There are two City Council meetings this week: the second of our priority-setting retreats (which is open to the public) on Tuesday evening at 6:30 PM in the Hydrangea Room, and then our regular Council meeting on Wednesday night at 7:30 PM. The following are links to the agenda information for both meetings.
January 29 City Council Priority Setting Retreat: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-retreat-day-2-january-29-2019/. This is the second and final retreat. The Council will aim to identify a small number of key priorities on which we’ll most heavily focus, in addition to the other priority areas we designate. In the coming seeks we’ll consider a resolution to formally endorse our decisions on priorities. Some of the areas I think we should give particular attention to in the coming year are: housing and economic development; advancing our work on racial equity; responding to climate change; County tax duplication; and addressing problems connected to major utility projects in the City.
January 30 City Council Meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-january-30-2019/. This week’s agenda includes votes on making a formal request to the County for information on various property tax categories; the Council’s parliamentary procedures for the coming year; and a window replacement contract for the Community Center. We’ll also have work sessions on municipal financial reports for the last two quarters of calendar year 2018, and on the City Emergency Operations Plan (initially that plan was also scheduled to be voted on this week, but the vote will now take place at a future Council meeting). See below for details on these agenda items.
Tree Policies: Following the recent removal of three trees located on the grass strip on Fenton Street, I had suggested, as had several residents, that there ought to be an advance notice requirement for this type of tree removal. Late this past week I received word from City staff that in the future when the City plans to remove a tree in the public right of way -- unless it is an emergency situation -- the staff will post the tree in question with a sign indicating that the tree is to be removed, with a tentative date for its removal. The City Council Member who represents the area will also be notified of the tree removal, and there will be additional public documentation on the condition of the tree. I think this will help address some of the concerns about how the process unfolded in the case of the three Fenton Street trees, and I'm glad the change has been made. As a reminder, residents can submit their thoughts about potential changes to the City’s tree ordinance through this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2Y76DJ2.
Office Hours: I’ll be holding office hours on Friday, February 1 from 10:00 AM - Noon in the Hydrangea Room in the Community Center, and also on Tuesday, February 5 from 3:00 - 5:00 PM in Takoma Bevco on Laurel Avenue. Residents are welcome to stop by to discuss any issues. No appointments are required.
Property Tax Rates: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190130-2.pdf. Two weeks ago the Council reviewed options for breaking out various property categories within the City as part of our property tax process. Currently, almost all property in the City is taxed at the same rate. We tentatively agreed to the idea of asking the County to take the necessary steps to designate properties within the City as one of four types: residential, commercial, apartment, and vacant.
Doing this wouldn’t necessarily mean we would levy different tax rates on different kinds of property. It would mean that if we decide to do so, the relevant County staff would have done the necessary work to allow us to take such action. We’re not ready to make any decisions on this set of issues -- that will happen as part of the Council’s budget discussions this spring. In the meantime, I think it makes sense to have this information, so I plan to vote in favor of the resolution that formally requests the information.
I’d also like to get more information about the process that was used to calculate the recent property assessment changes, and I’m exploring whether the Council can receive a briefing from relevant County/State officials on that topic.
Council Procedures: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190130-3.pdf. Each year the Council reviews and updates the procedures that govern our meetings. I’ll be voting yes on the resolution that contains these procedures.
Window Replacement: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190130-4.pdf. I’ll be voting for this contract, which is for replacement of windows in a portion of the Community Center. The necessary funding was included in this year’s budget.
Quarterly Financial Reports: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190130-5.pdf
Emergency Operations Plan: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190130-1.pdf
https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/Documents/EOP-2018-Final.pdf. Every five years or so the City updates its plan for responding to weather-related or other emergencies.
Please feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of the issues discussed in this message.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One