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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.

July 13, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here is a link to the agenda for the Takoma Park City Council meeting on July 13, 2016: 

https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-agenda-20160713.pdf  Key items include an initial vote on the ordinance restricting the commercial use of plastic carryout bags; presentation and discussion of the draft Development Agreement for the Takoma Junction project; and a discussion of the concept design for the Library renovation project.  We will also be considering a change in permit parking on Kingwood Drive (in Ward 6); an amendment to the 2016 – 2017 budget; and several appointments to City committees.

Given both the importance to the community and the complexity of the Takoma Junction Development Agreement, I will be sending a separate message out on that agenda item.

Kingwood Drive Parking.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-1.pdf   There will be a brief public hearing on the proposed addition to Parking Area 6.  As I noted when we had an initial discussion on this matter in a previous Council meeting, because the change will not have any effect on parking in Ward 1, I will defer to Ward 6 residents and my Ward 6 colleague Councilmember Schultz on whether to move forward on the change.

Plastic Bag Ordinance.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-2.pdf  Residents may be aware that the Council has discussed this proposal a number of times and that the ordinance has gone through many revisions and several versions. I initially raised some concerns about the potential negative impact of the ordinance on our two Farmers Markets (both of which I view as especially important local resources that provide valuable benefits to the community) and stores that sell bulk food. As we continued to work on the ordinance, and with crucial input from Laura Barclay of the Old Town Business Association and the organization Trash Free Maryland, we made some revisions that I believe address my concerns in a reasonable manner.

To be specific, the ordinance generally prohibits the commercial use of single-use carryout plastic bags in Takoma Park at the point of purchase (with some exceptions in areas like home delivery newspaper, dry cleaning, wet or damp items, etc.). It also gives a one year phase-in period to the Farmers Markets and allows them to use compostable plastic bags at the point of sale. The ordinance also continues to allow plastic bags to be used prior to the final point of sale for bulk and raw food items (whether in grocery stores or Farmers Markets). With these changes and clarifications, it’s my view that the ordinance takes a realistic approach to how businesses operate, while still advancing the goal of reducing plastic bag use. Having argued in favor of significant changes to the ordinance which are now included in it, I do intend to vote yes. This will be the initial vote, with a final vote expected later this month.

Budget Amendment.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-3.pdf  This will be the first vote (with a final vote likely later this month) on a resolution to authorize carrying over a number of funding allocations from the 2015 – 2016 budget into our new 2016 – 2017 budget (which began on July 1). The carry-overs are being proposed because, for a variety of reasons, the funding amounts in question have not yet been expended. There are a total of 10 budget items in this budget amendment, including such items as funding for Neighborhood Energy Challenge projects; concept design work for the Library; design work for the Ethan Allen Gateway project; and public art projects (the full list and specific amounts can be accessed through the above link). Again, all of these items were already approved as part of our previous budget. I don’t have any initial objections to the funding for these projects being carried over, but I do intend to seek some clarifications from the City Manager during the Council meeting about the continued appropriateness of several of them.

Appointments to Arts & Humanities Commission. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-4a.pdf  I will be supporting the appointments.

Appointments to Grants Review Committee.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-4b.pdf  I will be supporting the appointments.

Takoma Junction.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-5-rev.pdf  As mentioned above, I will be circulating a separate message on this topic.

Library Concept Design.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160713-6-rev.pdf  Residents are likely aware that the Council has been considering for the last year or so various proposals for renovation of the City Library. I believe the Library is one of the vital municipal institutions that makes Takoma Park a great place to live, and I support renovating it, in order to make it a 21st Century caliber facility, with more space and modernized HVAC systems. I thought the design we saw at the end of last year, while a step in the right direction, would have given us relatively modest improvements in both size and function, and I was one of the Councilmembers who recommended that we ask the architect to develop some more expansive options. After further discussions and a tour of the site, the architect came up with a number of alternatives which the Council then winnowed down to a few manageable additions to the earlier design.

At this week’s Council meeting we will be discussing the new design that includes these additions, specifically an expansion into space above the lower parking deck on the Maple Avenue side of the building, and a curved expansion on the Philadelphia Avenue side. With these two changes, I believe the structure can take fuller advantage of the site, while still respecting the esthetics of the neighborhood. In short, I am enthusiastic about the new design concept, and I am hopeful that, once we get a full picture of the costs, we will be able to proceed with the project.

As always, please feel free to be in touch if you have questions or comments about the agenda items discussed above.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council (Ward 1)

July 20, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda

July 12, 2016 Takoma Junction Update