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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 4, 2017 City Council Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the October 4, 2017 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-october-4-2017/

Before the regular meeting, the Council will convene in an administrative session (which is not open to the public) to consider the evaluation of the City Manager. In the public session, we’ll have votes on the affordable housing Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) that were approved on initial votes last week, and a contract for the purchase of staff office furniture. Finally, there will be discussions (with no votes) on alcohol service in sidewalk cafes within Takoma Park, and a potential amendment to the City’s Safe Grow law.

Montgomery College Math-Science Building.  The City and residents have been working over the last several years to influence the siting of Montgomery College’s new Math-Science Building. The potential locations have been narrowed down to two: one on Fenton Avenue next to the Nunley student center, and the other also on Fenton, closer to the residential area and Belle Ziegler Park. Mayor Kate Stewart and I, along with many Takoma Park and Silver Spring residents, have expressed support for the first option. On Friday afternoon the College issued a letter outlining plans to proceed with the second option, but leaving open the possibility of going with the first option if additional County funding is available. It’s a nine page letter, so there’s a lot to absorb. The Mayor and I will be talking to relevant College and County officials to seek further clarifications, and I’ll be circulating a separate email to neighbors with more details in the near future. Here’s a link to the letter: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/15ecf42a89186bd7

Update from last week’s Council Meeting.  

Bicycles on Sidewalks. The Council gave final approval to continuing the general policy of prohibiting bicycles on sidewalks, but adding some exceptions. In particular, we gave the City Manager authority to permit cycling on sidewalks in certain areas, with a requirement to take into account bicycle and pedestrian safety concerns, and public input. Here’s a link to my earlier description of the previous week’s action on this topic:  http://www.councilmemberkovar.com/blog/2017/9/26/agenda-for-september-27-2017-city-council-meeting.  This past week, before the final vote approving these new policies, the Council approved one additional amendment I put forward, which clarifies that pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks.

Takoma Junction.  Last week there was a presentation from Takoma Junction developer NDC and its design partner Streetsense, which included a detailed concept plan. The Council will be discussing this proposal at our October 11 meeting. Given the importance of the project to the entire community, its complexity, and the level of interest on the part of so many residents, this is also a topic on which I’ll send out a separate email. Meanwhile, I would be grateful for feedback from residents on the concept plan. You can see the project timeline and the NDC presentation via the following links:



PILOTs.  I will be voting in favor of the PILOTs, as I did on the preliminary votes last week. Here’s further information on them:




Office Furniture.  I will be voting in favor of this furniture contract for the City’s housing staff. The funds were included in this year’s budget. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171004-4.pdf

Alcohol Service in Sidewalk Cafes.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171004-5.pdf. Several business in Old Town have indicated an interest in being able to serve alcoholic beverage at sidewalk tables in front of their establishments. The City doesn’t have a legal system in place for considering this or similar actions (for example outdoor events not connected to a specific restaurant) involving alcoholic beverages on public property. This discussion will be the first formal opportunity for us to consider the pros and cons of permitting service of alcoholic beverages on public rights of way or public land. We will also look at relevant County requirements.

I’m generally supportive of the idea of allowing restaurants to serve drinks in this fashion, provided we can, for example, ensure that there is adequate, safe passage for pedestrians on sidewalks, appropriate control of sales to protect minors, and sufficient measures to avoid excessive noise. I’ll be considering this concept with those and related points in mind, and I welcome comments from residents.

Safe Grow.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20171004-6.pdf.  This discussion will focus on whether to add neonicotinoids to the City’s Safe Grow law. These substances, which have been linked in particular to destruction of bee colonies and the death of other pollinators, have been banned in Maryland, except for use by certified pesticide applicators. This means that under current law non-certified homeowners can’t use neonicotinoids. The proposal we’ll be discussing would go a step further than State law by prohibiting neonicotinoids in Takoma Park even when used by certified applicators. I’d like to learn more about the impact of neonicotinoids, but I’m leaning toward supporting this proposal, given the crucial importance of pollinators in our food chain, and the severe losses they’ve experienced in recent decades.

I would note that this discussion is separate from consideration by the City Council of how to respond to the recent State of Maryland court decision over-turning the County Safe Grow law. The Council has had some initial consultation with our City attorney on how that decision and the County’s forthcoming appeal affects our local Safe Grow law. Among the points for the Council to consider – in particular once the County has submitted its appeal to the court ruling -- will be whether or not to join in the appeal.

Please feel free to contact me about any of the issues covered in this message.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

Agenda for October 11, 2017 City Council Meeting

Agenda for September 27, 2017 City Council Meeting