Happy New Year to all! I’m hopeful that everyone had an enjoyable and restful holiday season. As the City Council gets ready to resume formal meetings, we are facing genuine January weather, and I urge folks to be careful when out walking or driving. If anyone is aware of City streets with icy areas that are hazardous, please let me know and I will alert City staff.
The City Council will actually be meeting twice this week: tomorrow night (Monday, January 9, starting at 6:00 PM) for a Council “Retreat” that is open to the public, and then our regular meeting on Wednesday, January 11. That meeting starts at 7:30 PM, though we will be meeting at 6:00 PM in an administrative session, which is closed to the public, to discuss legal services.
The Retreat -- which will be held in the Community Center’s Hydrangea Room -- will be the first of two sessions at which the Council will consider priorities for the coming year. The second Retreat will be on January 17. Members of the public are welcome to observe these discussions.
Here’s a link to the January 11 agenda: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-january-11-2016/. The agenda may feature additional action by the Council on the Takoma Junction development project, as described below. We will also be formally adopting our Green Team priorities, as well as voting on a resident appointment to the Takoma Junction Advisory Committee, and on the details of the City’s new Montgomery College scholarship program.
Green Team Priorities. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/agenda-20170111-1-rev.pdf. The priorities were developed in consultation with the Takoma Park Committee on the Environment, and they will help inform our decision making in the coming year. While the priorities are listed in three tiers, that is more a recognition of potential limits on our capacity at the municipal level to take on all of these items, and I consider the priorities in all three tiers to be worthy of our focus.
Takoma Junction Advisory Committee. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/agenda-20170111-2rev.pdf. The Committee was established to help coordinate community input on design elements of the Takoma Junction development, once we get to that phase of the project. The committee does not have a policy setting role. We’ll be voting on Wednesday to fill a vacancy on the committee, and I will be voting in favor of the appointment.
Montgomery College Scholarship. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/agenda-20170111-3.pdf. The Council included $5,000 in our current budget to establish a scholarship program for MC students. We’ll be voting on a resolution to transfer the funds to MC, and to designate the eligibility criteria, which include qualifying for financial need under Federal guidelines, residency in Takoma Park, a preference for students in the County’s ACES program (which includes mentoring in high school and College), and a minimum GPA. As a strong supporter of MC’s role in providing high quality educational opportunities to lower income students, including those from immigrant communities, I’ll be voting in favor of the resolution.
Takoma Junction. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/agenda-20170111-4-5-rev.pdf. As most residents are aware, following Council approval in late July of the Development Agreement (DA) between the City and developer NDC, the Co-op and NDC have been negotiating the terms of a potential Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI would form the basis for the Co-op’s future role as anchor tenant of the development, which would include an expansion of the Co-op’s physical space. Under the terms of the DA, the two parties had four months to reach an agreement on the LOI, and the Council had the authority – which we exercised in December – to extend the negotiation time for another 30 days. That extension period came to an end yesterday (January 7).
As someone who strongly supports a revitalization of the Junction area with an expanded Co-op as the anchor tenant, I have been hopeful that the two parties would be able to reach a compromise relating to the concerns of the Co-op about the unloading process, and to the amount of square footage for other commercial tenants on the part of NDC. I’m pleased they have been very actively negotiating this month, and we may learn that they have reached an LOI agreement before our Council meeting on Wednesday. If that happens, then we will be able to start moving into the next phase of the project, which will include the community’s participation in the design review process, mentioned above.
If the two companies do not reach an agreement, then the Council – under the terms of the DA – will have two choices on Wednesday: authorize NDC to seek another anchor tenant (with the Co-op remaining in operation at its current location) or terminating the relationship with NDC and paying them for the work they have performed to date, up to $75,000. At this point, my hope is that the two parties will reach an agreement, meaning that we won’t have to consider either of these options. I’ll be sure to provide relevant updates to Ward One residents when I have more information.
Please be in touch if you have comments or questions about any of the issues discussed above.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One