Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Takoma Junction meeting schedule

A resident asked me about the city's schedule for further consideration of Takoma Junction redevelopment options. Here's information:

There will be a January 5 council meeting, our first after out 2014 holiday recess. Takoma Junction isn't on the agenda, but attendees are free to comment on the junction during public comment, at 7:30 pm.


The current city "rolling agenda" lists the following --

MONDAY, JANUARY 12, 2015 Work Session:
- Discussion of Financial Information related to Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21 -- (tentative) TAKOMA JUNCTION REDEVELOPMENT PUBLIC COMMENTS, 7:00 p.m. (CC Auditorium)

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3 -- (tentative) TAKOMA JUNCTION REDEVELOPMENT PUBLIC COMMENTS, 7:00 p.m. (CC Auditorium)

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10 -- (tentative) TAKOMA JUNCTION REDEVELOPMENT PUBLIC COMMENTS, 7:00 p.m. (CC Auditorium)

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17 -- CITY COUNCIL WORK SESSION, 7:30 p.m. (CC Auditorium)
Work Session:
- (tentative) Discussion of Takoma Junction Redevelopment

The tentative January 21, February 3, and February 10 meetings are not city council worksessions. That is, there would not be council/staff discussion although I would assume that councilmembers will aim to attend.

These meetings were laid out in the schedule on the last page of a November 24, 2014 presentation. That presentation was part of a Overview of Community Benefits and Trade-Offs Related to Takoma Junction worksession. Video from that worksession is at online.

On January 12, the council will talk about "some of the specific financial information from the [four finalist] proposals," according to City Manager Brian Kenner. This numbers will be linked to property status -- selling the city lot versus retaining ownership and leasing it to a non-city entity -- and to community-amenity trade-offs. We discussed trade-offs on November 24. They could include accepting lower cash return in exchange for inclusion of community space, public parking, and other amenities in whatever's developed or for concessions such as reduced building height, great set-backs, undergrounding parking, and other steps that add to developer cost or reduce the return to the developer.

Myself, I think it would be interesting to compare the TPSS Co-op's perspective on Takoma Junction financials, especially since the co-op has reworked its proposed design, to financials associated with the four finalists' proposals.

I don't have any further information on these meetings and I don't see any on the city's Takoma Junction Web page, but you can visit that page for background on redevelopment discussions to date.

I hope this helps.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nov 24 at the council: Ride On, Dog Park, Takoma Junction, and NFZ

Monday evening, November 24 will be the last public council meeting of 2014. With the exception of a non-public administrative session on December 8 (which I cover in a separate update), the council will recess until January 5, 2015.

I'll call out four November 24 items: Ride On bus service, the planned city dog park, further Takoma Junction redevelopment discussion, and purchase of a list of nuclear-weapons producers, needed to enforce the city's Nuclear Free Zone ordinance. Each item in turn --

Ride On Bus Service

The November 24 council meeting will open with a visit from Carolyn Biggins, who is chief of the Montgomery County Division of Transit Services, which manages the county's Ride On bus system.

We all benefit from Ride On, whether we use it personally or not. The system has, unfortunately, earned a deserved reputation for erratic schedule adherence. The buses don't run on time. We're not going to solve that problem at the council meeting, but I'm hoping we'll hear about steps Ride On is taking to improve service. Councilmembers may bring up other topics, and I know that Councilmember Tim Male plans to ask about Takoma Junction stop locations.

Do you have topics for Ms Biggins? (The buses that serve Maple Avenue?) Please let me know.

The Takoma Park Dog Park

From the November 24 council backgrounder:
"Since June, City staff have arranged for a topographic survey of the site, soil borings and tree identification. In conjunction with the City, Takoma Dogs and a local architect, Eric Saul, have developed a concept plan for the site that includes a proposed lay-out of the site including one small dog/low activity area of roughly 4,700 sq ft and a large dog/high activity area of roughly 12,100 sq ft. A brief presentation has been prepared to update the Council on progress and next steps related to the dog park."
A presentation is included in the backgrounder. It includes a working schedule and a proposed design. That proposed design does include a number of options that the council will discuss in light of cost and funding. Please let me know if you have comments or concerns.

Takoma Junction Redevelopment

The latest council discussion of Takoma Junction redevelopment is billed as an Overview of Community Benefits and Trade-Offs Related to Takoma Junction, with a presentation by staff on the benefits and costs of development. Click for the presentation.

I'm sure the presentation will be interesting, but I also suspect it will add little in the city's determination of our path forward. Our direction will continue to be guided by the values and criteria discovered, via a community-consultative process, by the Takoma Junction Task Force (TJTF), and by the large amount of public comment we have heard this fall.

The city made a mistake in not providing detailed, clear guidance on community preferences to bidders via the request of proposals (RFP) we issued last January. We should have stressed the importance of the findings, recommendations, and options reported by the TJTF and of community consultation. I made a mistake in not pushing for inclusion of this guidance. Consequently --

None of the proposals the city received last spring sufficiently meet community or city needs in my opinion. Fortunately, as a small city, we have been able to provide, after the fact, guidance that was lacking in the RFP. The proposals -- including the TPSS Co-op's -- have improved significantly.

Back to the Monday evening (November 24) discussion:

I'll add that the estimates of certain financial considerations we'll be discussing -- the cost and income potential of parking, retail and office space, residential units, and community-amentity space that would be built by developers -- is *of concern to developers but not to the city*. The point of an bidding process is to get bottom line financial figures from bidders. Our city will then weigh bottom-line cash return of proposed projects as a tertiary factor, behind community benefit and project feasibility, in our decision making.

Finally, I am hoping that my council colleagues and I can find a way to formally reinclude the TPSS Co-op as a bidder and not just as a developer add-on. The city did invite the co-op to participate in events such as last week's open house. The co-op's reworked design options and the inclusion of a professional development consultant on the project team address two of the three significant problems with the co-op's spring 2014 proposal, and the third, lack of a builder partner, is addressable. The co-op's proposal is now worth considering alongside the proposals of the four "finalists."

A List of Nuclear-Weapons Producers

The city needs to obtain an up-to-date list of nuclear-weapons producers in order to enforce our Nuclear Free Zone ordinance. The city's NFZ Committee evaluated options and identified and purchased a list from a supplier, at a $6,000 cost. In a consent-agenda item -- no council discuss is scheduled, although you're welcome to comment at the start of the meeting, around 7:30 pm -- we expect to adopt a list prepared by MSCI ESG Research that the city purchased, with council approval, in July of 2014.

