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Welcome to my blog, which features frequent updates on local Takoma Park issues, including City Council meeting agendas, plus occasional commentary on national news and politics.

City Council Agenda for October 12, 2016

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the City Council meeting agenda for October 12, 2016:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-october-12-2016/

Key agenda items include voting on a resolution in support of having a paramedic stationed at the Takoma Park Fire Station, and discussing the status of the Letter of Intent negotiations between the Co-op and Takoma Junction developer NDC. We will also be discussing the Parking Management Study, and the relationship between our recently adopted Vacant Property Registry ordinance and similar efforts underway at the County level.

Updates from Last Week

Tree Policies.  As mentioned previously, in the wake of the concerns that were expressed by many in the community (including residents of North Takoma) and a number of us on the Council about the excessive cutting down of trees as part of the recent Pepco pruning process, I was appreciative that the City Manager announced that there would be a temporary hold placed on all approved Pepco tree removals pending a further review. Because the City Arborist announced his resignation effective at the end of September, the review of several questionable tree removals was being performed by an outside arborist. I’m asking for a report on where this review process stands, with a focus on making sure that we don’t move forward with any inappropriate tree removals because of deadlines that may have been established for the review. More broadly, I will also push for the Council to take a closer look at our policies on this set of issues to determine any changes that may be necessary, including in the Tree Ordinance.

Bicycles.  We had a lengthy discussion about the City’s bicycle policies, including specifically whether we should allow bicycle riding on sidewalks. I’m sympathetic to the challenges cyclists may face on some of our narrower, more heavily trafficked streets. But I prefer that we continue to focus on increasing and improving bike lanes and taking other steps to make bicycle riding in the City safer, without moving toward sidewalk riding (except for younger children), which I think creates its own safety problems. Although the Council wasn’t considering a specific proposal, we did take a “straw” vote on whether City staff and the Council should continue looking into the idea of allowing sidewalk riding. The vote was 4 – 3 in favor, meaning we’ll continue to examine options in this area. I voted “no.”

Youth Success.  We also delved in some detail into potential next steps on youth success, following up on the Community Conversation on that topic in June. There was general agreement that the City needs to build upon that event and expand the existing youth programs we currently offer. I look forward to taking action along those lines as soon as we can. I also brought up an idea that several of us have been discussing with some residents – establishing a short-term youth task force (which would include some young people as members) that would make recommendations about other steps we can take, with the expectation that we would have their ideas in time for next year’s budget. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to take action to create that body in the very near future.

Paramedic Resolution.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161012-1.pdf  Because the Takoma Park Fire Station is one of the few in the County that doesn’t have a paramedic, I believe formally asking the County to assign one to our Station (which is what the resolution calls for), is a good idea. With the scheduled departure of Washington Adventist Hospital in less than three years, this will become increasingly important. I will be voting in favor of the resolution.

Parking Management.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161012-2rev.pdf  City staff will be providing updates on the Parking Management Study Open Houses, which took place last week, and also discussing a proposed amendment to the City Ordinances relating to parking meters. Given all the parking challenges and pressures in Ward One, most specifically around Old Town, but also near Montgomery College, and frankly on most streets in the Ward, I intend to be actively involved in the efforts that are underway to consider how best to change our current parking policies.

Vacant Property.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161012-3.pdf  The Council recently approved the creation of a Vacant Property Registry program. Meanwhile, there are a couple of related legislative proposals pending at the County level. This agenda item will be an opportunity for us to review the extent to which we may want Takoma Park to be exempt from, or aligned with, these County measures.

Takoma Junction.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161012-4.pdf  As residents are aware, a key part of the Takoma Junction development project will be the relationship between the Co-op and NDC, the project developer. I’m pleased that the Development Agreement (DA) the Council approved in late July includes language making the Co-op the development’s anchor tenant. Under the DA, the two parties have several months to hammer out a Letter of Intent (LOI) laying out their relationship both during the construction phase and once the project is complete. They have had a number of discussions and will be meeting again tomorrow. We’ll receive a report from City staff on the status of the negotiations, and other aspects of the project. The LOI is a crucial element of the DA, so I will be interested to learn where things stand.

New Blog.  I thought it would be useful for residents to have an easily accessible spot online to find my various communications about City Council meetings and other local issues. With that in mind, I have set up a blog where my statements will be posted and archived: www.councilmemberkovar.com.

Let me know what you think about the blog, and, as always, if you have questions or concerns about any of the matters discussed in this message, please be in touch.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

October 19 City Council Agenda

Agendas for October 3 and 5, 2016