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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.

Agenda for November 30, 2016 City Council Meeting

Dear Neighbors:


Here’s a link to the agenda for the November 30, 2016 City Council Meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-november-30-2016/


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My family and I spent the day with relatives in Northern Virginia, so we didn’t have to face Route 95 traffic, as we have in so many previous years. I trust that those who did have to contend with busy travel routes found that the family visits (and food!) more than compensated. 


The City Council is back for two more meetings (this Wednesday and December 7) before we go on our winter recess until January 11. Key agenda items for this week’s meeting include voting on a resolution approving the purchase of 126 and 128 Lee Avenue by the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs; a progress report on the Council Priorities that were established at the beginning of the year; and a discussion on the Green Team priorities in preparation for adoption of a resolution in January 2017 formalizing them. We will also have a second and final vote on purchasing a dump truck for the City Public Works Department, and we’ll be voting on a resolution designating the dates of our winter recess.


Before the regular 7:30 PM meeting, the Council is scheduled to go into closed session at 6:00 PM to discuss matters related to upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the City’s two bargaining units. Closed sessions for this purpose are permitted under State law.


Lee Avenue Purchase.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161130-1.pdf.  The properties in question have been condemned and are for sale. While a private development company (Solo Investment Group) has a pending contract to purchase the properties with the intention of making the units available to lower income renters, existing laws give both the City and Montgomery County the right of first refusal to purchase properties in these situations. In this case, the County has proposed to purchase the properties, with a plan to partner with a non-profit provider (Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless) and a developer (Coalition Homes) to make the units available for people who are homeless. 


The Council will be considering a resolution that withdraws our own right of first refusal and approves the County’s purchase. I’m generally supportive of steps that can be taken to increase the City’s stock of affordable housing, including housing for the homeless, and I am likely to vote in favor of the resolution. But – before I commit to voting yes -- I want to have a clearer understanding of the relative merits of the alternatives (taking into account the various entities involved and their abilities to undertake the necessary rehabilitation work).


Dump Truck Purchase.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161130-2.pdf .  As noted above we previously approved this purchase on a preliminary basis. I will be voting in favor of the resolution.


Recess Resolution.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161130-3.pdf.  This resolution makes it official that the Council will be on recess following our December 7 meeting until Wednesday, January 11.


Council Priorities.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161130-4.pdf.  At the beginning of the year, the Council adopted five overarching priorities that we would attempt to use as the basis for our decision making. The five priorities are: 1) A Livable Community for All; 2) Fiscally Sustainable Government; 3) Environmentally Sustainable Community; 4) Engaged, Responsive and Service-Oriented Government; and 5) Advance Economic Development Efforts. Substantial progress has been made in all of these areas, but there is still plenty more to be done. The Council Priorities link includes a document that describes the progress in detail, as well as showing the areas that still need attention. I think the discussion will be an excellent opportunity to assess how far we have come, and to help us prepare for next year.


Green Team Priorities.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161130-5-rev.pdf.  Each municipality in the Sustainable Maryland certification program is required to have a Green Team to coordinate sustainability efforts. The Takoma Park Green Team is comprised of the City Council and the Committee on the Environment. At least once a year, the Green Team meets to review ongoing sustainability efforts and set priorities for the following year. The most recent Green Team meeting was on October 3, and the Committee has now submitted a list of action items and priorities resulting from that meeting. This Council session is aimed at finalizing the priorities in preparation for adopting them by resolution in January 2017.


The link above includes a document laying out the priorities, and several other areas where additional research may be needed in order to help determine future steps. Among the priority areas, I am particularly interested in having the City focus on these: moving toward carbon neutrality; expansion of solar energy use in the City; modernizing our tree ordinance; addressing concerns about inadequate waste disposal in commercial areas; exploring how to provide financial incentives to home owners to address storm water runoff problems; and ensuring that future economic development efforts are appropriately green.


Feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of the above agenda items. As a reminder, many Ward One residents have signed up to receive my Council updates via a direct email rather than relying on the neighborhood email lists. Please let me know via email if you would like to do this. In addition, to see previous Council updates or other commentaries I have written about local matters and political affairs, you can check out my blog at http://www.councilmemberkovar.com/.  You can find a recent post there with my views on the proposed Scatter Garden (a site within the City where residents could spread the ashes of their departed loved ones), on which there was a presentation to the City Council on November 2.


Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

Update on Takoma Junction Development

Takoma Park Scatter Garden Proposal