Like a modern-day French Revolutionary, Joyce Ann Bassett sat knitting at the crowded Montgomery Village meeting. But the revolution was already over -- with nobody guillotined.
In an attempt to quell the recent resident uprising, Montgomery Village developer Clarence Kettler has decided not to take control of the village governing board as he had previously announced he would.
Kettler instead told residents in a letter distributed before last week's meeting to each of the Gaithersburg development's 20,000 homes that he will leave the board's present power balance intact. There are now four residents on the board, four Kettler representatives and one neutral staff member.
"Of the greatest importance to us . . . is our deep desire to avoid any division of residents over this or any other issue and to protect the general well-being and stability of the village . . .," Kettler's letter states.
Kettler's decision a month ago to replace the neutral staff member with a fifth Kettler Brothers Inc. employe ignited the normally placid suburban community. With five seats, Kettler would have had a majority.
Led by Gene Counihan, resident member and current president of the board, village homeowners banded together to halt what they viewed as a Kettler bid to undermine the village's fledging attempts at democratic self-government.
Counihan and other Montgomery Village leaders had decided at a previous meeting to seek a legal opinion on Kettler's action. They had called last week's general meeting of all residents to explain the situation.
Now, Counihan acknowledged to the often boisterous crowd, action was no longer necessary.
"Democracy prevailed. This is a significant victory," Counihan said.
Counihan explained that he and the other resident members will press Kettler for a timetable outlining when each remaining Kettler seat on the board will be turned over to the residents.
Although Kettler decided 10 years ago to let residents have equal say on the board, he is legally entitled to control the board until the number of homeowners is greater than the number of houses remaining to be sold. Kettler representatives expect that to occur by 1983. In the meantime, residents do not want the board to revert to Kettler control.
Counihan maintained Kettler had backed off from the decision to reclaim the board seat mostly because of newspaper headlines generated by the issue.
"I am distressed that this came through the media. For the past 10 years, we had a good direct working relationship with Kettler. I saw that end and I'm sorry," Counihan said.
But other residents were elated at what they termed a new beginning for Montgomery Village.
"This is great," said Bob Greenberg, motioning to all the residents who sat on the floor and stood on tables, and had brought their children and foil-wrapped dinners -- along with their opinions -- to the evening meeting in the development's community center.
"This issue did more for the maturity of Montgomery Village than anything I've ever seen. The village has come of age," said Greenberg.
All the residents applauded Counihan and the other board members who are village homeowners for their ready defense of resident views. They seemed momentarily appeased by Kettler's compromise
In the back, however, Joyce Anne Bassett continued to knit. "I want the residents to control everything," she said quietly. "I won't be happy until then."