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Welcome to my blog, which features frequent updates on local Takoma Park issues, including City Council meeting agendas, plus occasional commentary on national news and politics.

March 6, 2019 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here’s a link to the March 6, 2019 City Council meeting agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-6-2019/

Prior to the start of the meeting, the new Deputy Police Chief, Andrew Powell, will be sworn into office in a ceremony taking place in the Community Center Auditorium. Refreshments will be served. Then, from 7:00 - 7:30 PM, there will be a staff presentation on the proposed County zoning change relating to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

In the Council meeting, which starts at 7:30 PM, there will be a single “Consent Agenda” vote comprising a group of non-controversial items including changes to the Youth Council charter, temporary closure of Anne Street for the new Spring Fest event, and appointments to several resident committees. Before the vote, we’ll have presentations on the Resident Survey and the annual Police Department report. Finally, in our work session there will be a discussion on the proposed Climate Change Emergency resolution.

ADU Presentation:  City staff will make a presentation on ADUs and proposed Montgomery County Zoning Text Amendment 19-01, which is under consideration by the County Council. When we move to the regular City Council meeting at 7:30, residents who would like to ask further questions about the zoning amendment can do so at that time in the Azalea Room, where the ADU discussion will continue. Details about the proposed change can be found through this link to a document prepared by County Councilmember Hans Riemer: http://www.councilmemberriemer.com/assets/Riemer-ADU-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Takoma Junction Update:  At last week’s Council meeting, the City Manager presented a lengthy document providing important updates and outlining proposed key next steps on the project, which you can read via this link:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-manager/city-manager-comments/cm-comments-20190227.pdf. As noted previously, under this schedule, the County’s Development Review Committee (DRC) hearing on the project will be on March 19, with NDC presenting to the City Council on March 20. The final County Planning Board vote on the development would likely be in mid-June, with the City Council tentatively discussing the revised site plan on May 1 and voting on May 15. These dates could be subject to change, and additional Council or public sessions could be added between now and the final Planning Board vote.

While I stated in last week’s meeting that I would prefer to have more a detailed presentation from NDC on their revised, smaller site plan prior to the DRC hearing, especially given the communications challenges we’ve experienced with them, the current plan is to have weekly conference calls with NDC, City staff and Councilmembers. Under State open government rules, up to three Councilmembers can participate in such calls, and I was on Friday’s call. A summary of the call will be made public prior to this week’s Council meeting, most likely tomorrow.

From what I can tell, in looking at the documents NDC submitted and based on conversations I’ve had, the elimination of office and “studio” square footage at the back of the structure is the primary change between the old design and new one. With the front façade unchanged, my concern about the need for more public space at ground level along Carroll Avenue has not been addressed.

Several residents had asked why the documents submitted by NDC to the County included the traffic study that had a recommended reconfiguration plan for the Junction intersection, given that the City and the State Highway Administration have not agreed on a preferred reconfiguration. Among other points, those who brought this to my attention were concerned that the presence of this recommended plan for the intersection would imply that the City had in fact selected an alternative. I asked the City Manager about this following her Junction presentation last week, and she confirmed that we hadn’t of course made any decisions along these lines and that staff would clarify that point with the County. I’ll make sure there is no uncertainty on that point as the process continues.

Report from Last Week’s Council Meeting

Pepco Project -- Last week’s meeting included a presentation from Pepco about their ongoing project in the City, with an opportunity for Councilmembers and residents to ask questions. You see video of the presentation and discussion via this link:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/meetings-and-documents/city-council-video/. The Q and A portion, which includes several exchanges between Pepco representatives and me begins about 38 minutes into the video.

Among the issues I raised were: ensuring that future changes to the schedule and location for work are communicated to City staff and residents in a more timely manner; having the flaggers in position before any street closures are set up; addressing the dangerously uneven surface patch job on Takoma Avenue; adding street addresses to the three-week updates provided to the City to enable residents to better understand when the work crews will be near their homes; cutting back on Saturday work; and carefully reviewing potential traffic restrictions on Tulip Avenue. In a follow-up note to Pepco, I reiterated these points and also asked them to provide an overall updated schedule for the project, and to explore alternatives to breaking up asphalt with heavy equipment when they are working in close proximity to homes or other buildings, because of the potential damage that can occur from that activity.

I’m hopeful we’ll see positive movement on a number of these points. But I’m also continuing to explore -- on the City Council and with County and State officials -- whether there are other steps we can take to exercise more control over the activities of utilities within our borders.

Council Priorities -- We continued to refine our Council Priorities document, with a planned vote on it at next week’s Council meeting. I was pleased that several modest changes I suggested to strengthen or clarify strategies for implementing the priorities were agreed to, in such areas as capacity building for tenants associations; the Nuclear Free Committee’s concerns about SunTrust Bank; civilian input into policing policies; considering changes to City Council meeting procedures to promote improved engagement with the community; and enhancing our ability to monitor and hold accountable utilities that are conducting major projects in the City.

Report on Resident Survey:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-1.pdf. The City periodically contracts with outside companies to conduct resident surveys on a range of Takoma Park quality of life issues and related matters. National Research Center, the group that conducted the new survey, will present the findings. NRC’s report will be posted on the City website later today.

Police Department Report:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-2.pdf. Chief DeVaul will present the Department’s annual report, which will also be posted later today.

Consent Agenda. I’ll be voting in favor of the Consent Agenda, which contains the following five components.

Youth Council Charter Changes:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-3a.pdf

Anne Street Closure:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-3b.pdf. The Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority plans to hold the first Spring Fest on Anne Street (site of the Wednesday Crossroads Farmers Market), on Saturday, May 11th, from 1:00 - 6:00 PM (with street closure from 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM). The event will highlight and celebrate local food and culture, and showcase the Crossroads area’s neighborhood and businesses.

Arts and Humanities Commission Appointments:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-3c.pdf

Emergency Preparedness Committee Appointments:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-3d.pdf

Ethics Commission Appointment:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-3e.pdf

Climate Change Emergency Resolution:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190306-4.pdf. In light of the increase in extreme weather events we’re seeing around the world, it’s becoming increasing evident that we face potentially catastrophic impacts at virtually all levels of human society if we don’t start to implement stronger mitigating action within a relatively short period of time. This imperative has been backed up by the findings of numerous recent national and international reports. Locally in Takoma Park we’re not immune to these impacts, as we’ve had for example much more serious storm water problems due to the increased rainfall linked to climate change. In response to these types of concerns, climate emergencies have begun to be declared by local governments in many areas in the U.S.

For these reasons, I’m pleased to join Councilmember Dyballa in sponsoring a resolution that would put Takoma Park on record as stating that there’s a climate emergency. I don’t view the resolution as being merely symbolic. Rather, it will help ensure that a range of sustainability actions (including setting tree canopy goals, promoting more efficient energy use in our buildings, continuing efforts to reduce waste, etc.) that contribute to addressing climate change at the local level will receive the high priority they deserve from the Council, staff and the broader community. In addition, the more that governments of all types and sizes take this type of action, the better chance we have of moving forward on the kind of broad efforts to address climate change we need.

As always, feel free to be in touch with me about any of the issues that are covered in this message.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

240-319-6281; www.councilmemberkovar.com

March 13, 2019 City Council Meeting Agenda

February 27, 2019 City Council Agenda and Takoma Junction Update