Here’s a link to the agenda for the February 20, 2019 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-february-20-2019/. There’s one vote this week, on the budget amendment that received initial approval last week. Then we’ll have a presentation from the Youth Council, and a discussion on pending appointments to City committees. Once those agenda items are completed, the Council will go into a closed session for a meeting with the City Manager regarding her performance evaluation.
Montgomery College Math-Science Building. On Thursday of last week, along with a number of City residents, I presented testimony before the Montgomery County Planning Board as part of the Mandatory Referral process on MC’s proposed Math-Science Building. My remarks were focused on urging the Board to call for the College to closely follow the recommendations on the building’s design and impact on the community that were contained in the resolution the City Council adopted in December. A copy of my statement is added below.
Budget Amendment: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190220-1.pdf. This budget amendment comprises a series of shifts in funding, due mainly to either delays in filling City positions or slower than anticipated activity on larger projects. I voted for the amendment when it was approved unanimously by the Council last week on a preliminary vote, and I’ll be voting yes this week on final passage.
Youth Council: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190220-2.pdf. The update will include some suggested changes to the Youth Council’s charter.
Committee Appointments: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190220-3.pdf. Our discussion will focus on recommendations for pending appointments to fill openings on various City committees, commissions, etc., within the context of the Council’s interest in promoting more diversity in committee membership.
Administrative Session with City Manager. After we complete action on the agenda outlined above, the City Council will meet with the City Manager as a follow-up to her performance evaluation. These kinds of Administrative function sessions covering personnel matters are not public.
February 14, 2019
Montgomery College Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math and Science Building
Mandatory Referral, MR2019011
Testimony of Takoma Park City Councilmember Peter Kovar
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I’m a member of the Takoma Park City Council, representing Ward One, where Montgomery College’s new Math-Science Building is proposed to be constructed.
I appreciate the care the planning staff has taken in reviewing this project. As noted in the Staff Report, in December the City Council adopted a resolution recommending approval of the Mandatory Referral application, subject to a series of provisions. The Council is pleased the report states “Planning staff supports these provisions and has incorporated them into the review of the Mandatory Referral.”
My colleagues and I see the provisions as expressing the community’s key outstanding concerns about the proposed design and its impact on the community. In addition to the City Council’s comments that are expressed in Council Resolution 2018-63, I’d like to share my additional thoughts. Based on staff’s expressed support for the provisions, I have suggestions for areas where the Board can strengthen the report. These concerns fall into three categories.
Design, Height and Massing
The Council believes it’s important that the footprint, massing and height of the building are compatible with the neighborhood, and that the building exterior fits well with the nearby architecture. We’re glad the project’s proposed setbacks on Takoma Avenue and Fenton Street exceed the current setbacks. We think it’s vital to retain that feature of the design, especially given the key visual elements of the intersection and its alignment with Belle Ziegler Park.
We’re also concerned about the visual impact of the proposed height at the building’s Northeast edge, where -- due to sloping terrain -- the elevation from ground level is highest. We appreciate the report’s call for modulation or articulation to address this point. I urge the Board to keep that language as strong as possible.
I am pleased the report emphasizes the value of exterior features that mesh well with the neighborhood and I ask for added focus on the nearby historic architecture in that context.
Consultation and Collaboration
Our resolution calls for a strong commitment by the college to consulting with residents and the broader community and working collaboratively with City staff on such matters as tree protection and replanting; stormwater management and water runoff; and construction procedures.
We appreciate the references in the report to the need for the College to consult with the City arborist.
The report’s reference to stormwater consultation is helpful, but given the extent of underwater streams in the area and the local trend toward heavier rainfall, I feel it’s important for the report to specifically address the run-off issue.
Further, the report is silent on construction impacts. It’s crucial to have a robust process for responding to residents’ construction concerns, and I recommend adding that to the report.
Logistical Concerns and Impacts
The report includes substantial analysis of traffic and parking, but, based on the supplemental correspondence from Montgomery County, it appears some of the traffic data may be incomplete. Accordingly, I urge the Board to require submission of complete data.
Similarly, the report makes it clear that the mechanicals aren’t part of the structure’s height calculation. I suggest that more details on the mechanicals’ height and appearance be provided.
Finally, I am concerned about health and safety questions connected to the science laboratories, including the impact of any hazardous materials. This point should be included in the recommendations.
The proposed design addresses a number of concerns raised by residents. I’ve suggested some ways to augment the findings and conditions of the Planning Board regarding this project, and I hope the Board will take the necessary action.
Thanks again for the opportunity to comment.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or comments about the matters contained in this message or any other local issues.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One