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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.

Agenda for January 24, 2018 City Council Meeting


Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the January 24 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-january-24-2018/. We have one vote, on a resolution instituting our City Council procedures. That will be followed by discussions (with no formal votes) on 1) permitting Takoma Park restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages at sidewalk tables, and 2) changes to the City regulations concerning the Façade Advisory Board. Prior to the meeting, there will be a closed session at 6:00 PM, at which the Council will be briefed on legal issues relating to the Washington-McLaughlin property.

Update from Last Week’s Meeting.  Before passing the resolution on our State Legislative Priorities, we adopted two revisions, based on concerns I had raised the previous week. First, in the provision relating to State Highway Administration cooperation on reconfiguring Takoma Junction, we added “while recognizing that the roads [Routes 410 and 195, East-West Highway and Carroll Avenue] run through a historic district.” This additional language underlines the point that we’re not anticipating major reconfiguring of the routes through the junction as part of the development process there. Second, in the provision on State assistance with the impacts from Purple Line construction, we have added “housing affordability” as one of the impacts to be considered.

Finally, on the proposed Charter amendments relating to the Council’s role in hiring and other personnel matters, the Council voted to remove the language that would have required the City Manager to consult with the Council on filling the Police Chief position. That language would have reserved for the City Manager the full discretion to decide who to appoint. Of course our recent vacancy in that position has been filled by a well-qualified individual (Chief Tony DeVaul) with strong local ties. He was hired after a process in which our City Manager Suzanne Ludlow consulted with the Council, and then made the final decision on her own. I’m pleased with the consultation that occurred, but there is no requirement for it, and a future City Manager could choose not to. So, I voted to keep the language calling for consultation, but I was on the losing end of that vote and the language was dropped. We’re going to review how some other nearby jurisdictions handle this issue in order to determine if there are other workable options for ensuring an appropriate level of consultation in filling top municipal jobs, so it’s conceivable we may take another look at this topic in the future.

City Council Procedures.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20182401-1-rev.pdf.  The resolution adopting Council procedures includes some modest changes – based in part on Council discussions during last week’s meeting – that clarify the guidelines for the public comment period. As I noted in that meeting, it’s important for us to continue to use other forums (open houses, community conversations, neighborhood meetings, etc.), where residents can weigh in on public matters, and I’ll be working to ensure that such events remain a key part of our efforts. In addition, in last week’s meeting I pointed out that written comments from residents who are unable to attend Council meetings in person aren’t always incorporated into the meeting agenda materials (depending on when the written comments are submitted). So we’ve agreed that going forward all written comments will be formally included in the official Council minutes. The resolution, which I will be voting in favor of, reflects that change.

Outdoor Cafes.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20182401-2.pdf.  In October, the Council had an initial discussion about the idea of permitting restaurants in Takoma Park to serve alcoholic beverages at sidewalk tables outside the establishments. The topic is complicated because, while our existing ordinances permit sidewalk sales, they need to be updated to specifically include food and beverage service. Beyond that, the County plays a key role relating to allowing alcoholic beverages to be served. We’ll be discussing suggestions in a City staff memo on how best to address those concerns, again with no formal votes scheduled at this meeting. My view is that, provided we can appropriately handle questions relating to access for pedestrians including those who are disabled, noise and trash, we should allow this type of sidewalk service. I believe those issues can be satisfactorily addressed, so I am hoping we’ll be able to continue moving forward on this idea, and I look forward to the discussion.

Façade Advisory Board.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20182401-3-4.pdf. We’ll be discussing two separate issues relating to existing Façade Board regulations. The first proposal would shift the language that establishes the Board and its procedures to a different section of our local code where similar provisions on most other local resident committees also appear. The second calls for eliminating the current regulations’ detailed design standards, many of which according to City staff are no longer applicable or acceptable. I have no objections to moving the Board establishment and operation language, but I haven’t previously looked into the design standards in any detail, so I’ll be listening carefully to the presentation on that subject.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about the issues in this message.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One



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