This week, there are two City Council meetings on Wednesday, February 13. First, at 6:00 PM we’ll have a roundtable discussion with City Department heads on Council priorities. Then our regular weekly meeting will begin at 7:30 PM.
Department Heads Roundtable: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-and-department-heads-discussion-of-council-priorities-wednesday-february-13-2019/. As part of our priority-setting process, the Council will meet with heads of the City departments to review potential priorities for the coming year, and get their feedback on what actions may be possible in terms of staffing, budgeting, ongoing projects, etc.
Regular weekly Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-february-13-2019/. We have three votes: on the budget amendment that was discussed last week; on a resolution relating to widening of Fenton Street in the context of the Montgomery College Math-Science Building; and on a resolution expressing opposition to widening of the Capital Beltway and Route 270. Then, we’ll have a priorities work session, following up on our two recent Council retreats and the Department heads roundtable.
Office Hours: I’ll be holding Office Hours at Takoma Bevco on Thursday, February 14 from 10:00 AM - Noon. Feel free to stop by to discuss any topics you wish. No appointments needed. If that time doesn’t work, let me know by email so we can set up another time to get together.
Budget Amendment: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190213-1.pdf. Approved budget expenditures, large and small, are sometimes delayed. When delays push spending into the following budget year (our fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30), the Council must approve the shift. If already approved funds are simply shifted to the following fiscal year, there is likely no net budget impact. However, if projects actually end up costing more than expected, the Council needs to give its OK. This budget amendment comprises a group of changes, many of which are delays in spending due to slower than expected staff hiring. In some cases, large projects are taking longer to move forward, and a few involve spending beyond what was previously approved. I’m hoping to get a clarification on the background to those increases prior to the vote.
Montgomery College Resolution: Through their review of the proposed design for the new Montgomery College Math-Science Building, County staff have alerted the City that the Takoma Park Master Plan classifies Fenton Street as an arterial road with the potential for a right-of-way (ROW) up to 80 feet wide. This is considerably wider than the width of the existing roadway, sidewalk and Metropolitan Branch Trail. We previously approved a resolution giving the City’s views on the proposed design details. We’ll now be considering a separate resolution clarifying that the City doesn’t wish to pursue the idea of an 80 foot ROW at the site of the new building. While it may make sense to tighten up the proposed resolution’s language to make it clear that the City retains full control of Fenton Street, I agree we shouldn’t seek a wider ROW. If we did, it could mean moving the Math-Science Building closer to the residences in the neighborhood or to the intersection of Fenton and Takoma Avenues, neither of which would be desirable.
As part of the County review process, there will be a public hearing on the building’s design on February 14, starting at 2:00 PM at the County Planning Office (8787 Georgia Avenue, in Silver Spring). Information on the hearing and how to sign up to speak can be found through this link: https://montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda-item/february-14-2019/
Highway Widening: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190213-3.pdf. With Governor Hogan’s administration supporting the concept of widening the Beltway and Route 270, I agree it’s important for the City Council to go on record against this idea. I think widening these highways is a poor idea from both an environmental and regional transportation perspective. In addition, it could lead to increased car traffic on local roads in Takoma Park. In that context, we recently learned that the State legislation backed by the City to prevent the widening of Route 410 (Philadelphia and Ethan Allen Avenues) in the City doesn’t have enough support to pass in Annapolis, and has been withdrawn. We’ll continue pursuing other ways of addressing the Route 410 concerns, and meanwhile I’ll be voting in favor of the resolution against Beltway/Route 270 widening.
Council Priorities: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190213-4.pdf. We’ve had two Council retreats this year to discuss our priorities, with an overall focus on racial equity. While we’ll continue to retain a comprehensive listing of priorities, we do hope to identify a smaller number of key issues on which we’ll most heavily focus, again looking at them through a racial equity lens. In the retreat process, we tentatively settled on the following shorter list:
· Ensuring we have a range of safe, quality, and stable housing options that are affordable for residents of varying incomes and all races and ethnicities
· Planning and preparing for development in the City and region while maintaining the special character and diversity of Takoma Park
· Prioritizing actions, policies, innovations, and new opportunities that mitigate and adapt to the causes and effects of climate change
· Improve and formalize systems for Council-appointed committees
· Improving policies and processes, particularly those related to the Tree Ordinance and traffic, to make them more equitable and easy to understand and follow
I would note that this is not the final list. We’ll continue the discussion during our work session, with the possibility of further changes. For example, among the changes I’m thinking about putting forward are having the City declare a “climate emergency” to help set a framework on our climate change actions. A final vote on the priorities is scheduled for March.
Please feel free to be in touch with me if you have any questions or comments relating to any of the issues that are outlined in this message.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One