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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 27, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here is the agenda for the July 27 City Council meeting: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/2016-07-27-council-agenda-rev5.pdf

Key items include the Takoma Junction Development Agreement (DA), plus appointments to the Junction Community Consultation Committee, and additional attorney fees related to the DA (I will send a separate email on these items); a final vote on the plastic bag ordinance; funding for detailed design of the Library renovation; and a discussion on use of the affordable housing funds (postponed from last week). Most of the other items are routine or non-controversial.

Takoma Junction Development Agreement.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-1.pdf

Takoma Junction Consultation Committee.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-2.pdf

Plastic Bag Ordinance.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-3.pdf  I have mentioned previously that I had concerns about earlier versions of the ordinance, which I thought were unduly restrictive on plastic bags used for bulk and fresh produce in a way that could have harmed some local businesses, including the Farmers Market. That has now been addressed by a clarification that the plastic bag ban applies to the final point of sale. In addition, Farmers Markets would have a one-year phase-in period for compliance, and would be able to use compostable plastic bags at the final point of sale. With these changes, I will be voting in favor of the ordinance.

Budget Amendment.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-4.pdf

Permit Parking Area 6 Extension.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-5r.pdf

Library Renovation.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-6.pdf

I believe the Library is an important local resource and I favor renovating it to help ensure it can be a vital 21st Century institution. I thought the design options we saw last year were not ambitious enough, and I’m pleased a majority of the Council agreed. The architect recently presented two expanded designs, both of which offer the kind of vision I favor. The next phase is a more detailed design, and there is funding in our budget for that work. We will be voting this week on using those funds for the new design approach – I will vote yes. A decision on going forward with the full renovation is expected to be made as part of next year’s budget.

Takoma Junction Attorney Fees.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-7.pdf

Independence Day Committee Grant.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-8a.pdf

City Council Summer Recess.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-8b.pdf

Police Vehicles and Equipment.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-8c-d.pdf

I think it’s important for our Police to have up-to-date vehicles and equipment to successfully and safely perform the difficult work they do. However, I will be asking questions on the frequency of vehicle replacement, including in cases where cars have been damaged in accidents.

Parking Ticket Management Contract.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-8e.pdf

Housing Reserve Fund.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160727-9.pdf

As noted in last week’s agenda email, the Council approved $400,000 for affordable housing. 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. While that appears to be a reasonable use for some funds, I believe we need to use more than one eighth of the money. City staff plan a study and development of a long-term strategy for using the funds. I agree with that idea, but I don’t support putting most of the funds on hold while that happens. We can move ahead with additional programs on a pilot basis as we make longer term plans. I will be seeking a commitment on Wednesday night for that approach.

I see three main areas where we should consider devoting funding. First, making it easier for low income renters to find adequate affordable housing, which could mean repairing apartment buildings or working for more affordable apartments. Second, taking steps to help lower income residents and families purchase homes, which in addition to CPIP could include down payment help for police officers or other City staff to live in Takoma Park, or 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 or promoting an increase in moderately priced condos.

Comments and questions are welcome on any of the agenda items.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council (Ward One)

July 26, 2016 Takoma Junction Update