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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.

City Council Action -- Week of May 1, 2017


Dear Neighbors:

Here’s a link to the agenda for the May 3, 2017 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-may-3-2017/.  In addition to continued work on the Fiscal Year 2018 budget (which starts on July 1), we’ll have votes on two resolutions relating to the proposed subdivision on Ethan Allen Avenue, votes on a City grant and two contracts, and a report on this year’s State legislation session.

We’re in the heart of budget season. Tonight (Monday, May 1) the Council will have a budget work session, where we’ll hear more details about the City Manager’s proposed budget, with a focus on the budgets for the various City departments. After that we’ll have a discussion on potential Council amendments to the proposed budget (a process known as “reconciliation).

On Tuesday, May 2, I’m hosting a meeting at 7:30 PM in the Community Center Azalea Room for Ward One residents to talk about the budget. All are invited. Then on Wednesday, May 3, we’ll formally consider and vote on reconciliation amendments, with an eye toward formulating a revised budget package. We’ll have a preliminary vote on the overall package on May 10, with a final vote scheduled for May 17.

City staff will be preparing background information with details about reconciliation amendments later today, after which I’ll send out a separate message with details about my views on the budget and the amendments. Meanwhile, I was pleased that a couple of dozen residents spoke out at last week’s hearings on the proposed budget and the property tax rate. Having the benefit of a large number of thoughtful comments helped provide a deeper sense of public opinion on budget and tax issues. Among other things, I was pleased that many of those who spoke expressed support for the proposed Library renovation project, though I understand of course that there are residents who don’t share that view.

My goal as we work out the final form of the budget will be to retain funding for the Library and for the Affordable Housing fund, and to find enough net reductions in spending to get us as close as possible to the Constant Yield tax property tax rate. Constant Yield is a rate that’s below the current rate and that would bring in about the same overall level of taxes for the City next year as we received this year. I’ll provide more details in my separate budget message about the spending cuts that – along with some modest increases in a few areas – will get us there without any significant negative impact on key programs that provide assistance to residents.

Ethan Allen Subdivision.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170503-1.pdf


The owner of the undeveloped lot at the corner of Ethan Allen and Jackson Avenues is proposing to construct and sell two houses on that site. Because the property is zoned at present for only one house, the County planning board must approve the subdivision proposal before it can proceed. The City of Takoma Park can offer its views to the County, but does not under current zoning laws have the ability to block or approve the plan. Some residents have raised a concern about the extent to which the house proposed to be built closer to Ethan Allen would fail to match the setbacks from the street of houses on the same block. We’ll be voting on two resolutions, one suggesting that the plan be modified to enable a setback that’s more in line with the other houses, and a second calling for a new County policy on that topic.

My main concern is the impact this project will have on housing affordability in the City. The two houses are expected to sell for around $800,000 each, which appears to be above the average in that area, and is certainly well above the average in the City. If we continue to have construction of homes at the more expensive end of the scale, it will be increasingly difficult for people of more modest means to live in the City. Though current zoning requirements in cases such as this one don’t give the City or County the ability to prevent a project from going forward based on its impact on affordable housing, I think this is an issue that we need to find a way to address (if not in the current case, then at least in the future). I’m still thinking about how best to address these concerns, so I’m not sure yet how I’ll vote on the resolutions.

We’ll vote on the next three agenda items through our Consent Agenda process, which is used for non-controversial items. The three projects will be grouped together in one vote, and I’ll be voting yes.

Crossroads Community Food Network Grant.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170503-3a.pdf. This $20,000 grant through the City’s Community Partnership grant program will enable Crossroads to expand its work providing fresh, affordable food to patrons of the organization’s Farmers Market.

Water Quality Testing Contract.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170503-3b.pdf. This contract of just over $13,000 will be funded out of Takoma Park’s stormwater account and will assess sites where there are stormwater outfalls that exhibit flow in dry weather.

Tree Planting Contract.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170503-3c.pdf. This contract in the amount of $27,000 from the Public Works budget will enable the planting of more than 150 trees in City parks.

Legislative Report.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170503-4.pdf. Takoma Park has an ongoing contract with the lobbying firm Public Policy Partners, which assists us in developing strategies for State legislation of interest to the City and otherwise represents us in Annapolis. A representative of the company will provide a briefing on the annual State legislative session which came to a close earlier this month.

Please feel free to be in touch if you have questions or comments about any of these agenda items.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Councilmember

Ward One




Reminder of May 2 Public Meeting on the City Budget

Update on Library Renovation Project