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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.

October 25, 2017 City Council Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the October 25, 2017 City Council Meeting Agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-october-25-2017/

Key issues this week relate to the Takoma Junction development project, including a resolution that calls for changes to the Concept Plan recently submitted by NDC and sets criteria for the traffic study, along with a separate resolution on the City-funded traffic study. In addition, we’ll have a final vote on adding neonicotinoids to our Safe Grow law, an initial vote on a budget amendment that includes funding for legal services connected to Montgomery County’s Safe Grow law (which was recently invalidated by a State court); and several votes on City contracts and appointments. Finally, we’ll discuss (with no votes) a possible change to the City Charter relating to the role of the Council in certain personnel matters, and the idea of a covenant to preserve Dorothy’s Woods as open space.

Takoma Junction.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-1.pdf  The resolution we’ll be considering is aimed at letting NDC know the specific areas of their recently submitted Concept Plan the Council has particular concerns about, and setting out the criteria that should form the basis for the traffic study that is a precursor to further planning work including the eventual development of a detailed site plan. For me at the moment, the three primary areas of the Concept Plan about which I have concerns are the need for more public space at the street level, my disagreement with the third floor idea, and the jumbled up nature of the space for truck deliveries, outside seating tables and trash handling, which is not workable.

Those areas are touched upon in the resolution, but they may need to be strengthened, and I’ll be consulting with my Council colleagues on those points. In addition, I’d like to explore tightening up the link between the aspects of the Concept Plan the Council is concerned about and the criteria for the traffic study, so we can be sure that our concerns that are specifically tied to traffic are properly incorporated into the study. For information on the separate City-funded traffic study, see below.

Election Judges.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-2.pdf.  Our local elections are set for November 7, with several days of early voting before that. This resolution, which establishes the rates of pay for election judges and poll workers, and formally appoints those individuals, is essential to ensuring a smooth process for our elections. I’ll be voting in favor of it.

Safe Grow.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-3.pdf.  As I’ve noted previously, neonicotinoids have been linked to significant deaths of bees and other pollinators, and neonics have been banned in Maryland, except when used by certified pesticide applicators. While I continue to favor education over an enforcement-heavy approach to our local law, I don’t object to adding neonics to our current Safe Grow list, given the link to pollinators and the fact that individuals won’t be able to use neonics anyway once the Maryland law is fully implemented.

Budget Amendmenthttps://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-4.pdf Most of the items in this amendment are routine funding shifts. The one exception is the proposal to provide $10,000 for work by the City Attorney for legal work (potentially in the form of a Friend of the Court brief) connected to the County appeal of the adverse court ruling on the County safe grow law. As I mentioned before, I do think State pre-emption of local laws (which is what this ruling was focused on) is a problem that could have applications to matters far beyond Safe Grow. That being said, I’m skeptical that this is a good use of taxpayer funds. I’m currently leaning against supporting the amendment, but as I continue thinking about it, I’d welcome comments from residents on this agenda item.

Traffic Study.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-5.pdf  As mentioned, the City will also be funding a traffic study that is meant to be complementary to NDC’s study. This resolution will enable that second study to go forward. Since this study is a vital part of any development at the Junction, I will be supporting it, though I’m reviewing it to see whether any additional study criteria should be added.

Consent Agenda.  The following three agenda items, because they are considered non-controversial, are grouped together (in what’s called a Consent Agenda) and will be voted on as a single package. I will be voting yes, though I will ask City staff to work to ensure that in cases where Flexi-pave is used for short segments of sidewalk repair, the coordination with contractors handling the rest of the sidewalk is improved in order to minimize periods of reduced accessibility. This was a problem with some of the recent sidewalk work on Cedar and Maple Avenues.

Flexi-Pave Contract.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-6a.pdf

Back Hoe Purchase.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-6b.pdf

Board of Elections Appointments.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-6c.pdf

Charter Amendment Discussion.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-7.pdf  Under our City Charter, personnel matters fall within the jurisdiction of the City Manager, and Councilmembers have no formal role in hiring or firing of staff. This proposed change to the City Charter would give Councilmembers some ability to provide certain types of information to the City Manager that could be relevant to such matters. This is a topic that periodically arises, and I think it will be valuable to give some consideration to making changes along the lines suggested in the draft.

Dorothy’s Woods.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171025-8-rev.pdf  This proposal would establish a covenant on the Dorothy’s Woods parcel that was purchased several years ago by the City to preserve the land as open space. Since the site was purchased with the idea of keeping it as open space, I’m generally supportive of the idea, but I’ll be interested in gaining a better understanding of how this proposal would fit in with the ongoing efforts to resolve the tax liens and other encumbrances on the property.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One



Update on Takoma Junction Development

Agenda for October 18, 2017 City Council Meeting