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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.

Update on Takoma Junction

Dear Neighbors:

I’ve received a wide range of comments and opinions from residents who support or oppose the most current version of the Takoma Junction Development project or who favor some changes to it. I’ll be taking all of those comments into account as the City Council continues to consider the project. Meanwhile, I thought it would make sense for me to send out this general update on where we are on the project, and some key next steps.

Let me begin by noting that I’ll be hosting a public meeting where Ward One residents can share with me their views on the Junction, along with other issues like the City budget and local tax rates, on the evening of May 1 at 7:30 PM in the Community Center Hydrangea Room. In addition, I’ll be meeting separately with groups of residents to talk about the Junction, and I’ll also have “office hours” in some of the local cafes around town, which I’ll announce separately. Beyond that, I’d be glad to make arrangements to meet with anyone who would like to get together one-on-one. And lastly, as announced previously, there’s a “pop-up” in the Junction tomorrow (Sunday, April 21) from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM where residents will have an opportunity to see some of the potential dimensions of the proposed development on the actual site where it would be constructed.

As I continue thinking about the design of the project and changes that would improve NDC’s recently released site plan, I’m relying to a large extent on the resolution the Council passed in October of last year following the unveiling by NDC of their initial concept plan. It’s my view that the new site plan represents an improvement over the concept plan, in particular because it eliminates the third floor. However, there are a number of areas that the Council emphasized in the October resolution that haven't in my opinion been fully addressed.

These include the need for more public space at street level, and the need to more clearly explain how the trash/recycling area and the unloading area would function and mesh with each other. That second point is of course especially relevant to the Co-op’s operations.

In addition, as many of my Council colleagues have joined me in pointing out, the proposed location of the elevator in the site plan doesn’t fit. It should be moved to the other end of the structure (or a second elevator should be located at that end). I’ll continue pushing for improvements in all these areas, with the goal of ending up with a development that improves the quality of life in the City and is a welcome addition to our community.

I would add that we learned recently from the Co-op Board that there’s been some level of renewal of their talks with NDC about potentially expanding into new space in the development. So that possibility may also have to be factored into our deliberations, as, depending on the results of any talks between the two parties, there could be modifications of the development’s design.

 Finally, we'll have to see what the traffic studies show in order to be able to evaluate not only general traffic flow, but also aspects of the project like the entrance to the underground parking area, the functioning of the lay-by for deliveries to the Co-op and other commercial tenants, and safety for cars, buses and trucks, and pedestrians and bicycles. The traffic study presentations have been posted on the City website, and relevant links are included at the end of this message. The Council will have an initial presentation from the groups that conducted the studies on Monday night prior to our special budget session, but a fuller discussion of the findings will take place at Wednesday’s Council meeting. Members of the public will be able to comment on the traffic studies at that Wednesday meeting and in future Council meetings.

A number of residents have raised questions about the amount of time that will be needed to fully consider the traffic study information. I agree that we need to make sure there is sufficient time to do that. Indeed, in our October resolution the City Council approved an amendment – which I supported and voted for – stating that there should be adequate time for consideration of the traffic studies. I anticipate that we’ll need additional time to absorb the study findings, and I’ll work to ensure that we have an appropriate amount of time. In any case, at this point, given all the outstanding issues that still need to be resolved, I think it’s very unlikely we’ll be voting on the site plan as soon as May 9, the date that was tentatively listed in the Council rolling agenda.

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I’m neither pro-NDC nor pro-Co-op. My work on the Junction has been based on my sense of what will be best for the City. It’s my hope that those who may have differing opinions on the best way forward on the Junction will avoid ascribing negative motives to residents with whom they don’t see eye to eye. I think we can all agree it’s possible for people of good will who love Takoma Park to end up with different views on what would constitute a good development.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

240-319-6281; www.councilmemberkovar.com

City of Takoma Park Traffic Study - AMT Presentation Slides.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/additional-information/Takoma-Junction-Redevelopment-Traffic-Study-Presentation.pdf

NDC Traffic Study - The Traffic Group Presentation Slides.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/additional-information/Takoma-Junction-Redevelopment-Traffic-Study-Presentation-TheTrafficGroup.pdf

April 23 & 25, 2018 City Council Agendas

City Council Meeting Agendas for April 16 & 18, 2018