Here is the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-agenda-20160706.pdf Key items include a vote on legislative recommendations to the Maryland Municipal League; an initial vote on the cable franchise agreement with RCN; a vote on appointments to several City committees; a discussion on the negotiations between Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op relating to the Takoma Junction Development; and a report from the City Manager on various pending municipal projects. In addition, there will be a presentation by Montgomery County’s Chief of Fire and Rescue Services; plus discussions on a revised site plan application for 6413 Orchard Ave. (located in Ward 3), and permit parking in Zone 6 (located in Ward 6).
Before discussing the various agenda items in more detail, I would like to note that on Monday I had the honor of participating in the City’s July 4 Parade for the first time as an elected official. I generally watch the parade from a single spot, so it was fascinating to see folks gathered all along the route, enjoying the spectacle of course, but also celebrating democracy. Later, watching from the reviewing stand, what struck me more than anything was not the quirky Takoma Park floats (though they were certainly there), but all the other groups and organizations you could see at almost any parade in the country. It really underlined the point that our local brand of progressivism is actually very patriotic.
Maryland Municipal League. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-1-rev.pdf. Over the last several weeks we have winnowed down a number of proposed legislative ideas to three that we will be submitting to MML for potential inclusion in their agenda for next year’s session in Annapolis. They are: creation of an Innovation Fund from which municipalities can apply for grants to advance high priority State goals; improved coordination between and among utilities and the State Highway Administration to avoid unnecessary/duplicative tearing up and repaving of state roads; and an evaluation of the collection and distribution of the business personal property tax.
I am a strong supporter of the utility coordination and the business tax issue. Given the challenges we have faced with poor coordination when work has been done in the past on Carroll and Philadelphia Avenues and Piney Branch Road, I think it’s essential that we have better coordination. I have mentioned previously that I think we should explore reducing the tax burden on small, independent businesses, but we need better information from the State in order to decide whether or how to do that. When we voted recently on our final three priorities, I favored keeping efforts to address County tax duplication on our list rather than the innovation fund (which I do think is a meritorious idea). I was outvoted on that point, though I hope MML continues to place a high priority on addressing tax duplication. While the final list doesn’t fully reflect my sense of what our priorities should be, I think it’s a reasonable agenda for us to submit to MML, and I will be voting in favor of it.
RCN Agreement. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-2.pdf The City has franchise agreements with three cable companies: Verizon, Comcast and RCN. Renewals of the first two have been signed. The RCN contract is due for renewal and was recently negotiated by Montgomery County under a process we have worked out with the County. I think the agreement is beneficial for the City, and I will be voting in favor of it.
Resident Committee Appointments. Below are links to information on the proposed appointments to three City Committees (the Board of Elections, the Committee on the Environment, and the Safe Roadways Committee). I plan to vote in favor of the nominees.
Fire and Rescue Presentation. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-4.pdf
Takoma Junction. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-5.pdf Most residents are aware the City has been negotiating a Development Agreement (DA) for Takoma Junction with Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC). As that negotiation process nears an end, the separate negotiations toward a Letter of Intent (LOI) taking place between NDC and the Co-op are also important, given the Council’s support for the Co-op being an “anchor” tenant in the project. The Co-op and NDC are two private companies, and the City cannot dictate the terms of their negotiations, but -- especially once the DA is complete -- if the City can help facilitate completion of the LOI negotiations, that will help ensure that the overall project advances on a reasonable timetable.
The discussion at this evening’s Council meeting will be focused on the extent to which a neutral third party mediator may be helpful in furthering that goal. I welcome remarks from residents on this point during the public comment period tonight. I would add that the Takoma Junction development will be on the agenda for the next several Council meetings, so there will be additional opportunities this month for members of the public to comment on the overall project and the DA, though comments on those matters are of course welcome tonight as well.
Orchard Avenue Project. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-6.pdf As I noted above, this property is located in Ward 3. It is not a project in which I have previously been involved, and I look forward to the discussion.
City Manager Project Update. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-7.pdf This agenda item will consist of updates and discussion on various municipal projects that don’t at this point require Council action.
Zone 6 Parking. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160706-8.pdf This is another issue that has not previously come before me, and it is one on which I expect to defer to the residents of Ward 6 (and to my Ward 6 Councilmember colleague Fred Schultz).
As always, please let me know if you have questions or concerns.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council (Ward One)