Sunday, July 20, 2014

City manager review and blighted properties

This message covers two items on the city-council agenda for Monday, July 21.

The council will meet in a non-public administrative session to conduct the city manager's review. Brian Kenner started as Takoma Park city manager in late June, 2013, responsible for budgeting and management of city staff, programs, and facilities, under the policy direction of the council. We will discuss Brian's performance as city manager as well as his job-related goals and objectives.

If you have comments regarding Brian's performance that you'd like to share, please communicate them to me by e-mail ( or phone (301-873-8225). Please let me know if you'd like me to keep your comments confidential.

I've already written about the proposed resolution, scheduled for open session discussion at 8 pm, of city policy on sharing license plate reader data. Also on Monday evening's agenda, slated for 8:30 pm, is a discussion of applicability of Montgomery County Code in Takoma Park, which is a relatively technical matter.

The other agenda item that will be of broader interest is a discussion, Vacant and Blighted Property Tax Rate, slated for 9:20 pm. We'd like to figure out a way to better handle private properties that have fallen into serious disrepair. Many of them, but not all, are abandoned. In many cases, but not all, the property owner owes back taxes and/or fees to the city or the county.

The Washington McLaughlin Christian School property, located at Poplar and New Hampshire Avenues, is a prime example. There are others including several houses around the city. The house formerly at 36 Philadelphia Avenue, demolished by the city last year, is an example. (I wrote about that property several times, including here.) That case took us so long to address via the limited set of tools legally at our disposal that the property became unrestorable. We'd like to be able to act more quickly. We'd like to see the properties rehabilitated, whether by their current owners or by purchasers, so we're looking for new tools.

An approach applied in other jurisdictions is to create a high property-tax rate for blighted and vacant properties. The council will discuss this approach on Monday evening.

Please let me know if you have thoughts on this matter.



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