I strongly support the concept of revitalizing Takoma Junction with an expanded Co-op as the anchor tenant of a development residents can be proud of. With the negotiations between the Co-op and Junction developer NDC continuing, I hold out some hope that the two parties will be able to resolve their differences in a way that helps the project move forward. However, I can’t say with any great confidence whether they’ll reach an agreement before the City Council meeting tonight.
A number of residents have contacted me to urge my support for the proposed Letter of Intent (LOI) drafted by the Co-op. While the LOI is an important document that will lay out the structure for the two parties’ relationship at the Junction, the two companies have to decide, based on their assessments of the best interests of their respective businesses, whether to sign the letter and what form it should take. That’s not something the City can dictate for either party.
Under the terms of the Development Agreement (DA) -- a legally binding document signed by the City and NDC in July -- the Council will have two options tonight: ending the deal with NDC and paying them off for their work to date (up to $75,000), or authorizing NDC to seek a new anchor tenant. Based on my sense of the state of the negotiations and my judgment of the overall progress on the development, if the Co-op and NDC don’t come to terms before we meet tonight, I would be in favor of authorizing NDC to seek another anchor tenant as opposed to supporting the idea of killing the entire development (and leaving the City-owned parking lot in its current condition), especially since under the first option the Co-op would still remain in business where it is now (with a requirement that their loading and parking needs be accommodated, and a bar on any new anchor tenant being a direct competitor with the Co-op). I would add that – even if the Council authorizes NDC to seek another anchor tenant -- the Co-op could still end up playing the anchor role in the Junction.
Pursuant to the DA, there has been a 5-month negotiation timeframe for the Co-op and NDC. The fact that they have not yet reached an agreement is I believe more than anything a reflection of the development challenges inherent in the small size of the City-owned lot. As an indication of the complexity of the situation, the Co-op’s latest draft from yesterday afternoon includes significant changes from the version about which many residents had reached out to me earlier that same day. It’s possible there will be further changes from either company before this evening’s Council meeting. But to be clear, while Councilmembers are free to comment on the various LOI proposals, based on the language of the DA we will not have before us tonight a voting option to support or oppose a particular version of the LOI.
I encourage all interested residents to attend tonight’s Council meeting. It starts at 7:30 PM, and any resident can speak for up to three minutes during the public comment period. In addition, I welcome any reactions to my comments here.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One