As I wrote in the email I circulated on Saturday, at this week’s Takoma Park City Council meeting (Wednesday, March 23, starting at 7:30 PM), there will be a special segment of the regular public comment period at the beginning of the meeting set aside for residents to offer their opinions on the Takoma Junction development project. This will include comments from a representative of the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op. I encourage interested residents to take advantage of this opportunity to let the Council know your views, or, if you prefer not to speak, to attend anyway to listen to the opinions of your neighbors.
Those in the community who have followed the progress on Takoma Junction are aware that the City Council selected the Neighborhood Development Company as the Junction developer last April. While NDC has taken a number of important pre-development steps that are necessary to move forward with the project, the company and the City have not yet signed a development agreement. As a strong supporter of proceeding with a development plan at the site that is beneficial to the City, I am disappointed that the development agreement has not yet been completed, and I am consulting with my Council colleagues about ways of speeding up that process.
One factor that is contributing to the slowness in securing the agreement with NDC is the delay in completion of negotiations between NDC and the Co-op relating to the Co-op’s continued operation during the construction process and its role in the project once the development has been finished. Under the terms of the resolution passed by the Council last year, the Co-op is anticipated to expand and to be an “anchor” business at the redeveloped Junction (a concept that I agree with). However, without an agreement between NDC and the Co-op, it will become increasingly difficult to move forward with the overall project.
Since I began serving on the Council in November, we have had two closed session briefings from our legal team about the status of the project. And I have had a number of conversations with residents of Ward One. Based on all of that information, I believe we should do what we can to help remove any barriers that are preventing the project from moving forward, and it’s my sense that most residents agree with that. Therefore, I was pleased that NDC, in its presentation in this past week’s City Council meeting, indicated that it will try to wrap up negotiations with the Co-op within 30 days. I look forward to hearing the Co-op's perspective on these matters on Wednesday.
While I would have preferred that we were farther along at this point, an additional 30 days to complete those negotiations strikes me as acceptable, considering that the project (under the timetable laid out by NDC last week) is not projected to be completed until 2020. I don’t speak for my Council colleagues on this point, but in my view, if the NDC-Co-op negotiations are not complete or well on the way to completion within that 30 day period, then I would favor having the City (through our legal team or in other appropriate ways) play a more active role, without any pre-conditions, to help facilitate the two parties reaching agreement.
Regardless of how the negotiations between the Co-op and NDC turn out, we will soon have to consider other aspects of the development. To be specific, in addition to the Co-op, the range of other potential components of the final project includes at least the following: the wooded area; a public gathering place and/or other open space; commercial/retail businesses; residential units (which is something I would like to see at the Junction); and parking. However, given the square footage of the available space, it will be challenging to have all of those components included in a final development at the Junction, at least without scaling some of them back in a significant way.
So I am hopeful that residents, regardless of which of those components they feel most passionate about, will approach the ongoing public debate about the best use of the Takoma Junction space from the perspective of understanding that it’s possible some of these options may not be able to be part of the final project, at least in the exact form they favor. For my part, as a member of the City Council, I will be doing all I can to work for a development at Takoma Junction that can give our city a valuable economic boost, without threatening the community characteristics that are so important to Takoma Park’s identity.
lI look forward to hearing from many of you at Wednesday’s meeting, and – especially if you are unable to attend that meeting -- I hope you will feel free to be in touch with me directly to communicate your views or concerns about this set of issues. I am attaching below relevant documents I included with my previous email on this topic.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council -- Ward One
http://takomapark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=2096. (Click on “Discussion with Neighborhood Development Company regarding Takoma Junction Development”, which starts about one hour into the meeting).