Why would you care? Some people think the city's NFZ ordinance is out-dated and should be reformulated or even scrapped. Monday evening's meeting is an opportunity to share your views.

Your Thoughts?

As always, please let me know your thoughts on these or other city issues, by e-mail to sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or phone, 301-873-8225. Contact the whole council by writing to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov. Or pay me a visit. My next drop-in office time will be Wednesday, November 26, 8-9 am at 7006 Carroll Avenue, #202.

Pending city matters: City attorney, parking, Metro development, recycling rewrite

This note provides a brief update on a number of pending city matters: Our city attorney procurement, Old Takoma parking, Takoma Metro development, and business recycling.

The City Attorney Procurement

The city will be awarding a new contract for general legal services -- the city attorney function -- in 2015. Strange thing, however: We received only two proposals in response to the RFP we issued in September. Simply put --

I do not believe the council can make an informed choice, in the city's best interest, without inviting additional bidders.

Dozens of attorneys practice municipal law in Maryland. A couple of them already work for the city but chose not to bid. Kollman & Saucier provides our labor and employment legal services and Council Baradel supports cable-franchise agreement negotiations. A Council Baradel attorney told me she thought the procurement was wired for the incumbent. Now I'm glad that we did receive a proposal from the incumbent -- the Silber and Perlman law firm has filled the city attorney role for 28 years -- and one other firm, but we need more choice to ensure that we are getting the best available, on fair terms.

What should we do? The council should proceed with its December 8 interviews but should reopen the procurement, to invite additional proposals, prior to December 8. By acting prior to the interviews, we will make it clear that we are seeking choice, not finding fault. If we reopen after December 8, we will send the signal that the bids we received are lacking. Best to reopen now.

Let the council know your view if you wish, by e-mail to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov.

Old Takoma Parking

I expect to meet, the second week of December, along with city staff and perhaps a couple of council colleagues, with representatives of the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church (TPPC), the Takoma Park Child Development Center (TPCDC), one other church tenant, and maybe the Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA). We'll talk about traffic and parking around TPPC, especially associated with TPCDC and school-bus drop-off and pick-up. The aim is to agree on steps that will lessen congestion around the church.

This meeting won't solve larger Old Takoma parking problems. We're all looking forward to the opening of Busboys & Poets in a couple of months, but patron parking on nearby residential streets will likely worsen existing problems.

The city has yet to hire the new half-time parking-enforcement officer that the council authorized earlier this year, but enforcement is only one tool. We'll continue work done by OTBA Executive Director Laura Barclay to convince commercial property owners to open their parking spaces for public use. We may consider changes to the city's permit system. We could extend hours for the 2A parking zone, which includes Tulip Avenue and the 7100 blocks of Holly, Cedar, Maple, and Willow, into the evening. If you live on one of those blocks, please let me know if that is an option you favor pursuing.

Takoma Metro Development

I've had a few queries recently about Takoma Metro development plans. There's not a lot to report. WMATA held the required "compact" public hearing on June 18, 2014. WMATA staff are working on a report, which will be released for public comment and will then be submitted to the WMATA board for an acceptance vote. The developer, EYA, will have to submit a Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposal for approval by Washington DC zoning authorities, because the proposed design (radically) exceeds building height limits and is non-conforming with other by-right zoning provisions.

A small bit of good news is that EYA executives and their architects met with Takoma DC-Takoma Park community representatives earlier in November. They listened to advocacy of a smaller building with greater set-backs and preservation of the wooded lot immediately next to the development site, and of a drastically reduced number of residential parking space. However they seem not yet to have the will to make scale changes that would speed project approval, lower building costs, promote transit use, and answer neighborhood compatibility concerns. We're working on them!

Business Recycling

The city is moving to close a recycling loophole and refresh our residential recycling requirements.

The loophole is that Takoma Park businesses are not subject to Montgomery County business recycling requirements that were put in place years ago and revised in 2005. It's a no-brainer that Takoma Park businesses should recycle waste paper and cans and bottles, but some don't recycle all the same. We need a legal requirement.

We were going to close the loophole as part of the polystyrene ban that we enacted earlier this month -- the Young Activist Act of 2014 passed on November 10 and bans food-service polystyrene material effective July 1, 2015 -- but the matter turned out to be more complicated than expected.

At the same time, Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite would like to refresh, to modernize, the city's residential recycling requirements, which were enacted well over twenty years ago. So we'll cover both needs in an ordinance that should come before the council early in 2015. Daryl, Councilmember Tim Male, and I will work with Assistant City Attorney Ken Sigman on a draft.

Your Views

Please let me know your views on these and other Takoma Park city issues, at 301-873-8225 or sethg@takomaparkmd.gov.

Thanks!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Takoma Junction update: Task Force recommendations and more...

The following is joint update from Councilmembers Tim Male, Kate Stewart, and Seth Grimes, describing how the City has applied the findings and recommendations of the Takoma Junction Task Force in the Takoma Junction revitalization process.


We encourage everyone to attend Tuesday evening's Takoma Junction open house. You will have the opportunity to engage with and ask questions of the current potential developers and the TPSS Co-op about their concepts for Takoma Junction. The meeting takes place Tuesday evening, November 18 at the Community Center, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. There will not be a formal presentation so you can drop by at any time. We will be there as well.

Takoma Junction progress to date has been in alignment with the recommendations of the Takoma Junction Task Force, a residents committee created by the council in 2010. The Task Force's report is available online.

Here is a summary of some of the highest profile recommendations from the report's executive summary that focus on the City-owned parcel, what has occurred since the report was finished, and how each recommendation has been addressed in the current concepts for Junction redevelopment.

