Here’s a link to the agenda for the Wednesday, June 27 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-june-27-2018/. Please note that the meeting starts at 7:00 PM. One of the main agenda items will be a continuation of our discussions on Takoma Junction. Prior to that, there will be a presentation on the Purple Line, a final vote on the property exchange involving the former John Nevins Andrews School and Spring Park; a vote on the contract for the Flower Avenue Green Street; and a vote on appointments to two resident committees. Please note that the public comment period will be divided, with the initial segment devoted to comments on voting items, and the later segment for comments on all other matters.
Update from last week: There were presentations on the two Takoma Junction traffic studies (see below for more details). The Council also made a preliminary decision to proceed with the alternative to curb painting identified by City staff for indicating no parking areas near driveways. The staff has recommended using thermoplastic strips applied directly to the street as an alternative to curb painting, when requested by residents. I’m pleased that a majority of the Council expressed support for this idea, though some did raise concerns about the cost. We’ll also have to explore how best to move forward on this idea specifically on streets like Piney Branch Road which are under the control of the State Highway Administration. So, there’s more work to be done on this issue, but I’m hopeful we’ll have a vote on the idea in the near future, since I continue to be concerned about the safety impacts of cars parked too close to driveways (which can significantly inhibit drivers’ ability to see when they are backing out).
Important Calendar Updates:
· The Primary Election is today, from 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM. Please vote, if you haven’t already done so, for U.S. Senate and House; State Senator and Delegates; County Executive and County Council; School Board; and other key positions.
· My Office Hours (no appointments needed): Thursday, June 28, 8:00 – 10:00 AM at Takoma Bevco; Friday, June 29, Noon – 2:00 PM at Capital City Confectionery
· Montgomery College Math-Science Building Design Kick-off meeting: Thursday, June 28 from 7:00 – 9:30 PM at MC’s Cultural Arts Center (7995 Georgia Ave.)
· The Council won’t be meeting next week, but I hope to see you when I’m marching along with my wife Paula in the Independence Day Parade on July 4. The parade starts at 10:00 AM and will follow the usual path along Carroll and Maple Avenues.
· July 9, evening: opportunity for residents to have one on one discussions with Councilmembers on Takoma Junction (details on time and location to be provided)
· Wednesday, July 11, midday: Ward One day at Crossroads Farmers Market (more details to be provided)
Purple Line Presentation: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180627-1.pdf We’ll hear from Michael Madden, Purple Line Deputy Project Director, Maryland Transit Administration. I support building the Purple Line, but I believe we need to do more to address the potential negative impacts on affordable housing in Takoma Park and the surrounding area that may occur as a result of the project. I’ll be focusing on that aspect during our discussion.
Property Transfer: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180627-2.pdf. I’ll be voting in favor of the land swap.
Flower Avenue Green Street: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180627-3.pdf. I support this project, but given its cost (most of which is covered by grants and other sources outside the City’s budget), I’ll want to hear more about the selected contractor’s track record on similar projects.
Resident Committee Appointments: I’ll be voting yes on the appointments to the Arts and Humanities Commission and the Recreation Committee.
The Mayor recently posted a blog -- https://takomaparkmd.gov/city-council-and-mayor-blog/next-steps-for-the-takoma-junction-process/ -- outlining the schedule for consideration of the Junction project over the next month or so, concluding with a July 25 vote on a resolution on the site plan put forward by NDC. As described in my message from last week, I don’t know how I’ll vote on such a resolution. I’m especially concerned about what I view as an inadequate amount of public space at street level in the current version of the site plan. I’m planning to continue pushing for a cut in the building’s square footage and a corresponding increase in public space, along with a reduction in its height.
I understand the concerns some residents have about the idea of voting on the site plan resolution prior to potential completion of the Co-op/NDC mediation process. Of course the mediation could be completed before there’s a vote on the resolution. But if that doesn’t happen, and if we stick with the plan to vote in late July, I think it will be important to address that situation in the resolution. Specifically, I’ll work to ensure the resolution gives the Council the ability to make further changes to address the Co-op’s concerns in the event the mediation is unsuccessful.
With regard to traffic, the two studies presented last week are complex and feature a great amount of technical detail. In my opinion, the most important finding is that, with the increased automobile traffic from several other area development projects that are already in the works and close enough to have an impact, the Junction intersection will increasingly exceed its capacity. That’s not news to anyone who lives near the Junction or passes through it regularly, especially during rush hour (when it clearly exceeds capacity now), but it reinforces the idea that we need to take action to address the problem.
According to the presentation by the Traffic Group, the percentage increase in car traffic associated with the proposed site plan -- given the level of traffic that currently passes through the intersection every day and taking into account the other developments in the area – is projected to be relatively modest. To me, that means we should continue moving forward to explore improvements to the intersection regardless of what we decide on the Junction development. In other words, we need improvements in the traffic flow whether we approve, modify or reject the site plan.
Based on the traffic study presentations, my initial reaction is to lean toward the alternative which involves creation of a triangular island where Carroll, Ethan Allen and Sycamore Avenues meet. This would mean westbound cars heading up the hill on Carroll could proceed without immediately having to stop as they approach Philadelphia Avenue. Also, there would be a more convention four-way intersection involving Carroll, Sycamore and Ethan Allen.
While that alternative has appeal, it’s far from certain it would be the best option. There are a number of questions we’d need to explore like the treatment of pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders, as well as the loss of Morrison Park pavilion and other historic preservation concerns. Plus, we’d have to determine how any reconfiguring would be funded, and work with the State Highway Administration and other agencies on necessary approvals. That will all take several years, and I view it as a process that would run parallel to the Junction Development, which will also take a few years, even if we end up approving the site plan in the near future.
Clearly, there’s much more to discuss on these and other points relating to the Junction, and I encourage residents to come to my office hours, or be in touch directly to set up a time to talk to me one on one or as part of a group.
Peter Kovar; Takoma Park City Council, Ward One