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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.

February 22, 2017 City Council Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the February 22 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-wednesday-february-22-2017/. We’ll have a preliminary vote on a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for Montgomery Housing Partnership in exchange for MHP keeping apartments affordable at several buildings they own in Takoma Park. We’re also scheduled to vote on several resolutions relating to pending legislation in Annapolis. In addition, we’ll have a work session discussion about the proposed Scatter Garden, plus a review of the Police Department annual report, and a Police mutual aid agreement with the City of Laurel.  As I announced last week, because of personal travel I won’t be physically present at this week’s meeting, but I will be participating via telephone.

Update on last week’s Council meeting. We discussed the current City policy of refraining in most cases from painting curbs yellow to indicate no parking areas. This policy was put in place a few years ago based on recommendations of the Streetscape Task Force. Since that time, a number of residents have raised concerns about safety and inconvenience as a result of cars parking too close to driveways or intersections due to faded or non-existent no parking designations. Others have urged a retention of the ban on yellow paint given its unsightly appearance and incompatibility with residential neighborhoods, including historic areas.

The Council expressed a range of opinions, and we are a long way from consensus on an overall policy. My view is that there are some genuine safety concerns and parking problems that need to be addressed, but I don’t favor wholesale reinstatement of curb painting. I’d like to explore whether – for more problematic areas – it would make sense to use white lines on the street to indicate no parking areas, and in fact this idea was offered as an option by City staff during the discussion. Staff will be reporting back to us on some ideas for testing out this type of approach on a pilot basis in a limited area, and I’m hopeful that will help us make some decisions about how best to move forward on this question.

We also voted to approve our Council Priorities document, which lays out the key policies and initiatives that will inform our work in the coming year. The document had been mostly finalized over the previous several weeks. I suggested the addition of one provision (which Councilmember Fred Schultz helped draft) that – within the overall category of “Engaged, Responsive, Service-Oriented Government” – calls for a continued focus on efforts to address disputes that may arise in areas of the community where businesses are adjacent to residences. I believe the inclusion of this language will help contribute to more positive resident-business relations in commercial areas, and I’m pleased that my colleagues agreed to add it to the Priorities document.

MHP PILOT.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170222-1.pdf.  As a strong proponent of doing what we can to retain and expand our stock of affordable housing, I’m generally supportive of providing reasonable financial incentives for owners like MHP to keep units in the affordable range. This PILOT proposal will help MHP do that in three properties they own in the City. In my opinion the reduction in revenue (estimated at a total of around $120,000 over 10 years) is acceptable as a means of helping keep the units affordable, as well as maintaining services that MHP provides at the buildings in question. I’ll be voting in favor of this proposal.

State Legislation.  We’ll be voting on resolutions expressing support for several bills that are pending in the State Legislature in Annapolis. We discussed these bills last week, and based on informal votes there was strong Council support for them. I plan to vote in favor of all four resolutions.

Scatter Garden.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170222-3.pdf.  In November the Council heard a presentation from residents who are proposing the creation of a Scatter Garden, an official municipal site where community members would be able to place the ashes of their cremated loved ones. This week we’ll have a formal work session on the subject. This means we’ll be discussing the concept in more detail, but we won’t be taking an official vote on it.

As I have noted previously (http://www.councilmemberkovar.com/blog/2016/11/28/takoma-park-scatter-garden-proposal), I understand the desire to establish the Scatter Garden, and I admire the initiative supporters have shown in developing the project and generating backing from fellow residents. However, I have serious doubts as to whether this idea is something the City should take on. To their credit, the proponents have made it clear that they expect all costs associated with the Scatter Garden, including ongoing maintenance, to be covered by fees paid by those who choose to honor their relatives at the garden. Even with that feature, though, there would be staff time devoted to it and an impact on the neighborhood where it was located. At this point – while I look forward to the discussion that will take place at the Council meeting – I haven’t seen a convincing case in favor of the concept as an official municipal function.

Annual Police Report.  The report was not yet posted at the time I was otherwise ready to circulate this message. I’ll try to send out a separate note with my comments on the report when it becomes available.

Laurel Mutual Aid Agreement.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170222-5.pdf.  I support the idea of our Police Department developing mutual aid agreements with other area police forces, especially in the case of jurisdictions that are directly adjacent to Takoma Park. I have no objection to our entering into a compact with Laurel, but I do want to have a clearer sense of the value in having such a relationship with a community that doesn’t abut our City. So, I look forward to learning more about that aspect of the agreement.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions about these or any other municipal matters. Thanks.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Councilmember

Ward One




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