Here’s a link to the agenda for the September 12 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-september-12-2018/. We’ll be starting at 6:00 PM with a closed session for legal advice on a local business tax reduction request. Then there will be public hearings on two traffic calming proposals (neither located in Ward One), followed by votes on four items: a resolution on the Takoma Park Middle School expansion; Montgomery County’s purchase of 7905 Flower Avenue for affordable housing; purchase of Police vehicle emergency equipment; and appointments to the Legal Services Advisory Group. Finally, we’ll have work sessions on the two traffic calming proposals and also on the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center remodeling.
Update from the previous week’s Council meeting
LED Street Light Project: We’re continuing to explore the appropriate color and brightness for the LED lights. There are LEDs on three streets in the City -- Oswego, Erie and Hickory -- and residents are welcome to take a look at them. Working with Pepco, the City will be arranging to have the lights set at various wattage levels in order to help determine the changes in brightness that would result from these variations.
State Highway Herbicide Spraying on Route 410: On August 24 residents witnessed State Highway workers applying an herbicide called Razor Pro in the right-of-way along Ethan Allen and Highway 410. At last week’s meeting the City Manager reported the following about this incident: “Upon learning about the spraying, City staff immediately reached out to the SHA District Engineer to report the incident, express our deep concern, and find out why and how this particular herbicide was being used. The City had not been made aware that spraying would be taking place and the use of this herbicide is a violation of permissible practices within the City limits. The District Engineer was unaware and told staff that he had assigned the Acting Assistant District Engineer to investigate the situation and report back to the City on what happened and why as soon as they had additional information. Based on the preliminary information provided, it appears to have been an unfortunate accident and likely a case of a subcontractor being provided wrong information or misunderstanding a work assignment.”
The following day, SHA said they would “no longer use this method within the City of Takoma Park and only use mechanical means to control vegetation. We are in the process of installing signage along all state-maintained routes within the Takoma Park City limits prohibiting the application of any chemicals. We will also be instructing our employees that no spraying is to be allowed within the City limits as well.”
I’m glad State Highway is clarifying its policies in this regard, but I intend to follow up with City staff to make sure the new policy is properly implemented, and to determine whether we need to take additional steps to prevent a recurrence of this type of event, not only involving SHA, but utilities and other contractors that do work in the City.
Dorothy’s Woods: The Council is continuing to work with our City Attorney to explore options for keeping City ownership of this parcel of land, which has been scheduled for a public auction this week. I’m hopeful we’ll have more information on this situation soon.
Houston Avenue Traffic Calming: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-1.pdf
Hilltop Road Traffic Calming: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-2.pdf
Middle School Expansion: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-3.pdf. While the TPMS expansion would avoid major increases in the building footprint, there will be some loss of green space and trees. In addition, during construction Lee Jordan field will be used for equipment staging, which will mean less availability of the field for recreational activities. Furthermore, the construction may have some impact (noise, dust, traffic, etc.) on the neighborhood. The City doesn’t have direct jurisdiction over the project, but we can express our views as part of the County approval process. We’ll be voting on a resolution that states our support for the expansion, with conditions relating to access and restoration at Lee Jordan field, tree protection, and minimizing construction impacts. Given the other construction projects and street work taking place in Ward One, I may propose an amendment to strengthen the resolution’s language relating to construction impacts.
7905 Flower Avenue Purchase: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-3.pdf. I’ll be voting for the resolution supporting Montgomery County’s purchase of this vacant structure, which will be remodeled and made available for homeless families and low income renters in collaboration with an area non-profit.
Police Vehicle Emergency Equipment: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-5.p.df. I support this purchase and I’ll be voting yes.
Legal Services Advisory Group Appointments: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-6-rev.pdf I’m pleased several well-qualified residents have stepped up to serve on this group, along with former Councilmember Qureshi, and I’ll be voting in favor of the appointments.
New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180912-9.pdf. The Council and the community have been considering options for remodeling the Rec. Center through collaboration with a non-profit organization or developer that would potentially also build an apartment building at the site. I strongly support that idea, and I’m pleased that we received some initial expressions of interest. However, an important step that needs to take place before we proceed much further in exploring outside interest in collaborating on the Rec Center rehabilitation is to transfer control of the property from the County park system to the City. Understanding the steps to complete that transfer will be a key focus of this week’s discussion.
Please be in touch with questions or comments about any of these matters.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One