The City Lot

The report (p. 4) recommends four uses for the parking lot parcel (which includes some of the woods):

Improved pedestrian, bicycle and auto access and improved sidewalks.
  • The City replaced the degraded and unsafe sidewalks, between the fire station and the co-op, almost 2 years ago.
  • All street crossings were changed to incorporate designs that improved access for disabled residents. 
  • The City was one of the first adopters of BikeShare in the County with a station at the Junction lot, creating new bicycle options as directed by the report.
  • The City got the State Highway Administration to change signal timing to make it possible for pedestrians to cross all the way from the co-op side to the west side of Carroll in one light cycle.
  • Approximately 2 years ago, we funded 2 crossing guards to make pedestrian access by children, parents and commuters safer.
  • Within 8 months, the State Highway Administration is slated to install a new crosswalk across Carroll/Ethan Allen at Grant Avenue, which will reduce pedestrian crossing times and make pedestrians more visible, and will embark on upgrading the Junction's traffic signals. This last change may also facilitate slight shifts in signal timing that reduce traffic back up while still having a safe and acceptable duration for pedestrians to cross.
All the initial development concepts under consideration for Junction redevelopment maintain or add to pedestrian and bicycle accessibility.

Consolidated parking for visitors and employees in the Junction
  • The City eliminated 1 of 2 entrances to the lot and restriped the lot, making vehicle and pedestrian access safer and expanding the number of parking spaces available.
  • Recently, we reinstated paid parking in the lot. (There were formerly 8-10 metered spaces, near the TPSS Co-op, prior to the use of the lot to stage the fire station rebuilding.) Why? Because all-day parking by commuters, many from other areas of the state, overnight parking, parking of vehicles for sale was reducing parking available for residents and local business employees. For example, people would drive to the City, park for free, and then get on the F4 or RideOn buses for the remainder of their commute.
  • The addition of better and safer pedestrian crossings described above makes this parking lot more available to customers and businesses on the west side of Carroll Avenue.
  • The City has long leased dedicated space in the lot to the co-op for deliveries, employees, and customers and makes that same option available to Johnny's Auto Clinic and other businesses.
All of these actions have helped make the parking lot more useful to businesses and residents. All the initial development concepts we are reviewing would preserve public parking - questions remain about how much parking is needed and how the co-op's parking would be configured, if it changed at all.

Expanded Community Use
  • The City created the very popular food-truck program in the City lot, working in cooperation with the Old Takoma Business Association.
  • Community uses such as the Christmas Tree sale have continued; we are open to other possibilities. What do you propose?
  • We have expanded the Earth Day Celebration and added new functions like the Halloween Monster Bash. (We located the Grant Avenue Market across the street instead of in the parking lot to ensure there would be parking spaces for market visitors.)
  • The City installed a fence along the back of the parking lot to prevent illegal dumping in the wooded portion of the property.
All of the development proposals include preservation or some improvement to the open space on the property. The council, community, and developers are still discussing lots of options that would maintain or enhance the wooded portion of the site. We are hearing from many residents that they would like to have continued community use on the property. Continue to send us your ideas on what you would like to see in terms of community use and open space.

Independent, non-chain business

The Task Force recommended business use of the City-owned property. (The Task Force was not merely addressing maintenance of business on private property nearby when it suggested business use for the City-owned property). Its recommendations included use by the Co-op, similar businesses or food trucks. The food truck program has been very successful.

All of the development proposals being considered incorporate expansion of the Co-op, consistent with the recommendation of the Task Force. No one envisions or proposes bringing out-of-character businesses to the Junction. Continue to send us your ideas on what you would like to see in terms of expanded business services on the property if there are more things besides Co-op expansion.

Additional Recommendations

The report went on to make many, many additional recommendations. Here are some of the ones that got the most emphasis related to the City-owned property.
  • Any development should harmonize with existing architecture and should not exceed two stories.
We are talking about development, as encouraged by the Task Force, and didn't (but should have) put a two-story limit in place when proposals were requested.
  • Give priority to using the parcel to support an addition to the co-op.
The City directed and has reemphasized that development proposals provide for Co-op expansion and operational needs (especially loading space for service by semi trucks) and make provisions for continuity of Co-op operations during any construction. The City has invited the Co-op to present to the council and community and has included the Co-op inTuesday evening's (November 18) open house.
  • Encourage Retention and Reuse of the Turner (co-op) and Healey Surgeons Buildings.
No plans being considered would fail to retain both buildings (which are both privately owned). We are committed to retaining both buildings.
  • City should work with building owners on aesthetic improvements and landscaping.
The City Council expanded the area in which Old Takoma Business Association financial assistance could be used, allocated a specific portion to the Junction, and added the Junction to areas eligible for facade grants. For example, the signage at the bicycle store and laundromat have benefited from the City's facade program technical assistance and grants.
  • Carry out a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment of the City lot. 
Done. No major issues identified.
  • Carry out a Phase 2 Environmental Assessment of the City lot. 
Done. No major issues identified.
To Be Done

Other elements remain TBD, to be done. But they are accommodated by the Takoma Junction revitalization process. Notably they include:
  • Construct a switchback pathway through the wooded area of the City-owned parcel... doable as part of lot redevelopment and part of at least one of the current concepts.
  • Streetscape improvements... envisioned once the crosswalk at Grant Avenue is in and we have an idea how the City lot will be used.
  • A comprehensive look at vehicular traffic -- patterns and congestion -- and pedestrian accessibility and safety... again most feasible once we have an idea how the City lot will be used.
  • Convening stakeholder and residents groups... how Takoma Park operates and on our agenda although a point we're admittedly behind on.
Additional Points

We offer a few additional points, regarding the Takoma Junction Task Force findings.
  1. Regarding an RFP process: Page 21 of the Task Force report includes text that is germane to discussion of the RFP process that the City has embarked on. The report reads,
"City staff additional information (December 2011): It appears that the City cannot engage in negotiations for the long-term use of City property without entering into a bid process. City contracts (which would include a sales contract, as well as a lease or development agreement) are to be awarded by competitive sealed bidding or competitive sealed proposals unless one of the exceptions applies. None of the exceptions to competitive bidding would seem to apply."
  1. Mixed-use development: The Takoma Junction Task Force did envisage housing within possible mixed-use development of the City lot. See page 28 of the Task Force report, which includes "The City could solicit bids for a development that combines commercial use on the ground floor with high-density residential housing on the top floor or floors as well as a section dedicated to public space."
In Sum

In sum, the City has implemented many of the Takoma Junction Task Force's recommendations. Some are complete; others are in process; many are part of our plans, accommodated within our Takoma Junction revitalization process. We have accomplished a great deal in Takoma Junction and are on track to accomplish even more, in conformance with the task force recommendations, and we thank all community members for your very helpful advocacy and involvement.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Takoma Junction discussion + new WAH president: Nov 3 city council meeting

The Monday evening, November 3 city council meeting will be devoted to one topic: Continued council discussion of Takoma Junction development proposals and options. But, as always, the meeting will open with preliminaries. Preliminaries include public comment, about the Takoma Junction process or anything else (preferably city related). And Monday evening, they include introduction of the new president of Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH).

