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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.

May 16, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here’s a link to the May 16, 2018 City Council meeting agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-may-16-2018/.

We’ll be voting on a resolution to formally establish a budget reserve policy for the City, followed by final votes on the budget and tax resolutions connected to Fiscal Year 2019. There are also votes on a traffic calming proposal on Fifth Avenue, on a City application for a Federal grant and the City weighing in on several State grant applications (the Federal grant and some of the State grants relate to the Takoma Junction development), and appointments to resident panels. We’ll finish with a work session discussion on Takoma Junction.

Reserves Policy.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-1.pdf.  One of the issues that comes up each year when we debate the City budget is the appropriate level of financial reserves that should be set aside to either address unanticipated emergencies or to help manage the general ebb and flow of revenues and expenditures. In recent years, the “unassigned” reserves, which are separate from reserves for specific purposes like equipment replacement or facilities upkeep, has been in the 10 – 15% range (measured as a percentage of our General Revenue Fund). The City’s Finance Director has noted that, while the way municipalities around the state and elsewhere manage their reserves varies, a well-accepted practice is to seek a 17% level (which is equivalent to a two month reserve). I support that as our goal. But in order to achieve that percentage from where we are today (around 10%) in a single year, it would likely mean significant tax increases or program cuts. So I’ve suggested phasing in the higher percentage over a three year period, and most Councilmembers appear to support some type of phase-in. I’ll be supporting the 17 percent level, provided the resolution includes appropriate phase-in language.

Tax and Budget Votes.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-234.pdf.  I’ll be voting in favor of the resolutions implementing our local tax and budget for the coming fiscal year. My statement (http://www.councilmemberkovar.com/blog/2018/5/7/may-9-2018-city-council-meeting-agenda from last week provides details on the changes we made to the proposed budget and the modest cut we made to the property tax rate.

Traffic Calming.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-234.pdf  This will be a first reading vote (with one more vote to follow at a future Council meeting) on the proposed installation of speed humps and other traffic calming features on Fifth Avenue between Orchard and Eastern Avenues.

Grant Resolutions.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-6a-d.pdf.  I’ll be looking for clarification as to how the Takoma Junction related grants fit in with our ongoing efforts on that project.

Resident Appointments.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-7a.pdf

https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-7b-rev.pdf.  I’ll be voting in favor of the proposed appointments to the Board of Elections and the Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Takoma Junction.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180516-8.pdf.  This is an important work session, as Councilmembers will discuss aspects of the current site plan they would like to change (or keep the same), with a focus on relevant trade-offs. Representatives of NDC will be present to answer Council questions. Traffic issues won’t be part of the discussion since we’re still waiting for the traffic study results. Depending on the flow of the Council meeting, some of the concerns we discuss on Wednesday night could be incorporated into a resolution on the development for possible consideration in June, though no final decisions on how to proceed will be made until we discuss the traffic issues.

I continue to believe that the resolution the Council adopted in October in response to last fall’s concept plan remains a good guide on how we should proceed. There are several key critiques included within that resolution that need to be more fully addressed in my view. That includes the need for more public space at street level, and more clarity on truck unloading and trash/recycling arrangements (which are of course connected to the Co-op’s operations). I also am concerned about the overall height of the building in the current proposal. In this week’s meeting, I’ll be emphasizing the importance of making progress on those points, and I hope they can be resolved before we go forward.

I’d also like to see NDC and the Co-op, if necessary through mediation, fine their way to a workable system for deliveries, trash handling, and resolution of their other outstanding issues. In that context, I could imagine, for example, NDC agreeing to joint trash and recycling pickup for the Co-op along with other future tenants at the development, and the Co-op agreeing to designate its Sycamore lot for small truck deliveries during certain hours. It would take more than those two ideas to resolve all the remaining questions, but I think that type of approach would be a valuable contribution to the overall process.

More broadly, I remain concerned about the potential for long-term acrimony in the community if we don’t make a real push for a compromise that requires everyone to give a little more. That’s what I’ll be working for in the coming weeks.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

240-319-6281; www.councilmemberkovar.com

May 9, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda