Sunday, October 27, 2013

Compost + a Takoma Metro development resolution + tax duplication + drop-in hours

The Takoma Park City Council meeting, Monday evening, October 28, will feature 2 items of particular interest to Ward 1 residents, and I'll also update you on the county-city tax duplication situation, which is approaching a decision point. Those matters and a bit more:

1) The city council will consider expanding the city's food-waste compost collection program to cover most city neighborhoods, including all parts of Ward 1. In Ward 1, only North Takoma was included in the initial pilot. Judging from council reaction to Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite's October 21 presentation on the pilot, the council will favor program expansion. My only regret, at this point, is that we can't include commercial establishments and multi-unit apartment buildings.

2) The city council will also consider a resolution on WMATA's plans for a Takoma Amended Joint Development Agreement (JDA). The Amended JDA, currently slated for WMATA board approval once a traffic study has been released, would revive designation of developer EYA to create an apartment building, currently planned to have 212 units, at the Takoma Metro site.

I worked with city staff to develop the draft resolution. Its draws from discussions with community members, meetings and conversations with EYA executive Jack Lester and WMATA staff, and my, staff's, and my council colleagues' assessments of the EYA's plans and the best means of shaping the plans to respond to our community's interests and concerns. We took into account testimony offered at the council's October 7 public hearing and came to basic agreement on a city position, at this stage in what will be an extended process, in a worksession discussion on October 21.

The resolution is changeable -- I'll actually be asking for some adjustments prior to the council meeting -- so please let me and other council members and the mayor know if you have comments. Your comment will go to all council members if you send it to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov. There will be an opportunity for public comment before the council votes on the resolution.

3) Tax & service duplication has been with us for decades. Residents, businesses, and property owners pay taxes to both Montgomery County and the City of Takoma Park, while only the city provides police, recreation, and public-works services in Takoma Park. The county transfers certain compensatory payments to the city, according to an agreed formula that the county actually hasn't been living up to in recent years.

I bring this up now because the county council's Government Operations (GO) Committee is slated to discuss the topic at its October 28 meeting. The background packet is online. I and several of my city-council colleagues and city staff plan to attend. OLO suggests cutting the county's payment to Takoma Park and other municipalities. The city believes a cut is unfair and unjustified. A cut would also seriously affect city finances and could lead to service cuts and/or transfer of certain services to the county, which would mean a likely reduction in service levels.

To explain the issue:

Payments dictated by the formula are higher than the state requires tax-duplication payments to be, observes the Montgomery County's Office of Legislative Oversight. The payments are lower than the county's cost to assume responsibility for those services would be, says the city. So we are all seeking a rational, fair, sensible approach. We just differ on what that approach should be.

The city is hoping to find allies in the GO Committee members, GO Chair Nancy Navarro (District 4), our own District 5 representative Valerie Ervin, and at-large Councilmember Hans Riemer.

[Added October 28:] The city has a Web page on Municipal Tax Duplication that includes a link to an October 23, 2014 city letter to County Council Chair Nancy Navarro on the topic. 

I will plan to keep you posted on progress.

4) Finally, I'm resuming my Ward 1 drop-in office time. I had to take a breather starting in August because of my work and personal travel schedule. Please stop by my office the 2nd Tuesday of each month, 5 pm-6 pm, and the 4th Wednesday of each month, 8 am-9 am, if you'd like to discuss a city matter. Next dates are November 12 and November 27. My office is at 7006 Carroll Avenue, #202, entry between Mark's Kitchen and the Middle Eastern Cuisine restaurant. You're welcome to phone (301-873-8225) or write (sethg@takomaparkmd.gov) as well.

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