I'll use this occasion to provide a WAH summary update and then write about current Takoma Junction redevelopment status, but first --

If you haven't already voted, please vote on Tuesday, November 4. Polls are open 7 am to 8 pm. You'll find information including polling-place look-up and a sample ballot online. And if you'd like voting recommendations, I'd welcome your checking out mine.

Washington Adventist Hospital Update

Erik Wangsness started as WAH president on September 22. WAH issued a press release regarding his appointment.

Adventist Healthcare Vice President Rob Jepsen presented an update to the council, on September 15, on the hospital's application for a Certificate of Need (CON) to relocate to White Oak. Mr. Jepsen's presentation slides are online -- page 10 lists health care facilities that would remain in Takoma Park -- and you can view video of his presentation and the discussion that followed. Also, the Gazette reported on Mr. Jepsen's city council visit.

The city has, subsequently, received renewed questions and advocacy from a number of residents who wish the city to press the hospital to apply for state permission to operate a free-standing emergency room (FER) in Takoma Park.

The State of Maryland has a moratorium in place on licensure of new FERs. The moratorium expires on July 1, 2015. By that date, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) is supposed to establish "review criteria and standards for issuing a CON required to establish a freestanding [emergency] medical facility in the State after July 1, 2015."

Were I an Adventist Healthcare executive, I would be reluctant to file a CON application until the review criteria and standards for its acceptance have been issued. I note that July 1, 2015 is only eight months from now, and WAH is likely to continue operating an emergency room in Takoma Park for several years after that date.

I did pose questions to Mr. Wangsness and Mr. Jepsen: "Will WAH will apply for a Takoma Park FER, rules-permitting, once the moratorium expires? How will WAH decide?" We'll see what response they have, whether on Monday evening or in subsequent discussions.

Discussion of Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals

The September 23 presentations by the four finalist Takoma Junction bidders generated A LOT of community questions, about particular proposals or all of them. We also had questions and comments about the development process and proposal-evaluation criteria, and we got the message that support for TPSS Co-op operations and expansion is essential. Mayor Bruce Williams invited the co-op to present at the September 29 council meeting, and at Councilmember Jarrett Smith's suggestion, the co-op compiled and sent to the finalists a number of must-have points for the co-op's continued viability.

Back to the questions and the November 3 council meeting --

City staff sorted and consolidated the many questions and comments. Following discussion at the October 6 council meeting, the city forwarded a set of eleven of them -- clarifying questions -- to the prospective developers. We directed additional questions to three of the bidders.

And here are their responses:
Finally, city staff prepared an information sheet summarizing the four finalists' proposals.

I found the responses to be helpful. All four finalists proposed a community-involved process although none provided completely satisfying detail on support for co-op operations (in particular, loading access) and expansion.

I'm going to cherry-pick a number of points where I found responses particularly interesting:
  • Three of the four finalists would go forward without necessarily building on the wooded lot on Columbia Avenue. Community Three, however, stated "elimination of the proposed single family home on the R-60 lots would require our team to revisit our team's financial proposal." (The Takoma Junction Task Force (TJTF) recommended leaving that lot undeveloped).
  • Neither of the developers that had proposed a three-story building -- Community Three and Keystar/Eco Housing -- definitively stated a willingness to proceed with a project if the building was limited to two or two-and-one-half stories (a TJTF recommendation).
  • Community members called certain proposals "Bethesda"-like, presumably responding to the exterior design. (None of the developers is proposing chain stores.) Three of the four finalists answered Yes to the question "Can the fa├žade design be modified during the process?" Community Three did not answer the question.
Looking Ahead

The city has an open house, for discussion of Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals, scheduled for 7:30 pm on Tuesday, November 18. Please attend! And the council has one more Takoma Junction meeting scheduled before our holiday recess. That's on November 24, when we'll also have a dog park update and a presentation by Carolyn Biggins, chief of the Montgomery County Division of Transit Services, which includes Ride On.

Comment Invited!

As always, you may comment shortly following the council meeting's 7:30 pm start, or send your comment to the whole council via the city clerk, clerk@takomaparkmd.gov. Do get in touch with me directly if you wish, at 301-873-8225 or sethg@takomaparkmd.gov. My next drop-in office time is 5-6 pm, Tuesday November 11, at 7006 Carroll Avenue #202. You don't need to make an appointment, although I'm happy to set a meeting time if you can't make my drop-in hours or have a sensitive topic to discuss.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pepco at the council Monday evening (Oct 27), and a film-permit discussion

In response to Takoma Park concerns about recent Pepco tree cutting, Pepco Vice President Jerry Pasternak has agreed to attend the Monday evening, October 27 city council meeting. Mr. Pasternak's presentation will start at 7 pm. It is described as "an update on Pepco's reliability enhancements and the proposed merger with Exelon," but he confirmed to me today that he will address our tree concerns and that he will be able to stay until around 7:45 pm, that is, through at least the first portion of the public comment period, which is slated to start at 7:30 pm..

The October 27, 2014 agenda and background material are posted on the city Web site.

The council will also discuss a film permit ordinance and regulations, resuming a discussion that we had a year ago. Per the backgrounder, "The City receives between five and ten inquiries each year for filming in Takoma Park... The intent of this proposed ordinance is to facilitate filming activities in the City of Takoma Park while protecting the health, safety, and welfare of residents, businesses, and visitors. Codifying the rules for film permits will enable a fair and clear process for City staff and filmmakers alike."

Finally, continuation of two on-going discussions are on the council schedule:

The council will continue discussion of Takoma Junction development proposals on November 3 and November 24, and new on the city agenda is a Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals Open House, Tuesday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m.

And the Monday, November 10 council meeting is scheduled to include an update on the city's environmental sustainability program and, tentatively, an update from the Committee on the Environment

If you have concerns about any of these matters or other city issues, please get in touch: 301-873-8225 or sethg@takomaparkmd.gov.

And please vote on November 4, or during early voting through October 30. I've posted my picks to my One Takoma blog.

My 2014 Election Endorsements

There are two critical contests in the 2014 general election -- for governor and for Montgomery County Board of Education -- and a trio of interesting ballot initiatives.

For governor of Maryland, I urge you to vote for Democrat Anthony Brown, a solid candidate. A plus: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman will be an excellent lieutenant governor.

Brown's opponent for governor, Republican Lawrence Hogan, espouses tax cuts that would be detrimental to Maryland's economic health. He is iffy on transportation projects such as the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line. And he's an advocate for expanded gun ownership who refuses to answer direct questions related to his planned policies.

The race is reportedly closer than one would hope. Your vote is important.

Election day is Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 7am to 8pm, and you can vote early, through October 30, 2014, 10am to 8pm each day, at any of nine county locations. They include the Silver Spring Civic Building, where I voted myself yesterday (October 25).


School Board

Board of Education races are always important. Our public schools define who we are as a community, and who we hope to be.

I strongly support Jill Ortman-Fouse, running at-large. You couldn't ask for a more accessible, sensible, engaged candidate. What won me over for Jill, early on, was her belief in a flexible approach that responds to the individual schools' concerns, in contrast to the cookie-cutter approach that has prevailed for some time.

I've looked into the candidates in the various district races, but frankly, my picks were strongly influenced by Sue Katz-Miller's and Lindsey Parsons' endorsements of Kristin Trible (District 1) and Laurie Halverson (District 3) and Dan Reed's endorsements of those candidates and Michael Durso (District 5) for reelection. Progressive Neighbors also endorses Durso. (The district candidates reside in the districts listed, but voting is county-wide.)

Ballot Questions


I suggest a For vote on the three ballot questions:
  1. Disallowing non-transportation use Maryland Transportation Trust Fund money except in a fiscal emergency.
  2. Authorizing "charter counties," including Montgomery County, to decide whether to amend their charters to institute direct election to fill mid-term county executive vacancies.
  3. Refining residency requirements for Montgomery County district councilmembers.
Other Races: Circuit-Court Judges

I've saved other races for last because there's really no contest in the Maryland District 20 state-legislative races or in the races for Montgomery County executive and District 5 and at-large county-council seats -- the Democratic candidates will win -- and because the election of circuit-court judges needs some explaining.

I will not vote to retain Audrey Anne Creighton as circuit-court judge, given questions regarding her conflicts and conduct surrounding a personal relationship. Please see the Gazette endorsement article, Three on the bench, one challenger for circuit judge. I voted for sitting judges Nelson W. Rupp Jr., Joan E. Ryon, and Gary E. Bair and for challenger Daniel Patrick Connell. I spoke briefly to Judge Rupp, who urged anyone concerned about Creighton to vote for the sitting judges (including himself) minus Creighton, and then rely on the system to remove Creighton if merited: an alternative to consider.

I hope this helps!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Old Takoma parking -- status & council discussion

The October 20 council meeting includes a worksession (council and staff) discussion of parking in Takoma Park neighborhoods adjacent to commercial areas. Old Takoma is high on the list, given commercial development on/near Carroll Avenue and also the planned Takoma Park Presbyterian Church community commercial kitchen.

(Click here for the meeting agenda, which includes presentation of Takoma Park and Montgomery County Voting Rights Task Force reports -- I believe City Councilmember Tim Male, who co-chaired the county task force, will give the latter presentation -- and discussion of establishing a Recognition Commission.)

The October 20 Parking Discussion

The parking discussion backgrounder is online. It includes a staff-prepared presentation that describes the city's residential parking permit zones. Ward 1 has three zones, covering the Old Town-Carroll, PEN, and North Takoma areas. The presentation then provides stats on parking meters and discusses Old Takoma commercial-district parking.

An Update on Steps Taken to Date

I'll summarize steps the city and community stakeholders have taken to address Old Takoma parking and traffic congestion concerns:

-- In July, the council voted to hire a half-time parking-enforcement officer, reinstating a position that had been cut around five years ago. While parking-enforcement staff -- formally, they're "nuisance-abatement officers" -- do cover the whole city and occasionally have non-parking duties, we should see enforcement improvements.

Councilmembers and the city administration are aware of concerns about enforcement errors and procedures perceived as harsh or unclear. I expect we will discuss enforcement on Monday evening. In any case, if you live in a permit zone and park your car on the street, please do apply for a permit, and use your guest permit only for guests' vehicles.

-- City staff met over the summer with Andy Shallal of Busboys & Poets, regarding patron parking. (Last I heard, opening could be as soon as December. See an August Gazette article.)

These are City Manager Brian Kenner's summary notes:
  1. B&P assumes most of its employees don't drive to work. Gives transit subsidy to employees to encourage them to take public transportation. Most of employees at other B&P are relatively local (live close to restaurant) and thus public transportation is convenient for them, he expects the same from this location.
  2. B&P believes some patrons will drive to restaurant but one of the reasons he liked this location was proximity to metro and other public transportation modes.
  3. City committed to getting him parking resources so he can inform his customers about parking options.
  4. City informed B&P of 500 commercial parking spaces available and he indicated interest wanting to work with commercial parking lot managers to make parking available.
-- Those 500 commercial parking spaces: They were identified by Laura Barclay, executive director of the Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA). Laura contacted local property owners with spaces that could possibly be shared or leased or made publicly available, on a regular or occasional basis. Per the last page of the staff presentation for Monday evening's council meeting, those spaces are:
  • Willow Street, NW, behind CVS - 80 spaces
  • Laurel and Aspen Streets, NW - 80 spaces
  • SDA Church on Eastern Avenue, NW - 160 spaces
  • Takoma Business Center on Carroll Ave - 200 spaces
-- The Takoma Park Presbyterian Church has indicated that the church will arrange off-street parking, using Laura's information, for larger events such as the June funeral that overloaded nearby streets and snarled traffic at certain points.

-- City officials, Laura, Lorraine Pearsall from Historic Takoma, and the church have met about parking and traffic congestion near the church, and the church has discussed the matter with the Takoma Park Child Development Center (TPCDC). The city's Safe Routes to School coordinator, Lucy Neher, is evaluating conditions, focusing on TPCDC drop-off and pick-up and on the school-bus stop in front of the church gym building on Tulip. Lucy did similar work around Takoma Park Elementary School, where parking and congestion issues were a similar concern. Lucy will prepare recommendations, and I expect we'll be ready to meet again in within a month.

-- Regarding the planned church-housed Takoma Park/Silver Spring Community Kitchen (TPSSCK), quoting a TPSSCK Quick Facts sheet, "In the Spring of 2013, the Kitchen Coalition committed that the TPSSCK would not add any additional street parking in the neighborhood; recently the Coalition committed to avoid adding curb cuts or removing trees. Eight parking spots will be rented in the Takoma Business Center (TBC) for kitchen users and the Kitchen Manager. This cost is reflected in the budget and has been approved by the Property Manager of Takoma Business Center. Users will use the parking pad for drop off and pick up but will not park on the street or on the parking pad."

The Quick Facts sheet also states, "A traffic study will be done prior to construction to monitor all traffic to and from the Church throughout the day. This traffic survey will reveal what times of day operations will have the least impact on traffic conditions and neighbors."

Possible Outcomes

Monday evening outcomes could include a decision to go beyond steps currently underway. We could decide, for example, to conduct a comprehensive parking and traffic study. Or we may decide that a study isn't needed (yet) and that we should undertake smaller, immediate steps.

Your suggestions and comments are invited. Please write clerk@takomaparkmd.gov to get a message to the council and staff, or contact me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225.

Finally, the council has commercial-vehicle parking in residential areas tentatively slated for November 3 worksession discussion.

Other Planned Council Discussions

Advance warning about several items of broad interest that are slated to come up at city council meetings in the coming weeks:

-- On October 27, Pepco Vice President Jerry Pasternak will present and discuss Pepco tree policies, starting at 7 pm. I would anticipate his staying for public comment, which is scheduled for 7:30 pm.

-- November 17 discussion of the city's state legislative priorities for the 2015 legislative session, which will open in early January. Legislative requests could include a change to beer and wine sales licensing, which is captured in state law, even at a local level. Currently in Takoma Park, only a restaurant with a license for on-premise sales of beer and wine may apply for an off (take-away) sales licenses. This means that businesses such as the TPSS Co-op, which does not operate a restaurant or cafe, may not apply to sell beer and wine. I would like the co-op to be able to sell beer and wine and to allow Republic to sell beer brewed on-site, which the restaurant is exploring.

-- Further council worksession discussions of Takoma Junction development proposals and options, on November 3 and November 24.

-- A dog park update on November 24.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 13: Hearing on a city polystyrene ban + police cooperation, snow removal & the city Web site

The October 13, 2014 city council meeting will open with a public hearing on a proposed ban on food-service polystyrene serviceware, at 7 pm. Also notable on the council's agenda: A police mutual aid agreement between Takoma Park and Montgomery County, discussion of snow removal plans and policies, and award of a contract for city Web site improvements.

Each item in turn --

The City Polystyrene Food Serviceware Ban

The city polystyrene ordinance -- the Young Activist Act of 2014 -- would forbid food-service use of polystyrene cups, plates, utensils, and other serviceware, effective July 1, 2015. Think "styrofoam" cups, plates, and clamshell take-out containers and also hard-plastic Solo Cups and the like marked with a number 6 recycling symbol. These materials have deleterious health effects, and they're not recyclable.

Recognition for Young Activist Club members in 2011.
The proposed city action culminates years of local advocacy by the Young Activist Club, which organized around efforts to replace disposable (non-recyclable) polystyrene foam trays, at Piney Branch Elementary School, with durable, reusable trays. That effort did not succeed, although earlier this year the county school system committed to switching to recycled/recylable cardboard trays.

As for the City of Takoma Park: We ended our own use of polystyrene food serviceware in 2010, and a year ago, we disallowed use of polystyrene food serviceware at city festivals and by food trucks, which must apply for city permits.

Please comment at tomorrow (Monday) evening's public hearing -- it starts at 7 pm -- or you may submit written comments to the City Clerk, 7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912 or by e-mail to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov. The complete notice and text of the proposed ordinance may be found online. Actual council votes are slated for October 20 and November 10. (Two votes are needed to amend city law.)

Note that the Montgomery County Council will consider a county polystyrene bill. The bill was developed and introduced by Councilmember Hans Riemer (a Takoma Park Ward 1 resident). The county ban would take effect January 1, 2016, but would not cover non-foam food serviceware. The county bill would go beyond the city's by banning bulk sales of polystyrene foam serviceware and by mandating, as of January 1, 2017, that food-service businesses use only recyclable or compostable serviceware. I support the county legislation and hope it will be strengthened to cover non-foam polystyrene food serviceware.

County-City Police Mutual Aid Agreement

An ordinance on the council agenda is a next step in formalizing stronger cooperation between the Takoma Park and Montgomery County police departments. The draft agreement negotiated by the city and county is online. Assuming the council approves the agreement -- and I think we will -- it will go into effect once signed by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

I expect the police agreement to come up around 8:30 pm. It will be preceded on the agenda by an --

Ordinance Awarding a Contract for Website Improvements

The city Web site has had issues related to content maintenance, indexing and findability of material, usability on smaller form-factor mobile devices, and accessibility for persons with visual disabilities. The city manager issued a Request for Proposals over the summer, and staff, assisted by a couple of council members, selected a contractor for council approval. The cost proposed by contractor Ignition 72 is $34,500. Please see the backgrounder.

I do have certain reservations. The contract would not cover posting of content that has long been missing from the city's Web site including old council minutes, resolutions, and ordinances as well as administrative regulations issued by the city manager. It is not at all clear to me that it provides for comprehensive indexing for search of all city content, in particular, council agendas and minutes hosted at Granicus, a service provider, and the MANY documents the city hosts in the Amazon S3 cloud.

Further, it is not clear that the contract would cover improved online processing of permit and rental applications, program registrations, payments, and the like, or a credible request reporting and tracking system. It is not clear that it would address undesirable practices such as creating PDF-document images of textual documents, which are not searchable or accessible to persons with visual disabilities. These documents should be created in accessible, indexable form. I have asked the city manager to address when and how he plans to address the request system and content accessibility.

