The following is a link to the agenda for the March 13, 2019 City Council Meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-13-2019/. The meeting starts with a public hearing on the proposed ordinance to ban the use of plastic straws in the City. Then we’ll have a series of votes on the Green Team Priorities, our Council Priorities, and the Climate Emergency Resolution (these three resolutions are inter-connected), followed by a vote on an architectural services contract. The meeting will close with work sessions on the Economic Development Strategic Plan, the proposed County zoning amendment relating to County Accessory Dwelling Units, and resident committee appointments.
Update on State cell tower legislation: There is somewhat positive news concerning the cell tower legislation under consideration by the Maryland State Legislature. At a local forum on Saturday hosted by Takoma Park Mobilization and the Montgomery County ACLU, we heard from our State legislators that the two cell tower bills pending in Annapolis have been referred for “summer study,” which means there will be no formal action on them in the current legislative session, which ends in April. This applies to both the bill backed by the telecom industry which would go well beyond last fall’s FCC ruling in preempting local authority to control the placement and physical appearance of cell towers, and the legislation supported by the Maryland Municipal League which protects municipalities like Takoma Park that have adopted their own stricter local ordinances on cell towers. It’s likely there will be legislation on this topic in next year’s Annapolis session, but we’ll have the opportunity to make our case in the intervening months. And it’s also possible there could be progress this year on the lawsuit the City is part of (or one of the other suits) to over-turn the FCC ruling.
Office Hours: I’ll be available to talk to residents about any topic, with no appointments required, at Takoma Bevco on Laurel Avenue from 10:00 AM - Noon on Thursday, March 14. If you’re not available then, feel free to contact me so we can work out another time to meet.
Plastic Straw Public Hearing: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-1-r.pdf. This will be an opportunity for members of the public to comment on the proposed ordinance to ban the use of plastic straws and plastic stirrers by City restaurants and other food service establishments. I’m a sponsor of the proposal because I think it’s important for us to continue to take steps at the local level to remove plastic from the waste stream. I’ve also expressed my view that it’s crucial for the ordinance to include language to accommodate customers who may need straws because they have a physical disability, and I’m pleased that the proposal addresses that point.
Green Team Priorities: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-2r.pdf. Each year the Council meets with the City’s Committee on the Environment (together, the Green Team) to develop priorities for the Committee. These priorities are generally also incorporated into the Council’s priorities. Two major priorities emerged from this process, which the Council will consider through a resolution (which I’ll vote for). Here are the priorities:
Priority 1 – Climate Change Response
• Prioritize actions, policies, innovations, adaptations, and new opportunities that mitigate the causes and effects of climate change.
Priority 2 – Environmental Quality
• Protect, plan for, and improve Takoma Park’s natural resources including urban forest health, open space, air quality, water quality, and biodiversity.
Council Priorities: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-3r.pdf. For the last several years, the Council has approved a comprehensive list of priorities, which forms the basis for the work we undertake over the course of the year. Typically we don’t get to everything in one year -- a number of the priorities are long-term efforts which stay on the list. For this year’s resolution, we’ve not only updated our existing priorities list, we’ve also identified five top priorities, on which we’ll be especially focused this year. That doesn’t mean we won’t continue working on the others, but the following five will constitute a significant component of our workload:
· 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
• Improving and formalizing 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 add that we’ve also committed to considering all of the Council’s work in terms of its impact on advancing racial equity, so that will continue to be an overall context for all our actions. I’ll be voting in favor of the priorities resolution.
Climate Emergency Resolution: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-4.pdf. Owing to the dire climate change trends we’re facing, I’m convinced the City should formally declare a climate emergency. This resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Dyballa and me, will help underline the importance of taking strong, meaningful action at the local level. This connects well with the Council and Green Team priorities. I’ll be voting yes.
Architectural Services Contract: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-5.pdf. This is an extension of our contract for smaller architectural projects. I support the contract and will be voting for it.
Economic Development Strategic Plan: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-6.pdf. The City contracted with an outside consultant in 2017 to develop recommendations for a Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan. We’ve been working on the housing component of the plan and hope to finish refining it and then approve it in the near future. Meanwhile, with the recent hiring of a City staff person specifically assigned to economic development, we’re now beginning to turn our attention to that aspect of the overall plan as well.
Accessory Dwelling Units: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-7.pdf. Montgomery County controls zoning in Takoma Park, and the City Council will be reviewing County Councilmember Hans Riemer’s proposed changes to the zoning requirements relating to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The current rules are quite restrictive, and Councilmember Riemer’s proposal would introduce more flexibility into the system in order to increase the overall stock of ADUs. The underlying goals of these changes are to increase housing options and help promote housing affordability.
I agree we should explore ways of creating more ADUs, and I look forward to discussing this proposal. If it’s appropriately drafted, there’s a good chance it will be able to mesh with the other work we’re doing in the City on affordable housing. Among the questions I have about the ADU proposal are how it would work in designated historic areas, and the impact on parking. Depending on the results of our discussion, the City Council is likely to communicate to the County Council our views on the potential ADU changes through a resolution later this month. Our goal will be to send that resolution before the County Council votes on the changes.
Committee Appointments: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190313-8.pdf. We’ll be considering two appointments to the Façade Advisory Board.
Please be in touch with questions or comments about the issues covered in this message or any other local matters of concern.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One 240-319-6281; www.councilmemberkovar.com