I’d like to express my hope that everyone had an enjoyable holiday season, with an opportunity to see family and friends and maybe re-charge a little before 2019 gets underway. Our first Council meeting this year is on January 9 -- here’s a link to the agenda: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-wednesday-january-9-2019/.
The key item is a final vote on the Cell Tower ordinance. We’ll also be voting on a Consent Agenda with three items: a contract for Recreation Department sports officials, and appointments to two resident committees. Finally, we’ll hear a presentation from an outside consulting group on updated stormwater data and possible changes to how our stormwater fees are calculated.
As a reminder, the Council is passing this ordinance in response to the September ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that substantially pre-empts local governments’ ability to enact requirements on the siting of small cell towers, especially concerning health effects and aesthetic impacts, as well as the fees we can charge.
At the moment we have virtually no ability to control the location, physical appearance or other impacts of towers in Takoma Park’s public rights of way. We’re attempting to adopt the strongest possible standards -- within the context of the restrictive FCC ruling -- in advance of January 14, when the ruling goes into effect. Even after that date, the ruling’s impact on us may change, depending on the results of pending lawsuits or action by Montgomery County. The City has joined one of the lawsuits challenging the FCC pre-emption, and the County controls zoning in Takoma Park, which includes cell tower actions affecting private property (as opposed to public rights of way, which falls under City authority). Based on those and other factors, including for example the details of any tower installation applications that may be submitted by telecom companies, we can make further adjustments to the ordinance going forward.
Since our initial vote in December, we’ve continued to refine the ordinance. As part of that process, the Mayor, Councilmember Smith and I met this past week with several residents affiliated with Community Vision for Takoma. They had some useful suggestions for ways of improving the ordinance, a number of which I’m hopeful we can include in the ordinance. Those of us on the Council will likely also have additional ideas for amendments. But I think the basic structure of the ordinance is pretty well set and will help ensure we have a reasonably strong set of protections (again, within the confines of the limits imposed by the FCC).
You can see information about the Council’s recent action on this topic, including the resolution we adopted detailing our goals for the ordinance and a letter we wrote to the Montgomery County Council, through this link to my December 16 blog: http://www.councilmemberkovar.com/blog/2018/12/16/april-19-2018-city-council-meeting. The following are links to the current version of the ordinance on which we’ll be voting.
Changes since Dec. 5 First Reading: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/revised-ordinance-changes-since-first-reading-ch-11-12.pdf
I’ll be voting in favor of the Consent Agenda, which includes the following three items:
Recreation Department Contract: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/20190109-2a.pdf
Commemoration Commission Appointment: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/20190109-2b.pdf
Tree Commission Appointment: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/20190109-2c.pdf
IMPERVIOUS AREA STUDY
The City’s current stormwater fee is a standard amount that each property owner is required to pay. It’s calculated based on an average of impervious surface sizes on properties throughout the City. This fee doesn’t take into account the individual circumstances of each property and the extent to which properties make a greater or lesser contribution to stormwater runoff.
In order to gain a better sense of the variations among properties and to obtain data that might help the City determine whether a better formula could be developed for calculating the stormwater fee, we contracted with an outside consultant (Black and Veatch) to conduct a survey of impervious surfaces in the City and to recommend potential changes to the fee calculation. Representatives of the company will be presenting their findings and recommendations.
As always feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of these issues.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council; Ward One