Planning for Snow Removal and Snow Emergencies

Tomorrow evening's council meeting will close with preparation for "snow events." What's the issue? Here's how the council background describe it:

"The winter of 2013-2014 had seven winter weather events that involved calling Public Works crews in to pre-treat streets and plow snow. During some of these events, there was discussion over if and how the no parking provisions should be enforced on the City's one Emergency Snow Route on Maple Avenue. There were also complaints that many property owners did not clear their sidewalks of snow in a timely way and there were complaints that the City's enforcement of its sidewalk clearing law was ineffective. In April, the Safe Roadways Committee made a presentation to the City Council that noted sidewalks not adequately cleared, improper disposition of snow from parking lots onto sidewalks, the problems of snow-blocked sidewalk curb cuts at intersections, and urging greater attention to the needs of pedestrians and bicycle riders during winter weather events."

Scroll to the bottom of the agenda page for the backgrounder and three supporting documents.

Finally...

If you comment on these items or other city business, or questions or concerns that I can help you with, please contact me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225, or pay me a visit during my next drop-in office time, Tuesday, October 14, 5-6 pm at my office, 7006 Carroll Avenue #202. The entrance is between Mark's Kitchen and the Middle Eastern Cuisine restaurant.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Takoma Junction developer presentations, video of the Sept 23 event, question form, and feedback invited


The City of Takoma Park has posted:

1) Video of the September 23 Takoma Junction development presentations.

2) The presentation slide decks.

3) A form for submission of questions for the four finalists.

City council discussions of the finalist proposals -- and I guartantee that the TPSS Co-op's proposal and alternative Takoma Junction possibilities will come up -- are scheduled for Monday evenings, September 29, October 27, and November 24.

I would really, really welcome your views on the proposals as presented and also on the TPSS Co-op's proposal. What do you think of the proposed:

- Uses of the site, that is, the business/community/residential mix in each proposal.

- For the buildings facing Ethan Allen/Carroll: the height, footprint, and neighborhood impact and compatibility.

- The uses of the wooded lot including, in some of the proposals, extension of the Ethan Allen/Carroll construction over or down the hillside.

- Attention to the TPSS Co-op's current needs (including truck access) and desire to expand.

- Parking and pedestrian and bicyclist impact.

Do note that we expect the developers to modify their proposals in the course of discussions with the city and the community. They know that they have to work to accommodate the co-op. As a reminder: I posted last week on the Takoma Junction development process and the TPSS Co-op proposal.

Finally, I would like to know what criteria you would like to see the council, city staff, and community apply in evaluating options. Please let me know: sethg@takomaparkmd.gov, 301-873-8225.

Seth

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Takoma Junction development process and the TPSS Co-op proposal

Thanks to everyone who has been in contact about the Takoma Junction development proposals and process.

There have been questions about community involvement and openness. I'll try to tackle those topics by reviewing how we got where we are, starting with the council's 2010 creation of the Takoma Junction Task Force. But first I'll reinforce that the city has been very deliberate in exploring development possibilities and will continue to be. Takoma Junction development is not on a fast track. And I'll reiterate what you've heard from the city manager and the mayor: The city intends to accommodate co-op expansion in any development scenario. (I've provided co-op proposal information, distributed publicly by the co-op, toward the end of this article.)

History

The council set up a Takoma Junction Task Force (TJTF), which I co-chaired, in response to SS Carroll neighborhood advocacy and the recommendation of an informal Takoma Junction working group that included a few council reps. The task force minutes and materials are online. You can find minutes from meetings of the working group there as well.

The TJTF issued its report in early 2012. You can read about the TJTF's community meetings and interviews in the report.

Let me excerpt one bit of text, staff opinion on a different point. It's labelled "City staff additional information (December 2011)," on page 21:
"It appears that the City cannot engage in negotiations for the long-term use of City property without entering into a bid process. City contracts (which would include a sales contract, as well as a lease or development agreement) are to be awarded by competitive sealed bidding or competitive sealed proposals unless one of the exceptions applies. None of the exceptions to competitive bidding would seem to apply."
TJTF member Kay Daniels-Cohen and I were elected to the council in November 2011. We and our colleagues promoted development explorations and other steps such as requesting that the State Highway Administration install a crosswalk at Grant Avenue.

The city moved forward by conducting an environmental assessment of the city-owned parcel. The assessment docs are available online. City staff also had an appraisal done. I have not seen it.

The co-op had set up an expansion task force and approached the city with sketches of an expansion into the city lot. Then co-op-president David Walker presented to the council on July 30, 2012. I blogged about this a couple of weeks later: A Takoma Junction Update: Co-op Expansion Plans and Progress on Other Fronts. Subsequently, the council decided that the city's best interest would be served by inviting anyone interested to propose development or another site-improvement concept. This discussion took place at the council's October 1, 2012 meeting. You can read the minutes and watch meeting video online.

Last year, the city hired a new city manager. The individual we chose, Brian Kenner, has experience in economic development that included work, as a Washington DC employee, on reuse of the Walter Reed and Saint Elizabeth's hospital campuses and H Street redevelopment. (Washington Adventist Hospital's planned relocation to White Oak is another local challenge for Takoma Park.)

Brian developed the approach we're following and the council approved it. The city issued a Request for Proposals in January with a May 28 closing date. The RFP and other materials are online. The city subsequently met with prospective developers including the co-op. In accordance with the steps and criteria laid out in the RFP, staff selected four finalists. That down-select was made by the city manager and Housing and Community Development staff. They briefed the council on September 3; the council agreed with their selection.

And that's where we are now, on September 18.

The Coming Months

Again, the four finalists will make public presentations on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm in the community center auditorium. I plan to attend, and I hope you will as well, or you can watch the presentations, live or later, via city TV and on the city Web site.

The city manager is working on a structured way to collect feedback; nonetheless, you can relay your views to the council at any time, via e-mail to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov, or to me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225.

The steps that follow will include a September 29 city-council worksession devoted to discussion of Takoma Junction Development Proposals and, tentatively, further council discussion on October 20. These sessions will be open to the public. There will be public comment at the start of the meetings but no public participation in the discussions.

The TPSS Co-op Proposal

Finally, the co-op posted its proposal, minus a diagram that was included in the printed version available at the co-op. I've attached a copy of that diagram to this message. Getting a proposal this way is a not the same as seeing it presented, but nonetheless, the co-op's materials will communicate to you what they have in mind.

