the Wood Acres Recreation Center, now known as Wood Acres Park, another project of our civic efforts. In 1942, the land was rough and wooded and in private ownership. A Wood Acres pioneer, S. Grady Putnam, succeeded in obtaining permission from the owner to clear a small part of the land for use as a neighborhood playground. Grady spearheaded the move to have the state Park and Planning Commission create a park there. After constant prodding by Wood Acres delegates, the Commission bought about eight acres of land and created the current park with its baseball diamonds and tennis and basketball courts. The baseball diamond, officially named Grady Putnam Field, was dedicated on June 21, 1947. Since then there have been instructors to teach and supervise our younger children during the summer, and Wood Acres Park has been a focal point for the community and source of year-round pleasure to Wood Acres citizens.
As the last original Wood Acres homes were being planned in the late 1950's, the State Roads Commission was planning the widening of River Road, which necessitated the acquisition of a strip along River Road containing a total of ten recorded lots. After the widening was accomplished, the Commission sold the land at public auction to developer Edward Schultze, who twice tried to get rezoning for townhouses (eight to a row) but lost in the face of strong Association opposition. During this period, the Association also defeated a proposal for a large private school and explored the possible use of that land for a community swimming pool. Finally, in 1971, Mr. Schultze gave up and built, subject to our covenant approval, the ten new homes on the original ten lots.
The land between Goldsboro Road and Avalon Drive,
which totals about nine acres, has long been a zoning battleground
for our neighborhood. Albert Walker obtained commercial zoning
for the three-acre portion at the Massachusetts Avenue end in
the early 1940's, for the purpose of building a small local shopping
facility. Those plans never materialized, and in the mid-1950's
Mr. Walker began an eight year zoning special exception battle
to obtain use of the remaining six acres of residentially zoned
land for parking. The battle took Wood Acres to the highest court
of Maryland twice, and through the sustained efforts of the Association,
we prevailed. In 1963, after the death of Albert Walker, the three
acres of commercial land were sold by his estate to speculators.
A new round of zoning battles over this land began in 1966, as PEPCO sought to purchase one acre of the commercial land for erecting a transformer station. Wood Acres wanted PEPCO there, to serve as a buffer to the remaining two acres of commercial land, but the Association insisted that the architecture be of a residentially compatible design. The Association's view was sustained by the Board of Appeals. Finally, on the architect's eighth rendering, Wood Acres withdrew objection and the station was approved and built.
At the Ramsgate end of the nine-acre Avalon Drive tract, the Telephone Company purchased one acre of the residentially zoned land and in 1967 sought a special exception to construct a dial center. In this case, the architectural rendering was attractive, and Wood Acres initially voted to support the proposal. However, a few residents who felt that the dial center should be located where the office building now stands took on the battle alone but ultimately reached settlement whereby the Telephone Company agreed to purchase an additional acre of wooded land west of its original site, to be maintained in a natural wooded state.
During this same period, the Association was seeking affirmative action to have the three acres of commercially zoned land returned to single family residential zoning. Faced with the prospect of losing the commercial two acres, the speculators hurriedly put up the existing five-story office building on the remaining two acres, risking the outcome of a citizen's lawsuit challenging the building's height, which is limited to 2 stories or 35 feet under the applicable commercial zoning. Sadly, Maryland's highest court ultimately concluded that the building was only 2 stories high.
In 1970, the Association beat back a developer effort to have the remaining 3 acres of wooded land between the public utility structures rezoned to permit 44 townhouses. The land was finally purchased by developer Paul Greenberg. In 1982, twelve single family colonial style homes were built on the wooded site.
In 1979, the Board appeared before the Montgomery County Council to request a $30,000 project to improve the badly deteriorated Wood Acres Park. The Council approved the project which included the installation of wooden equipment for large and small children, resurfacing the basketball and tennis courts, installation of benches and picnic tables and development of walkways, landscaping and erosion control. The renovated park was dedicated on July 4, 1980, in memory of Grady Putnam, and the area was an immediate hit with both children and adults.
In 1999, Wood Acres residents formed the Friends of Wood Acres Park and embarked on another ambitious plan to have the playground renovated. To supplement the County's $40,000 contribution to the project, the group raised over $65,000 through generous contributions from neighbors, friends, businesses and through the sale of commemorative bricks installed at the park, and including a $10,000 contribution from the Wood Acres Citizens Association. The funds were used for new playground equipment, benches and extensive re-grading at the site. The new playground was dedicated on July 4, 2001, as Congresswoman Connie Morella cut the ceremonial ribbon. The successful public-private partnership between Wood Acres and the County was recognized by the Montgomery Parks Foundation, which honored the Friends of Wood Acres Park with its 2002 Outstanding Achievement Award for extraordinary contributions to the County park system.
In 2001 and 2002 the Wood Acres Elementary School underwent an extensive "renovation" which effectively rebuilt the entire school from scratch although the existing gymnasium was preserved. The Wood Acres Citizens Association again contributed $10,000 towards the School renovation, asking that the funds be spent to improve the aesthetic characteristics of the building. The School renovation greatly expanded the space and square footage of the building and required a major excavation and regrading of the property. Impact on the adjoining Wood Acres Park property was unavoidable and as part of that project, the School's (MCPS) property line was also expanded to include approximately two acres of land that was formerly part of the Wood Acres Park (which is owned and maintained by MNCPPC). In conjunction with the deeding of the additional land to the School system, the Wood Acres and Springfield citizens associations worked together to negotiate a series of restrictions attached to the former park land that prohibit the School System from building on the land in the future, thus preserving the "green space" and park-like environment surrounding the School building and adjoining Park property. The restrictions, which were codified in a deed from the MNCPPC to the Board of Education dated May 2003, read in part, "No part of the property identified as Covenant Area "A" and Covenant Area "B" shall be improved or developed at any time with any structure of any kind including but not limited to buildings, facilities, parking lots, sidewalks, roads and pavement. Covenant Area "A" and Covenant Area "B" shall be used as public open space or public open area." Area "A" is the property line directly abutting the Searle Terrace homes in Springfield. Area "B" is the property line to the left side of the School building (viewed from the Park) adjacent to Ball field #1.
