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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.

September 5, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

The City Council will meet this Wednesday (September 5) after our August break. Here’s a link to the agenda for the meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-september-5-2018/. Before the meeting we’ll meet in closed session to receive legal advice about the status of the City-owned Dorothy’s Woods property and to consider options for next steps connected to the property. The public portion of the meeting will include presentations on expansion of Takoma Park Middle School, the City’s street light LED conversion project, and two local affordable housing property issues (we’ll also discuss those two properties in our work session). Then we’ll have a single Consent Agenda vote comprising four non-controversial items: purchase of information systems; a contract for landscape and field maintenance; a contract for community play activities; and the New Ave Bikeways project. Finally, in addition to the affordable housing properties, our work session will include discussion of amendments to our Ethics Ordinance.

Dorothy’s Woods:  The Dorothy’s Woods parcel, which is part of the larger Washington-McLaughlin property, was purchased by the City in early 2015. At the time there were various financial encumbrances on the property, most of which have been removed, in part through City action. The Council also put in place a covenant that bars development on the site. More recently, Fairview (the financial services company which purchased the mortgage from Bank of America) has reinstituted its foreclosure action on the Dorothy’s Woods parcel, which is now scheduled for sale at a foreclosure auction on September 13. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to keep the property in the City’s possession, and I look forward to hearing about options for doing that. in our closed session. Additional information can be found here: https://takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/project-directory/dorothys-woods/

Middle School Expansion: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-1.pdf.  Because of continued growth in student enrollment, the County school system has proposed an expansion of Takoma Park Middle School. The County Planning Board will review the proposal on September 13, and the City has an opportunity to formally offer its views to the County prior to that meeting. We are scheduled to do that via a resolution on which we would vote at our September 12 meeting. It’s important that we address over-crowding in our local schools, so I’m supportive of expanding TPMS. And I’m glad that the expansion proposal attempts to limit changes to the building’s footprint to only two areas, but I do want to hear more details about how it will fit into the neighborhood. I'd also like to learn more about how much of the existing green space (and how many trees) are proposed to be eliminated, the plans to mitigate construction impact including coordination with other construction projects that are or will be taking place in the area, and traffic impacts.

Streetlight LED Conversionhttps://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-2.pdf. The City is in the early stages of planning for conversion of all our streetlights to LED technology. One of the questions that has arisen within the community is whether the lights should be at the 3,000 or 2,700 Kelvin level, and I agree that’s something the Council should take a look at, along with other measures of brightness that may be appropriate. Test lights at 3,000 Kelvin have been installed on Erie, Oswego and Hickory Avenues, which will help us to evaluate appearance and brightness. I encourage interested residents to look at them, and let me know your reaction.

City Option to Purchase 7905 Flower Avenue:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-3-6.pdf  Montgomery County has expressed interest in exercising its right of first refusal to purchase a 10-unit apartment building on Flower Avenue with the intent of offering the units for rent at an affordable level. The City also has a right to purchase in this situation, but with the County stepping forward, City staff is recommending that we waive our right, which would allow the County purchase to proceed. If the Council agrees with that recommendation, we would formally adopt the waiver through a resolution at a future Council meeting.

PILOT for 126 - 128 Lee Avenue:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-4-7.pdf  The Council will be considering a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) proposal to sacrifice some property tax revenue in order to allow these apartment units to be made available at affordable rents to lower income residents. I strongly support the goal of expanding our stock of affordable housing. Before deciding whether to support this particular PILOT, however, I’d like to have more information about the impact on our municipal revenues over time. In addition, we’re planning to conduct a deeper review of our affordable housing policies and initiatives this fall. It’s my view that one component of that effort should be developing guidelines for PILOTs, so we should also consider whether to approve this PILOT before we develop those guidelines.

Consent Agenda:  I’ll be voting for the Consent Agenda, which includes these four items:

Purchase of Information Systems: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-5a.pdf

Contract for Landscape and Field Maintenance: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-5b.pdf

Contract for Community Play Activities:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-5c.pdf

New Ave Bikeways Projecthttps://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-5d.pdf

Ethics Ordinance Amendments:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180905-8.pdf. The proposed amendments would bring the City’s ethics ordinance into conformity with the State’s.

Feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of these issues.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

240-319-6281; www.councilmemberkovar.com

September 12, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Important September Announcements