The year’s last regular City Council meeting took place on December 5, but we do have a special meeting on the evening of Wednesday, December 19 with our Maryland State Senator and Delegates to discuss the City’s legislative priorities for next year’s session in Annapolis. The meeting starts at 7:30 PM, and public comments are welcome (advance sign-up required).
Prior to the formal start of that meeting, there will be a reception, open to the public, beginning at 7:00 PM, where residents will have an opportunity to meet informally with Council members and State legislators. And before that event, at 6:30 PM there will be a Police Department Promotional Ceremony for newly promoted Takoma Park officers. All of these events will take place in the Council Auditorium in the Community Center.
State Legislative Priorities. Here’s a link to the agenda for the meeting with our State legislators: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/20th-district-delegation-and-takoma-park-city-council-joint-priorities-meeting/. I anticipate that much of the discussion will focus on the legislative priorities the Council adopted at our December 5 meeting. At that time we approved a resolution laying out 8 legislative priority areas for next year’s Annapolis session. Here’s a link to that resolution and background information: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20181205-6.pdf. Public comments on these or other topics relating to state legislation are welcome. To sign up call 301-891-7214 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on December 5 Council Meeting.
Small Cell Towers. The Council approved a resolution affirming our goals on the cell tower issue, and we took our first vote to approve an ordinance establishing a permit process and other protections for the community that would apply if any telecom companies seek to install towers in Takoma Park. A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for next year’s first Council meeting on January 9. Here are links to the resolution (a good overall summary of the cell tower issues) and the most current version of the ordinance (which may be somewhat reorganized before the January vote):
I’d like to clarify one point which came up in the public comment period in our December 5 meeting. While the City will be able to charge permitting fees connected to potential cell tower applications in Takoma Park, we’re not working on the ordinance because we want to bring in additional funds for the City. Our efforts are in response to the September ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that substantially pre-empts local government authority to regulate cell tower installations, a ruling that actually includes limits on fees that communities can require. Under that ruling, we’re prohibited from charging more in fees for review of the permits than the amount it actually costs the City in staff time, etc. to conduct the relevant work. In other words, this isn’t a money-making enterprise for Takoma Park.
The goal is to give us maximum authority and leverage to protect the community within the context of the restrictive FCC ruling. As part our response to the FCC, we’ve joined a coalition that’s challenging the ruling in court. We’ve also written to the Montgomery County Executive, County Council, and Planning Board -- all of whom, because of the County’s zoning authority over Takoma Park, play a key role in this set of issues -- urging them to collaborate with us and to adopt the strongest possible County cell tower rules. You can see that letter here: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/Cell%20Towers/CC-20181205-Letter-to-County-re-Cell-Towers%2012-6-18%20-%20final.pdf
Montgomery College Math-Science Building. With the Math-Science Building design that emerged from the community charrette process expected to be submitted into the County review process this month, the Council approved a resolution outlining a series of concerns about the structure’s design and impact on the neighborhood that need to be addressed in the County review and beyond. I had substantial input into the drafting of the resolution and I also offered several amendments -- approved by the Council -- to help give the resolution some additional focus on potential negative impact on the neighborhood. Here’s a link to the resolution: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/resolutions/2018/resolution-2018-63.pdf
Letter on Metro Late Night Service. I was pleased to join several dozen Maryland elected officials last week in signing onto a letter drafted by Maryland State Delegate David Moon calling on Metro to not continue its current curtailment of late night service. The Metro Board was planning this past week to extend those shorter hours through mid-2020. But they decided to defer action on that plan for now, and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has asked his staff for options on later hours that will allow for continued work on safety needs. I think the letter probably played some role in that decision, but in any case I’m glad our part of the State went on record. You can read about this effort and see the letter here: https://ggwash.org/view/70177/65-top-maryland-officials-to-wiedefeld-end-the-late-night-metro-cuts
Vacant House Check Program. If you’re traveling out of town, consider using the Police Department’s Vacant House Check program. If you’ll be away at least four days, officers will check on your Takoma Park home, at no charge. Call 301-270-1100 to sign up.
Finally, I’d like to wish everyone happy holidays, safe travels and an enjoyable New Year.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One