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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.

June 19, 2019 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here’s a link to the agenda for the June 19, 2019 City Council meeting:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-june-19-2019/. Before the start of the meeting, at 6:00 PM the Council will meet jointly with the Recreation Committee in the Azalea Room (https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/joint-meeting-of-the-city-council-recreation-department-and-recreation-committee-agenda-wednesday-june-19-2019/). The key agenda items for the regular Council meeting are continued discussion of the Cell Tower regulations (this will be the last formal Council meeting on the topic before the regulations go into effect in mid-July) and an initial discussion of the City’s tree ordinance and tree canopy issues. We’ll also be voting on the community grants recommendations from the Grants Committee; a leaf vacuum equipment purchase; the temporary closure of Anne Street for a Night Market on September 28; and declining the opportunity to accept donated property on Kansas Lane. In addition, there will be a single Consent Agenda vote comprising two appointments to resident committees.


City Council Schedule. The Council won’t be meeting the next two weeks. Next week some Councilmembers and staff will attend the annual Maryland Municipal League conference in Ocean City, and the following week is July 4th. So our next regular meeting will be on July 10.

Ward One Day at Crossroads Farmers Market -- Wednesday, June 19. This a final reminder that Ward One Day at the Crossroads Farmers Market (on Anne Street from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM) is this Wednesday. Research has shown that switching as little as 5 percent of people’s shopping into less well-off areas can have an economically transforming impact over time. That could be as few as two shopping trips a month outside our usual neighborhoods. Let’s put that idea into practice locally. I’ll be at the Market around 11:30. Please join me.

Office Hours.  This Wednesday from 3:00 - 5:00 PM I’ll be holding office hours at the Girl and the Vine. Stop by to discuss local issues with me. No appointments are necessary. If you can’t make it then, let me know and we’ll find another time.

Music in the Park.  Music in the Park on Friday, June 21 from 6:00 - 7:30 PM at Triangle Park at 4th and Blair Roads in DC, hosted by Old Takoma Business Association. This is on the other side of the Metro Station. In addition to live music, there will be free gelato. Details are here: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgxwChJjpRJfqcDpDwzxXNNlWNTTh

Independence Day Celebration. This year, due to the Middle School construction, there won’t be any fireworks on July 4th. Other locations were explored, but here were no sites in the City or nearby that were appropriate, especially given the safety requirements connected to fireworks displays. So this year there will be a celebration with music and other activities from 7:00 - 10:00 PM on Maple Avenue in front of the Community Center and Piney Branch Elementary School. Earlier that day, the annual Independence Day parade will start at 10:00 AM. I’ll be marching, and I look forward to seeing friends and neighbors along the parade route. There’s more information on all the July 4th activities here: https://takomapark4th.org/sitecode.fol/pages.fol/tpidchome.aspx.

Parking permits. This is another reminder that the deadline for renewing expiring parking permits is June 30. You can renew by mail or in person. Information and applications can be found here: https://takomaparkmd.gov/government/police/permit-area-parking/.

Utility Projects.  Residents have lots of questions about the status and schedule for the Pepco and WSSC projects that have had such a disruptive impact on our neighborhood. This week, once I clarify a few outstanding points, I’ll circulate a detailed write-up on where things stand.


Community Grants:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-1.pdf. I’m pleased the Committee’s recommendations are focused on programs for lower income residents and under-served communities, which is something on which the Council has placed a high priority for these grants. I’ll be voting yes.

Leaf Vacuum:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-2.pdf. We’ll be considering a resolution to approve funding for purchase of leaf vacuum equipment. Unfortunately, staff approved the purchase before the Council signed off on using the funds. Though the money was already in our Equipment Replacement Reserve, it’s my sense the purchasing procedures should be tightened up. We can do that as part of our work later in the year to overhaul the City purchasing code, though I think it would also make sense for us to commit to that as part of the vote on Wednesday.

Anne Street Closure:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-3.pdf. I support this closure of several hours to permit the Crossroads Farmers Market to hold its annual evening market.

6507 Kansas Lane:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/20190619-4.pdf. The City was given the opportunity, in the will of Takoma Park resident and musician Edwin Phibbs, to accept this property as a wildlife area. While that’s a generous offer, given the size of the parcel and its distance from other such areas City staff have recommended against accepting the property. Had it been possible to use it for housing, I would have been supportive, but the will requires that if the City accepts the donation, the house must be torn down. I think it’s preferable if someone else purchases it and the home remains part of our housing stock. I’ll be voting for the resolution declining the donation.

CONSENT AGENDA (I’ll be voting in favor of the two appointments)

Noise Control Board Appointment:   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-5a.pdf

Youth Council Advisor Appointment:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-5b-rev.pdf


Cell Tower Regulations:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-6.pdf. We’re proceeding toward finalizing the regulations to implement the ordinance the Council approved in January in response to the FCC ruling restricting municipal governments’ control over installation of small cell towers. The regulations are scheduled to go into effect on July 15. Last week we discussed the draft with Mark Del Bianco, the outside lawyer who has worked with City staff to develop the regulations.

This week’s meeting will be our last formal discussion on the regulations before July 15, so we’ll be raising outstanding concerns we may still have. Council comments will be taken into account by City staff as the regulations are finalized, along with comments by residents, including those submitted online (https://takomapark.seamlessdocs.com/f/RegulationComment). The deadline for online comments is June 20.

I mentioned in last week’s blog that some of the areas where I’m hoping we can modify the draft regulations include ensuring there’s independent measuring and review of the radio frequency emissions from towers; having clear requirements for telecom companies’ insurance and performance bonds; a public process for any potential tree removals tied to tower installation; how to handle possible conflicts with other construction projects in the City; and community input into decisions relating to the offering of lower fees in exchange for public benefits.

Tree Issues:  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2019/council-20190619-7.pdf. Note that the agenda has a number of separate links to background information on tree issues, including an overview of the tree permit process; tree canopy assessment material; and the online tree ordinance survey results, with residents’ written comments. Links to all of these and more can be found by scrolling down on the main agenda page for this week’s meeting.

The City Council is in the early stages of considering changes and updates to the tree ordinance, along with the development for the first time of tree canopy goals, plus exploring ways of improving engagement with and outreach to residents on tree health and maintenance. We’ll have a number of public meetings on these topics, and there will be plenty of opportunities for residents to offer their views. That process has already begun through the online survey, in which over 500 people participated. We anticipate working on these issues well into the fall.

Some of the areas I’d like us to consider as we move ahead are: determining practical ways to expand the canopy in areas of the City where it’s less lush; promoting the planting of more native trees; creating more flexibility for removal of hazardous or dying trees; exploring how we can incentivize tree planting on private property; and understanding more about the trends relating to loss of larger trees (including in Ward One), taking into account the role of climate change. I’m sure there are many other aspects of our ordinance and tree policies that merit a deeper examination, and I look forward to hearing from residents on these and other issues as this process unfolds.

Please be in touch with questions or comments about any of the issues discussed in this message.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One



Update on Utilities Projects -- June 25, 2019

June 12, 2019 City Council Meeting Agenda