June 13, 2015
It has been brought to my attention
that I have not posted anything on my website
recently. One might even wonder why I keep a website;
it did seem useful in the past, and I guess I am just
reluctant to let it go. Maybe I have something to say
that others might find useful. Anyway, the recent
spate of publicity regarding my dispute with my neighbor
over mansionization and a shared driveway has prompted, I
see, widespread discussion on the Washington Postís website
and also, I am assuming, on other forms of social
media. I have also received via old-fashioned mail
delivery both fan mail and hate mail.
Let me make a few points, with respect to the recent Washington Post article. First, many of the quotes attributed to me were paraphrased, with an effort to portray the drama of the dispute between neighbors. I was hoping that the reporter would delve into the way the builder/developers, in search of the almighty dollar, build to suit their clients without any concern as to the effects of their projects on neighbors, neighborhoods, and the environment in general, in the Town of Chevy Chase, and in other communities as well. This was alluded to in the article but not delved into in any depth.
Secondly, it was not clear in the article that I had let my neighbors know, back in 2008, when the plans for their house was but a glimmer in the eye of the planners, that I would not consent to any changes to the shared driveway. When my neighbors bought their house, they could see that there was a very narrow shared driveway designed for simple back and forth driving, with no turning. The grassy strip was a visible feature, and at the time the grass was lush and healthy. It became a muddy mess only after my neighbors moved in, and they drove across it repeatedly with their two vehicles (a Mercedes and a Lexus SUV). That is what created the muddy conditions. My neighbors could have altered their plans at that time. And to be clear, I have offered to buy their half of the driveway, and also to cooperate with them, in the event they should choose to seek variances from the Town of Chevy Chase to relocate their two-car garage door entrance to face Willow Lane. They have been unwilling to do so.
Third, it is clear that some folks posting comments do not understand the nature of a shared driveway. In this case, the shared driveway agreement is in writing, and was written and recorded in 1928. The property line goes down the middle of the driveway, and previously went approximately down the middle of the grassy strip that existed before it was paved over. I have easement rights on their side of the property line, and they have easement rights on mine. I am an equal co-owner of the driveway, and the court order that my neighbors obtained when they sued me violates my property rights because it allowed them to redesign the driveway and use materials that I did not approve of on both their side of the property line and mine. Judge Duganís order is unconstitutional, and I am appealing it, and I am also appealing the attorneysí fees awarded against me. The appeal will be briefed and heard in the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.
Fourth, my neighbors will never admit it, because they have a lot of pride and donít want to admit having made a mistake; but their new house was badly designed for many reasons, including increased problems with storm water management, intrusive exterior lighting (because of the fixtures by their front door and two-car garage door, which project light into my windows), and diminished privacy--- not only my privacy, but theirs as well. Their garage door faces the front of my house across the narrow driveway; this means that the comings and goings of their vehicles intrudes on my privacy, but also, I can see inside their garage when the door is open, even though I donít really care to peer in---but it is there in my face.
Fifth, I am truly aware of the irony in this situation, that relatively affluent neighbors are fighting over a driveway, when there are people going hungry without even a roof over their heads. And to those who have commented about that on social media, I get it. And I recognize that I need to be doing more than I am, to work against this kind of inequality.
Sixth, I really would like to settle this matter, but not at the expense of total capitulation. I have, as noted above, offered to buy my neighborsí half of the driveway, and help them get variances from the Town to put their driveway and garage door elsewhere. They will not agree.
Finally, let me clear up a few more misconceptions that I saw on the Washington Post comments following the posting of the article on the Postís website. (I did find some of the comments to be somewhat humorous.) My name is Vollmer, not Voldemort. I love cats, but I only have one. I am not a bitter old lady, and I do have family and friends, although the family members live on the West Coast. I practiced law in California for a number of years, working for the United Farm Workers Union, and then for a legal aid office in Bakersfield, California, and then worked as an attorney in private practice, primarily representing low-income people in criminal cases by court appointment. In 1997, I moved back to my family home to stay with my elderly father, and I made the choice not to open a new law practice at that point, to have time to be with my father. As some have noted in the Comments to the Post, I also ran for Congress, but with no expectation of winning, just to raise some important issues in the primary for public debate (mainly, opposition to going to war with Iraq, and promoting universal health care). I also saw a few comments on the Postís website suggesting that I was biased, and might be anti-Semitic. Take if from someone who picketed the Hiser Theater in Bethesda when I was a teenager, because it was segregated---and from someone whose mother was Jewish---those assumptions are totally false.
I am not really into social media, but if anyone wants to link this statement on my website to the Washington Post comments, and/or to other social media, feel free. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around in cyberspace about this controversy, and I would like to set the record straight.
Deborah A. Vollmer
7202 44th Street
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Dear Friends,For those of you who are visiting for the first time, here's a little history. I started this web site during the primary election campaign in the year 2000, when I was a Democratic candidate in the primary for Maryland's Eighth Congressional District. (I had run previously for the same seat in 1998, but had no website at that time.) We ran a very low-budget campaign based on issues of importance to the voters, including, but not limited to: universal health care, Clean Money campaign reform, protection of the environment, and civil rights and civil liberties for all - - and I came in second in that race, in a field of five.