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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 14, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here is the agenda for the February 14, 2018 Takoma Park City Council meeting:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-february-14-2018/.  The agenda includes a preliminary vote on the outdoor café proposal, followed by work sessions (with no votes) on the Montgomery County Development Review process; State Highway Administration projects; local school facility needs; and Community Development Block Grant projects.

Update from last week’s meeting. The Council had been scheduled to vote on the repeal of certain commercial property code enforcement regulations in such areas as exterior appearance, garbage and trash control, brightness of lights, etc. These codes are currently connected in our local ordinances to the Façade Advisory Board, which is composed of City residents. But that entity has no enforcement authority, so there is some logic to considering whether retaining the codes makes sense, especially because there is separate County enforcement authority and additional City authority that covers some of the same code standards.

Because I wanted to make sure we didn’t repeal any vital code enforcement authority particularly around quality of life issues for residents who live near commercial establishments, I had asked City staff to give us a report on what code authorities would remain if we were to repeal the code provisions in question. The staff provided that information, and there were enough ambiguities that I and other members of the Council thought it made sense to hold off for the time being on the repeal until we have more time to consider the impact and ensure we have all the authorities we need. I’m pleased that we did indeed postpone the vote, and I look forward to taking a closer look at the existing codes to determine what changes would be appropriate.

Outdoor Cafes.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180214-1.pdf. We’ve discussed several times the idea of adopting formal rules governing sidewalk café service, including the serving of alcoholic beverages. I believe we’ve reached a good agreement on how to proceed, and I’ll be voting in favor of the proposal, with a final vote most likely taking place at our February 21 Council meeting. Under the proposal, the City Manager would be authorized to develop regulations for sidewalk cafes relating to hours of business, permit costs, etc., which the public would have an opportunity to comment on before they become final.

Montgomery County Development Review Process.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180214-2.pdf. A senior staffer within the County’s Planning Office will make a presentation on the development review process. This is especially welcome, given the significant local projects that will be coming before the Office in the near future, including the Takoma Junction development, the Library Renovation, and the new Montgomery College Math-Science Building.

State Highway Administration Process.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180214-3.pdf. SHA continues to be one of the more challenging agencies to work with. I’m pleased that we have begun a process of meeting periodically with SHA representatives to discuss City concerns. I’m hopeful that will begin to lead to positive resolutions of the outstanding SHA issues within the City. The list that accompanies the background memo for this agenda item is missing a few matters which I’ve emphasized in the past and which continue to be problematic, including excessive speed down the hill on Philadelphia Avenue (on which SHA representatives told me they would arrange a study), the need for a light at the Tulip Avenue intersection with Carroll Avenue, and the apparent lack of awareness on the part of SHA staff of the importance of doing more advance checking before undertaking projects in historic areas. I mentioned all those points in our meeting last fall with SHA representatives, and I’ll be requesting at this week’s Council meeting that they be added to the list for discussion the next time we sit down with SHA. I welcome any other suggestions from residents for issues that should be included. As a reminder, the State highways in Ward One are Carroll and Philadelphia Avenues and Piney Branch Road.

School Facility Needs.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180214-4.pdf There are number of serious concerns connected to the need to expand County school facilities in the Takoma Park area. These include the over-crowding of our local schools, the traditional under-projection by the County of the likely enrollment growth in our part of the County, the failure of the School Board’s site selection committee in its recent report to seriously consider any sites within Takoma Park for potential expansion, and the importance of preserving the Piney Branch Pool when Piney Branch Elementary School is renovated.

The Council will have an opportunity to strategize on this set of issues, and decide among other things whether to formally offer our opinion on the site selection report (the deadline for that is March 22). I would note on this point that a City staff member, who served on the committee, has already submitted a minority report expressing concern about the report’s findings.

Community Development Block Grants.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180214-5.pdf. The City is in line to receive in the neighborhood of $91,000 in CDBG funds. City staff has requested that the funds be used for various ADA streetscape improvements. I’d like to have more details about some of the projects that would be included before I agree to that idea. In addition, some residents had concerns about the work of the contractors on the recent ADA sidewalk work, and it will be important in my view to ensure that there is careful monitoring of any such work if we go forward with the staff proposal.

Please feel free to be in touch with questions or concerns about any of the issues discussed in this message.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One



February 21, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Agenda for February 7, 2018 City Council Meeting