Until his death in 1962, Mr. Walker personally saw to the strict enforcement of a set of recorded restrictive covenants on behalf of the Wood Acres Construction Corporation. After Mr. Walker died his estate informed the Association that the Wood Acres Construction Corporation was being dissolved and that certain provisions of the covenants would lapse if they were not assigned. A referendum in the fall of 1963 approved the incorporation of the Wood Acres Citizens Association under Maryland law, and, following the incorporation, the covenants were assigned to the Citizens Association on June 19, 1964. A special meeting of the Association was held November 12, 1964, to discuss the covenants. After considerable discussion, and with full realization that the Eleventh covenant of the 1939-1950 version was unenforceable, it was agreed that the remaining covenants should continue to be enforced.
Since that time the annually elected Board of Directors of the Wood Acres Citizens Association has administered and enforced the covenants. In 1966 it was decided to abandon the Fourth article of the pre-1950 version (which required approval for transfer of title or change of occupancy) in the interest of convenience and conformity with state law. At the Annual Meeting of the Association on September 17, 1970, the membership reaffirmed its desire for strict enforcement of the covenants but voted to delete the printing of Article XI of the 1939-1950 covenants and further went on record as being morally opposed to old Article XI, which was a racial restriction covenant.
WOOD ACRES CITIZENS ASSOCIATION ORIGIN AND ACTIVITIES
Since its formation in 1940, the Wood Acres Citizens Association has played an important role in enhancing the quality of life in Wood Acres. The Citizens Association is a non-profit organization supported through the annual dues collected from the current residents. In the early years, the Association came forward to insist that bus service be extended to the community, that streetlights be promptly installed, and that roads and trash collection be improved. In more recent years, the Association has represented its citizens in numerous zoning battles as summarized below and has broadened its sponsorship of community social activities. The Association maintains a small financial reserve for routine zoning matters and potential enforcement actions. When and if major zoning matters arise, special voluntary assessment collections may be asked of the residents to cover legal costs and incidental expenses. Each year the Association sponsors numerous community events which have come to represent one the distinctive aspects of living in Wood Acres.
In 1963, after the death of Mr. Walker and the liquidation of his construction company, a referendum was approved to incorporate the Wood Acres Citizens Association under Maryland law. Since its formation, the Association has played an important role in the quality of life in Wood Acres and has been an effective voice in representing residents concerns on local land and zoning issues. The Association sponsors various social and holiday events throughout the year that bring the community together and provide a venue for neighbors to get to know one another. An annual Spring Party to introduce community newcomers opens up the year and is sometimes followed by the Wood Acres House and Garden Tour, which features several of the community's finest homes.
Our annual Independence Day celebration, which dates back to July 4, 1958, is perhaps the highlight of the events sponsored by the Citizens Association. The day starts with a parade along Ramsgate Road and Cromwell Drive and ends at the Park where a large cook-out with games and carnival rides of all sorts for children are held and neighborhood volunteers serve refreshments... We are usually fortunate in having a military band or a boy or Girl Scout troop lead the parade. Many Wood Acres blocks join into groups to construct elaborate floats for the parade and a prize is awarded for the best float. The neighborhood children all decorate their bicycles and various home-made floats and receive recognition awards for the most creative designs. A short commemorative ceremony is held usually featuring an address by a United States Senator or Congressman and often elected representatives of the Montgomery County Government.
On Halloween, the children gather for entertainment and refreshments with their parents at the Triangle near the intersection of Ramsgate Road and Welborn Drive. These festivities feature the exciting arrival of the "Great Pumpkin," who dispenses candy to the children and cider to the adults and is then followed by group trick or treating throughout the neighborhood. The December Holiday season is capped with a community gathering held around the neighborhood-decorated Wood Acres tree on the Triangle or at a local school. Santa Claus arrives with small treats for the youngsters, and the children in turn bring gifts of canned food for the needy. Residents also gather in December for caroling through the neighborhood, and in the spring for an egg hunt in Wood Acres Park.
Since 1961, Block Captains have served as a link between the Association Board and the residents in each Block Captain's area. The Block Captains help the Board perform its various functions more efficiently and, in addition to helping carry out the mechanical functions of the Association, such as collecting dues and delivering circulars, the Block Captains enable the Board to have closer and quicker contact with individual residents and to be more responsive to their immediate needs. Block Captains also welcome new residents to Wood Acres, and provide them with a copy of the Wood Acres Residents Directory and outline the many activities of the Association, providing information to newcomers about the neighborhood and surrounding area.
The Zoning and Architectural Covenants Committee has the responsibility of assisting the Board in administering the Wood Acres covenants and guidelines. The Committee is charged with helping to preserve and protect property values in the Wood Acres community. The Covenants Committee reviews all proposed exterior home improvements and additions and monitors all proposed zoning changes that would affect the community. Residents are asked to assist this committee by informing the chairperson promptly of any relevant matters including infractions.
A major portion of the income of the Association is derived from the annual dues paid by current residents of Wood Acres. Local advertising in the community telephone directory also raises revenue. These funds are then used to finance the various activities of the Association, including the compilation and publication of the Wood Acres Directory, the annual 4th of July Parade & Picnic, the Great Pumpkin at Halloween, the December Holiday Party, spring clean-up, and other community events throughout the year.