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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.

March 22, 2017 City Council Meeting Agenda


Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the March 22, 2017 Takoma Park City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-22-2017/

We’ll be voting this week on a contract for construction of the Sligo Mill Overlook Playground, along with the purchase of play equipment for the park, plus a resolution affirming support for Montgomery County Public Schools’ budget for the Outdoor Play Space Maintenance project. We’ll also have presentations from the Village of Takoma Park and the Safe Roadways Committee, and there will be a work session (but no formal vote) on the proposed subdivision of property at the intersection of Ethan Allen and Jackson Avenues.

Update from last week’s Council meeting.  We had a lengthy, highly technical discussion about how our stormwater program functions, including the idea put forward by City staff to raise the annual stormwater fee from $55 to $92 for homeowners. That increase would raise approximately $189,000 in additional funds in the coming year for work on stormwater projects in the City. I strongly support the goals of reducing stormwater run-off and curbing pollution within any run-off, and given the indications that we’re somewhat behind in our timetable for addressing our stormwater goals (which are aligned with State and Federal mandates), I think it’s reasonable to take a look at changes to our financing of the program.

However, I’m not convinced at this point that we need to adopt a fee increase, especially given the dwindling supply of affordable housing in the City. In the first place, we have a surplus in the stormwater account of about $173,000, which is fairly close to the $189,000 in increased funding we would realize from the proposed increase. I’d rather use the surplus funds we have already approved before contemplating a fee hike. In addition, the City is planning to do an updated survey of the existing stormwater conditions within the City. That process may give us a different view on where we stand in meeting our goals. Both of those points in my opinion argue against any increase at this time.

Important Montgomery College meeting tomorrow night.  As announced in a previous message, the first of three key public meetings about the future of MC’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus will start at 7:30 PM tomorrow night (7:00 PM for light refreshments) at our Community Center. I urge everyone who cares about this topic, including specifically preserving the residential character of the North Takoma neighborhood to attend. You can find more information via this link:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/news/mayor-stewart-and-president-pollard-urge-participation-in-community-conversations/

Village of Takoma Park.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170322-1.pdf  The Village is an example of Takoma Park community activism at its best. The group was established a few years ago with a handful of volunteers to provide intergenerational support to seniors and persons with disabilities who wish to live actively in the Takoma Park community. Today, the Village is providing a vital set of services to a significant number of local residents.

Safe Roadways Traffic Calming and Annual Report. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170322-2.pdf

https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/takoma-park-safe-roadways-comm-annual-report-2016.pdf  I appreciate the Committee’s detailed research and recommendations about traffic calming, and I look forward to the discussion. At a basic level, I share the view that we should consider phasing out the more elevated speed humps, which would mean keeping those that are aimed at limiting speeds to around 20 mph. It’s my sense that the more comprehensive vehicle speed analysis recommended in the report would be tough for us to take on from a staffing and financial resources perspective. I also think that to the extent we can have a mostly standard set of speed control mechanisms throughout the City, that’s desirable, since drivers, cyclists and pedestrians know generally what the rules are and what to look for.

It’s conceivable the more comprehensive approach may work for areas that are more problematic in terms of speed. For example, I have been concerned about the uneven speed limits on the stretch of Philadelphia Avenue from Carroll Avenue near the Fire House to the Silver Spring border by Montgomery College (one segment is 25 mph and the other 30 mph). On road sections like that (where clearly speed humps would be impractical), the ladder of alternatives suggested by the Committee may be more appropriate as a means of finding the best traffic calming method. One other concern would be that major thoroughfares like Philadelphia and Carroll Avenues, and Piney Branch Road are State Highways (meaning that the City doesn’t have full control over speed limits or traffic calming measures).

Sligo Mill Playground.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170322-3.pdf  I’ll be voting in favor of both the construction contract and the equipment purchase, funds for both of which were included in the City’s budget for the current year.

Outdoor Play Space Maintenance Project.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170322-5.pdf  This resolution expresses support for the proposed increase in County funding for school fields like the one at Takoma Park Elementary School, which is in need of substantial rehabilitation. I’ll be voting “yes”.

Subdivision Application.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170322-6.pdf  The Council has already held discussion on the proposed subdivision of the lot at the corner of Ethan Allen and Jackson Avenues. The authority for this type of zoning decision lies with the County, with the City Council playing an advisory role. I agree the lot is large enough to be subdivided, but I would like to see if it’s possible to offer at least one somewhat more affordable residence at the site, as opposed to having two new houses that would be sold for around $800,000, which is my understanding of the current plan.

Feel free to be in touch with me about any of these agenda items or other municipal matters.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council


Key Municipal Announcements (No City Council Meeting this Week)

March 15, 2017 City Council Meeting Agenda