[Update Sept 21: The co-op refreshed the posted version of its proposal, to include a variant of the diagram that was originally posted, the diagram I included below center. I am posting that additional image, below right. Click on the images to see larger versions. The additional image (below, right) does clarify one aspect of the co-op's proposal. It shows topography lines on the right side, which is the wooded lot that is beyond the edge of the current city-lot paved surface, although the drop-off actually starts just to the right of the rightmost parking row.]


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Washington Adventist Hospital relocation update, library redesign, and more, September 15

Of note on the city council's September 15, 2014 agenda: An update on Washington Adventist Hospital's relocation plans, and a number of more-routine items including award of a contract for library space planning and interior redesign, the outcome of a community visioning process that has taken place over the past year.

Robert Jepson, Vice President of Business Development for Adventist HealthCare, will present the hospital update. This will be the first appearance by an Adventist HealthCare official since the departure of former Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) President Joyce Newmyer, who recently took over Adventist hospital management in the Pacific Northwest. Ms Newmyer's replacement at WAH is Erik Wangsness, whose start date is the week after this next.

WAH has filed a Certificate of Need application with the Maryland Healthcare Commission, whose approval of plans to relocate the hospital to White Oak, some distance from Takoma Park, is required. WAH has previously stated the intention to maintain certain healthcare facilities here in Takoma Park post-move, while leasing parts of the current WAH campus to Washington Adventist University. I do expect that Jepson may announce significant changes to the CON application and plans.

Other items on the September 15 council agenda include an ordinance approving large-grant awards. The agenda item is online, although I am concerned that the draft doesn't closely match direction provided by the council at last Monday evening's meeting.

Also there has been no council discussion of the idea of allocating $10,565 from the city's Emergency Assistance Fund to one of the large-grant applicants, which the draft ordinance would have us do. From the city's Web site: "The Emergency Assistance Fund provides financial assistance to income eligible residents experiencing a health crisis, a pending eviction notice, or notice of a sheduled utility cut off, often the result of the loss of employment or financial circumstances beyond their control. Established in 2001 by the Takoma Park City Council, the program is funded in part by tax-deductible donations from the community and managed by Ministries United Silver Spring Takoma Park." I have asked Mayor Williams that there be open-session council discussion that involves Ministries United, in a meeting prior to any action to reallocate significant EAF money to any other program or purpose.

Finally, the council will hear about development plans for 6450 New Hampshire Avenue, a parcel that's currently vacant, whose owner is planning a laundromat, a permitted use according to the site's zoning.

Please let me know if you have views on any of these topics or any other city matter. I'm at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov and 301-873-8225.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sept 8 at the council: City grants and a polystyrene ban

The city council's first post-recess session is Monday evening, September 8. A 7 pm presentation of large-grant recommendations will be followed by public comment and then council discussion of the grants and of a city food-service polystyrene ban.

Large Grants

The council budgeted $122,000 for this fiscal year's large grants, for programming and capital projects that primarily benefit low and moderate-income residents and neighborhoods. Applications were due July 9; the city received 19. Grants Review Committee co-chairs Akena Allen and Gary Cardillo will present:

Capital Projects Grant Recommendations
- Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA) $8,000
- Takoma Park Presbyterian Church $10,000

Cultural and STEM Grant Recommendations
- African Immigrant and Refugee (AIRF) $12,500
- Docs in Progress $5,195
- Moveius Ballet $8,930
- Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA) $15,000
- Takoma Ensemble $15,000

Program and Operational Support Grant Recommendations
- Real Food for Kids $5,632
- Crossroads Community Food Network $19,622
- EduCare Support Services, Inc. $19,621
- Takoma Plays $2,500

STEM is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Takoma Park Presbyterian Church funding would go toward the church housed community commercial kitchen project. The OTBA funding would pay for banners (capital) and underwrite the Takoma Park Street Festival and the Art Hop arts fest (cultural).

Do attend the presentation (7 pm) and council discussion (8 pm) (or watch them on city TV, live-streamed), and please comment at the meeting (7:30 pm) or relay your views to me (301-873-8225, sethg@takomaparkmd.gov). You'll have another opportunity to testify about the grants on September 15, when the council is slated to vote our awards.

Food-Service Polystyrene Ban

The Young Activist Act of 2014 would ban food-service polystyrene use in Takoma Park starting January 1, 2015. It is named in recognition of the hard work and dedication of the Young Activist Club in pursuing an end to food-service polystyrene use given harmful health and environmental impact.

The council will discuss the proposal on Monday evening; I anticipate only minor tuning to the draft if any so that we should be able to bring it to a vote later this month.

I drafted the bill, translating the young activists' advocacy into legislation with the help and review of community activists including Brenda Platt, Committee on the Environment members Cindy Dyballa and Paul Chrostowski, Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite, and Assistant City Attorney Ken Sigman. The council last discussed it in June.

We had actually been working on much broader bill. An earlier draft is included in the June 16 council backgrounder.

The earlier version mimics San Francisco and other West Coast cities in requiring food-service businesses and operations to use only compostable disposable food-service ware and to compost food wastes and other "organics." The earlier version also extends food-waste composting in Takoma Park to multi-family apartment buildings by instituting a requirement that landlords provide food-waste collection services in addition to recycling. These steps proved infeasible because of a dearth of local organics processing sites. I expect that we will revisit these steps in a year or so. In the interim, proponents including myself, perhaps with city involvement, hope to pursue pilot programs at several Takoma Park apartment buildings whose current waste haulers do provide organics collection services.

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer plans to introduce, on Tuesday, a county bill banning food-service polystyrene and requiring that food-service disposables be either compostable or recyclable. This bill follows on a very similar bill passed in the District of Columbia just a few months back. The DC bill, introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh and signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, covers only expanded-foam polystyrene service ware. Think "Styrofoam" cups and plates. The DC polystyrene ban and the draft Montgomery County bill's ban are more limited than Takoma Park's proposed ban and go into effect later, in 2016.

Finally, the earlier version of the Young Activists Act also included a provision stating that Montgomery County's business recycling requirements apply in Takoma Park. But it seems that we'd have to create an operational agreement with the county -- an opt-in to county law wouldn't be enough -- so instead City Manager Brian Kenner and the city attorney have agree to draft an update to Takoma Park's '90s recycling code. It would refresh residential recycling requirements and add a business recycling requirement. Look for a draft in the fall.

Contact

As always, please get in touch if you have questions, comments, or need help with city matters: 301-873-8225 and sethg@takomaparkmd.gov.