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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 20, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here is a link to the agenda for the July 20, 2016 City Council Agenda: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-agenda-20160720-rev.pdf.  There will be discussions on three important topics: programming for the Housing Reserve Fund; alternatives for Election Synchronization; and the Takoma Junction Development Agreement. We also have a specific time during the public comment period for residents to offer opinions on the Junction project. I urge interested community members to attend and speak out. We also have a number of more routine matters on the agenda.

Permit Parking on Kingwood Drive.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-1.pdf  I am voting in favor of it.

Site Plan for 6413 Orchard Avenue.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-2.pdf  This is a resolution informing the County Council (which handles zoning) that we have no objection to the site plan. I am voting in favor of it.

Streetscape Manual.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-3.pdf Resolution adopting the Streetscape Manual, which sets standards for City equipment and materials in public rights of way. At my request, language is being added making it clear that in the future the manual will include standards for residential and historic areas (on which the current version is not focused). I will be voting yes, with those changes.

Resolution on Franchise Agreement with RCN.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-4.pdf  There are two votes on the RCN Franchise Agreement (and three relevant documents, which are here and below).

RCN Franchise Agreement.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/RCN-franchise-agreement-and-settlement-agreement-20160720.pdf

Montgomery County Agreement Concerning RCN Franchise.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-5.pdf

Housing Reserve Fund.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-6.pdf  As part of the City’s 2016 – 2017 budget, the Council approved $400,000 to start an affordable housing fund. Staff have proposed allocating $50,000 for use with the State Community Partners Incentive Program (CPIP), which provides down payment and settlement assistance to lower income home buyers. I look forward to learning more about the program, and exploring other options for using the funds.

I see three main areas where we should consider devoting funding. First, making it easier for lower income renters to find adequate affordable housing, which could focus on making improvements in apartment buildings in need of repairs or working for more affordable apartments in the City. Second, taking steps to help lower income people and younger families purchase homes, which in addition to CPIP could include down payment assistance for police officers or other City staff to live in Takoma Park, or other incentives to encourage the purchase of less expensive homes (including foreclosed or abandoned homes). Third, we should explore options to assist long term residents who wish to downsize from homes they already own, but who prefer to stay in Takoma Park. This could involve expanding the number of accessory apartments in the City (which could mean homeowners stay in their homes) or promoting an increase in mid-range condos. I’m sure there are other options as well.

While I agree we should develop a longer term plan for the funds, we should spend more than one eighth of the funds now. My preference, as we develop a plan, would be to start several options along the lines discussed above on a pilot basis, so we can evaluate their utility and effectiveness.

Election Synchronization.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-7.pdf  A continuation of our exploration of the idea in the non-binding referendum adopted in last year’s City elections that calls for shifting our local elections to “even” years to correspond with Federal and Statewide elections. Given the higher voter turnout in even years, the expectation is that synchronizing our elections would lead to an increase in voter participation in municipal elections. However, there are challenges, relating to such matters as the need to have “side by side” voting with the Federal and State elections; how to handle early voting; the number of precincts we would have to cover and the staffing needs, etc. We will be talking about these issues plus the changes needed to our City charter to make synchronization possible. I am a strong supporter of synchronization, but only if we can appropriately address these logistical challenges.

Supplemental Information on Election Synchronization.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/election-logistics-estimate-20160718.pdf

Takoma Junction.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160720-8.pdf

Last night’s Open House featured many useful discussions and interactions between and among Councilmembers and residents, and I look forward to hearing from as many community members as possible tomorrow night. We are currently scheduled to vote at the July 27 Council meeting on directing the City Manager to sign the Development Agreement (DA) with NDC, the chosen developer.

At this point, I think the DA gives us a reasonably good chance to get a project we can be proud of, but it needs some changes. Specifically, while there are points in the timetable in the DA at which the City can withdraw from the Agreement, that doesn’t exist relative to the Letter of Intent (LOI) negotiations between the Co-op and NDC. I think it’s important to ensure – if the LOI negotiations are unsuccessful – that the City be able to withdraw from the Agreement. This will both protect us and help spur the negotiators to reach an accord on the LOI. I will be pushing for changes to the DA along these lines.

As always, let me know if you have questions or comments about any of the above.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council (Ward One)

July 26, 2016 Takoma Junction Update

July 13, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda