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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.

November 16, 2016 City Council Agenda

Dear Neighbors:


The following is a link to the agenda for the November 16 City Council meeting:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-november-16-2016/.  As a reminder, this week’s meeting will take place at the Takoma Park Recreation Center, located at 7315 New Hampshire Avenue. Key agenda items include an initial discussion on potential options for improving the Recreation Center, and an update on the City’s Affordable Housing funding. There will also be a final vote on a technical amendment to our ordinances relating to parking meters (this is not directly part of the pending Parking Management Study initiative).


I also want to let residents that know that the agenda for the December 7 Council meeting (which is expected to be the last meeting this year) may include a discussion and vote on next steps regarding the Takoma Junction development project. The Development Agreement between the City and developer NDC calls for NDC and the Co-op to complete their Letter of Intent negotiations by the end of November. If the negotiations are not completed by the November 29 deadline, then the Council has 10 days to decide whether to go in one of three directions:  extending the negotiation deadline for another 30 days, authorizing NDC to seek another anchor tenant, or ending the relationship with NDC. It’s not clear at this point whether the negotiations will be complete by the November 29 deadline. 


The updates on the negotiations that have been regularly provided by NDC to the City are now posted here: https://takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/takoma-junction-redevelopment/I urge interested residents to take a look at these documents, especially the updates for October 12, October 26 and November 11, which include schematics and explanations of potential loading and delivery options. Feedback from residents on this information would be welcome and much appreciated.


Parking Meters.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161116-1.pdf

This is the final vote on this technical correction to our parking ordinances. I will be voting in favor of it.


New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161116-2.pdf.

The Recreation Center is currently owned by the County, which has discussed with Takoma Park the potential for ownership of the facility to be transferred to the City. Were that to occur, it would offer the opportunity for a substantial revamping of the Center, perhaps in collaboration with a private developer. We’ll be having an initial discussion on the idea of requesting letters of interest from developers regarding this possibility. Note that we will not be taking any formal votes; this will be a discussion on whether we want to send such a letter, and if so, what kinds of information it will include.


For my part, I’m open to considering a range of options at the site, particularly in recognition of the reality that, without some outside financing, it will be challenging to undertake the kind of revitalization that’s necessary to transform the Center into a recreation facility that is able to offer more programs and attract more residents, especially youth. But, I think it’s essential that, whatever else may be possible at the site (conceivably including affordable housing and commercial entities), the central focus should be on expanding recreational opportunities. This is in line with the valuable efforts now underway through the recently established Friends of the New Hampshire Recreation Center, and I will be pushing for increased recreation opportunities to be front and center as part of any rehabilitation plan for the Center.


Affordable Housing.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161116-3.pdf

In the City budget for the Fiscal Year that began on July 1, the Council allocated $400,000 for affordable housing. I view this as an initial down payment, and I am hopeful that we will continue to provide funding for this vital purpose going forward. We are still in the early stages of planning how the money will be used, with the Council having given preliminary approval for the City’s participation in a State of Maryland program that provides down payment assistance to some lower income purchasers. 


Our discussion on Wednesday will include an update from City staff on that effort, plus a discussion of a proposed City staff process for creating a housing and economic development strategic plan, along with ideas relating to tenants’ right of first refusal purchases; policy recommendations relating to our Rent Stabilization law and rental licensing inspections; and “Tiny House” construction.


It’s my view that all of those options are worth considering.  In particular, I am supportive of the concepts in the rent stabilization policy changes, which have been put forward by the local non-profit organization CHEER, and I’m hopeful that we will be able to move forward on some of them. I would add that the discussion will not be limited to the ideas that are mentioned above. Councilmembers will have an opportunity to raise other suggestions as well. One that I am interested in putting on the table is providing modest tax breaks to homeowners who make accessory apartments available to lower income residents, something that would not only help expand the City’s stock of affordable housing, but also potentially help longer term residents remain in the City.


More broadly, while I agree that the City should develop an affordable housing plan, I don’t support the idea of holding a substantial amount of the funds in reserve while we develop such a plan. I would like to see us pursue several programs on a pilot basis (including initiatives like down payment assistance, tax incentives for accessory apartments, reform of rent stabilization, and perhaps support for repairs of larger multi-family apartments, among others) while we work on the longer term plan. That’s the approach I will be advocating.


Please feel free to be in touch if you have questions or comments about any of the information in this message.


Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One


November 9, 2016 Takoma Park City Council Agenda