Woodridge Road is a fairly common looking residential street that runs off Gas House Pike downhill and slightly snakes before connecting to other eastern parts of communities that make up the Lake Linganore Association.
It's also where, according to some residents, speeding motorists have been a huge issue during the past several months, as new homes have been built and dozens of families with children have moved in.
Steph Mox and Chris Matheson are two of many residents who have lobbied the Lake Linganore Association's (LLA) Board of Directors to install speed cushions to alleviate the issue. Speed cushions have a more gradual incline and decline than traditional speed bumps.
Matheson, who works as a firefighter in northwest Washington D.C., said he and other residents have had difficulty getting LLA officials to implement any kind of change.
Chrissy Lashaun, who lives up the street, agreed with that assessment.
"People are not riding through this neighborhood as if it's residential," Lashaun said. "I've seen children almost get hit, and people fly through here like it's a speedway."
Debate between residents, board
Much of the ongoing discussion between the LLA board and Woodridge's residents has occurred within the last year, as LLA officials initially proposed updating their rules and regulations to alleviate the issue.
Michelle Doster, LLA's general manager, said in an interview late last month speed cameras were part of that proposal. The proposed changes also created a fine schedule for motorists who violate posted speed limits — a warning for those driving 11-15 mph above the limit, with $50 and $100 penalties for second and third offenses.
But in October, after putting the fine schedule and regulations out for a 30-day public comment period, the Board of Directors agreed to table the proposal at a future meeting.
"Residents felt like it was more enforcement than they wanted to see in the community," Doster said. "That yes, speeding is a problem, and most folks recognize it as an issue, but would like the board to take a different approach."
That different approach, for now, is setting up a five- to seven-member committee to research and see how speeding might be resolved in the area and through Lake Linganore Association communities, according to Doster.
Mox, who lives near where a school bus picks up and drops off kids, said she appreciates the board being deliberate about how to proceed. But she and Matheson also have put out surveys within their community — one from August, they say, showed 54 percent of respondents want some sort of traffic calming device, like a speed cushion.
Matheson said one petition he sent around to dozens of neighbors was signed by more than 90 percent of residents, saying some action needed to be taken to address speeding.
He's heard from LLA officials that speed cushions slow down emergency vehicles, but he disputes that, given his experience as a D.C. firefighter. He added, along with other neighbors like Mox and Lashaun, the main objective is safety, especially for kids who live in the neighborhood.
"If one of these children gets hit, you may as well rename the lake, because they're going to own it," Matheson said.
Is speed enforcement in HOAs allowed?
Speed enforcement isn't an issue in every homeowner association (HOA) statewide. But Doster said LLA officials do have the right to regulate their own roadways, given they are private, not owned by the county or state.
"Frederick County does have a public access easement, but we did obtain clarification from the attorney from Frederick County that that public access easement does not nullify the association's obligation to maintain, nor its ability to govern, its private roadways," Doster said.
Jeremy Tucker, an attorney with Lerch, Early and Brewer in Bethesda, has worked extensively with HOA law statewide.
Tucker said HOAs and their governing bodies are within their rights to draft rules and regulations related to traffic flow and speed enforcement, per state law.
Those rights shouldn't conflict with state or county laws, like if a fire lane were required or other restrictions were placed on the road. But rules and regulations are perhaps more common in larger HOAs, like LLA.
"If you think of a large-scale community that has a lot of private roadways, versus a small section of townhouses ... when the community itself has more private roadways and is functioning like a small, little town, you perhaps have more of an option to do speed enforcement," Tucker said.
He added, however, that speed humps aren't the only way to deal with traffic flow and control—additional stop signs and speed cameras and numerous other options are available to HOAs.
In a follow-up interview Thursday, Doster said the aforementioned traffic management committee would meet in the coming months and provide the LLA Board of Directors with potential solutions early next year.
A study completed and published in January 2018 by Wilson T. Ballard Company, an engineering firm in Owings Mills, and commissioned by Elm Street Development, showed there was no need for physical calming devices on Woodridge Road.
She declined to forward the study to The Frederick News-Post, stating she did not have permission from the firm.
Doster also said the road where residents have had concern about speeding is still owned by Elm Street, the developer, and hasn't been turned over to the association. That would not happen until a final top coat of asphalt has been installed on the roadway.
She said the board, traffic management committee and board of directors would look hard at whether to install speed cushions in the area, which could occur by the spring of 2021.
But Mox, Lashaun and Matheson believe something, like installing the speed cushions, needs to be done soon. Matheson, in an email, pointed to a letter of support from New Market District Volunteer Fire Company Fire Chief Benjamin Nalborczyk.
"There's so many children in this neighborhood," Matheson said. "I just want to protect everybody."